Truth About Spring, The (Blu-ray Review)

  • Reviewed by: Stuart Galbraith IV
  • Review Date: Jul 07, 2023
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Truth About Spring, The (Blu-ray Review)


Richard Thorpe

Release Date(s)

1965 (April 11, 2023)


Quota Rentals/Universal Pictures (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
  • Film/Program Grade: B-
  • Video Grade: A-
  • Audio Grade: A-
  • Extras Grade: B

The Truth About Spring (Blu-ray)

Buy it Here!


An imitation Disney family film from a production company unappetizingly called Quota Rentals, The Truth About Spring (1965) has good and bad qualities, the latter consisting of oddball choices its makers easily could have avoided, though overall the film is harmless, if misconceived entertainment. Disney’s Swiss Family Robinson (1960), starring John Mills and James MacArthur, had been an enormous success for Disney, the $4 million production earning ten times that figure at the box office. The following year Disney’s The Parent Trap, starring John Mills’s daughter Hayley, was another monster hit; made for considerably less than Swiss, it took in more than $25 million, a huge figure for a modest comedy. The Truth About Spring brings together John and Haley Mills, MacArthur and, in a “guest star” extended cameo, David Tomlinson from Mary Poppins. Longtime journeyman MGM director Richard Thorpe is at the helm.

Wiley, lazy sailor Tommy Tyler (John Mills) and his tomboy daughter, Spring (Hayley Mills) live aboard their downtrodden boat in the Florida Keys though, incongruously, the film was shot off the coast of Spain, with its wildly different coastlines. Grizzled rascal Tommy fast-talks other ships out of food and other essential supplies, Tommy doing precious little in the way of actual work.

They encounter the yacht of Philadelphia millionaire but English-accented Skelton (Tomlinson), vacationing with recent law school graduate nephew William “Bill” Ashton (MacArthur) who, looking for adventure, accepts Tommy’s invitation to spend a few days fishing aboard his craft. Bill and Spring are attracted to one another, but their romance is interrupted/tested by Tommy’s dealings with modern-day pirates José Carkez (Lionel Jeffries), partner Cleary (Niall MacGinnis), and first mate Judd (Harry Andrews), Tommy forming a partnership to look for treasure allegedly buried in the bowels of a wrecked slave ship.

The film was not a great success, despite the popularity of Hayley Mills, a real American girl-next-door approachable type despite her English accent. Undemanding audiences of the time probably enjoyed the romance angle well enough: Mills is charming though much better in other films. The pre-Hawaii Five-O MacArthur was a good physical actor that projected a naturalistic sincerity. Mills was 19 but looks several years younger, while MacArthur was pushing 30, but their age difference isn’t apparent in the film.

Seen today by better-versed film fans, The Truth About Spring has some serious problems, beginning with John Mills’s distractingly bizarre accent. Even after watching the film, I can’t imagine what he was aiming for. Some of the time it sounds like Mills’s own English accent, while at other times it sounds like he’s attempting some kind of Cajun, Louisiana southern one. The result is similar to prolific English actor Percy Herbert’s crazy-phony southern accent playing a Confederate soldier in Mysterious Island a few years earlier. Apparently following Mills’s lead, Haley also suppresses her English accent somewhat, while London-born Lionel Jeffries fashions his character into a strange fusing of Cockney and Spanish (or maybe Greek?) but with a severe head cold and nasal congestion. Dubliner MacGinnis exaggerates his Irish brogue, adding more confusion.

Was it John Mills who started all this, or did director Thorpe (or someone else) insist on this strange mishmash? Mills himself hated the film (as did Tomlinson), though I would bet a big part of that disappointment Mills felt had to do with that awkward affectation.

The business with the modern-day pirates and treasure hunt is the kind of thing that, maybe, Disney could have pulled off, but here it just seems phony. The entire narrative is either at sea or on beaches nearby, yet even when characters need to quickly get from one place to another, it’s always by slow-moving sailing vessels, as if none of its characters were familiar with automobiles and airplanes.

The film has strange origins beyond its Disney connections. Producer Alan Brown was an associate of producer Samuel Bronston on several earlier epics, but made no other films before or after. Further, shortly before production began on The Truth About Spring, Haley Mills and Lionel Jeffries dropped out of the big, long-lost Cinerama production The Golden Head (1965; unreleased in the U.S. until 2009!), the actors replaced by Lorraine Power and George Sanders, respectively, while the original director, James Hill, was himself replaced by Truth About Spring helmer Richard Thorpe. The tone and plot elements of the two films are also similar – could there be a connection between the two, or is it mere coincidence? Was Brown part of the aborted first version of the film?

Presented in 1.85:1 widescreen, Kino’s new Blu-ray is impressively sharp with accurate color, with details like John Mills’s scruffy beard and the Spanish coastline coming off well. Cinematographer Edward Scaife’s (Khartoum) work is almost a little too good: so much of the film is shot aboard various ships, the rising and falling horizon is enough to make audiences seasick when viewed on big screens. The DTS-HD Master Audio (2.0 mono) is adequate, and optional English subtitles are provided. Region “A” encoded.

Extras include a made-in-Britain trailer, remastered at 2K and running 2:27, along with a new audio commentary by film historian Gary Gerani. He likes the film more than I did, but it’s a spirited, informed track.

Not a bad film for a rainy Saturday with the kids, but definitely sub-Disney, The Truth About Spring is worth a look but not memorable.

- Stuart Galbraith IV