STORY: Action, comedy, adventure, romance, nostalgia, this movie had a bit of something for everyone. Immediately after the American Civil War in Kentucky, two young boys one white named David, one black named Thad, begin the adventure of their lives. They live on Grassy, the family plantation, with David's aunts but it is depleted of all its money and they could lose it soon. Someone shows up late at night near death with a secret to a map hidden in the attic by Davids father before he died. But the same night a murderous criminal gang led by Spnagler (Vic Morrow) arrives in the night, breaking into the family plantation in order to steal a map to a treasure. The boys run away with the map, and start traveling to the Florida swampland. They know they can trust no one with their secret. Along the way they meet up with many friends and enemies, while still being pursued by the original crooks. A conniving southern belle Lauriette (Joan Hackett), a jolly medicine show doctor (Peter Ustinov), and a roaming adventurer (Robert Foxworth) alternatley help and slow the boys at times, but eventually they all join up together. It's a treasure hunt and a journey story story rolled into one. A good adventure movie, might be watched split over two nights if you have smaller kids since it is a bit long and slows down in parts. The movie's running time is a bit long at 116 minutes when the average movie is 90 minutes. But don't get me wrong, it's really fun.
BEHIND THE SCENES: The remarkable Peter Ustinov who also starred in "Blackbeards Ghost" stars as Dr. Snodgrass, a quack medicines show doctor. Dick Van Patten and Jane Wyatt also star. Released as a theatrical movie on July 9, 1976 the movie was directed by Vincent McEveety. He directed mostly comedies at Disney like "Gus", "Million Dollar Duck", The Strongest Man in the World" and the hilarious "Superdad". He is also known for his earlier job as a Disney writer, responsible for most of the wacky college films like "Now You See Him, Now You Don't", and "The Barefoot Executive". The title song was written by Shane Tatum and Richard McKinley. The film required extensive location shooting, beginning in Danville Kentucky, including an early 1800's plantation, with over 200 acres. They also shot on the Sacrament River, standing in as the mighty Mississippi. They used the real Everglades in an area not far from Walt Disney World. The hurricane was filmed in Seminole country and was created in a similar method to one Disney used in the movie "The Wild Country". The studio brought in giant wind machines and airplane engines, this time adding water to the wind. In the film, there is a scene where Ustinov appears to fall and be washed away in the hurricane, surely to die. What viewers did not know at the time was that this was more than good acting, the fall was real, and he was hospitalized from the damage to his left ankle. Some final scene beach scenes, post hurricane, were actually filmed at Disney's man-made lagoons inside Walt Disney World. The screenplay was adapted from the book "A Journey to Matecumbe", by Robert Lewis Taylor. It was a project that Walt Disney had green-lighted when he was alive, but it took awhile for the studio to get to filming it. The movie later aired on "The Wonderful World of Disney" television show on October 2, 1977 as a two hour format. They did some extensive editing to make it fit in the time slot for that night, and maybe that was a good thing. The movie comes in a bit long and does drag a little at times, but we still enjoyed it. By the way, this is not the edited copy, but the full length version. And it was released on video in 1986 for the first time. It was released on DVD in 2009.