Willy McBean and his Magic Machine (1965)

Article #1671 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-11-2005
Posting Date: 3-10-2006
Directed by Arthur Rankin Jr.
Featuring the voices of Larry D. Mann, Billie Mae Richards, Paul Soles

When a mad professor goes back in time to make himself famous, his talking monkey escapes and enlists the aid of a young boy to help defeat the professor’s evil scheme.

When it comes to children’s movies, I have a strong preference for those with a sense of absurd silliness, and this puppet-animated movie has that. This is no real surprise, with the director being Arthur Rankin Jr., who was one of the people responsible for those perennial TV holiday classics such as RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER and SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN. The movie takes the viewer into several historical scenarios; we end up at Little Big Horn, the town of Tombstone, a Roman coliseum, Egypt at the time of the building of the pyramids, King Arthur’s court, and finally into prehistory for the invention of fire. The movie is consistently amusing, the characters fun and likable (even the villain), and this makes up for the fact that the songs are pretty ordinary. I do find myself wondering why the villain Professor von Rotten would choose as his first mission to become the greatest gunfighter in history; it would seem to me that if this attempt at fame went horribly wrong, it would undermine the chances for any further attempts, but then, I’m not a mad professor.

But I’m working on it.

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