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Warner Home Video presents
Lassie Come Home (1943)

"Mother, something's happened to Lassie. She didn't meet me at school today."
- Joe Carraclaugh (Roddy McDowall)

Review By: Mark Zimmer  
Published: August 30, 2004

Stars: Roddy McDowall, Donald Crisp, Dame May Whitty, Edmund Gwenn, Lassie
Other Stars: Nigel Bruce, Elsa Lanchester, Elizabeth Taylor, Ben Webster, J. Pat O'Malley, Alan Napier
Director: Fred M. Wilcox

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: G for (minor cruelty to animals, weepy sentiment)
Run Time: 01h:29m:09s
Release Date: August 24, 2004
UPC: 012569572423
Genre: adventure

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

There are few stories with more potential for tearjerking than that of a boy and his dog, and few such stories do it quite so well as Lassie Come Home. Based on a best-selling novel by Eric Knight, this is the movie that launched the Lassie empire of films, television shows, and countless tie-ins. While the concept eventually became so cliché as to be a joke, it's done with a heartfelt earnestness here the first time out.

In Yorkshire during the Great Depression, young Joe Carraclough (Roddy McDowall) loves his best friend, the collie Lassie, who greets him every day at the school door at 4 PM. But his parents (Donald Crisp and Elsa Lanchester) are in desperate financial straits, and Lassie is their only salable possession. Reluctantly, the father sells the dog to the Duke of Rudling (Nigel Bruce) for use as a show dog. But Lassie repeatedly escapes, returning to Joe's side. Finally, the Duke takes Lassie to Scotland for competition, but with the connivance of the Duke's young granddaughter Priscilla (a preteen Elizabeth Taylor), Lassie makes her way free again, only to face hundreds of miles of overland trek as she bravely makes her way to her beloved Joe.

This was a project that was clearly taken seriously by MGM; it sports a first-rate cast, led by McDowall, fresh off How Green Was My Valley and My Friend Flicka. He has a tearful sincerity that drives the picture even for those who despise such vehicles for child actors. Crisp, Lanchester and Bruce are all reliable character actors, and even Dame May Whitty and Edmund Gwenn get into the act as people who befriend Lassie on her long trek. Particularly memorable is a young J. Pat O'Malley as Hynes, the cruel kennel master for the Duke. Lassie herself demonstrates clear intelligence without becoming ridiculous, as often was the case during the long-running television series.

There's no denying that this picture will be profoundly affecting for any dog owner or dog lover. I watched it with my dog Ginger and I found myself bawling repeatedly at the emotional tugs that the highly-charged and poignant tale makes throughout. Recommended for the whole family.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The full frame image shows significant wear to the elements, especially at the reel changes. Optical dissolves also have a fair amount of dirt printed in, a side effect of the three-strip Technicolor process. However, the transfer itself is quite nice, with plenty of detail and texture; the many tweeds and wools look quite naturalistic. Sky shots tend to be somewhat flickery, but otherwise color is very good, if a bit dated-looking.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglish, Frenchyes

Audio Transfer Review: 1.0 mono tracks in both English and French are provided. The original English version has a barely noticeable hiss, but is otherwise quite clean, with only an occasional bit of crackle. The music is a bit thin-sounding, but considering its age, that probably can't be helped. There are no significant problems.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 25 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish, French with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Son of Lassie, Courage of Lassie
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: In addition to the trailers for the first three Lassie movies, the only other extra is a short subject on Fala, FDR's dog, released the same year as the feature. This is a "Pete Smith Specialty" directed by Gunther V. Fritsch, and tells Fala's story in the first person, with plenty of clips of the dog with President Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. The first-person narrative gets a bit cutesy at times, but it's an amusing little companion piece to the feature.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

The beloved classic comes to DVD a little the worse for wear but still attractive. The extras are limited but show some ingenuity in programming.


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