The rise of ’60s counterculture crept into Disney’s world with this comic adventure about a Volkswagen Beetle dubbed “The Love Bug,” which debuted on Christmas Eve 1968 but went into wide release the following March. VW “Bugs” were popular with younger drivers then. This live-action favorite is about a disillusioned racecar driver, Jim Douglas (Dean Jones), who comes to the defense of the ’63 Volkswagen Beetle after owner Peter Thorndyke (David Tomlinson) abuses it. Thorndyke accuses him of grand theft when the little Bug, Herbie, unexpectedly ends up at Jim’s home. At the insistence of his garage assistant (Buddy Hackett, whose patter is a hybrid of beatnik and hippie), who believes the car has a mind of its own, Jim agrees to race Herbie to pay off Thorndyke and get the charges dropped. This was one of 19 films, including the Oscar-nominated Mary Poppins, that Robert Stevenson directed for Disney.
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