Title: The Rescuers
Release Date: June 22, 1977
Director: Wolfgang Reitherman, John Lounsbery, & Art Stevens
Production Company: Walt Disney Productions
I’ve never seen The Rescuers before – even though it was released when I was just the right age for it – and oh, do I regret that because it is a perfectly charming and gently humorous film. This is the first film where Don Bluth worked as directing animator and his style is all over it. Thus even though I never saw The Rescuers it makes me nostalgic because it’s similar to Bluth’s films The Secret of NIMH and An American Tail, which I did see as a kid.
The movie is about the Rescue Aid Society, an international group of mice who work out of the United Nations to help people in need. When they find a message in a bottle from a little girl who was abducted, Penny, the Hungarian agent Miss Bianca (Eva Gabor) volunteers for the mission. The paternalistic Chairman refuses to allow a woman to go on the mission alone so she chooses the awkward and superstitious Rescue Aid Society janitor, Bernard (Bob Newhart), as her co-agent. These characters are perfectly voiced and I love everything about them.
The mission takes them from the streets of New York City, on a harrowing flight aboard a clumsy albatross, Orville (Jim Jordan), and into a mysterious Southern bayou. There are some dark undertones to this story as Penny is kidnapped from an orphanage by Madame Medusa (Geraldine Page) and Snoops (Joe Flynn) because they needed someone small enough to fit in a cave and find the Devil’s Eye diamond. There’s a level of malice in these villains, a banality of evil, that is more unsettling than in a typical Disney film. On the other hand, there’s a scene where two alligators play a pipe organ, which is delightfully weird.
One thing about this movie that makes me bristle is that while Miss Bianca is the most capable character, it also includes gags built on stereotypes of women. The 1970s take on “women can do anything” gets undercut when Miss Bianca takes a long time packing her bags or attracts alligators with her perfume. Those reservations aside, this is a perfectly delightful film, an adventure with a gentle pace and a lot of heart.