At the royal court, a prince is presenting the princess whom he is pledged to marry, when a witch suddenly appears. Though driven off, the witch soon returns, summons some of her servants, ...
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At the royal court, a prince is presenting the princess whom he is pledged to marry, when a witch suddenly appears. Though driven off, the witch soon returns, summons some of her servants, and carries off the princess. A rescue party is quickly organized, but the unfortunate captive has been taken to a strange, forbidding realm, from where it will be impossible to rescue her without some special help. Written by
You cannot rate this by comparing it to a modern movie. That would be like denigrating the intelligence of a dolphin because it doesn't think with a human brain. Given the date of release (1903: that is OH THUREE!!!) it is a wonder that this movie even exists. That is it is available in what appears to be a well-preserved first or second-generation print, almost scratch-free and in dazzling color, is practically miraculous enough to have made Darwin a believer.
The best version of this film that I know of is in the Flicker Alley 5-dvd set, enhanced by Eric Beheim's synthesized but nonetheless completely fitting and well-synchronized musical soundtrack. There is still much that could be done to clean up this print: it is possible to matte over much of the sparkling on the left side of the frame, and blot out almost all of the blobs of crud and scrapes that come and go, eliminate a few flash frames, and of course hide all the splices. There is still a little annoying jitter in the underwater scene, but it's not too bad (and after all it IS "underwater"). If these things are corrected, or if you just use a little imagination to overlook the blemishes, the quality of this film is really staggering (1903!!). It is probably the most beautiful of all the existing Mèliés films (maybe right beside "Inventor Crazybrains and his Wonderful Airship", also in color).
Of course Mèliés uses a number of antiquated stage conventions, such as trap doors and wobbly sliding flats; and for some reason he hired an oddly stolid and frumpy fairy grand-godmother to introduce the apotheosis (itself a creaking stage convention), but this all adds to the fun. (Remember, it is NINETEEN OH THREE!) The story itself is secondary, and it has no particular depth, but it is extremely well put together. And besides, unless we're talking classic literature, story should really be secondary anyway: it's what you DO with the story that matters, and here Mèliés really "pulls out the stops" with fabulous pantomime, running and leaping (most notably from Mèliés himself), exotic costumes, amazing fantastic backdrops and characters (and animals!), cumulative drama with a fantastic climactic fire scene, a well-constructed and engaging narration, and in the case of the Flicker Alley release, a speaker who really charms and amuses with some highly mangled (but still understandable) English, like a dear old granduncle from The Old Country spinning a story for the kids. So far this is the only movie I've ever rated a 10. I wish I could rate the restoration a 10, but 9.5 is pretty good.
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