|Poster/photo credit: Walt Disney Studios|
Bring Me the Head of Walt Disney (Frozen or Otherwise)
"No! You can't see that movie. You'll be scared & have nightmares."
After an umpteenth refusal for us to see Pit & the Pendulum or other such vileness, Mom let Dad take us to see another Disney offering. Ah, yes. More uplifting, wholesome, family goodness! Now, normally, people don't think anything from the Disney studios to be damaging to children. True, there was that off screen shooting of Bambies' mother, but that was a mild anomaly not to be repeated. Disney films were supposed to be masterpieces of life affirming, goodness & spiritually edifying fun & happiness. Or so most thought at the time. Howsomever, we kids hadn't reckoned on a tour de force of jollity & good cheer bearing the title of.........Old Yeller.
Dad took us as Mom had to stay home with baby sister. Had they come with us she would have understood the folly of shielding us from the world. She got it second hand. Boy, did she ever!
I don't remember that much about the flick except for the last 20-30 minutes: Disease! Rabies! Death!
Tommy Kirk takes the gun from Pa.
Cut to barn door opening.
Shot of foam at the mouth title character in stall.
Back to Kirk taking aim.
Quick cut of "Cujo" taking a flying leap at the camera.
Quick shot of gun muzzle. BANG!
Fast fade to black.
A few seconds pass as it registers on the audience.
Little moans. One here. Another there. Several more scattered round. More dispersed yelps sprinkle the crowd. More. A little more, till it's evenly spread throughout. All in coordination, it rises in pitch & volume. Higher. Louder. Louder! Higher!
All united & chorousing upward into an overwhelming crescendo of primal scream.
Pandaemonium. Whole & total.
People jumping, hitting the cieling. Writhing on the floor. Throwing up in the aisles. Running about in bounce off the walls panic.
The kids were even worse.
Maybe I exagerate but you get the picture. We were, to say the least, in shock. Traumatized.
Dad, scanning about the theater, a look of abject disgust of his face. Through the tears, I'm thinking, "cool!"
It settles down a bit & everyone watches the epilogue/wrap-up. (Older Disney flicks had anti-climactic ending scenes.) The replacement puppy shows up (They gonna shoot him too?) & the crying crap starts in again. The End. Not yet kiddies....not yet.
The square in Mt. Vernon lies on a gentle slope. The Vernon Theater occupied the lowest (southwest) corner. Out of this "wailing well" come the most piteous squeals, echoing off the First Knox Nat. Bank & other structures. Reverberating down the side alley, bouncing off Brinings News Stand & back up. (Vine St. didn't channel any of it away.) Gives it a sort of "stroboscopic" effect. First time I ever heard sound in quite that way.
Heading home, Dad tries to explain rabies to us. We're having none of that. Reality indeed! Hey! They shot the dog! Deadern'a door nail! Waaaaaaah! Cars pull to the side, thinking an emergency vehicle needs to pass.
After all the dog did for them! Brought fun & happiness into their dull, inbred, backwoods existence. Making life more interesting in Deliverence country. Saved em from the bear 'n wolves, etc. Then they had to go 'n shoot him! Darn old subsistance farmers!
We're sort of settled down by the time we pull into home.
Getting in, Mom cheerily greets us, " so. How was your movie?"
Younger brother, stares blankly at the wall, mouth hanging open. Youngest brother, sitting, back to a wall, rocking back & forth, muttering, "they shot the dog ....eh...eh ....eh ....eh ....eh ..eh....eh.....they shot the dog!" Little sister, letting out a minutes long wail, not once pausing for breath. Dad, staring at the cieling, with a "Why me?" kind of look.
"John. John? JOHN! What kind of movie did you take them to?! It wasn't that horror movie, was it?!"
"For Gods' sake Hon! It was a Walt Disney movie! It was Old Yeller!"
"So what happened?"
"Aw, they shot the dog."
"Oh, shut up!"
We didn't go to the movies much after that. On many a Sunday night after. When The Wonderful World of Disney/Color would come on. I'd curse that guy whenever he'd appear.
"Hello, boys & girls!"
"You're sick Disney! Sick! I hate your slime covered guts! Die, you -------! Die!"
Fast forward a few years to military school. Wednesday movie in the rec hall. 16mm projector puttering away. (Buena Vista presents.......uh oh.) It's the one about John Wesley Powell exploring the Grand Canyon.
"We can't take the dog with us. Here...", handing the rifle over. (Oh, no. Not again?!)
The guy takes aim.
Cut to a wide eyed, happy looking, wiggly tailed, little terrier, toungue hanging out. I swear, the dog actually smiled!
Hand pulls the hammer back.
Back to happy dog.
"Agan, quit yer cryin!
"I'm not cryin!"
"What's goin on?"
"Aw, Agan's cryin."
"Shut up man! I'ma kick yer butt!"
Guy relents & lowers the rifle. The pup is saved. Whew!
Yes sir! The ole tried 'n true Disney formula: KILL THE DOG!
Folks think I'm warped due to all the crazy flicks/books I've watched/read over the years. Not so. It wasn't Lugosi, Karloff, Price, Corman, the Chaneys or any of the other greats who put my miniscule grey matter in a bunch.
It was that darned Disney.
Article copyright © 12-17-20
Old Yeller as I saw it. (Parody trailer is not mine).
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