Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

WONDERFUL WORLD OF THE BROTHERS GRIMM


WONDERFUL WORLD OF THE BROTHERS GRIMM (1962). Directed by Henry Levin. Fairy tale sequences directed by George Pal.

Over-length and the occasional cloying moment are the only deficits to this otherwise excellent fantasy film inspired by the lives of the Brothers Grimm. The biographical sections – which probably have to be taken with a grain of salt – are interrupted by the telling of three classic fairy tales. In the first, Russ Tamblyn is a woodsman who tries to find out why a princess (Yvette Mimieux) wears out her shoes every night, and discovers that she runs out a secret door to dance all night long with a bunch of gypsies. A cloak of invisibility helps him in this task. In the second a weary cobbler's figurines come to life to help him finish up his work in time for Christmas [he spent too much time making toys for the poor children of the neighborhood]. The last story has to do with a knight (Terry-Thomas) and his put-upon servant (Buddy Hackett) who set out to destroy a dragon that has been terrorizing Otto Kruger's kingdom. When Hackett manages to slay the dragon, his master kills him and takes the credit, but the servant manages to have the last laugh. As Wilhelm Grimm attempts to collect fairy tales to preserve for future generations, he and his brother Jacob struggle to finish a family history that they have been hired to write.

You wouldn't think Laurence Harvey would be the right actor for this kind of stuff but he's excellent as Wilhelm Grimm, and also scores as the elderly cobbler in the second tale. Karl (Peeping Tom) Boehm also strikes the right note as Jacob. The many actors in the assorted supporting roles – everyone from Beulah Bondi as an old gypsy woman to Jim Backus as the father of the dancing princess – are all in top form. The settings and cinematography are of a very high order [the film was originally released in Cinerama and MUST be seen in letterbox format.]. The “puppetoon” animation in the second story is charming, expressive and fluid. The dragon with the bejeweled body in the third story is deliberately dopey-looking for comedic effect and the stop-motion animation used to bring it to life isn't bad at all, if not quite on the Ray Harryhausen level. [At one point Hackett interacts with a full-size mock-up of the monster's feet and stomach as the creature tries to crush him.] The dream sequence near the end when Wilhelm is ill and sees visions of Cinderella, the Frog Prince etc. may have been required to remind viewers of all the tales the Grimms made famous, but it becomes tiresome very quickly. Still, this is a very worthwhile picture with many memorable sequences.

Verdict: Lots of fun. ***. NOTE: This is about a thousand times better than the recent godawful Brothers Grimm with Matt Damon and Heath Ledger, which actually has little to do with the brothers or their stories and is a big, tedious, mess with rubbery special effects and little coherency. Skip it!

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