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Despite its European, "old world" look, Hansel and Gretel was made in
New York City. Indeed the comments to the contrary are a tribute to the
filmmakers' success in evoking a genuine fairy tale style. Nonetheless,
the film was shot using conventional stop-motion puppets
(notwithstanding the producer's claims to using some sort of mysterious
"electronic" method) in the main room of an abandoned courthouse which
is still standing at the corner of Second Avenue and Second Street in
New York City. The large set was built in the main chamber on the
second floor (now the largest of several theaters in what is currently
(2005) the Anthology Film Archives).
Apparently electromagnets were used to hold the stop-motion puppets in place during some sequences, but normal procedures were used for the rest. This and some hype that lured in backers may account for the mistaken report that they are electronic puppets. They were solid, armature puppets and not clay (or "claymation") dolls.
The set survived the production and actually toured county fairs as a fairy tale exhibit for many years after the completion of the film.
This version of "Hansel and Gretel" is, without a doubt, the finest adaptation of the classic children's story ever brought to the screen. It's set to the music of Humperdinck's immortal opera with the added attractions of storybook color, charming sets and stop-motion puppetry. It used to play on local network television throughout the 1960's as well as being re-released as a Saturday-Sunday Children's Matinée during that decade and in the 1970's, too. Now, it's been shown on the HBO, AMC and A&E channels and is available on both VHS and DVD (albeit, the DVD version available now (2005) is obviously transferred from a damaged VHS print). I distinctly remember this films original theatrical trailer being shown during afternoon television commercial breaks throughout the 1960's and 1970's when this film was reissued in cinemas. It would be great if someone could find that trailer and add it as a bonus feature to the next DVD reissue of this film (a reissue made from a good source, that is). I certainly realize that "Hansel and Gretel" is aimed at very small children (who are still enthralled by it), but I must admit that it is one of my guilty pleasures. Other reviewers have written that this film was probably made somewhere in Eastern Europe and that the choir singing in it is the Austrian Apollo Boys Choir. Not so! IMDb's info has "Hansel and Gretel" listed as being an American film (it also lists the films producer/director, Michael Myerberg, as being born in Baltimore, Maryland) and the credits pertaining to the films' choir don't read as "Vienna Apollo Boys Choir", they simply read as "Apollo Boys Choir". Notice how the boys who sang in that choir don't have foreign sounding accents? Also, this film was originally released by R.K.O. Radio Pictures according to the book "The R.K.O. Story". Therefore, I am sure that this version of "Hansel and Gretel" is absolutely an authentic American film.
This film has always been one of my top favorite childhood films. "Hansel and Gretel" was not always easily accessible to kids. Although it had sporadic television showings back in the days of black and white televisions, kids normally had to wait about every three years for it to be theatrically re-released to see it. I remember seeing it once on television back in the days before we had color television sets and then seeing it several years later on the big screen (in all of its Technicolor splendor) and it captivated me by being the definitive version of the famous tale. I liked it so much that when they re-released it some years later I went to see it again! After the mid-seventies it more or less disappeared and it seemed to have become a forgotten film (shown occasionally on early cable T.V.). However, in the early eighties I was surprised to see it on VHS through a company called Media Home Entertainment. Sadly, their print had a terrible mono soundtrack making the film inaudible and the scene where the the stars form in the heavens (after the Sandman floated away) looked like it was set in the daytime instead of at night-time. Later, in the eighties a no-frills video company released the same print with a marginally better soundtrack. When HBO showed it in the early nineties, they showed a restored quality print. One with perfect sound and with the stars in the heavens forming in the evening (keeping to the evening setting of Hansel and Gretel asleep under a tree in the forest). Not long afterward, that restored version was put on to VHS by Vestron and I was delighted. Too bad that Vestron didn't hold on to the rights long enough to put out a DVD edition of the film. It has since fallen into the hands of another company and they've evidently used a not exactly perfect VHS print of the film as the master source for their DVD presentation of "Hansel and Gretel". The evidence of VHS decay are sporadically obvious during the film. It's annoying that the company probably had the means to give us "the" perfectly restored version of the film on DVD, but instead decided to gyp us with a low-budget video to DVD transfer of it. I hope that another company will obtain the rights to this film and put a good copy of it on the market soon. "Hansel and Gretel" must have been a pretty big hit in its day (1954). There was a comic book and a record album of this film. I know that the two times that I saw it in the theaters it played to packed movie houses. Let's hope to see a restored DVD edition of it the near future!
This was the first full-length stop-motion feature made in the United
States. In spite of other comments posted here Mybergh's "Hansel and
Gretel" was filmed entirely in New York City.
The film was done sequentially and as funding for the production dried up and the release date drew nearer the animators were forced to speed things up. The animation becomes quite hurried and sloppy near the end and if you look closely you will notice that both the angels from the Dream Pantomime and the Revived Gingerbread Children are only multiple castings of both Hansel and Gretel redressed. There simply was no time to do original sculptures for these characters.
This was to be the first in a series of full-length stop motion features by Mybergh's production team, but despite it doing exceptional business in Germany it failed to ignite at the box office in the United States. According to members of the Mybergh Estate most of the original elements are still intact and we can only hope that someone will take it upon themselves to do a proper restoration of this amazing film to replace the shoddy, amateur DVD edition that is currently available. Anna Russell's vocal performance as Rosina Rubylips is one that is unlikely to ever be equaled and Evalds Dajevskis' set designs definitive.
Although this film may look like it was from Eastern Europe, it was definitely made in New York City. I was a member of the Apollo Boys Choir in 1953(we were from Palm Beach, Florida), and I remember visiting the studio in New York while the film was being shot. We came up from Palm Beach in the fall to record our part of the sound track. The choir director, Coleman Cooper, was a perfectionist, and we worked harder on this music than any other set of pieces I can remember. Unfortunately, by the time we got to New York we were pretty sung out. The recording session was long, and during it the producer decided that our sound needed some bolstering, so he brought in several female members of the Metropolitan Opera Chorus to help out. Mr. Cooper must have been very disappointed. This was an important project for him. We boys were a little disappointed too. I, at least, quickly got over it. The women, of course, were excellent singers, several were quite attractive, and they thought we were cute.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I first watched this film as a child in the 80's. I loved it and a few
weeks ago heard something that reminded me of this story. I rented it
from NetFlix and watched it last night.
Although they film quality is poor, it was a great film for it's time and this movie still entertains me today. My daughter also watched this film and I saw the same emotions in her that I remember feeling as I watched it as a child. Fear of the wicked witch, the amazement in her eyes when she saw the witch's house and the giggles at the little bear and goose. It just took me back to a time long ago when those little things made me happy and I'm glad I was able to find this film to share it with her.
The story is timeless, the film is excellent and I just love it! Great for all ages!
When I was growing up, we had a battered old VHS copy of this film that
someone had had the presence of mind to tape off of the television one
day. Even though I was born over twenty years after this film was
created, it still captured my imagination and I remember watching it
many times over with my older sisters.
This film is a retelling of the classic story of Hansel and Gretel, with a few whimsical additions and a musical score. The stop-motion animation used to create this film, is both primitive and charming at the same time. Although nowadays much smoother looking animation can be created on the computer, the claymation creatures in this film do not suffer in comparison, any more than claymation classics like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
The wonderful thing about this little film is the atmosphere created by the animated visuals, and by the lovely soundtrack. It's enchanting and creepy at the same time, which was an irresistible combination when I was a child. The cheerful parts are fun and engaging, while the more sinister scenes with the witch are wonderfully unsettling. Although it's been years since I've seen this film, to this very day I still remember the songs word for word and can recite from the script.
I think any child fond of fairy tales, or fantasy stories would enjoy seeing this little film. If you happen to see it on the television, or find it for sale somewhere, don't pass it up!
We had the sound track when I was growing up. My brothers and sisters and
listened to it over and over. I'm well into my forties now, and I can
reel off songs and dialog. My older sister burned CDs of the sound track
for us all a few years ago. A wonderful present! I hadn't heard it for
decades, and missed it very much. The angel pantomime still gives me
goosebumps, it's so very, very beautiful. The witch was played for laughs
as much as for being scary. She is delightful. My friend's children
love it when I give them my imitation of her cackle.
I was priviledged to actually see the movie once in a theatre, a children's matinee. How I wouldn't love to have a copy of it. The music and vocalizations are timeless, beautiful, thrilling. I'm sure any child would love this classic as much as I and my siblings did!
The story/fairy-tale is one of the best-known and is a timeless one,
while Humperdinck's opera still enchants me after being first
acquainted with it 11 or so years ago. It is also one of the most
accessible operas(with the music not too heavy and it's a story almost
everybody knows) and one of the few to translate well into English.
This 1954 film does get a little hurried visually and narratively at the end, but is overall one of the best versions of both the fairy-tale and the opera(I personally saw it for the first time recently so don't have nostalgic bias for it). The visuals are beautiful and clever, charming in the lighter parts and atmospheric in the darker parts. The amount of effort put into making the film is more than evident throughout. Humperdinck's music is enchanting and is not trivialised whatsoever here, it's played with energy and depth by the orchestra and beautifully paced. The choral singing is well-balanced and committed, if recording the music was indeed punishing it doesn't show at all in the singing.
Hansel and Gretel(1954) works well also in the writing and story departments. The script is whimsical and witty, enough to make one laugh, bite the nails and occasionally cry(not exactly emotionally but because there are scenes done so beautifully that it does evoke some emotion, notably the dream pantomime). The storytelling is close in detail and spirit to both the fairy-tale's story and the opera and captures the essence of both. Filled with cute animals, charmingly lovely moments like the dream pantomime(figuratively and literally heavenly here), funny moments- both light hearted and dark- like with the chemistry between Hansel and Gretel and especially the witch, whimsy and darkly scary moments like with again the witch, there is enough to captivate children and adults alike, not making the mistake of making it too scary for children or too juvenile for adults.
All the characters engage in personality and there is a real attempt to make them individual, the most memorable and most colourful character being quite easily the witch. All the acting and singing is top-notch, several have picked out Anna Russell as the standout and I am going to whole-heartedly agree, Russell is hilarious and genuinely creepy as the witch and was clearly having a whale of a time. That does not mean though that the likes of Mildred Dunnock, Frank Rogier and Christine Brigham didn't excel, they certainly did in fact with Dunnock an authoritative and no-nonsense mother-figure, Rogier is a Father that is easy to feel sorry for and Brigham's Hansel and Gretel are both spirited and appealing. Just that Russell made the biggest impression. Overall, fantastical in every sense, for lovers of the story, the opera or both this is a version that is not to be missed. 10/10 Bethany Cox
I found the other comments to be enlightening, especially with regard
to the hurry-up conclusion.
However, I know for a fact that the boys' choir used in this movie was no a European choir, but the Apollo Boys Choir, originally of Palm Beach, Florida, that moved to Dallas, Texas until its director, Coleman Cooper, retired. It is unfortunately no longer in operation. During the Depression, the choir toured the United States in limousines, not buses, and sang for President Roosevelt at the Hot Springs resort where he escaped the pressures of Washington DC. The choir accompanist, Mr. Bert Hallack, is a resident of Palm Beach.
One famous former chorister of this choir is George Bragg, who founded the Texas Boys Boys (of Fort Worth).
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