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MGM Studios DVD presents
Tom Sawyer (1973)

"I bet Tom Sawyer will be the death of me yet."
- Aunt Polly (Celeste Holm)

Review By: Jeff Ulmer   
Published: April 27, 2006

Stars: Johnny Whitaker, Celeste Holm, Jeff East, Warren Oates, Jodie Foster
Other Stars: Lucille Benson, Henry Jones, Noah Keen, Dub Taylor, Richard Eastham, Sandy Kenyon, Joshua Hill Lewis, Susan Joyce, Steve Hogg, Sean Summers, Kevin Jefferson, Page Williams, James A. Kuhn, Mark Lynch, Jonathan Taylor, Anne Voss, Kunu Hank
Director: Don Taylor

MPAA Rating: G for (some frightening scenes)
Run Time: 01h:38m:50s
Release Date: August 09, 2005
UPC: 027616927453
Genre: adventure

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A A-C+B+ D+

DVD Review

In my memories of childhood, the seasonal family get togethers at my grandmother's house stand out as some of the most cherished. While the adults visited, gathered around the livingroom, the kids would often watch TV, and it was there that my first recollection of Tom Sawyer is most vivid.

With countless versions of Mark Twain's adventures already brought to screen, Reader's Digest commissioned a musical adaptation, which was released in 1975. Starring Disney kid Johnny Whittaker (Napoleon and Samantha, Sigmund and the Sea Monsters) in the title role, Tom Sawyer tells the story of a simpler time in Hannibal, Missouri, where kids could roam barefoot and care-free. Together with his best friend, Huckleberry Finn (Jeff East), Tom would spend the days skipping school and fishing, often meeting up with local boozer, Muff Potter (Warren Oates).

Tom and Huck are notorious for getting into trouble, but when the two of them witness a murder, and "Injun" Joe (Kunu Hank) frames Muff for the deed, Tom has no choice but to stand up for his friend and finger the real killer, who vows to kill him. With a death threat hanging over their heads, Tom and Huck decide to run away from home until Joe is caught, but when their raft capsizes the town folk believe the boys are dead. The two continue their free-spirited adventures all the while trying to elude the man out to seek revenge.

Tom Sawyer is a wonderful adventure full of memorable scenes, from the riverboat encounter to the final torch-lit confrontation with Injun Joe. The kids all put in great performances, including an appearance by Jodie Foster as Tom's would be sweetheart, Becky Thatcher. The screenplay and songs were written by Richard and Robert Sherman, responsible for the music in many of Disney's classics including Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Conducted by John Williams, most of the musical numbers are memorable, including Gratifaction (where Tom convinces the neighborhood kids that his punishment of white washing the fence is fun), the lively Freebootin' or Charley Pride's River Song. This is one of those films that once experienced as a kid will never fall out of favor.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - P&S
Original Aspect Rationo

Image Transfer Review: Filmed in a panoramic 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio, MGM has chosen to butcher the composition with this cramped looking pan and scan transfer, further exascerbating the insult with a properly framed opening title sequence. Colors and contrast are reasonable, and print defects minor. Highly disappointed doesn't begin to cover my feelings on this presentation.

Image Transfer Grade: C+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: The stereo track found here is in good shape, with nothing untoward in the defects department. Dialogue is clear and easy to follow, and the musical numbers come across well. nothing outstanding in terms of presentation, but acceptable.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: unmarked keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The film's theatrical trailer (in widescreen no less) is the lone extra.

Extras Grade: D+


Final Comments

Nominated for three Oscars (Best Art Direction/Set Decoration, Best Costume Design, and Best Music, Scoring Original Song Score and/or Adaptation), Tom Sawyer is a family classic, but unfortunately, it deserves far better treatment than found here. I can only hope that a proper widescreen transfer is delivered at some point to undo this injustice.


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