Charlie, the Lonesome Cougar

Next up for Cat Week:

Charlie the Lonesome Cougar

Yes, it's Charlie, the Lonesome Cougar. I think that poster says a lot. The star of this show is the cougar, and the main feature of the production is the animal footage. I'm not sure what they are getting at when they point out he's "teen-age," though.

The film tells the story of an orphaned cougar cub who is adopted by a man who scouts trees for a lumber mill. Much of the film's running time shows Charlie, the aforementioned cougar, shown at different ages, as he interacts with other animals. The dialogue in the film is sparse, but there is near-constant narration by Rex Allen. A little bit of Disney trivia here: Allen was the original "Father" at the Carousel of Progress attraction, and still plays the grandfather in the final scene. (If you want the full story, Father is now voiced by Jean Shepard of "Christmas Story" fame.)

The filmmakers are very clever in how they have edited the footage. If you think about what you are seeing carefully, you can start to pick apart the seams, and realize that the narration is making you interpret otherwise ambiguous images in a certain way. It's almost a treatise on the early Russian theories on film and the primacy of editing.

Anyway, the film is a lot of fun, and has some unexpected virtues. One thing I like is its treatment of the ordinary work of lumberjacks. It seems that in our modern world, blue-collar jobs exist to be endured or escaped, but this film shows lumberjacks as men who have found good and adventurous work, and settled into a life they enjoy. The film lingers over touches like the floating cabins and canteens that accompany the logs on their way downstream, a kind of transportable campsite that follows in a caravan. And when Charlie takes a ride on a log in a miles-long flume, it's not hard to see the genesis of amusement park rides from Knotts Berry Farm to Splash Mountain.

So I enjoyed this film a lot, and my daughter did too, although she got a little worried for Charlie when he found himself in tight scrapes. I should also say, and we'll go ahead and put a big SPOILER ALERT in this sentence in case you're worried about that sort of thing, that at the end, when Charlie returns to the wild, even though that was clearly the right outcome, and he instantly found a girl cougar to hang with, my daughter cried. But it was the good sort of crying, if that makes any sense.



Share this