"You see only love and happiness staring you in the face. I see only war and destruction unless a sacrifice is made."
NOTE: May be seen through nostalgia colored classes.
What makes it different: Set in the imaginary European country of Euphrania in the 18th century, this Cinderella takes on the political ramifications of the Prince marrying the commoner Cinderella, all while singing and dancing. Written by the Sherman Brothers (who wrote Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book and more)
Synopsis: After yet another failed road trip to see a potential bride, our prince has vowed to marry for love, much to the dismay of his aging parents, who need an alliance and a heir for their vulnerable kingdom. Cinderella has returned from her father's funeral and forced below stairs by her stepmother and stepsisters. Since they have dismissed the rest of the staff, Cinderella is overwhelmed by work until her no nonsense fairy godmother comes to the rescue.
Cinderella and the Prince cross paths, but never actually speak, like when Cinderella is at her father's grave and the Prince discusses (and dances about) the more humorous aspects of kingly mortality with his best friend in a mausoleum. A ball is planned, through another fantastically silly and pompous number with the king and his council, and the prince refuses to attend, as he puts it, "some sordid beauty contest with me as the grand prize." However, when one of the neighboring kingdoms threatens war, he must go through with it, for the safety of the realm.
When he meets the love of his life, and looses her, and then finds her again, he must contend with his father and the Royal Chamberlain, who fear their tiny country will be crushed if the Prince does not make a marriage of alliance.
Review: This is a fantastic movie, particularly because of it's memorable beautiful score. The songs are not just spectacle, but meaty character development, ruminating on the singers' lives and larger questions. Some are sweet and uplifting like "He Danced with Me/ She Danced with Me" or "Suddenly It Happens," some are silly like "Protocoligorically Correct," "What a Comforting Thing to Know," and "Position and Positioning," and some are heart-breaking like "Tell Him Anything." I would recommend this movie for the music alone. (Click the links to see the videos, but SPOILERS!)
Dances are choreographed by the same team that gave us Mary Poppins, and you can certainly tell when the vast array of castle servants kick-line on a railing a la the chimney sweeps in "Chim Chim Cheree." And it brings an added ridiculousness to the King's Council as they prance around the library discussing the upcoming ball. In the Prince and Cinderella scenes, their graceful flowing movements arouse in the viewer a sense of whirling, love-filled abandon.
The movie is fulled with stunning visuals, (the DVD is a significant improvement over the VHS I had!). The shots are beautifully composed, and the characters are draped in sumptuous costumes of lace, velvet, and silk, embroidered and form fitting. Julie Harris was nominated for the 1977 BAFTA award for Best Costume Design for the film.
It also has meticulous pacing, knowing when to take it's time. There is a luxurious long opening sequence over a snow-covered land, as the prince travels doggedly home and Cinderella walks behind the hearse to bury her father. Their first meeting and the waltz that follows is gentle and romantically delicate. On the other hand, the prince finally finding her and sweeping her to the castle is a whirlwind, and makes it all the more devastating when you see what follows.
The writing is wickedly smart, examining aspects of the fairy tale that are rarely seen. Much of the humor comes from the hilarious and daffy Michael Hordern (Taming of the Shrew, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum) as the King, and his Chamberlain Kenneth More (though they have some tasty darker moments as well), the righteous and manipulative stepmother Margaret Lockwood, and Annette Crosbie as the best (and most overworked) Fairy Godmother in any adaptation.
Gemma Craven (who has some Emilia Clarke about her) is sweet and strong as Cinderella, if often subdued, but always sparkling, kind and regal, and when the time comes for her to break your heart, she does. Richard Chamberlain (Dr. Kildare, Shogun, Thorn Birds, Brothers and Sisters) is handsome, charming, and witty and playful as Prince Edward, yet he shows some wonderful dark shades as well. His biting frustration and despair at not finding Cinderella and his resignation to his royal shackles bring a depth to the prince that is rarely seen.
The movie does feel a bit long in parts, but each moment is full of delights and goodness that I could not tell you what should be cut. It is also one of the few movies I've seen that have actors take bows during the credits! It is honestly one of my top two Cinderella adaptations, and one of my top ten fairy tale adaptations over all.
Rating: Five Glass Slippers (out of Five)
Iconic Moment: "The Waltz"
Unique Moment: "Protocoligorically Correct"