The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1938)

Genres - Children's/Family  |   Sub-Genres - Buddy Film, Family-Oriented Adventure, Adventure Comedy  |   Release Date - Feb 17, 1938 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 91 min.  |   Countries - USA  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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A remarkably faithful -- perhaps TOO faithful -- adaptation of the Mark Twain classic, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is visually stunning. William Cameron Menzies and Casey Roberts have created gorgeous settings that are beautifully captured by James Wong Howes's delicious camerawork; the climactic sequence inside the cave is especially noteworthy; the clammy, claustrophic sets work together with Howes' spot-on photography to create a harrowing effect. Aside from the visuals, Tom Sawyer runs into a few problems, although none of them seriously damage the film. The screenplay keeps all of the most famous episodes from the book, but does so in such a manner as to make the film seem a little too episodic. In the title role, Tommy Kelly is good but inconsistent; director Norman Taurog can't always pull out of him all that is required, although he has better luck with Anne Gillis and Jackie Moran. May Robson shines as Aunt Polly, allowing us to feel sympathetic for the character while still feeling free to laugh at the troubles Tom gives her. If Tom Sawyer is not perfect, it's still a fine production that leaves the audience with a warm, happy glow.