Things seem to be going swimmingly for Mr. Peabody (William Powell, The Thin Man) – then one day his life takes a whimsical turn. While fishing, he snags a beautiful mermaid (Ann Blyth, Mildred Pierce). In a flight of youthful fancy, the stodgy Bostonian falls for the mermaid and takes her to a pond at his villa. The seemingly harmless crush creates all sorts of comical mix-ups! When Mr. Peabody’s jealous wife's car (Irene Hervey, The Lucky Stiff) is found abandoned, the discovery leads the police to believe he bumped off his own wife! Irving Pichel (The Miracle of the Bells) directed this whimsical comedy with an uproarious screenplay by legendary Nunnally Johnson (The Dark Mirror, The Dirty Dozen).
Not to be confused with 'Mr. Peabody and Sherman', this 1948 film called 'Mr. Peabody and The Mermaid' was an early look at the fantasy genre, specifically that of mermaids. And to answer your question. Yes, there were movies before 'Splash' and 'The Little Mermaid' that featured the half fish - half human creatures that lived in the sea. But maybe you haven't heard of 'Mr. Peabody and The Mermaid', because the film lacks some certain story elements that helped the movies I mentioned above become a big box office success. But after watching this, you can't help but notice that 'Splash' and 'The Little Mermaid' were heavily influenced by this 1948 film.
The main problem with this mermaid flick though is that its main protagonist and the mermaid herself are never destined to be together, and therefor never has the romantic angle that we've seen in so many mermaid films. Perhaps another reason is that the mermaid doesn't speak either, which takes away the would be witty and fun dialogue from the main characters of the film. Instead, 'Mr. Peabody and The Mermaid' is told via a long flashback and is more or less a story about a long marriage between two people that is becoming stale.
The film starts off in a psychiatrist's office where Dr. Harvey (Art Smith) is listening to Mrs. Polly Peabody (Irene Hervey) talking about an encounter with a mermaid on her recent trip to the Caribbean with her husband Mr. Arthur Peabody. Dr. Harvey is pretending to listen and believe this story, but he's just not buying it. after Polly's time is over, in walks in Arthur for his time with the doctor, and the married couple exchange is slight kiss, which looks like it is forced and not true love.
Arthur is having a major mid-life crisis and does not want to accept that he is turning 50. And he and his wife both have noticed that their marriage is becoming stagnant. He then begins to tell the tale of their vacation in the caribbean, which sets the movie in motion via a long flashback. Once in the caribbean, Arthur notices a singer named Cathy Livingston (Andrea King) and begins flirting with her. Meanwhile, Polly begins a semi relationship with a man named Mike Fitzgerald (Clinton Sundberg). Needless to say, this couple is in need of some serious marriage counseling, but it's never touched upon. Arthur heads to a local island and starts to fish, but to his surprise, he reels in a mermaid, which he names Lenore (Ann Blyth).
Although she can't speak, her innocent and child like attitude draws Arthur in close and the two hit it off. He takes her to his hotel room and hides her in their bathtub and in the hotel pond. But Polly suspects something is up and that Arthur is cheating on her. This weird little film ends up with Polly missing and Arthur being held for murder. I know, it's not exactly the mermaid fantasy story you were hoping for, which is why I think people didn't take to it well and have it forgotten for some time now.
The best parts of the movie are the little moments where Arthur is coming to terms and dealing with an actual mermaid. They are quite comical and genuine. But the rest of the film is literally watching a marriage slowly fade away as both partners try to fall in love with someone else with the mermaid aspect as a background note. 'Mr. Peabody and The Mermaid' doesn't make the big splash you want it to in the end.
'Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid' comes with a 1080p HD transfer presented in 1.37:1 aspect ratio. This new transfer gets the job done and looks fairly good, but it's not without its problems. The image overall has its original organic look with no digital help, meaning that there is a good layer of grain, giving it the old fashioned look. The detail looks very good in certain places, mostly during closeups. Some of the wider shots look a bit soft with some other midrange shots looking murky.
The black and white coloring looks decent with well balanced whites and grays, but the blacks aren't always deep and inky when the should be. There were several instances of dirt, debris, and scratches throughout too, but there were no warps or bad transitions. Giving the fact the elements of the original print weren't in good shape and that this is a movie from 1948, it still looks decent, but don't expect a five star rating here.
This release comes with a lossless DTS-HD 1.0 Mono audio mix and does the job just well enough to get by. The dialogue is quite clear and easy to understand throughout, although there were some instances of minor hissing . Every once in a while, a sound effect will pop out, but it never fully immerses you.
The score by Robert Emmett Dolan sounds very good and might be the best part of the audio track. It's clean and loud, and always adds to the tone of the film. There isn't much to this audio track, so don't expect a wide dynamic range, but it gets the job done.
'Mr. Peabody and The Mermaid' is more of a depressing film about a failing marriage than it is about a mermaid fantasy film. Sure there are some fun and genuine moments where Arthur is trying to teach the mermaid to act human, but mostly, the story goes nowhere. That being said, it's definitely different and original from the rest of the movies like this out there today, but you won't be happy with the outcome. The video and audio presentations are less than stellar and there are zero extras on this disc. If you are every so curious to see a mermaid film you haven't seen, rent this one first before purchasing.