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The Nutcracker (TV) More at IMDbPro »Der Nußknacker (original title)

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

A short-lived annual tradition

6/10
Author: Albert Sanchez Moreno from United States
19 July 2002

This 1965 German-American co-production, first telecast on prime time by CBS-TV just a few days before Christmas, was the first "Nutcracker" I ever saw. An exceptional achievement in its time, it has been dwarfed by all of the later full-length telecasts of the ballet. It was first broadcast at just about the same time that the full-length "Nutcracker" began being performed all across the United States, but after being shown a mere four times (between 1965 and 1968), this version was permanently retired (at least from American television).

It lasts a little less than an hour, and is, of course, drastically shortened from the complete 90-minute ballet. I have not seen it in more than thirty years, when CBS discarded it, instead of turning it into an annual tradition as they did "The Wizard of Oz". What stood out for me about the 1965 "Nutcracker" and makes it such a vivid memory (other than the fact that the music is beautiful and the dancing is brilliant), is that it alters the story line of the ballet and has virtually no special effects, a strange alteration in a work partly written to show off those effects.

The telecast follows the pattern once set by "The Wizard of Oz". Eddie Albert appears on video tape as host of the program, which then leads to a filmed presentation of the ballet---the difference being that you can hear Albert's narration throughout; he does not entirely disappear once the main attraction begins. Because it is on film, the dancers - members of the New York City Ballet as well as several other companies, have far more room to move in.

Those looking for a Christmas tree which grows, and magical toys, will be disappointed here, because, other than the fact that there is a dancing Nutcracker, there just aren't any magical toys. As always, Drosselmeyer gives Clara the Nutcracker as a present, but he does not bring any life-sized dolls who dance. Then, as soon as Clara begins dreaming, the story changes so that now there is no battle with the mice, the Mouse King never appears, and the dolls and toy soldiers never come to life! Instead, Clara and the Nutcracker must travel to the Land of the Sugar Plum Fairy so that she can change him back into a Prince (echoing Dorothy's journey to the Emerald City), and along the way they encounter the Russian dancers, Mother Ginger and her clowns, the flowers, etc. Edward Villella dances beautifully as the Nutcracker, but he never appears wearing a Nutcracker mask or makeup; we just have to accept the fact that he is the Nutcracker because Eddie Albert's narration tells us so. (The narration is far more prominent in this version than in the later ones, and will probably annoy some viewers.)

If this version of "The Nutcracker" is ever brought back from TV oblivion, it is worth a look. It made quite an impression on me when I saw it, though later viewings of the full-length ballet eventually made this one harder to accept as "the" television version. Just take it with a grain of salt as an artifact of its time, an unnecessarily watered down, but well danced presentation of Tchaikovsky's great ballet.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Great Dancing Here!

9/10
Author: bestactor from USA
24 December 2003

This is quite a wonderful version of the Tchaikovsky ballet. Much of the pantomimed story is condensed so that most of the movie is dancing. There are some interesting adaptations made to the traditional presentation. What is so valuable here is one of the few film recordings of Edward Villella performing at his peak. Also Patricia McBride is excellent. Their duets are so memorable that I have never seen any as exciting in the many live and video performances I have seen (including Baryshnikov and Gelsey Kirkland). I used to watch this movie on a regular basis as it was available to show to school students from my local library. I would really love to see it released on video so it can be fully appreciated.

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Great as a tool for learning to understand ballet

10/10
Author: carolfs from United States
8 April 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I was a fifth grade student when this presentation was first broadcast, and I watched it each year it was available. Because I was so young at the time, I had no experience in interpreting the story behind the dance, even though some of the songs had appeared in my piano lessons during the few years of the show's run. But in any case, I very much appreciated the narration. And because I was familiar with Eddie Albert from his role in the "Green Acres" TV series, I was quite comfortable with his storytelling; interestingly, one of the primary things I recall him mentioning was the marzipan used in one of the sets. Also, due to my young age and lack of familiarity with ballet, I had no idea what a privilege it was to watch Edward Villella in the lead role. Many years later, I had the opportunity to watch my elementary school aged grandson narrate a Christmas season presentation of the beloved performance (sans the great dancers), and my mind wandered back to this very first production I ever had a chance to enjoy.

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