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STUDIO: Walt Disney Video
RUNNING TIME: 289 Minutes
• From Dixon to Disney featurette
• The Hardy Boys Unmasked featurette
• Production galleries
• Packaged in a collectible tin
• 8-page booklet with notes
• Color photo card
• Certificate of authenticity
It’s The Hardy Boys through the eyes of the Disney brand, but less shitty than that sounds.
Tim Considine, Tommy Kirk, Carole Ann Campbell, Arthur Shields, and many more.
Serials were a popular format back in the golden age of cinema, when a trip to the theater meant an entire day’s worth of entertainment. They were essentially chapters in a story that could span weeks or months depending on the intervals between each showing and were a great hook to get audiences coming back (as explained in the intro to this disc, one of the early serials is the inspiration for the term ‘cliffhanger’, as some of the serials had ended with its protagonist literally hanging from a cliff).
"You boys ever heard of a screw wrench?"
Disney utilized this serial format to its advantage on its daily program The Mickey Mouse Show, showing the very popular Spin and Marty in serialized format during its inaugural season. For their second season of the program, Disney looked to texts outside of its own brand to bring in and Franklin W. Dixon’s (a pen name) Hardy Boys series was the lucky choice. For their story, they adapted the first Hardy Boys mystery, The Tower Treasure into The Mystery of the Applegate Treasure and the results were stupendous, creating a fan fervor for the two child stars as well as the Hardy Boys mysteries themselves. This is the product of all of that, a mystery about stolen pirate’s gold that may or may not exist along with a colorful cast of suspects who may or may not have been involved.
"….it was just all these unopened copies of The Sweetest Thing…"
I came into this set not knowing what to expect, only knowing that this series took placed in the 1950’s and involved the Hardy Boys. I was nothing but a twinkle in the eye of undeveloped spermatozoa when this series first hit television sets, so my Mickey Mouse Club knowledge is limited to the theme song (intro and outro) and that fantastic headgear each kid sported, and what I know about the Hardy Boys is that they are boys and that they solve mysteries (also, lovers?). So imagine my surprise when I was completely engrossed and entertained by the entirety of this series.
"If you wanna be a Hardy, Keith, you gotta pass the initiation!"
The serial format for the series really works to its advantage; one can imagine the genuine excitement the audience felt in wanting to see what happens to the kids next back when these first aired, and one can appreciate the craftsmanship (especially fans of comic books and the art form of the cliffhanger, which has all but been lost in recent years*) of the narrative’s ebbs and flows, remaining engrossed even when watching all of the episodes in succession instead of their originally intended format of one-a-day.
The child actors are pretty great too, as Considine and Kirk (Frank and Joe Hardy, respectively) are leaned upon to deliver a little bit of emotional heft to the material and they succeed. Props to Carole Ann Campbell as Iola, being the perfect foil to the boys throughout the entire serial as well. All of the character actors playing the adult roles deliver too, especially Arthur Shields as the ridiculously Irish crook Boles. The direction isn’t anything amazing but considering it was almost entirely shot on soundstages, it’s pretty impressively put together. The series also has a theme that will more than likely haunt me to my dying days due its catchiness, with a repeated musical cue to match it.
Not to be outdone by his bandmate, Mick Jagger stormed the set of Pirates of the Caribbean 3 looking for a cameo.
Another thing worth mentioning is that it’s the rare children’s show where the kids are actually put into peril. That isn’t to say the Hardys get bound and raped/shot at or anything like that, but it’s refreshing to see kids have shovels swung at their heads every now and again. Unfortunately, following this series the child viewership felt uncomfortable with the idea that their stars were in mortal danger for their mysteries, so future Hardy Boys adventures were tamed down and didn’t match the excitement and narrative quality of the first. Unfortunate as that is, there’s still this box set of pretty solid entertainment to show for Disney’s efforts. I don’t know how many CHUD readers were alive during this series heyday (I’m hedging my bets on few to nilch), but for those curious or looking for something that isn’t terrifying (i.e. Pokemon, etc.) to have their kids watch this comes highly recommended.
*Brian K. Vaughn excepted.
As always with the Disney Treasures collection the DVD comes in a tin to give one the “fresh from the vault” feeling. As such, there isn’t much room for creativity in the cover art department, but the image of the two boys with their treasure chest filled with pirate’s gold pretty much covers all the necessary bases for informing a buyer of what’s contained within. Packaged along with the discs is a certificate of authenticity (once again, you’re holding a fucking treasure), a reproduction of a comic book cover of the Hardy boys and a booklet listing the special features and a short introduction to the material by Leonard Maltin. The episodes themselves are spread out over two discs (spanning 19 episodes) and the video quality is more or less sterling. The audio is acceptable and clean to complement the fantastic image quality.
The Mickey Mouse Club on male puberty.
There isn’t a wealth of extras on the two discs, but what is there is rock solid. On the first disc is the entire first episode of the second season of the Mickey Mouse Club which includes an introduction to the Hardy Boys serial. It’s a interesting look back at children’s entertainment from the ‘50’s, jam-packed with an amateur musical number, a visit to a nuclear submarine, and a Mickey cartoon to boot. Also on the first disc is the featurette “From Dixon to Disney” charting the transformation of the Hardy Boys from the page to the screen. It has the added benefit of seeing a Hardy Boys scholar tell us that the Nancy Drew board game of the same time period, allowing to giggle condescendingly from the safety of our own homes*.
CHUD.com exclusive: A peek inside President Bush’s brain!
On the second disc is a pair of photo galleries, one of behind-the-scenes footage and the other of some ancillary items to the series (magazine covers, comic book pages, etc.). Then the featurette “The Hardy Boys Unmasked” which is a sit-down interview between Maltin and the Hardy Boys themselves, Tommy Kirk and Tim Considine some fifty years after the series has aired. The interview is somewhat less than informative and goes on too long, but one can see that the two actors had a genuine camaraderie on the series that has carried through all of these years.
*I say, pounding my ‘Hulk Hands’ against the keyboard emphatically.
8.0 out of 10