Walt Disney Treasures: Elfedo Baca/The Swamp Fox

Disney's late '50s attempts to capitalise on their Davy Crockett TV sensation prove to be eminently watchable well past their sell-by date, though their Mexican-American crusader far outclasses the revolutionary guerrilla in retroactive interest. Elfedo Baca tells the story of the titular hero (Robert Loggia), an ex-outlaw who decides that upholding the law is better than breaking it and sets out to become a lawyer in between skirmishes and defences of underdogs. As it turns out, his character is extremely interesting as an example of progressive and regressive politics all at once. In its corner is its astonishing grasp of the Anglos' grip on Mexican-Americans, and the fact that white did not always mean right; Baca repeatedly has to defend fellow Mexicans (and himself) against bigotry and at one point has to hold out against a white mob. But two steps forward are faced by one step back: his desire to become a pillar of the community is inconstantly defined in terms of making his race "look good" to the whites who define the standards. A weird tug of war ensues, with fascinating results. Not nearly as interesting is the less conflicted Swamp Fox, aka Francis Marion (Leslie Nielsen), who uses his wits and his cunning to defeat the Redcoats from his boggy base. Despite stellar production values and a general professionalism, the whole thing never gets above a ceiling with its virtuousness and will be especially embarrassing to baby boomers for its wince-making use of a musically-inclined black slave. Nevertheless, you can watch these selections without too much aesthetic discomfort. Three episodes each, on two discs, are introduced by Leonard Maltin, and also feature an interview by Maltin with Robert Loggia, a documentary on Disney's exploitation of television (and Davy Crockett), and a photo gallery. (Disney/Buena Vista)