Bizarre, creepy gothic fantasy stars
in a borderline child/adolescent role, as a spoiled brat who searches for the
bird of happiness in a most nasty world of doom and gloom.
For a light-hearted fantasy, this is awfully
depressing, full of moaning and weeping, especially in a hellish future
purgatory where half-naked pre-adolescent spirits fret and moan over when they
will be born.
Also harrowing is a truly inferno-like forest fire.
Fox's attempt to cash in on the success of the previous year's
Wizard of Oz is, unlike it's predecessor, a stage-bound downer, yet
parallels abound, including a black and white opening that switches to color,
and a remarkably similar moral: "There's no place like home!"
But this plays more like kiddy horror than fantasy.
Gale Sondergaard, famous for
her Spiderwoman roles, is great as a conniving, evil cat. (Sondergaard was, at
this time, a member of the Anti-Nazi League Hollywood chapter, considered by
some to be allied with the Communist Party, and she received some blacklisting
due to this unfortunate misinformation.)
Shirley Temple's tutor, Francis Klamt, fought with
the producers over a scene in which lightning strikes a tree and a piece of bark
comes off. As it was originally planned, the bark could have flown in the wrong
direction and injured Temple. Due to Klamt's complaint, carpenters built a
safety ledge to protect Temple from flying props.
Although Temple had almost single-handedly saved Fox
studios from bankruptcy during the depression, after this and a few other bombs,
she was shown the door, and had the typical difficulty of child actors in