DVD Review: Safe at Home!
Release Date: April 3, 2007
Distributor: Sony Pictures
· Walter Doniger
· Mickey Mantle
· Roger Maris
· William Frawley
· Bryan Russell
· Don Collier
· Patricia Barry
· IMDb: Safe at Home!
by Paul Schultz
Published: April 3, 2007
"Safe at Home!" is a black-and-white "New York Yankees Fan Club"
pre-teen drama paired with "Kill the Umpire" on Sony's newly-released "Baseball Double Feature". This 1962 film clocks in at only 83 minutes, yet it feels like an extra-inning game. Painfully slow pacing scuttles a decent morality play about honesty, and sketchy acting doesn't help matters. Plus, if you hate the Yankees (and I know from whence I speak), your enthusiasm for the story will understandably be lacking.
Young Hutch Lawton (Bryan Russell) helps out his father, widower Ken (Don Collier), who's bought a boat on the coast of Florida in hopes of making a living chartering fishing expeditions. Johanna Price (Patricia Barry) is a dock worker and potential love-interest for Ken, but the guy is a little dense about this. Hutch has pretty much figured out where this is heading and asks Johanna one day, "Are you going to be my new mom?" "That's up to your dad," she replies, and that's the extent of the exploration into this romance for the rest of the film.
Besides, Hutch's life is about baseball, and he enjoys playing on his Little League team, except for encounters with teammate Henry (Flip Mark), the token bully. Henry taunts poor Hutch about the fact that his father never
attends their baseball games, and must not know much about the sport. To
save face, Hutch brags that not only does his father know baseball, he's friends with Roger Roger Maris. That's right, the Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle... star sluggers for the New York Yankees.
For some reason, Henry doesn't quite believe this, and tells Hutch to prove it by getting both of them to attend an upcoming league banquet. Now,
Hutch is in a pickle until he comes up with a plan to cover up his lie by
contacting the famous players and convincing them to show up. He stows
away on one of his father's delivery trucks bound for Miami, where the Yankees are conducting spring training.
With rather easily circumvented security, he wanders into the clubhouse
looking for his baseball heroes, only to encounter a surly team watchdog Bill
Turner (William Frawley), who sends him away. Hutch's tenacity and
sincerely eventually lead Bill to introduce the youngster to Maris and Mantle
(who play themselves). Hutch spills the beans and begs them to come to the dinner. Amazingly, they don't validate his dishonesty (okay, that was a
bit of jagged cynicism creeping in on my part) and decline to appear.
Meanwhile, a worried Ken and Johanna show up, and Hutch gets a deserved admonishment for not telling the truth. But, that lesson is immediately vanquished when the Bronx Bombers unexpectedly invite Hutch's entire Little League team to join them at their spring training facilities. The movie concludes like a publicity film for Major League Baseball, with the Yankees practicing out on the field joined by scads of awe-struck lads.
"Safe at Home!" isn't nearly as clever as its title, but is as American as
mom, baseball, and apple pie. It does portray the innocence of youth and
the timeless quality of baseball, as well as deliver some picturesque coastal
views. Maris, for his part, doesn't do too bad with his acting bit, at least next to the wooden Mantle, who talks like he's narrating a PBS special. Pitcher Whitey Ford and manager Ralph Houk make the briefest of appearances.
The starring credits read "Introducing Bryan Russell" and I was sure this was
his only film based on his acting performance, but he must have improved because a quick perusal of IMDb.com confirms that he actually did have a career.
The quality of the transfer is pretty good, with the only problem coming when the camera tries to follow baseballs into the sky as they are launched by some sort of "pop-up cannon". I couldn't make them out, but it's entirely
possible that you couldn't in the original theatrical print either. Even if you're not a fan of the Yankees, this nostalgic visit with some of the greatest players ever to play the game is worth a look, and with Opening Day in
the books and a new baseball season under way, this DVD release is perfectly timed to feed the love for America's favorite pastime. Go Brewers!!