31 August 2010 | moonspinner55
"We're fighting for land, home, and country...and that's why we'll win!"
Hoping to fill the folklore mantel left vacant by Davy Crockett on his weekly television series, Walt Disney turned to the historical stories of Elfego Baca, Texas John Slaughter, and Francis Marion, a.k.a. "The Swamp Fox", to keep his young audiences intrigued. Marion, a Colonel in the 1780s who became a guerrilla fighter, working with the Continental Army in South Carolina to eradicate the British Redcoats, was indeed a fascinating figure in U.S. history. Unfortunately, the Disney formula (a little fact mixed with a lot of fiction) bottomed out with "The Swamp Fox". Running on and off from 1959 to 1961, this eight-episode serial only really kicked in with some fervent action in the final installments. The Revolutionary War is covered--not by interesting detail, but by gun-blasts and horse chases--while Leslie Nielsen's wooden portrayal of Marion mitigates against enthusiasm. The production isn't as sharp or as keen as Disney's previous output, lumping together stock footage and canned melodramatics for a monotonous effect. In the first three episodes (the only ones yet available on DVD), the African-American characters are given far more personality than the Swamp Fox, bringing humor (however obvious) and song into the mix. Tim Considine is solid as Marion's nephew (when he finally proposes to a young woman in the third installment, we know he's doomed), but the females in the cast are dull and the villains--Tory fighters and Dragoons--are stereotypes from stock, enacted floridly. The generally lax direction in this opener fails to get the serial off to a grand start; and, while the locations are serviceable, the lighting is poor and the camera-work amateurish.