Review for Dougal and the Blue Cat - Special Edition
For my generation, 'The Magic Roundabout' conjures up cozy images of gentle pre-bedtime viewing, with Zebedee announcing 'It's time for bed' at the unfeasibly early hour of 6pm, just prior to the news. What no one would have thought is that 'Dougal and the Blue Cat', the feature film, is anything but cozy - and certainly not pre-bedtime vieiwing! In common with other well intended Children's programmes of the sixties (like 'The Singing Ringing Tree') its surreal and dark plot would resonate with those exposed to it for decades, throwing some into therapy, and others on a lifetime search for the original material - to face it yet again as an adult. In short, for a few, this release will feel like the discovery of 'The Holy Grail'!
Only previously available on a quickly deleted and horribly cropped VHS, this release shows the film in all its wide-screen glory.
So what's it about? There's a new arrival in the Magic Garden, in the form of a blue cat called Buxton, which seems pleasant enough to begin with. However, the ever suspicious Dougal suspects things are afoot when he notices Buxton talking to the Blue Voice. (He probably got an inkling that all was not well when he heard Buxton speaking in a northern accent, unlike all the others with their prissy middle-class BBC accents). Soon, their already topsy-turvy world is turned upside down. Zebedee's moustache is hijacked, Florence and Brian get locked up in a dungeon, and Dougal is sent to the moon. Only Dougal can save the day! Or can he? In common with 'The Lord of the Rings', a 'darkness' is spreading across their garden (well, blue but you get the connection) and it's all quite a worry.
Like the original series, Dougal and the Blue Cat was created in France by Serge Danot and the dialogue was re-written in English by Eric Thompson who also narrated all of the characters (well, with one exception in the film. Fenella Fielding became the haunting 'blue voice', terrifying children in the process). Thompson would refuse to consider translating the French and preferred to look at the images and just make up his own dialogue and plot, lending the series (and this film) a slightly surreal free-form stream of consciousness kind of a feel. What's fun is that this edition includes the relatively sedate French version with sub-titles so that you can view and compare the many differences between the two features, despite the images and music bed remaining the same.
There are some fun extras here, including an interview with life-long fan of the film, Mark Kermode - as well as a feature about Eric Thompson, with interviews with his famous daughter, Emma, and his wife - as well as the genuinely spooky looking Fenella Fielding, who you would have to say looks and sounds mad as a march hare! There are also some lobby cards .
I thoroughly enjoyed the film, despite its primitive stop-frame animation and dated middle-class voices for all (other than Buxton). The transfer is very adequate and the extras illuminating.
However - why listen to me when you have so many of the great and the good singing its praises?
One of my favourite films of all time --Mark Kermode
Kids will love it and adults will go bananas over it --Time Out
Can we have Dougal and the Blue Cat back? --Andrew Pulver, Guardian