The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin (1967) Poster

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7/10
The Adventures Of Bullwhip Griffin (James Neilson, 1967) ***
Bunuel19767 December 2008
This is another fondly remembered Walt Disney live-action effort which I'd never watched: it's an episodic Western spoof set at the time of the California gold rush. The protagonists are an impoverished Bostonian family and their resourceful butler (an ideally-cast Roddy McDowall); the young son, obsessed with a legendary rugged cowboy figure called "Bullwhip", is prone to tall tales – so that he makes up the mild-mannered Griffin to be as brave and experienced as his hero!

This eventually lands them in trouble with both con-man Karl Malden (who has a lot of fun with his role, which also allows him to don plenty of disguises) and saloon owner Harry Guardino or, more precisely, his imposing but dumb henchman (a typecast Mike Mazurki) – whom McDowall fells with a lucky punch but which Guardino wants to turn to his advantage by organizing a boxing match between the two! The bout is delayed until the climax: in between, our heroes have several adventures as they make and lose a fortune in gold (following a map possessed by Richard Haydn who's constantly flaunting his theatrical background), with the wily Malden never too far off their trail. Suzanne Pleshette provides feminine interest and eye candy, though she doesn't quite cut it as a saloon chanteuse.

The film is a generous 110 minutes long (compounded by those relentless Sherman Brothers songs) but it's never less than enjoyable, with pleasant color photography and a barrage of technical gags (not just the animated titles but such oft-used devices as the subject of a portrait changing his expression, angels sounding their trumpets when someone is knocked-out, etc).
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8/10
Overlooked Gem
Picador6618 August 2003
It's a pity this film isn't more well-known. "Bullwhip Griffin," is one of the better live-action Disney films of the 60's. Roddy McDowell is perfectly cast and delivers an appealing performance in the title role. Disney was wise to give leading roles to "character actors" from time to time. Like Angela Lansbury in "Bedknobs and Broomsticks," McDowell proves that he's strong enough to carry an entire picture when given the opportunity. The kid-actor who accompanies him in his adventures is useful and not obnoxious. Suzanne Pleshette is just amazing, especially in her "San Francisco" musical number. She is the sexiest saloon-hall singer you could hope to find in a G-rated film!
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7/10
Funfilled Escapism
EvelynHolley28 October 2010
This oldie finally showed up again -- and I hope it continues to bring laughter to many others. Watching Roddy McDowall reminds me how long he has entertained us, too often without recognition. Karl Malden makes a wonderful villain, in so many guises!! Susanne Pleshette shows off her singing talent while appearing to have a ball making this movie. In fact, it appears everyone involved enjoyed their work. The plot moves from Boston (after the reading of a will that seems unbelievable) to California's gold rush. Adventures and misadventures are encountered by a boy, his sister and their butler, along with colorful characters along the way. Not until well into the movie do we see the love interest played out. I don't know how critics view it, but for fun entertainment, this is well worth our time.
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7/10
Innocents Abroad In San Francisco
bkoganbing29 December 2009
Playing the title role of Bullwhip Griffin is Roddy McDowell, a gentleman's gentleman and guardian to heirs Bryan Russell and Suzanne Pleshette from Boston. It seems as though their father has died and the family fortune isn't quite what they've been led to believe. Never mind that, young Russell has lived on an intellectual diet of dime novels and is convinced that he can go to California and strike it rich with the Gold Rush.

The Adventures Of Bullwhip Griffin has a Mark Twain feel to it and it's not too bad, I think Mr. Clemens might have approved of it in his younger and less cynical days. The chief villain of the piece is Karl Malden playing a confidence man who goes by the name of 'Judge' Griffin. He's a man full of tricks, he's a lot like the 'king' and 'duke' characters from Huckleberry Finn. Twain would have really relished Malden's performance.

As for Roddy McDowall he's as innocent as those Americans going abroad for the first time as tourists in Innocents Abroad. In point of fact San Francisco and the gold fields of California were a whole continent away and might as well been a foreign country. In fact McDowall would have been more at home in London than in San Francisco had he gone east instead of west.

But this is America and it's the land of no titled classes. McDowall dares dream he too could win the hand of Suzanne Pleshette who has shaken her proper eastern upbringing to sing in Harry Guardino's Barbary Coast saloon. Guardino is another villain playing his part with relish, he's interested in Pleshette for more than her singing career.

Highlight of the film is McDowall taking on Mike Mazurki in a prize fight. Only in the movies would you think that McDowall could beat Mazurki in a fight. Still it's a very funny sequence.

The cast looks like they're having a real good time making this film and the enthusiasm is infectious. The Adventures Of Bullwhip Griffin is one of the better products to come from the Magic Kingdom in the Sixties.
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8/10
It's a fun movie
bookworm-920 February 1999
If you like old movies on the order of Support your Local Sheriff you will like this one. It's fun in a kooky sort of way. It was refreshing to see Roddy McDowell in such a nice role. I have watched it twice in the last 3 months on the Disney channel. I really recommend it.
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10/10
One of my favorite Disney Live Action films
rdfarnham26 August 2012
This a Disney film that most people have never heard of and, to me, it is one of the funniest. OK, some of it is a little hokey, but, by and large, it is a film the whole family can enjoy. Roddy McDowall is perfect as the straight-laced butler who tries his best to help his young friend in the gold fields of 1849 California. Suzanne Pleshette (beautiful as ever) plays the love interest that Bullwhip can't bring himself to admit. She can also belt out a pretty good barroom tune. Add a crooked judge who is also a thief, one of the funniest fist fights ever filmed and likable villains and you have an entertaining romp in the old west.
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9/10
Sweet, fun, entertaining!
sylmar829 July 2000
This movie is sweet, fun, entertaining for the whole family. For those who appreciate the more innocent days that are no longer. (The boxing match scene is a bit overdone though.) Roddy and Suzanne are cute together. Can't understand why this is not available on VHS!
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1/10
Even Fools' Gold Doesn't Pan Out Here!
Cyrn26 May 2008
Warning: Spoilers
With nothing else on cable , I happened upon this one night and I thought would be a good ride from Disney like 'Swiss Family Robinson' or 'Light of the Forest'. Here was a movie that took place in what was one of the most dynamic times and settings in US History (so far)-California,1848 and what a premise: a kid wants to make things right for his debt-ridden family by striking it rich in Californie having just heard about Sutter's Mill but his family retainer doesn't want him to come to harm so he follows along. Of course, in the opening scenes when discussing the late grandpa's will, the film has the geezer's painted pic make faces and the soundtrack making clanging noises. Thinking this was just a one-time anomaly, I'm willing to shrug that off so I could get to the eventual payoff. Will the boy (and retainer) make it to Californie in on that ship having to sail all the way around South America? And what's to become of the kid's much older sis Arabella played by the always fetching Suzanne Pleshette?

Unfortunately, the Disney kiddie syndrome that starts with Grandpa's pic making faces intensifies as the picture gets more and more cartoonish. And the concept of the butler Griffin having an unspoken crush on Arabella that he's considering acting upon now that they're starting new lives in this very dynamic frontier city/world class port of San Francisco? Great idea but, unfortunately, Roddy McDowell's character just isn't able to muster believability in terms of being attracted to Arabella(paging Bob Newhart!). And what about the gold panning idea? It soon gets scuttled for some lame fighting deal the mouthy kid gets them into!

Unfortunately, the whole thing ends in a complete mess with nothing resolved as an incoherent montage of buildings representing San Francisco in the future literally annihilates the on-screen action while the corny song screams over the remaining dialogue! Does this mean that Griffin became a major player in the building of Frisco and he got Suzanne? If so, how? Who can tell?

So much potential could have been had with this movie but between miscasting McDowell and Disney kiddie stuff, it got totally ruined!
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6/10
Disappointing - but mildly amusing
andrew-huggett28 November 2012
Warning: Spoilers
After a really interesting start with the reading of a will, (and a portrait oil painting which amusingly changes it's countenance during each revealing cut-away) this standard Disney family comedy drags a little before a reasonably amusing boxing match at the end between 'Bullwhip' and 'The Ox', but overall this is very disappointing. There's some nice illustrated animated 'bookends' which divide up segments of the film with music (similar idea to 'Cat Ballou') but it's nowhere near in the same league as that film. It's a shame as I was expecting this film to be a lot better. Bizarrely, one of the main characters disappears a third of the way into the film and then turns up again near the end. Feels slightly disjointed. The acting is quite good and Roddy McDowall was perfectly cast. I like the way in which the 'Ox' character throws people through the air in a ridiculously exaggerated manner – which is reasonably slapstick funny and actually quite cleverly done. There are some nice typical 'Disney-fied' matte painted wide scenes.
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Minor Goof
Sea-Maid20 February 2002
At the end of the fight scene with Roddy McDowall & Mike Mazurki, Richard Hadyn goes to the fight timekeeper (Dub Taylor) to distract him from ringing the triangle thereby ending the fight's round. He takes the triangle causing Taylor to whack, and utterly destroy, the pocketwatch that hangs on a post and that he is using to keep the time. Cut to cast congratulating McDowall on winning the fight. Cut back to Hadyn who hands Taylor back the triangle--only now the pocketwatch is back in place and totally intact!
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4/10
Labored non-"Adventures"...
moonspinner5510 November 2010
At the height of the Gold Rush boom of the 1840s, a Bostonian butler and his twelve-year-old charge sail to San Francisco in search of a fortune--followed by the boy's big sister, whom the butler harbors a crush on. Long-winded, unsuccessful live-action comedy from Walt Disney with wild-eyed character bits and a linking folk ballad (accompanied by animated inserts). Adapted from Sid Fleischman's novel "By the Great Horn Spoon", the screenplay gets off on the wrong foot and rarely recovers its balance. Casting mannered Roddy McDowall in the lead was suicidal; tiresome even in guest appearances, McDowall has two expressions throughout: upper-crust (i.e., snippy) indifference and comedic indignation. Suzanne Pleshette would seem to fare better as the proverbial love-interest, but she's not convincing as the musical attraction at the local saloon, nor does she get her share of amusing lines. *1/2 from ****
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5/10
From the beans of Boston to the chowder of San Francisco, so much there but doesn't quite make the bridge.
mark.waltz9 March 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Other than a chimpanzee suit, Roddy McDowall had few chances to be a leafing actor, that part of his career having ended in his late teens/early twenties. Disney took a chance by casting him as the title character in this amusing, but not often really finny, adventure comedy. He's the butler to a broke Boston family who is lost when he sets out to find the rub- away grandson of his recently deceased employer. Gorgeous Suzanne Pleshette is an eyeful as the sultry heiress to a fortune that no longer exists, and I really wanted to see more of her.

McDowall gets tied up with con-artists Richard Hayden and Karl Malden, the later a clever crook who continuously fleeces McDowall. There are individual moments of amusement, but overall, I found this to be ultra dry and extra dull. The unbelievable subplot of huge Mike Mazurki setting up a fight with wimpy looking McDowall (thanks to unscrupulous Harry Guardino) is absurd realistically although the fight sequence has a few funny moments. Mainly, it's mostly cartoonish.

A ton of veterans do their best to brighten up the other experience, but they are defeated by a story that just didn't grab me even with that cast. A fight scene between McDowall and Pleshette proves what an able comic she was. Disney over the period of 1960's and 1970's gave Disney many generic and oddly filmed family movies, and this ranks as simply second rate.
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