Article 4807 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Herbert B. Fredersdorf
Featuring Werner Kruger, Liane Croon, Wilhelm Groothe
Country: West Germany
What it is: Fairy tale
When a miller’s daughter is imprisoned in the castle of the king because the latter is under the belief that she can spin gold out of straw (a lie told by the miller), she is forced to call on the help of magical king of the woods who has the ability… but who will exact a price upon her that she may not be able to pay.
This is another of those German fairy tales made during the fifties that K. Gordon Murray dubbed and brought to children in the United States during the sixties. The translated English dialogue is weak and the dubbed acting is fairly bad, but I hold the original movie at fault for the forced slapstick comedy provided by both the treasurer and the prime minister, characters who serve as both comic relief and the primary villains of the piece, as it is their greed that is really responsible for the events that happen. Still, I found myself diverted from the uneven presentation of the story by speculation on the characters in the story and the ways that their character flaws play on the events in the story. The miller’s tendency to lie, the king’s inability to keep his promise, the daughter’s choice to make a hasty and poorly-thought-out promise (in admittedly, a desperate situation), and the title character’s accepting of a promise that most likely won’t be kept and then offering a way out by virtue of a name-guessing game that he can’t resist singing about all show some pretty bad judgment; yet, they all remain fairly sympathetic characters. The prince comes off relatively clean in this regard; all he has to do is give up hunting the animals in the forest to solve his problems. So, in a sense, it might be said that the movie is a bit of a success; at least it got me to thinking in a different way about elements of a story I’d known for years.