Hansel and Gretel (1954)

HANSEL AND GRETEL (1954)
aka Hansel und Gretel

Article 3578 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-12-2011
Posting Date: 6-1-2011
Directed by Walter Janssen
Featuring Jurgen Micksch, Maren Bielenberg, Barbara Gallauner
Country: West Germany
What it is: Fairy tale

A poor family is in danger of being thrown out of their house by a wicked landlord. In order to save them, the two children seek out a gingerbread house rumored to have a large cache of gold hidden within. However, there’s a witch in the house… and the witch has a taste for little children…

Here are ten thoughts on this adaptation of everyone’s favorite children’s story about cannibalism.

1) The family seems to live on subsistence rations despite the fact that there are rabbits and deer hanging around outside of their rented home in the woods. Methinks the development of rudimentary hunting skills might have benefited them mightily.

2) I was originally going to make a joke here about how the mother and children do all the work (gathering the sticks in the forest and selling baskets in the village) while the father does little more than smoke cheap tobacco. Then I remembered that the father actually weaves the baskets from the sticks, thus contributing his share to the household and undercutting my joke about a dysfunctional family. Still, that doesn’t give him the right to blow tobacco smoke in his own son’s face. Remember, the second-hand smoke is just as bad.

3) There’s a magic snowman in the movie. He hits the landlord with his broom, plays pranks on the family by knocking on the window, and then climbs a tree when winter is over. Really, couldn’t you have done more with the character than this?

4) This is the second movie in a row I’ve seen with an evil landlord. He even threatens to sic the dogs on the family. He also has the goofiest moustache I’ve seen in ages.

5) In their first foray into the forest to find the gingerbread house, Hansel decides to mark the way by using rocks in his pocket, which seems to be an improvement over the old “bread crumbs” idea of the story. Then we see a big bear wandering around. I can’t tell you how much I was expecting the movie to change the story so it involved a rock-eating bear. No such luck.

6) Hint – if the old woman has a pet raven named Satan, she is more likely to be a witch than a kindly old lady.

7) Another hint – if she is able to make food appear out of nowhere by magic, she is more likely to be a witch than a kindly old lady.

8) Another hint – If, despite the fact that she can make food appear out of nowhere, she prefers to eat a stew made up of arsenic, poison mushrooms and toadstool stems, she is probably a witch rather than a kindly old woman. I would also be reluctant to eat anything she offered me.

9) When the witch is shoved into the oven, the whole house breaks apart and falls to pieces. Either her abode was maintained by a witchcraft that disintegrated upon her death, or putting a witch into an oven is somewhat similar to putting something metal in a microwave. Consider this a useful household tip.

10) Okay, I’m having some fun with this movie, and though I usually do my “ten thoughts” lists on movies that are prime stinkers, let’s consider it a compliment in this case. After having seen THE SHOEMAKER AND THE ELVES (a movie which mostly consisted of footage of children dressed as elves building shoes), I was expecting an exercise in tedium of the worst kind. This one was actually efficient, creative and a bit of fun. No, it’s not great, but I know that I was more entertained than I expected to be, and that’s always a plus.

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