Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Sammy, the Way-Out Seal

Sammy: A Tale of Terror and Dog Riots

What's it about?

Tonight's nostalgic pic is "Sammy, the Way-Out Seal" (Disney, 1962). While on vacation on the beach, preteen Arthur Loomis (Michael McGreevey) and his little brother Petey (Bill Mumy, before his famous role as "Will Robinson" on "Lost in Space" but long after his first appearance in TV and film), happen upon a seal with a pretty nasty wound.

This guy was a Disney regular for decades after this.

Bill Mumy at his absolute Mumiest.

Concerned for the creature, the boys get their dad's first aid kit and nurse the seal back to health. Afterwards, they spend the rest of their vacation playing with the seal that they affectionately named "Sammy."
See dumb animals perform tricks -- also: A seal!

When they are ready to go home, the boys decide that they want Sammy to join them, and hide him in the family's utility trailer to sneak him back to their home in the landlocked town of Gatesville. Once back, the two kids rope their friend Porsche "Rocky" Sylvester (Ann Jillian) into helping them (because her family has a swimming pool) while they work up the courage to tell their father Chester (Robert Culp) and mother Helen (Patricia Barry) what they have done.
This traumatized Robert Culp so much, he decided to be a murderer on "Columbo" several times afterwards.

Pictured: House mom.

A young Ann Jillian helps out.

The pool gets a SEAL of approval! Get it?

Soon the precocious Sammy is invading Rocky's father Harold's (Jack Carson) garden party, stealing food, and generally causing mayhem for the small town!
And the man in the back said "everyone attack," and it turned into a poolside blitz!

Some background

This production was (probably) originally produced as a low budget film, but was broken up into two hour-long episodes of "The Wonderful World of Disney" back when it was known as "Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color" (even though most people didn't have color television sets until the early 1970s). Director Norman Tokar seemed to be an experienced sitcom director ("Leave It to Beaver"), but eventually did a lot of animal-based comedies after this. It is notable that this is sadly the last appearance of comedic actor Jack Carson, who passed away from terminal cancer a few short months after its airing.

I immediately recognized him from the 1944 production of "Arsenic and Old Lace."

The bad

Modern audiences will notice that this streaming version on Disney+ is only 44 minutes long; this seems to be a heavily edited version of the original film, and some scenes are truncated to the point where they don't seem to go anywhere or jump to another sequence entirely. I remember it being longer when our elementary school used it for "movie day" when I was a kid in the 80s, so there's definitely some content that was left on the cutting room floor here. The story is still coherent enough, so it definitely doesn't overstay its welcome in its current form.

They did leave in the entire dog riot, though.

Dog riot: The cutest kind of riot!

Dog riot!


Observant viewers will also notice that the seal they use in some scenes seems to have additional injuries that are not addressed in the film, which may mean that there is some evidence of abuse or neglect of the animal performers, which sadly wasn't unheard of at the time, and which Walt Disney Productions was a notable grievous offender.

The good

On its own, it's a cute little movie. The kids are inventive, and Sammy is adorable, with none of the biting savagery of an actual seal (they are predatory wild animals, after all).

Proof of a seal's savagery? This one is played by Forest Whitaker.

Just make sure that your kids know that it's NOT OKAY to try to bet a seal without professional supervision. There is one scene that is a little graphic as the kids try to heal Sammy's wound, but otherwise it seems like lighthearted animal fun, especially when Sammy causes a pack of dogs to basically riot through a grocery store, which is adorable and funny. On a personal note, it was nice to see an old grocery store like from my childhood, with uniformed employees, wood paneled walls, and plenty of chrome cigarette vending machines, just waiting for young children to put their money in and pull that satisfying lever.

Where can you watch it?

"Sammy, the Way-Out Seal" is rated TV-G for all audiences in the USA and is currently streaming on Disney+.

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