Three Days of Fred: The Shaggy Dog (1959)

A note from Lindsey: I happened to schedule a few Fred MacMurray films in a row, so this week TMP brings to you an impromptu series of posts, THREE DAYS OF FRED! Today we’ll be looking at The Shaggy Dog, with reviews of Where Do We Go From Here? and Never a Dull Moment to follow.

Wilby Daniels (Tommy Kirk) is the odd duck of the Daniels family. He often finds himself at odds with his father, Wilson (Fred MacMurray). Wilson is baffled by Wilby’s penchant for inventing odd things, and as a former mailman, he is at odds with the children on the subject of whether the family should adopt a dog.

(Image via Movie Poster Shop)
(Image via Movie Poster Shop)

When a French family moves in next door, Wilby and his neighborhood rival Buzz (Tim Considine) decide to accompany the family’s lovely daughter, Franceska (Roberta Shore), to a museum. After Wilby is separated from Buzz and Francesca, he runs into Professor Plumcutt (Cecil Kellaway), who tells him about the mystical Borgia family and their shape-shifting powers.

Ever the clumsy child, Wilby bumps into a jewelry case on his way out of the museum and comes in contact with a cursed Borgia ring… which causes him to transform into a sheepdog! Wilson may have no choice but to adopt a dog when his son becomes one!

The Shaggy Dog was directed by Charles Barton.

I grew up on Disney’s classic animated films and have seen several of their live-action offerings as well, but had never seen (or even known of the existence of) The Shaggy Dog until back in August, when I was channel-flipping and happened to turn it on just as it was starting. I had no clue what it was, as I’d missed the opening credits by a hair. I decided to keep it on because I was in the mood for something light to watch, and what’s lighter than a family-friendly film full of child actors?

Bless Walt Disney for putting this weird little film into the world; it came into my life just when I needed a laugh, as I was struggling to come to terms with the loss of my grandmother. Since I had no clue what I was watching, I didn’t expect a story about a new family moving in next door to turn into a film about… a boy who transforms into a dog sometimes. I engaged in a lot of “movie therapy” during the last few weeks of August, and this was the first film to really put a smile on my face.

(Image via Pop Culture Safari)
(Image via Pop Culture Safari)

The subject matter is as kooky as kooky can be, and it’s handled in a fashion just silly enough to bring the laughs without crossing into “hilariously awful” territory. The film is cheesy as heck, but a lot of fun to watch. If you’re a fan of oddball families movies or Disney flicks, I urge you to give this one a look. There are plot holes and some less-than-convincing special effects, but it’s a delightful fantasy-comedy if you can look past those things.

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