If Wes Anderson made “Those Callaways,” a 1965 Walt Disney film starring Brian Keith (as Cam Callaway) and Vera Miles, he’d probably make the Callaways far more eccentric than they’re portrayed by director Norman Tokar. The Calloway son (Brandon de Wilde) would be geekier, and there would be many more sight gags revolving around the Callaway’s rural hideout near a Vermont lake. Perhaps Cam would even pull a formidable ruse to scare off the ambitious salesman (Philip Abbott), who shows so little regard for our flying friends, the geese that come to their town almost every year.
As Cam Callaway, Keith portrays a Vermont trapper determined to protect the migrating geese. But some of the the townsfolk want to make the town a hunters paradise, so they invite outsiders to come and shoot them. Other than a bunch of guys telling stories on downtown porches and at the barbershop, Callaway is the only man of action who can galvanize the populace to fight off the interlopers.
Cam, who eccentricity comes from being raised by an Indian tribe, decides to take his son Bucky (De Wilde) to a haunted forest for trapping. A serious accident befalls him when a tree falls on his leg, which means Bucky must do all the trapping by himself. After the accident, Bucky and his dog endure a very weird and uncomfortable encounter with a wolverine, which further depletes their trapping plans. Unable to make enough on furs to pay the rent, Cam must give up his farm to the greedy Doane Shattuck (Parley Baer), a man who chases money above everything else.
Oddly enough, some of Cam’s sympathizers in town, which include Alf Simes (Walter Brennan) and Ed Parker (Ed Wynn), don’t seem to care much for the geese at all. The movie’s main theme revolves around individual initiative, doing the right thing, small-town values and friendship. The film features some beautiful images of the geese flying over the town, but it does not stress the conservation theme.
Linda Evans, who plays the teenage daughter of the owners of the general store, gives a good performance as Bridie, an emotional girl who loves Bucky. The film shows several scenes of their awkward relationship that breeds a serious misunderstanding when Bucky suspects she’s got feelings for a town tough named Whit (Tom Skerritt).
Maybe it’s the New England way to downplay the serious changes that might occur to the town if the citizens let the hunters in, but the film concentrates on the family drama involving the Callaways and basically lets the hunting issue play out in a surprising way. There’s a few rousing speeches, and Cam takes some dangerous actions, but I got the feeling that equilibrium for this town would eventually be restored on its own.