The Strongest Man in the World (1975)

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The Strongest Man in the World (1975)

Post  BoG on Mon Jun 15, 2015 1:36 pm

The 3rd and final Disney film revolving around Medfield College and Dexter Reilly (Kurt Russell), the student who continually finds himself in the middle of some new scientific phenomenon and the associated troubles. The previous films were Now You See Him, Now You Don't (72) and The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (69). In this latest one, Medfield continues to have financial problems, to the extent  that Dean Higgins (Joe Flynn) may find himself without a job. When he inspects the science lab, he is incensed about the costs to rent a cow, in some kind of vitamin/weight increase experiment, and he fires Professor Quigley (William Schallert, returning from the first film).  This time, the accident is not caused by lightning, as in the previous films; it's much simpler: Higgins slams the door, causing the solutions of two experiments (Dexter's and Schuyler's) to mix. The result - when Dexter eats Schuyler's breakfast cereal the next morning, he gains super strength. He demonstrates this to Higgins, who immediately hatches plans to get Medfield out of their finance jam.

Despite mostly the same cast and a similar premise, this 3rd entry is weaker than the previous two and there's a sense of staleness about it. Part of the problem may also be a focus on scenes which have nothing to do with the concept of people and animals getting super strong. Dexter's buddy Schuyler  (Michael McGreevey) is kidnapped by the returning fancy crook Arno (Cesar Romero), now acting on orders from others. There's a long sequence of Schuyler getting hypnotized (by Benson Fong) and then other scenes of Schuyler acting weird after the hypnosis. The new characters are played by Eve Arden and Dick Van Patten, as CEO and VP respectively of a cereal company which Higgins contacts to make a deal; they set into motion the prospect of a contest. The VP, however, is two-faced. Phil Silvers plays the head of another cereal company. James Gregory plays the police captain in one scene, another example of a useless role.

The recurring absurdity with all these films is that the particular invention of each film is not used for any constructive or pragmatic purpose - it's always utilized for silly, trivial things. In this case, it's a weightlifting contest. You would think that such inventions as invisibility and super strength would change the world, but that is never addressed in the universe of these Disney films. It's taken to new levels of silliness when Higgins himself takes the formula (eating it with cereal) and shows off his new strength in a boardroom to spellbound members; the sequence, extending past the point of humorous, also shows him to be a super-gymnast for some reason. There is no discussion about the formula's potential, just on how it can benefit a cereal company - a commentary on capitalism, I guess.  The final act of this film is when things pick up, with Dexter taking on a gang of Arno's henchmen, souping up the Dean's ancient roadster and finally coming through in the contest. But, much of the film's earlier acts are mostly disposable. Still, it may be good fun for those seeking old-fashioned entertainment. BoG's Score: 6 out of 10

The Strongest Trivia: for those keeping track of such numbers, Dexter had to lift 1111 lbs. to win the weightlifting contest; this was Joe Flynn's last role - he died abruptly of a heart attack shortly after filming completed, at the age of 49.
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