Dugan, Disney and Dale
When NASA green light a new space mission they do so under one proviso, it will be manned by a robot rather than risk a human crew. So scientist Tom Trimble (Dennis Dugan) builds a robot in his own image, unfortunately just before the launch of the mission something goes wrong with the robot called Hermes and Tom ends up trapped on the spacecraft when it launches. But things take an even more surprising turn when having travelled faster than the speed of light Tom ends up going back in time to King Arthur's Camelot where he meets Alisande (Sheila White) who thinks her father has been turned in to a Goose. Tom also finds himself becoming an enemy of Sir Mordred (Jim Dale) who plans to take over England.
If you'd said the name Dennis Dugan to me a couple of weeks ago I would have racked my brain and eventually said he has directed a fair few Adam Sandler movies. What I wouldn't have remembered is the Walt Disney movie I saw as a child "The Spaceman and King Arthur", which for some reason has been renamed "Unidentified Flying Oddball", as it is the same Dennis Dugan who is the star of this movie. Sadly "The Spaceman and King Arthur" is one of those 70s Disney movies which just didn't quite entertain despite having several well known British actors involved.
Now trying to put my finger on what is wrong with "The Spaceman and King Arthur" is actually quite simply as it gets a lot of things right; the various British actors are well chosen with Ron Moody stealing many a scene as Merlin whilst Rodney Bewes is equally as much fun. Then there is the whole storyline a daft time travel tale which features everything from a woman who thinks her father is a goose to Tom using his NASA spacesuit to defend himself from everything tossed at him which in itself is now a little more comical as Tom praises the suit for having a layer of asbestos to protect him from flames.
But so much of the written humour ends up falling flat and that brings me to what is the big issue for me, Dennis Dugan. Unfortunately whilst Dugan has that sort of geeky physical comedy going on he isn't strong enough to sustain the whole movie and doesn't seem to bounce off of the British actors to make the humour sparkle. It means that all too often you feel like on one hand the likes of Kenneth More and John Le Mesurier are doing there thing whilst Dugan is doing his.
What this all boils down to is that "The Spaceman and King Arthur" is still amusing in a semi nostalgic sense for those who saw it as a child in the late 70s. But it isn't a great Walt Disney family movie and much of the comedy ends up now falling flat.