Cast & Crew
In the mid-1800s, two boys hunt for buried treasure in the Florida Keys. They are helped in their search by three grown-ups who each have their own reasons for wanting to find the treasure, and they are all followed by a gang of crooks.
Dick Van Patten
James E Brodhead
Valentin De Vargas
David S Cass
Frank R. Mckelvy
Frank C Regula
Robert Lewis Taylor
Treasure of Matecumbe -
"My inspiration for Matecumbe sprang from my family's residence, year after year, in the Florida Keys, certainly the most fascinating and curiously alien part of the Republic," Taylor recalled in promotional interviews for the studio. "We lived on Matecumbe which, once Spanish, bears the oldest remaining place-name in the United States. Coming to know the elderly citizens there, I thought it a pity that knowledge of the old Keys' life might die with them, so I resolved to do what I could." While researching the 1961 novel, he went from island to island talking with aging residents and Seminole Indians to capture the diverse tapestry of the population.
Ultimately the film was directed by Vincent McEveety, who began as an assistant director on Disney's Davey Crockett and the River Pirates and moved on to The Mickey Mouse Club. He became a full-fledged director with Hector, the Stowaway Pup in 1962, which was aired as The Ballad of Hector the Stowaway Dog on TV, with subsequent films including The Million Dollar Duck (1971) and The Castaway Cowboy (1974). Writing duties were handed to Don Tait, who wrote the previous year's The Apple Dumpling Gang as well as Snowball Express (1972).
Though the story takes place along the Mississippi River, the actual locale proved impossible for shooting because, in the words of the studio itself, it was "too muddy, too busy, too difficult." The opening plantation scenes were filmed in Danville, Kentucky at a two-story Greek revival mansion on a 217-acre farm owned by Zack and Nancy Ison, built around 1830. The couple had spent twenty years restoring it and then had to watch the filmmakers simulate its grim decay for the film.
The second leg of the shoot took place in Florida where, according to Disney publicists, the production "played to a visible audience of egrets, blue herons, otters and turtles." The third and final wave of principal production took place in Northern California along the Sacramento River, standing in for the Mississippi River, ending in mid-December with another six months of studio work. The crew had to work through Thanksgiving to stay on schedule, and a reporter from the nearby town of Colusa was on hand to give a report to the local paper, the Sun-Herald, on November 28, 1975.
According to these accounts, strong winds were regularly whipping across the river which "made the action at all times precarious as the barges and the boats used for the action shots and the camera crews bobbed up and down. Even transferring from the barge with the dressing rooms for the stars to the barges and boats on which scenes were shot was filled with dangers as the boats bumped, narrowed and widened the distance that had to be taken for each step. Local river men, familiar with the Sacramento River, were aiding the crews with their power boats holding barges and other craft in place on the river which is being filmed to represent the more slowly flowing Mississippi."
A teacher and welfare worker, Irene Burke was assigned to the child actors who had to maintain daily classes and work limited, regulated hours as required by law. Johnny Doran, who plays Davie, was already a veteran actor with TV shows like Salty and Barnaby Jones under his belt along with the 1973 film, The Hideaways. However, this was the first film for the child playing Thad, San Fernando Valley native Billy Attmore. "We never thought we would have our child in a starring role," said Attmore's mother, Monica. "We knew he was very smart and that he liked this sort of thing, so we sent pictures away from the time he was 4 (he is 10 now) and did a few screen tests." The Attmores put dreams of stardom on hold for three years while Billy's retired-military father toured Vietnam, and Billy remained active in the business as a Mouseketeer on The New Mickey Mouse Club and with TV roles well into the late 1980s.
One of the film's most memorable aspects is its colorful turns by the adult cast, with two-time Oscar winner Peter Ustinov stealing his scenes as Dr. Snodgrass, a character based on famed traveling medicine and populist comedy figure Ike Eagle. Ustinov had also been a playwright since age 17 and made his stage debut as an old man in The Wood Demon. "That was a mistake," he said to the press in Colusa, because "for years I played nothing but old men. It seems like I never get away from the makeup table." The climactic hurricane sequence took its toll on Ustinov as well, even though it was shot under controlled conditions on the beaches of Bay Lake at Walt Disney World in Florida where the trees were made of flexible tubing to protect the actors and could spring back and forth and bend in the wind. The scene was shot over five nights complete with giant wind machine, with tons of water blasted in front of airplane engines. In the process, Ustinov was hit with a water wave and was hospitalized with pulled ligaments in his left ankle.
Also slightly injured during the production was actress Joan Hackett, who plays runaway bride Lauriette. While shooting the dance scene with the river man on the barge, Joan Hackett cracked a rib but still said it was "fun" in her archived collected notes on the film. "There are no holds barred on the spending. Just look at these shoes," she told reporters on the set, pointing to her period footwear. "They were made by a little old Italian woman. Can you believe that?"
Recently seen in such films as The Last of Sheila (1973) and The Terminal Man (1974), Hackett would tragically pass away very young in 1983 from cancer. Eerily, the year before would also claim another actor in the film, Vic Morrow, who plays the villainous Spangler. Famous at the time for his starring role in TV's Combat!, Morrow had only been married to his second wife, Gale, for six months when production began and greatly enjoyed his time with her in Florida. In fact, he had established himself in the state twenty years earlier when studying pre-law at Florida Southern College thanks to the G.I. Bill after his naval service, and his first stage role was in I Remember Mama during his time there.
Rounding out the main cast were Robert Foxworth as romantic lead Jim and beloved Father Knows Best actress Jane Wyatt in an extended cameo as Aunt Effie. A busy voice actor today, Foxworth started off on stage and earned TV roles opposite Faye Dunaway in Hogan's Goat and Elizabeth Montgomery in Mrs. Sundance as well as a popular stage success with P.S. Your Cat Is Dead.
Aside from some critical grousing about its unconvincing rear projection effects, the film was well received and moderately successful in theaters in 1976. The Los Angeles Herald-Examiner remarked that it is, "like most Disney films, a fantasy adventure, but it is a fantasy rooted in truth and rounded out with recognizable human eccentricity... The movie is nearly as adventurous as a trip to Disneyland." Likewise, the Hollywood Reporter found it a "captivating tale; part Treasure Island, part Huckleberry Finn, part African Queen." However, its greatest fan base would be found on television when it was shown several times over the years as part of the TV series The Wonderful World of Disney, leading many to believe it was actually a made-for-TV production after its debut on NBC in 1977. Make no mistake; this has always been a big screen adventure for all ages and a fast-paced example of the studio's knack for live-action entertainment for matinee audiences.
By Nathaniel Thompson
Treasure of Matecumbe -
Sir Peter Ustinov (1921-2004)
He was born Peter Alexander Ustinov on April 16, 1921 in London, England. His father was a press attache at the German embassy until 1935 - when disgusted by the Nazi regime - he took out British nationality. He attended Westminster School, an exclusive private school in central London until he was 16. He then enrolled for acting classes at the London Theater Studio, and by 1939, he made his London stage debut.
His jovial nature and strong gift for dialects made him a natural player for films, and it wasn't long after finding theatre work that Ustinov moved into motion pictures: a Dutch priest in Michael Powell's One of Our Aircraft is Missing (1941); an elderly Czech professor in Let the People Sing (1942); and a star pupil of a Nazi spy school in The Goose Steps Out (1942).
He served in the British Army for four years (1942-46), where he found his talents well utilized by the military, allowing him to join the director Sir Carol Reed on some propaganda films. He eventually earned his first screenwriting credit for The Way Ahead (1944). One of Sir Carol Reed's best films, The Way Ahead was a thrilling drama which starred David Niven as a civilian heading up a group of locals to resist an oncoming Nazi unit. It was enough of a hit to earn Ustinov his first film directorial assignment, School for Secrets (1946), a well paced drama about the discovery of radar starring Sir Ralph Richardson and Sir Richard Attenborough.
After the war, Ustinov took on another writer-director project Vice Versa (1948), a whimsical fantasy-comedy starring Roger Livesey and Anthony Newley as a father and son who magically switch personalities. Although not a huge hit of its day, the sheer buoyancy of the surreal premise has earned the film a large cult following.
Ustinov made his Hollywood debut, and garnered his first Oscar® nomination for Best Supporting Actor, as an indolent Nero in the Roman epic, Quo Vadis? (1951). After achieving some international popularity with that role, Ustinov gave some top-notch performances in quality films: the snappish Prinny in the Stewart Granger vehicle Beau Brummel (1954); holding his own against Humphrey Bogart as an escaped convict in We're No Angels (1954); the ring master who presides over the life of the lead character in Max Ophuls's resplendent Lola Montez (1955); and a garrulous settler coping with the Australian outback in The Sundowners (1960).
The '60s would be Ustinov's most fruitful decade. He started off gabbing his first Oscar® as the cunning slave dealer in Spartacus (1960); made a smooth screen adaptation by directing his smash play, Romanoff and Juliet (1961), earned critical acclaim for his co-adaptation, direction, production and performance in Herman Melville's nautical classic Billy Budd (1962); and earned a second Oscar® as the fumbling jewel thief in the crime comedy Topkapi (1964).
He scored another Oscar® nomination in the Best Original Screenplay category for his airy, clever crime romp Hot Millions (1968), in which he played a con artist who uses a computer to bilk a company out of millions of dollars; but after that, Ustinov began taking a string of offbeat character parts: the lead in one of Disney's better kiddie flicks Blackbeard's Ghost (1968); a Mexican General who wants to reclaim Texas for Mexico in Viva Max! (1969); an old man who survives the ravaged planet of the future in Logan's Run (1976); and an unfortunate turn as a Chinese stereotype in Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen (1981). Still, he did achieve renewed popularity when he took on the role of Hercule Poirot in the star laced, Agatha Christie extravaganza Death on the Nile (1978). He was such a hit, that he would adroitly play the Belgian detective in two more theatrical movies: Evil Under the Sun (1982) and Appointment With Death (1988); as well as three television movies: Thirteen at Dinner (1985), Murder in Three Acts, Dead Man's Folly (both 1986).
Beyond his work in films, Ustinov was justifiably praised for his humanitarian work - most notably as the unpaid, goodwill ambassador for United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). Since 1968, he had traveled to all corners of the globe: China, Russia, Myanmar, Cambodia, Kenya, Egypt, Thailand and numerous other countries to promote and host many benefit concerts for the agency.
Ustinov, who in 1990 earned a knighthood for his artistic and humanitarian contributions, is survived by his wife of 32 years, Hélène du Lau d'Allemans; three daughters, Tamara, Pavla, Andrea; and a son, Igor.
by Michael T. Toole
Sir Peter Ustinov (1921-2004)
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1976
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1976