Disney+ has so many hidden gems and unknown oddities that it feels like the vault is more like a mystery grab bag. Having adopted our first Dachshund about 6 months ago, we couldn’t believe that you’d ever call any of them ugly (our Walt was born with a birth defect – his left eye socket is too small, and he’s blind in that eye, but honestly it just makes him cuter) and we couldn’t wait to find out why they did – though we did wait, at least until Walt was out of earshot, just in case.
The Ugly Dachshund (1966) is about a young couple, Fran (Suzanne Pleshette) and Mark (Dean Jones) Garrison, who are perhaps a bit mismatched in the doggie department. Fran is obsessed with her prized Doxie, Danke, who’s just given birth to a litter of female pups. They are receiving the best start to life in Dr. Pruitt’s (Charles Ruggles) cushy vet office, where his own Great Dane has also recently given birth. Great Danes have much larger litters than little weiner dogs, and Dr. Pruitt’s concerned that his girl won’t have enough milk to go around, so the two men agree to sneak one of the Great Dane pups into Dake’s basket, who has the space and the food for one more. This, then, is the Ugly Dachshund.
Mark, who has never been a fan of the Doxies, is quite tickled to have Brutus the Great Dane, though he attempts to keep the breed a secret from his wife as long as possible – which actually results in poor Brutus having an identity crisis of sorts, believing himself to be one of the Dachshunds, never realizing he’s simply too big to be a lapdog. The Garrison household becomes a war of dogs, the Dachshunds getting into all kinds of trouble, with old pal Brutus taking most of the blame. Things come to a hilarious head on the night of a big backyard party; the Garrison’s social circle will never be the same!
This is an exceedingly cute movie if you don’t mind the casual racism, which of course we should. When Disney Plus started migrating all these old movies onto their streaming service, making some of them available for the first time in decades, they realized how poorly some of them had aged. Some of their films simply did not make the cut but others, like The Ugly Dachshund, is prefaced with a disclaimer: This programme includes negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures. These stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now. We want to acknowledge its harmful impact, learn from it and spark conversation to create a more inclusive future together. We’ve seen this warning in front of Peter Pan recently, and Dumbo too. Certainly the “negative depictions” were not difficult to spot in any of those movies and if you’re watching with children, a follow-up conversation is probably appropriate. That said, this movie was extremely difficult for me to watch, mostly because of cuteness overload. If I thought having one little Walt running around our house was sweet, imagine having a proud mama, 3 adorable puppies, and 1 Great Dane in disguise. I literally squealed and squirmed my way through this movie, my heart aflutter over every puppy pile – and true to Doxie tradition, there were many piles indeed (they love to cuddle!).
In real life, Suzanne Plechette had a Yorkie at home named Missy who kind of resented the Dachshund scent on her mama at the end of the day, so Plechette had to shower and change before returning home. We have a Yorkie too (we have nearly as many dogs as the Garrisons). His name is Fudgie and he doesn’t resent Walt at all; in fact, he likes the cut of his jib so much that he frequently tries to mate with him.
Fun fact: you may recognize Brutus from another Disney film – he’d also starred as Duke, one of the Swiss Family Robinson’s two guardian Great Danes. Dean Jones, meanwhile, starred in That Darned Cat, which I think makes him a bit of a traitor, and frankly, I’m surprised the dogs didn’t take a collective vote and boot him off the film altogether.
Watch Walt join me for a 60 second review: