Plot: As The White Rabbit travels toward Budapest, the ship hosts a colorful array of passengers and as time passes, the vessel becomes the center of a wild crime that involves a priceless historic artifact. Detective Inspector Stevenson (Douglas Wilmer) is on board and en route to a law enforcement conference, with his trio of kids also along for the ride. He is also keeping an eye open for a pair of notorious thieves, who happen to be closer than he thinks. International criminal Basil Palmer (George Sanders) and his hapless henchman Lionel (Buddy Hackett) happen to cross paths with the Stevenson children at one stop, right after they have just seen the famous Golden Head of Saint Laszlo, a truly invaluable relic. Of course, Basil engineers a heist and claims the artifact for himself, then stashes it on The White Rabbit. As the ship travels to exotic locales and Stevenson tries to find the relic and deliver justice, has he been outsmarted by a master criminal this time around?
Entertainment Value: The Golden Head has been a tough movie to track down, as it went almost unseen for nearly five decades, after it failed to draw at the box office and was more or less shelved. I don’t think the movie deserved that kind of unfair fate however, as it might not be a classic of cinema, but it has some appeal and if nothing else, beautiful visuals to soak in. The Golden Head reminds me a lot of the old school, live action Disney family comedies, it is clearly aimed at family audiences and captures some a similar vibe in most scenes. I wouldn’t rank it with the better Disney productions in the same genre, but it is by no means bad, instead it more or less plays to expectations and winds up a safe, if mediocre experience. The humor is hit and miss, but those who have an appreciation for family comedies will likely have more fun, as the writing has that demographic in mind. I think the almost travelogue approach adds more interested as well, especially in the super wide format The Golden Head was produced for, which really allows the gorgeous visuals to shine through. The pace is deliberate, but feels about right for films of this kind from this period, not slow at all, just not the brisk pace comedies would later embrace. I’d recommend The Golden Head to those interested in old school family comedies or films with remarkable visuals, as well as anyone who appreciates rare, hard to track down cinematic curios.
The performances in The Golden Head are fine and in line with the nature of the material, which doesn’t ask much of the cast’s talents. So still some solid and fun turns to appreciate, but even the most gifted thespians involved aren’t up to their usual level, as this material simply doesn’t give them chances to shine. I think Buddy Hackett is well cast as a comic relief character, as his performance is spot on for this kind of role and he makes the most of his scenes. His charm and sense of humor are more than evident, so he is likely the best of the lot to me, even if his effort here is light and brisk, without real weight behind it. But he entertains and with thin material like this, that is about all you can ask. His exchanges with George Sanders are often highlights of the entire movie, as the two have a good back and forth that elevates those sequences. Sanders’ work here isn’t among his best, but he does what he can and especially his scenes with Hackett are quite good. The cast also includes Douglas Wilmer, Jess Conrad, Robert Coote, and
The Disc: Flicker Alley’s Blu-ray release of The Golden Head looks fantastic, shown in a Smilebox simulated visual presentation. This approach represents the very wide, curved screen the film was intended to be shown on, which takes a bit to get used to, but really allows the visuals to sparkle. A full restoration was undertaken for this release, giving us a super clean and refined image to bask, which given how lush the film’s visuals are, that is great news. The colors are vibrant, contrast is smooth, and fine detail is remarkable, this is a beautiful presentation. The extras provide a couple of bonus shorts, a propaganda film called Fortress of Peace and a cartoon titled A Tale of Old Whiff, both 70mm productions. You can also watch restoration comparisons on both The Golden Head and A Tale of Old Whiff, browse some still photos, and check out the movie’s trailer. Flicker Alley has also included a wonderful replica booklet packed with photos and information about the movie.