Actually "Die Fledermaus" is a wonderful operetta by Johann Strauß. The work of a musical genius, with unforgettable melodies.
It really would have deserved a good director. Just like Lehár's "Die lustige Witwe" was turned into a congenial movie by the great Ernst Lubitsch ("The Merry Widow").
But what we have here is a cinematic disaster. It's useless to think about the art of photography or lighting or editing. You won't find any of that in this movie. It was made as if no D. W. Griffiths or Alfred Hitchcock or Josef von Sternberg or Lubitsch or Busby Berkeley or Vincente Minnelli had ever existed. The total lack of knowledge about what film means is astonishing and annoying.
If anybody claimed that the director and the whole crew had been asleep during the making of "Die Fledermaus" I would go for it immediately.
Even worse is the fact that the original musical and its richness was destroyed by a simplified and very silly arrangement adding elements of German Swing and Schlager (!). Even new and very bad songs were introduced. Terrible, just terrible. Obviously this was done by the Austrian producers to please the audience in neighboring Germany where they probably hoped to earn more money than in Austria alone. It remains inexcusable.
And the opportunity to document the inimitable Hans Moser's rendering of one of his legendary performances - as prison official Frosch, that is - was completely missed. Instead the character was reduced to a caricature. And Moser got wasted in this uncreative mess and even had to participate in a very dull musical number. One can't help but feel pity for him.
The rest of the cast consists of some well known actors which on other occasions have shown their talent. But here nobody acts convincingly. It is not even routine that the actors are providing but plain non-acting.
The whole movie could be dismissed as a parody of "Die Fledermaus". But it is definitely not a parody. It is the destruction of a piece of art. And as it has no subtlety and is not at all interested in atmosphere this movie can't even looked upon as campy. It is just a bad, boring movie that makes you wondering why on earth it was produced to start with.
Then why two stars and not just one? Because at least one gets the feeling that the filmmakers did not pretend to produce an important cinematic masterpiece. This sincerity shouldn't go unrewarded.
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