Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Tonight's Movie: Francis (1950) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

Last month Kino Lorber Studio Classics released a Francis the Talking Mule 7-Film Collection on Blu-ray.

I'd previously only seen one of the films in the set, FRANCIS JOINS THE WACS (1954), a great many years ago, so I was glad to have the chance to dig into these movies at long last, especially given how many interesting actors are featured in each of the movies.

I kicked off my viewing with the very first film, FRANCIS (1950), aka FRANCIS THE TALKING MULE. I'm glad to say I found it good fun, thanks especially to a top cast.

Second Lt. Peter Stirling meets Francis the mule (real offscreen name: Molly) while serving in Burma in World War II. Francis, who delivers Peter to safety when he's hit by enemy fire, can amazingly talk (voiced by Chill Wills) -- an admission which lands Peter in the psychiatric ward for a time.

Peter is released and goes back to work in an intelligence unit, but when Francis gives him helpful tips, Peter ends up making repeat trips to the psychiatric ward -- until Lt. General Stevens (John McIntire) hears Francis talk too.

Meanwhile, lovely refugee Maureen (Patricia Medina), who's been pursuing Peter, may not be all she seems...

Sure, this film -- written by David Stern based on his novel -- is goofy, but it's also a fun 91 minutes. I mean, any comedy with Zasu Pitts as a mental ward nurse has got to be worth a look, right? And it is.

Besides the always-excellent McIntire, the cast includes pros like Ray Collins (CITIZEN KANE), Frank Faylen, Robert Warwick, Eduard Franz, and, as one of the young soldiers, Tony Curtis, who had begun in films the previous year and only had a few small credits to his name at this point.

O'Connor had been a staple at Universal Pictures for a number of years when he was cast in this film. He's just right in an almost surprisingly low-key performance as the soldier who somewhat nonchalantly accepts that he's befriended a talking mule. O'Connor's performance as nice guy Peter provides a good contrast with Wills' sardonic line readings as the title character.

Special mention goes to both Pitts and McIntire, who are particularly funny. Pitts' trademark vacant line readings and almost territorial interest in Peter when Maureen visits the hospital are quite amusing, and the scene where McIntire tries to stave off questions on his own mental state late in the film is great.

All in all this was an entertaining movie and I'm curious to check out the next films in the series, which costar the likes of Piper Laurie, Lori Nelson, Julie Adams, Mamie Van Doren, Martha Hyer, and Clint Eastwood. Plus it was great to read that Zasu Pitts returns as the nurse in one of the later films.

FRANCIS was directed by Arthur Lubin. It was filmed in black and white by Irving Glassberg.

The print for FRANCIS and each of the films in the set is a brand-new 2K master. There's nothing distinctive about the film's look, but the print quality is excellent.

FRANCIS has a commentary track by Lee Gambin. There are no other extras with this film, but I'll note here that every film in this set has a commentary, and five of the seven films also have newly remastered trailers. Anyone who's at all interested in these films will want to acquire this collection.

Look for additional reviews from this set over the course of the summer; I'll be mixing them in with quite a number of other reviews of very interesting releases from Kino Lorber.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray collection.


Blogger Vienna said...

Sounds fun. Haven’t seen one of ‘Francis’ films in an age.

1:07 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I think I was a teenager the last time I'd seen a Francis film, and I've only ever seen that one. Looking forward to a "Francis" summer this year.

Best wishes,

3:05 PM  

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