Hansel and Gretel (1954)

HANSEL AND GRETEL (1954)
Article #1705 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-14-2005
Posting Date: 4-13-2006
Directed by Michael Myerberg and John Paul
Featuring the voices of Anna Russell, Mildred Dunnock, Frank Rogier

Two children are sent out into the woods to gather strawberries. They get lost, and find themselves threatened by a witch who means to eat them.

It’s opera time, again. However, this one is based on a familiar children’s story, and it contains spoken passages as well, so following the story is a snap. It is also animated with electronic puppets, so it should be of interest to animation and puppetry fans as well.

Nonetheless, I am a little disappointed with this one. Though it’s obviously a labor of love, it lacks somewhat that sense of magic that really brings this sort of thing to life. Part of the problem is the design of Hansel and Gretel; their mouths, though articulated, are locked in a perpetual smile, which somewhat destroys the illusion of danger. The movement of the puppets also doesn’t quite sync up with the music to the extent that would make this one a real delight; in this respect, it falls far short of FANTASIA, a movie which is mentioned in comparison on the back of the DVD package for this one. It has some nice moments, and I do applaud the effort, but I did find myself getting bored frequently, especially since there really isn’t much of a story, and the movie doesn’t quite have the necessary charm to fill in during the dead spots. Still, the witch has some fascinating facial movements, and a short “making of” extra on the DVD shows how this was done. Interesting, but not quite satisfying overall.

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