For all of us who grew up watching Disney films, I think at one point we all just assumed that Medfield College was a real place. Disney has a way of doing that, making us believe - or at least want to believe - that the places and people they create are real and alive. In fact, the world of Medfield even spread into other Disney movies like with the case of the villainous Alonzo P. Hawk (played devilishly by Keenan Wynn, and the role I seem to automatically equate him with when I hear his name) who not only gave Fred MacMurray's Professor Brainard a run for his money in The Absent-Minded Professor and Son of Flubber, but also matched wits with Herbie in Herbie Rides Again.
Audiences may know Kurt Russell as an action star now, but his early career will always be remembered for the role of Dexter Riley, the coolest student that ever enrolled at Medfield.
Rupert Pupkin from the Rupert Pupkin Speaks blog is a great admirer of Medfield College and the Medfield College movies so much so that even though it doesn't exist, he not only graduated from there at the top of his class but also got his masters and PHD in Flubber (ok so that's all in his head, but we go with it because why not! We all wish we had thought of it first.)
For A Disney December, Rupert has generously written up his thoughts on the Medfield College movies, and what they mean to him.
His blog can be accessed HERE.
Follow him Twitter (you won't regret it) @bobfreelander
Before I ever saw Kurt Russell as Jack Burton or Macready or Snake Plissken, he first came into my life as the mild mannered college kid Dexter Riley. You see, when my family first got a VCR, one of the main things we ended up renting (from our local grocery/video store) was TONS of live-action Disney films from the 60s and 70s.
The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes was the first time I met Kurt Russell. He seemed like a sweet enough kid. Charismatic, outgoing and a little goofy. He was matriculating at little university called Medfield College. Little did I realize this was the same institution of education that had been the setting for The Absent-Minded Professor films prior to this. Anyway, Medfield seemed like a grand old place. Clean and full of a good group on kids who neither drank nor did drugs of any kind. Nope their currency was hanging out and having good clean Disney fun, and I totally bought into that. "Is that what college will be like?" I remember thinking to myself, hoping it really could be. Regardless of its relationship to the real world, Medfield became a very enjoyable and ultimately nostalgic place for me to drop by. Thankfully I had three adventures with Dexter and company to get a sense of the place. The only real sense of it I ever got was that it was a school that was in almost constant financial turmoil. Each of the three Dexter Riley films (The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, Now You See Him, Now You Don't and The Strongest Man in the World) seem to show Medfield with some kind of money problem that Dexter and the gang could remedy with some kind of accidental scientific discovery. When I think about it, Medfield was kind of the predecessor to the "Save the Rec Center" plot-lines of the 1980s which is interesting (and I hadn't thought of it until just now).
What's neat about these films and Kurt Russell's early films with Disney in general is that it was like a sprawling acting school/training ground for him which would be of enormous help in his later career. He would learn all the basics and more of being an actor (learning lines, hitting marks maybe minimal stunts) which would make him an asset on set and an old pro by the time he started working with Carpenter. Russell really is one of my favorite actors of all-time without question and it's fair to say that without Dexter Riley, there would be no Jack Burton.
But Medfield was not only a home away from home to Dexter Riley, it was also the place where Professor Ned Brainard would invent flubber. As with Kurt Russell, Fred MacMurray was the badass actor I came to know him as in things like Double Indemnity and The Apartment, and also this oddball professor with his wacky accidental invention (seems Medfield was a place that seemed to foster many "accidental inventions of science").
Boy do I wish this Eclipse set really existed...
The MedField College Filmography
The Absent-Minded Professor (1961)
Son Of Flubber (1963)
The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969)
Now You See Him, Now You Don't (1972)
The Strongest Man in the World (1975)
And why not include...