THE ABSENT-MINDED PROFESSOR
The Absent-Minded Professor has immense charm. It even has a wonderfully absurd visual poetry in its scenes of a Model T performing aerobic loops in mid-air and (literally) driving off into the sunset at the end. The scenes with a basketball team madly leaping over the heads of their opponents or the attempts to stop an uncontrollably bouncing Keenan Wynn have a genuinely madcap inventivity about them. There are many of the typical inanities of Disney live-action comedy slapstick car chases, buffoonish authority figures but in this, the film that set that formula, it is welded into a charming and effortless whole.
The effects work is excellent the only effects that do not work are the plainly cartoon-animated bouncing balls of flubber. Nancy Olson gives a bland, forgettable performance but burly, baritone Keenan Wynn displays a great deal of energy as Alonzo Hawk. Fred MacMurrays understated deadpan performance, inspiredly hopping about on out-of-control legs like a manic chimpanzee, is one of great comic invention. Even the script is reasonably believable, the technical explanation for flubber having a surface plausibility that at least seems more conceivable than the usual gobbledygook inserted in lieu in science-fiction films. (Unfortunately, it is done in by one glaring error that flubber would fail through the Second Law of Thermodynamics, that increased action creates a gradual loss, as opposed to increase, of energy as the film claims).
The Absent-Minded Professor became the template for a series of Disney madcap (as opposed to mad) scientist films through the 1960s. (Indeed, you could argue that The Absent-Minded Professor was the film that rescued the scientists reputation and transformed him into a lovable eccentric rather than the madman defying the laws of nature as he was constantly being portrayed in the 1930s and 40s). Other Disney imitators include the Merlin Jones films The Misadventures of Merlin Jones (1963) and The Monkeys Uncle (1965) and the Dexter Reilly films The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969), Now You See Him, Now You Dont (1972) and The Strongest Man in the World (1975). Medfield College became a regular venue in Disneys live-action comedies and Keenan Wynn played Alonzo Hawk again in Son of Flubber (1963) and Herbie Rides Again (1974).
Disney made a disappointing sequel Son of Flubber (1963), which also featured all the principals here. There have been two mediocre remakes the tv movie The Absent-Minded Professor (1994), starring Harry Andrews in the title role, and the cinematically released Flubber (1997) with Robin Williams.
British director Robert Stevenson made a number of other films for Disney that include Disney include Darby OGill and the Little People (1959), In Search of the Castaways (1962), The Misadventures of Merlin Jones (1963), Son of Flubber (1963), Mary Poppins (1964), The Monkeys Uncle (1965), The Gnome-Mobile (1967), Blackbeards Ghost (1968), The Love Bug (1969), Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971), Herbie Rides Again (1974), The Island at the Top of the World (1974) and The Shaggy D.A. (1976). Before moving to Hollywood, Stevenson also made the Boris Karloff mad scientist film The Man Who Changed His Mind (1936) and the sf film Non Stop New York (1937).