tek's rating: ½

Darby O'Gill and the Little People
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This came out in 1959 (16 years before I was born). I first saw it in 2017, on St. Patrick's Day. It's set in an Irish town called Rathcullen, where someone called Lord Fitzpatrick has some property, which he apparently rarely visits. The caretaker of this property is an old widower named Darby O'Gill, who I gather spends most of his time in the local pub, telling stories about his encounters with leprechauns, or more specifically, with the king of the leprechauns, Brian Connors. At first it's unclear whether his stories are true or just made up. But most of the townsfolk who listen to his stories seem to either take him seriously, or at least hold him in high regard because they enjoy his stories, whether they necessarily believe them or not. Meanwhile, there's an old widow named Sheelah Sugrue, who wants her son, Pony, to get the job Darby currently holds. Partly her schemes entail talking her son up to Lord Fitzpatrick, and partly they entail encouraging Pony to romantically pursue Darby's daughter, Katie (Janet Munro, whom I also know from Swiss Family Robinson). But Fitzpatrick has other ideas; he brings a young man named Michael McBride (Sean Connery) to assume Darby's job. This also means Darby and Katie will have to move out of their home. The transfer of position is to take place in two weeks, but while Michael thinks Katie deserves to know about this as soon as possible, Darby wants to stall about telling her.

Meanwhile, the local priest, Father Murphy, had gotten Darby to volunteer to go to a nearby town to pick up an old church bell that was being donated to Rathcullen's church, when the other town got a newer bell. And that night, Darby has to go out to catch his horse, Cleopatra, which he apparently lets run free whenever he's not using her. (Or maybe the horse had run away, I dunno.) Anyway, while chasing her, he falls into a well, and finds himself in the realm of the leprechauns. And it's soon made clear that his stories were all true; he had met King Brian many times before. And the two of them are friendly adversaries, always trying to outwit each other. But now that Darby is in their home, he's supposedly not allowed to leave ever again. Of course, he soon tricks the leprechauns, and escapes. Subsequently, he captures King Brian, who has to grant him three wishes. The first comes fairly quickly, and it's pretty clever. The other two will take a bit longer. And Darby and Brian will each get the best of each other, at different times. But ultimately, Darby is trying to find a way for Katie and Michael to fall in love with each other.

Also there's a banshee.

And I guess that's all I want to reveal of the plot. It's fairly amusing, and fun, and gets rather dark at one point. And I guess the budding romance between Katie and Michael is kind of cute, though the main attraction of the story is seeing Darby and Brian as frenemies. And... after the movie, I watched a bonus feature on the DVD, which was an episode of Walt Disney Presents, called "I Captured the King of the Leprechauns." It begins with Walt talking to Irish actor Pat O'Brien about his plans to make an Irish movie. This conversation sets Walt off on a path that takes him to Ireland, where the curator of a collection of Irish mythology tells him about leprechauns, and then sends him to Rathcullen, to meet Darby O'Gill (played here, of course, by the same actor as in the movie). And Darby introduces Walt to King Brian, who ultimately agrees to star in the movie, along with Darby and all of Brian's leprechauns. (Because Pat had told Walt that only leprechauns could play leprechauns.) Eventually, Walt returns to see Pat and tell him about all this, and ironically, Pat seems somewhat skeptical. But Walt manages to convince him it all really happened. Anyway, the episode also included scenes from the movie, which I skipped past, having just watched them in the movie. (Also, the episode, unlike the movie itself, was in black & white.)

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