After viewing Disney’s One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961) — directed by Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske, and Wolfgang Reitherman — I am of the mind that there are two terrific things about the movie. The first is the animation of the dalmatian puppies, which is incredibly lifelike and endearing. The second (related) is the use of movies-in-movie.
Specifically, One Hundred and Dalmations shows, in a vivid and clever way, film’s ability to rivet us. As this blog has repeatedly noted, the power doesn’t necessarily diminish when the film is schlocky. A bit more than us humans, the puppies — especially Lucky, who seems to want to climb into the TV, even when a commercial is on — are transfixed by a good story, to the point of forgetting it’s not real. And especially when the hero is a dog.
The two bad guys entrusted with keeping watch over the dognapped puppies are similarly transported — to the point of neglecting their duties — by the quiz show What’s My Crime?, which by this time I probably have to point out was a takeoff on the then-popular series What’s My Line? Not surprisingly, Lucky, the sort of audience member every filmmaker wants, is loving it too.
I hate to say it, but to me the worst clip is the real one. We’re back with the bad guys and the puppies. On the telly is a Disney short from 1929, “Springtime,” complete with dancing flowers. It’s so blah it can’t even hold Horace and Jasper’s attention. But the doggies are into it. Especially — even after mayhem breaks out — Lucky.