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Darby O'Gill and the Little People (1959)

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Review by Jon Olsen


Directed by Robert Stevenson, written by Lawrence Edward Watkin, based on theDarby O'Gill stories by H.T. Kavanagh. Cast: Albert Sharpe, Janet Munro, Sean Connery, Jimmy O'Dea, Kieron Moore, Estelle Winwood, Walter Fitzgerald.

As a rule, Disney's live action films are horrible. Hor-rib-bull. And if you rent one on video you will have to endure hours and hours of previews for other live action films that look so bad, the sight of them on a video store shelf will make you lose control of your bowels. On this tape fr'instance, I was subjected to previews of "Tom and Huck" with Jonathan Taylor Thomas, "Heidi" remake No. 8743X, and "Gordy" the tale of a talking pig who becomes a corporate CEO because only ugly little child-actors can understand his English.When the feature finally started my brain was thoroughly fried. Maybe that's why I found this film mildly entertaining. "Darby O'Gill" is a corny-but-fun family flick set in historic Matte-Painting Ireland. The titular character is an old, alcoholic geezer who regularly encounters little character actors dressed up in Lucky Charms leprechaun costumes and harasses them until they grant him wishes. But after he's got 'em cornered, the little bastards always employ the "fourth wish" loophole which makes all contracts null and void, and Darby is once more a man with no pot o' gold. But one day Darby catches the leprechaun ruler himself, King Brian. He spends the next few days toting King Brian around in a burlap sack, taking his time to carefully decide what the fuck he's going to choose for his three wishes. There's also some subplot involving Darby's sexy Irish daughter and her love interest, an unbelievably young, pre-Bond Sean Connery. The best scene in the movie occurs when ol' Darby struts into the local pub and plants his wriggling sack o' leprechaun upon the bar. He then tells all his old geezer drinking pals that King Brian of the Little People is in the sack, and naturally his pals chuckle because they know Darby is a crazy old drunk. But then Darby orders up a shot glass of twenty year old whiskey, opens the sack, and lowers the drink inside. The other barflies gasp in astonishment as "something" takes the glass from Darby's hand, drinks it empty in one gulp, hands it back. For sure, those barflies are now believers. This scene is not only quaint and funny, it's kind of chilling. It evokes a feeling of brushing up against the unknown. And that's when I started thinking that this movie, with only a few minor alterations in tone and content, would make an excellent supernatural thriller. This is what the franchise of "Leprechaun" horror flicks could have been. A subtle, intelligent, M. Night Shyamalan styled portrait of Gallic faerie lore. The spine-tingling climax contains a cheesy looking banshee and a flying coach which comes to collect dead souls. Update the visual effects without going overboard, milk the fright factor a little harder, and "Darby O'Gill and the Little People" could just be the next "Sixth Sense". Even the predictable last minute happy ending wouldn't detract from the films potential chill factor

2/10/05.  The Humboldt County Travelogue NPLU's long lost documentary now available on DVD!



Sasquatch Ain't Dead Yet, an interview with investigator Jimmy Chilcutt.
The Films of Jensen Rufe, an interview with filmmaker Jensen Rufe.


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