DVD Talk
Release List Reviews Shop Newsletter Forum DVD Giveaways Blu-Ray Advertise
Reviews & Columns
Reviews
DVD
TV on DVD
Blu-ray
Ultra HD
International DVDs
Theatrical
Video Games

Features
Collector Series DVDs
Easter Egg Database
Interviews
DVD Talk Radio
Feature Articles

Columns
Anime Talk
DVD Stalk
DVD Savant
High-Def Revolution
Silent DVD

discussion forum
DVD Talk Forum
Resources
DVD Price Search
Customer Service #'s
RCE Info
Links

DVDTalk Info
Review Staff
About DVD Talk
Advertise
Newsletter Subscribe
Join DVD Talk Forum
DVD Talk Feeds


Sponsored Links

Search: For:
Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Bedtime for Bonzo
Bedtime for Bonzo
Universal // Unrated // May 31, 2005
List Price: $12.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Stuart Galbraith IV | posted June 24, 2005 | E-mail the Author
Buy from Amazon.com
C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Recommended
E - M A I L
this review to a friend
P R I N T
Printer Friendly
There was a time when Bedtime for Bonzo (1951) was the punchline for endless jokes concerning the movie career of future president Ronald Reagan, the idea being that any actor who'd sink so low as to play second banana to a baby chimpanzee in a third-rate comedy could hardly be taken seriously. At various times the film (and others starring Reagan, though only Knute Rockne All-American ever got as much attention) was pulled from syndication whenever Reagan ran for public office out of fear that his opponent would demand equal airtime. Now that Reagan is dead and the jokes are but a memory it's easier to reappraise the picture for what it is: a harmless comedy very similar to those Disney would soon begin cranking out with Reagan playing an antecedent to the parts Fred MacMurray (and, later, Dean Jones) would play in the Disney pictures.

Like the Disney pictures, Bedtime for Bonzo takes place in a kind of Anytown, U.S.A., brought to generic life on the studio backlot. At Sheridan College, Dean Tillinghast (Herbert Heyes, in the Joe Flynn role) learns that daughter Valerie's (Lucille Barkley) future husband, psychology professor Peter Boyd (Reagan), is the son of an infamous career criminal. Fearing that criminal tendencies may be hereditary, the Dean refuses to consent to their marriage.

But after rescuing Bonzo (Bonzo), a lab chimpanzee entrusted to Professor Neumann (Walter Slezak), Peter is inspired to conduct an elaborate experiment: raise Bonzo at home, like a small child, and prove that it's possible to teach "the difference between right and wrong." How this would disprove the Dean's notions about hereditary influences is unclear - it's not as if Bonzo's father was a safecracker - but Peter seems convinced this'll somehow win back the dean's trust.

Peter hires pretty Jane Linden (Diana Lynn) to act as Bonzo's surrogate mother, and it's immediately clear that haughty, austere Valerie hasn't got a chance against sweet and maternal Jane, especially after, for the purposes of the experiment, she begins referring to Peter as "Papa," and he "Mama" to her. They also kiss in the morning as Peter goes off to class, purely to create "the proper atmosphere, harmony in the home." Yeah, right.

Of course, when he's not playing matchmaker Bonzo gets into all sorts of trouble, including robbing a jewelry store for which Peter is blamed. But the script leaves little doubt that all will end happily. (Curiously, the forgotten sequel, 1952's Bonzo Goes to College, implies that all didn't end well. But that's another story.)

Bedtime for Bonzo is not a bad little picture, one that even today kids and undemanding parents might enjoy. It's certainly no worse that the flood of Disney films that followed the same, well-worn formula. Reagan's Peter is a very Disneyesque absent-minded professor, an egghead too dense to realize that Jane has fallen in love with him, or that Bonzo has brought out his paternal instincts.

After eight years in the White House, watching Ronald Reagan movies can never be the same. It's hard not to think of the politician, even when he's scolding an ape dressed as a cowboy for stealing precious jewels. Reagan is somewhat bland but amusing when he's frustrated by the monkey's antics, and moderately appealing in the same way MacMurray was later on. It's really not an embarrassing part for the actor; after all, Cary Grant played an almost identical character the following year (in Howard Hawks' Monkey Business). Reagan needs not to have been ashamed.

Diana Lynn is charming with a June Allyson-Gloria Grahame-Renee Zellweger sort of appeal. Director Fred De Cordova, who would go on to direct The Jack Benny Show and later The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson keeps things moving so the picture never wears out its welcome. Bonzo himself is undeniably adorable, whether sliding down the banister, happily playing with a beach ball, or curious about a vacuum cleaner. And he really does seem to bond with both Reagan and Lynn.

Video & Audio

Bedtime for Bonzo is presented in its original full frame format in an excellent black and white transfer. The image is sharp with little signs of wear, and the blacks are excellent throughout. Optional French and Spanish subtitles are included, along with optional English subtitles for the hard-of-hearing.

Extra Features

The only supplement is what's billed as a Trailer but what is actually a 1-minute television spot. The spot is complete with text and narration (by Jack Benny Show regular Frank Nelson, who calls the star "Ronald Ree-gun") but without music, though it may have originally aired that way.

Parting Thoughts

Bedtime for Bonzo is one of those famous film titles known to most adults who survived the Reagan years, yet seen by few. It's a decent enough family film, still enjoyable, and not a bad way to kill a rainy afternoon.

Stuart Galbraith IV is a Kyoto-based film historian whose work includes The Emperor and the Wolf - The Lives and Films of Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune and Taschen's forthcoming Cinema Nippon. Visit Stuart's Cine Blogarama here.

Popular Reviews
1. Horror Express
2. Valentine
3. Overlord
4. At Eternity's Gate
5. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
6. Shame
7. Washington Square
8. Peppermint Soda
9. So Dark the Night
10. Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers


Sponsored Links
DVD Blowouts
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
Alien [Blu-ray]
Buy: $19.99 $9.99
8.
9.
10.
Sponsored Links
Release List Reviews Shop Newsletter Forum DVD Giveaways Blu-Ray Advertise
Copyright 2019 DVDTalk.com All Rights Reserved. Legal Info, Privacy Policy, Terms of Use