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

Thursday, May 16, 2013


Karl[heinz] Boehm and Romy Schneider

SISSI (1955). Director: Ernst Marischka.

The Austrian Archduchess Sophie (Vilma Degischer) has decided that her son, Emperor Franz Josef (Karlheinz Boehm) should take a wife, and she has decided upon her Bavarian niece Helene, known as "Nene" (Uta Franz). Unfortunately, while Nene is in town with her mother (Magda Schneider) and sister Elizabeth, nicknamed "Sissi" (Romy Schneider), Sissi accidentally encounters Franz, who doesn't know who she is [not having seen the sisters since childhood] and is almost instantly smitten and vice versa. This causes a serious complication, as the last thing Sissi wants to do is hurt and humiliate her sister, who already thinks of herself as engaged to Franz. That's about all the real drama you get in this nonetheless entertaining and very well-acted Austrian film that makes full use of beautiful Austrian palaces and settings. [Unfortunately, these settings are not photographed with any particular elan; in fact recreations in a Hollywood film might have been more impressive because of it]. A bone-headed alleged bodyguard who mistakes Sissi for an assassin is thrown in for some unfunny comedy relief. The Archduchess describes Sissi as "16, impudent, and ill-mannered," but she doesn't come off that way until after the old lady gets sharp with her. Schneider was 17 when she made this film and is lovely. Her real-life mother plays her mother in the film. Boehm was later known simply as Karl Boehm, wherein he appeared in such films as Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm. His most famous movie is probably Peeping Tom, wherein he was billed as "Carl" Boehm. This is the first part of a trilogy about the beautiful young empress which was later dubbed in English, spliced together, and released in the US [especially television] as Forever, My Love. The basic facts about Karl Franz preferring Sissi to Helene are true although much of the rest is fanciful fabrication.

Verdict: Nothing spectacular, easy to take, but lacks that certain Hollywood panache. ***.

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