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Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay!
Film critics do things for various reasons. Money is one - though there is surprisingly little of it in our current publishing clime - and love of movies is another. Then there are those obscure and/or obtuse motives for making our opinions of cinema known. In the case of Scudda-Hoo! Scudda-Hay! it was a weird collections of cartoons by an artist whose name escapes me now. It was back while I was in college and while flipping through his book (I am convinced this person is male), I came across a drawing of a guy holding the leads to two mules. On the one side was a donkey named "Scudda Ho" (sic) and on the other was one named "Scudda Hey" (sic). Without any frame of reference, I turned to my college roommate and said "Scudda Ho!" He looked puzzled. I showed him the drawing and he immediate shot back "Scudda Hey!" From that day on, we used these phrases as a kind of non-sequitor punchline. At any given moment during my university tenure, you could hear us responding to some silly thing by saying "Scudda Ho" and "Scudda Hey."
Naturally, I was stunned to learn some 30 years later (yes, I am that old...SHUT UP!) that this was the title to an actual film...an actual film about a man who owns donkeys. Immediately, I requested it from our DVD Talk list, and when I got it, I frantically unwrapped it and watched it. Ummm...maybe the old proverb is true (paraphrased and jerry-rigged to fit this situation): one should never meet their "heroes." In this case, the rather bland if bouncy B-movie elements of this otherwise fine old school Hollywood romantic melodrama failed to live up to my imagination's expectations. Instead of camp and kitsch I discovered journeyman-like joys and a decent level of fun. I also learned to be careful what you ask for, since I can now no longer think about the aforementioned cartoon without my newfound cinematic perspective. Talk about undermining your memories. I may never truly recover.
Anyway, the storyline sees Daniel "Snug" Dominy (Lon McCallister) conspiring with his father Milt (Henry Hull) regarding the latter's new wife, the horrible harpy Judith (Anne Reeve) and stepson Stretch (Robert Karnes). Their property based motives are obvious from the first few frames. As they plot, Milt joins the Merchant Marines and Snug gets a job at Roarer McGill's (Tom Tully) place. As luck would have it, our hero is also in love with his employer's daughter, Rad (June Haver). Snug eventually buys two mules on the condition that if he misses a payment, they revert back to the previous owner. Hoping an old drunk named Tony (Walter Brennan) can help tame the beasts, our lead looks into some advice. He eventually finds work in a logging community, learns to control the mules, and must deal with the repercussions of his dad's death, especially as to his legal rights to the farm and against Judith and Stretch.
If modern movies were as corny as Scudda-Hoo! Scudda-Hay! the FDA would have to ban them for excessive use of said crop. No emotion is subtle, not plot point inferred. Our heroes are strong and virtuous, our villains vile and manic. There is no middle ground, no chance for nuance or post-modern appeal. Instead, we get McCallister and Haver making cow-eyes (or should that be, donkey eyes) at each other for 70 minutes, followed by the kind of convoluted plotting that kept the pre/post War home fires burning long after such hokum was healthy. On the other hand, such simple cinematic shorthand provides its own unique pleasures. It's nice to see something where the conflicts are resolved in a reasonable manner, where down and out characters are redeemed (Brennan is very good here) and the good get what they deserve. While it has destroyed a favorite memory from my college days, Scudda-Hoo! Scudda-Hay! is a quality little piffle that can pass for a title TCM "might" consider playing some late evening when they've run out of real "classics" to concentrate on.
As with most product offered through studio archives/turn and burn self-distribution, Scudda-Hoo! Scudda-Hay! doesn't look too bad. It's 1.33:1 image is not remastered, but there are limited age artifacts and a nice level of contrast. Again, don't expect some Criterion level of monochrome image delivery and you'll be just fine. The Dolby Digital Mono is also an issue, since the sound is very thin and tinny. As for added content...you're kidding, right? This is a Fox Cinematic Archives release. No bonus features here.
Again, there is a part of me that wishes I had never come across Scudda-Hoo! Scudda-Hay! I don't want to lose my connection to the past and yet I cannot deny learning the source of a once quotable friendship comeback has created a kind of closure to the whole chapter. I now want to go back and find the cartoon collection and see what else I can contextualize thanks to an additional 30-plus years on the planet. Still, for fans of good old fashioned Hollywood falderal, the film earns a Recommended rating. You could do a lot worse than spending 90 minutes with Snug and his asses. Who knows, maybe they will create a lasting memory in you, just like their reference in an obscure manner did for me.
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