Lassie of the Glen
"Master of Lassie" was originally called "Hills of Home" and in many ways that is a more suitable title. The reason being is that whilst we do have a story which features Lassie the focus is less on the clever collie and more on his master Dr. William MacLure. There are still plenty of moments where we get to watch Lassie perform some wonderful tricks as well as moments of drama but they are embellishments to the story of MacLure as he tends to the sick and grows old. And as such if you were to watch "Master of Lassie" because of Lassie you are going to be left slightly under whelmed because those wonderful adventures which made up the previous movies are nowhere to be seen.
When farmer Milton (Rhys Williams) discovers his sheep dog is scared of water and so is lousy at his job he tricks Dr. William MacLure (Edmund Gwenn - Miracle on 34th Street) into taking him off his hands. And when the Doc discovers that Lassie is scared of water he is not happy as it means he is no good as a companion as he travels across the Glen tending to the sick. But a hydrophobic dog is not his only concern as he knows he is getting old and doing his job is getting harder so must start thinking about who should replace him when his time comes.
So as already pointed out the focus of "Master of Lassie" is more on Dr. William MacLure the aging local doctor who no matter what the weather goes out to tend to the sick across the Glen, although attending to the sick seems to be giving them whisky. There are a couple of moments of drama when we have seriously ill people and an incident which sees the Doc fall from his horse but in many ways it's an uneventful story. In fact the most interesting it gets is towards the end when the locals knowing that the Doc is growing older start fussing around him must to his chagrin.
Of course there is the Lassie side to this story as the Doc is tricked in to taking Lassie when farmer Milton discovers he is a useless sheep dog who is afraid of water. What this means is that we have the Doc trying to help Lassie get over the fear of water which leads to disappointment and issue when Lassie's fear makes the Doc a laughing stock. And of course this also gives us some bonding as well as a couple of moments of drama as Lassie saves the day, particularly after the Doc has a fall from his horse.
But that is really it and at times "Master of Lassie" almost seems like a rambling tale with little purpose as we get inconsequential scenes which fail to move the story forwards. Thankfully it is charming and also fun so when it does seem to be going nowhere there is usually a very innocent moment of humour to make up for it.
That sense of not having a focus also comes from the various characters because whilst the Doc is the pivotal character we have various people coming and going which don't seem to have much purpose. Basically very ordinary characters who fill up the screen time without doing much. Then again alongside Edmund Gwenn there is also Donald Crisp, Janet Leigh, Reginald Owen, Rhys Williams and Tom Drake who all deliver enjoyable performances despite the ordinariness of their characters.
What this all boils down to is that "Master of Lassie" is one of the weakest Lassie movies because the focus is less on Lassie and more on his owner Dr. MacLure and his days growing old tending to the sick. There are moments of typical Lassie drama and plenty of scenes which feature the well trained Collie but the adventure element which had been present in the previous Lassie movies feels missing.
Tags: Dog Movies