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Anchor Bay presents
"I decided I better go and live with the indians, on account of Major and all."
DVD ReviewDirector Berhard McEveety's first of three pictures for Walt Disney in the early seventies marked the debut feature appearance of a girl who would grow up on camera to become not only one of Hollywood's greatest actresses, but also an accomplished director and producer, Jodie Foster. Looking back at Napoleon and Samantha, it is not hard to recognise the talent that was presented here was bound to go on to greatness. Although she made her TV debut at the age of three in a Coppertone commercial, this was the first of many Disney films featuring Foster, and one of two also featuring costar Johnny Whitaker, who would play the lead opposite her in Tom Sawyer and would later star in TV's Sigmund and the Seamonsters series.
Napoleon (Whitaker) is an 11 year old who lives with his grandfather (Will Gere), and takes a former circus lion named Major as a pet. Not long after, his grandfather dies, and when his schoolmate and best friend Samantha (Foster) tells him he will end up in an orphanage, Napoleon enlists the help of a young student named Danny (Michael Douglas) to help bury his grandfather in secret, while he waits for his uncle to arrive from New York. When Napoleon learns that his uncle is not coming, he decides to run away with Major in search of Danny, and Samantha tags along for the back woods journey, misleading her housekeeper (Ellen Corby) in the process. The trio set off over the mountains and encounter all manor of wild animal, setting up confrontations between their trusty canine companion and the wild creatures. When it discovered that the children are missing, suspicion is cast on Danny, who was last seen with them. The children have to learn that running away from their problems won't solve them.
Napoleon and Samantha is a delightful family film, despite some very adult overtones in the last sequence of the film. Foster is brilliant in her first feature roll, completely natural in front of the camera. Whitaker also delivers a decent performance, and it was very nice to see the late Will Gere and Ellen Corby (both of The Waltons fame) sharing the screen again. Michael Douglas does his usual fine job as Danny, a role that I doubt would be written these days due to his friendliness with the young children. Finally, how could you not love Major the lion. This is fine family entertainment from Disney that I think adults will enjoy as much as kids.
Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A
Image Transfer Review: Napoleon and Samantha is presented in both standard and nonanamorphic widescreen. The widescreen image is beautiful, with rich detailed color and only very minor artifacting in some scenes. The print is quite clean, with only occasional dust and dirt. The mountain wilderness is rendered wonderfully. This is a very good nonanamorphic image, even when zoomed in for viewing on a widescreen TV. The open matte standard version is cropped on the sides, but again looks very good.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: An english 2 channel mono track is the only available option. It is clean and hiss is inaudible. Anchor Bay has done a good job preserving the soundtrack which features a Buddy Baker's playful score. Very suitable for the film.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 22 cues
Extras Review: Standard for a Disney licence, this has no extras (unless you count skipable FBI warnings as "trailers"). We get one of the worst looking menu screens I have ever seen with only play and chapter listing options. A four page insert is included which features the chapter listing and a brief synopsis duplicating the back cover.
Extras Grade: D-
Final CommentsAnother solid, movie only release from Anchor Bay. A very young Jodie Foster is outstanding, the story is charming, and the transfer is very enjoyable to watch. Good, old time family entertainment. Recommended.
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