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This is actually a sparkling little gem, with a lot of wit. The score is terrific, and Cyril Ritchard hams it up wonderfully. Liza Minnelli exudes charisma, and her musical numbers are often electrifying. For a 1965 TV special, it holds up very well.
'The Dangerous Christmas of Red Riding Hood' was originally aired on
ABC-TV on 28 November, 1965 ... almost a month before Christmas. The
material really has nothing to do with Christmas, and it's obvious that
a few Yuletide details have been bunged in just to make it likelier
that this production would be optioned and scheduled as a 'Christmas'
special (which it really isn't) so as to be more commercial and get
higher ratings. The script by Robert Emmett isn't very good ... but the
score is by the great Jule Styne and Bob Merrill, the same team who
wrote the songs for 'Funny Girl'. This isn't one of Styne's best scores
(nor Merrill's), but anything written by Jule Styne is worthy of
This is a musical retelling of the Red Riding Hood story ... told from the viewpoint of the wolf! That's a very clever idea; unfortunately, it's the only really clever idea in this production. The wolf (renamed here Lone T. Wolf) is played by Cyril Ritchard, which is part of the problem. Ritchard was an extremely effeminate performer. His effeminacy was an asset in some roles, such as when he played Captain Hook (on a ship at sea with all those pirates, whoops!) or when he starred as Kreton the alien in 'Visit to a Small Planet'. But here, his prissy demeanour makes the big bad Wolf seem merely ridiculous. As the wolf, he wears a frock coat and gloves plus a furry headpiece that makes him look like something out of 'Cats' ... plus a long bushy tail that makes him look like Basil Brush gone grey. Even worse are the scenes in which Ritchard's wolf gets dressed up in Granny's nightdress. Drag humour isn't funny if the man wearing women's clothes is just as effeminate WITHOUT the women's clothes.
Worse luck, the story is told in flashback. Lone Wolf (Ritchard) is describing his version of events to the other wolves ... who are played by Eric Burdon and the Animals. Get it? The wolves are played by the Animals. Ha bloody ha. It might have been amusing if the Animals had got out their instruments and played 'The House of the Riding Hood', but no such luck.
Red Riding Hood is played by Liza Minnelli. I've always disliked this performer due to her extreme archness, but I recognise her talent without enjoying it. In flashbacks, Ritchard's wolf explains that Red Riding Hood was the actual villain, and that everything which happened was her fault, not his. The woodsman (Vic Damone) turns out to be Prince Charming, making this production seem like an early version of 'Into the Woods'.
The best things in this production are the Styne/Merrill songs, especially "You'll Need a Song" (sung by Damone) and 'Ding-a-Ling' (sung by Minnelli and Ritchard while the wolf is pretending to be Granny). I'll rate this production 3 points out of 10, and most of that's for the score.
I generally do not put my two cents into this type of misinformation
"free-for-all" but, having read everyone's opinion on what I have
always considered to be one of television's finest productions, I
couldn't sit by and listen anymore. As a retired university professor
(I taught an in-depth course in musical theater history) much of what I
read here was written by people with very little love or understanding
of the developments of 20th century American musical theater.
"The Dangerous Christmas of Red Riding Hood, or Oh Wolf, Poor Wolf," originally broadcast over the ABC network during Christmas of 1965, proved so popular that ABC repeated the broadcast the following Christmas season. (Most likely the last time it was seen in color; rebroadcasts were rare 45 years ago.) I was only 11 years old at the time, but I still remember watching and enjoying both broadcasts. "Red" was a TV special and not a movie. It was filmed in a television studio using the "live-on-tape" method. (The camera was pretty much stationary and post-production was quick and without much editing or close ups.) The music was performed live in the studio. And so, if you listen to the original cast recording (recorded not in 1965, but a year later in 1966) you will notice some major differences between the performances. On the recording there is now an overture and two full ballets which add at least 15 minutes to the brief running time of the show (neither of which were a part of the broadcast). And the Animals must not have been available for the recording date because they do not sing in the song "Snubbed" with the wolf. (Instead, on the LP, this ensemble piece is turned into a solo for Cyril Ritchard who admirably sings both his and the Animals' parts, making the wolf sound somewhat psycho and much funnier than on the TV special.) The Animals performance of "We're Gonna Howl Tonight" was not re-recorded for the album, but was taken directly off the soundtrack of the broadcast; hence, the sound quality goes from stereo to monaural on the album during that one number. Overall, the performances are first rate on the LP. The "ad libs" are funnier, the orchestra is larger, and even the lyrics received a sprucing up.
The show was originally broadcast in color. But, as was the case in much of early TV, the reel of tape that housed the show was worth more than the material it preserved because the color broadcast of "Red" was eventually erased and the reel reused to preserve another ABC show. What exists today on VHS and DVD is an inferior black and white kinescope of the broadcast. (Before the invention of recordable video tape, television primitively preserved its history by placing a film camera in front of a TV monitor during a broadcast.That explains the distorted image.) The entire production was meant to be performed with tongue firmly planted in cheek. We understood that in 1965. Few in today's audiences "get it" now. The art of satire is, unfortunately, lost today and this type of comedy is mistakenly called "corny." And so, the charm of this small masterpiece is also lost.
For years, I showed this delightful musical to my music theater students at Christmastime. It is a perfect example of what we came to know as the end of Broadway musicals as we we knew them (falling, as it does, after "Fiddler On the Roof" and "Hello Dolly," but before "Mame" and "Company"). "Red"provides us with the opportunity to observe Liza Minnelli as she evolved from a mass of nervous teenage energy into a confident and well-rounded superstar; hear the brilliant Broadway-quality score of Jule Styne and Bob Merrill; and, best of all, experience one of the world's greatest comic performers, Cyril Ritchard, in one of his most hilarious roles.
Yes, pray for a better copy to come alone. But while we wait, let's just be happy that this beat-up copy exists for our enjoyment.
I was able to see a grainy print of this "movie" at a revival theater. I
don't know where they got the print, but it's a real shame that it's not
on video or DVD. It is jaw droppingly awful in a way that makes it
Liza Minnelli gives an early, clunky performance as Red Riding Hood and Cyril Richard is a scream as the wolf/granny. The best moment is when the two of them sing "Ding-a-Ling". Cyril looks ridiculous dressed up and hamming it up as granny, while Liza jumps around the tv set doing some of the worst dance moves ever recorded on film.
See this movie if you ever get a chance, it's priceless.
What do you get when you throw a ton of money at top Broadway talents
for a "sure fire" holiday special and toss in a popular rock group for
demographic appeal? Well, historically and forever anything that people
assume will be "sure fire" isn't - and THE DANGEROUS Christmas OF RED
RIDING HOOD (or OH WOLF, POOR WOLF! as the sub title ran - a spoof on
the relatively recent Arthur Kopit stage farce "Oh Dad, Poor Dad,
Mother's Hung You In The Closet and I'm Feeling So Sad" and typical of
the "wit" of the script) is a perfect example.
Top billed Cyril Ritchard was (and remains) beloved of American audiences for his Captain Hook in Mary Martin's PETER PAN (with part of its score by Jule Styne); Liza Minnelli had already made the beginning of a major mark on stage Off-Broadway in a revival of BEST FOOT FORWARD and had won a Tony for her Broadway debut in the marginally successful Kander and Ebb musical FLORA THE RED MENACE (her incongruous first costume here looks like something from that show); Styne and Merrill's FUNNY GIRL was in its second year on Broadway, and they were both working on shows for the following season (Styne would win a Tony for HALLELUJAH, BABY - Merrill would come acropper with his BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S closing in previews). How could they go wrong with a little hour long holiday special?
Quite easily it turned out - although nothing much was lost at the time. No one had a lot to lose, and with Styne and Merrill as Executive Producers, there was no one to push for better. The work was tossed off without the care and craft that would go into something which had to sustain a run on stage. It filled a time slot and was decent fun even if it was no one's best work ("Ding-A-Ling" is fairly definitive proof that pop/rock music was not Styne or Merrill's métier).
Not one particularly distinguished tune or lyric emerged (the "Red Riding Hood" number sets the tone of sustained silliness with its anachronistic rhymes and jokes), and the wit in the book credited to Robert Emmett never went much beyond the only partially fulfilled concept of telling the story of "Red Riding Hood" from the Wolf's point of view. Despite the presence - mainly for the joke of the group's name - of the pop group "Eric Burdon and The Animals" in the supporting cast (they do awfully well in the Lee Theodore's sprightly 60's choreography), the show essentially disappeared after the initial November 28, 1965 Thanksgiving broadcast over the ABC Network (one supposes the link was EVERYONE going to Grandmother's house for Thanksgiving Dinner) until a cheap black and white holiday VHS video (a kinescope?) appeared in discount Christmas bins a decade or so ago.
With a slightly better print now available on DVD, the show is an interesting view for what is there. Ritchard is, as always, a delight in the lead role of the Big not-so-Bad Wolf narrating the piece in flash-back from his "cell" in the zoo, even when allowed to raise his perpetually arched eyebrows a trifle too high. The very young Liza Minnelli (Red Riding Hood - "her real name was Lillian") is just approaching her full powers and the potential is obvious. The talent is still very raw, but it is undeniably impressive ('though it would take a far stronger director than Sid Smith to reign her in and get a polished performance). It is clear why, the following fall, she would be rejected in her audition for Sally Bowles in the original CABARET - Sally was supposed to be worldly but *not* supposed to be a first class performer, and No one would believe a Minnelli Sally producing the required character shadings or that she could do no better than performing in a basement in Berlin at this point in her career.
Fanciers of early 60's pop music get a glance of both Vic Damone as Minnelli's Woodsman/love interest and The Animals as the "Wolf Pack. Both were popular at the time, and while nothing in the Styne/Merrill score is as good as anything in Merrill's score for BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S (which finally got recorded more than 25 years after it closed on Broadway!), nothing in it is painful either and all is musically very well performed by all concerned.
Pleasant little artifact and a diverting holiday trifle. Nothing more, nothing less . . . but it might have been much, much more.
The wolf pack being The Animals. I found this in a greeting card store about 10 years ago in the discount video rack for about 2 bucks so, yes it does exist on video. You end up hitting the fast forward button till you reach Eric Burdon & the boys (they are featured doing one or two songs) unless you are a Vic Damone or Liza fan. I was hoping someone would post the Animals bits on Youtube so the whole world could enjoy it for free. I would not recommend anyone paying more than a couple dollars for this. As other reviews have said, the story is really thin. Why the Xmas theme is beyond me. It has been pointed out that the reason ABC did this was so they could link it with the holiday season so they could show it again & again every year, but something has to be really special & strike a chord with people for that to happen. Boy were they wrong. Cyril Ritchard is great though.
I read all of the previous reviews of this Made for TV Movie and IMO
only a few folks "got it". This is not going to be as much of a review
as it is "background" information.
First, it was not seen LIVE. It was pre-recorded in a Studio in Brooklyn, NYC. I was there during the shooting.
At the time my dad was "General Manager of Institutional Advertizing" for General Electric, and this was a GE Theater Production.
I'm not going to refute any of the individual criticisms, such as the effeminate Ritchard...he was effeminate, but I didn't see this as the negative that the reviewer did. "Female" wolves also eat.
Liza was brilliant! Not only is she extremely talented, coming from Minelli/Garland genes, but I got a chance to meet her at the shooting and spend quite a bit of time with her...so I AM somewhat biased. I fell in love with her.
Being a son of a GE Marketing Bigwig did have its benefits back during that time period. As one of the Managers of the GE Pavilion at the NY World's fair in '64-'65 I was treated as a VIP not only at the GE Pavilion, but everywhere else as well getting back-door passes to all other Pavilions. Another benefit was being invited to the TDCoRRH shooting. I was 15 at the time, old enough to appreciate meeting Liza and Burden. From that experience I became a life-ling Minelli fan and never played another Burden or "The Animals" record again. Unfortunately, I also spent some time with Burden, and I learned that he will never experience a time where he is not loved, and he is loved best while he's alone.
Fortunately I was able to get a hold of the DVD, however unfortunately it was never remastered. It is still the grainy quality of the original SD release. Yet, occasionally I still pop it in the player and enjoy it just as much with each viewing. I only wish that my father was still around to enjoy it with me.
Further to bluestreak45's comments, this is definitely worth a viewing
for Eric Burdon and The Animals as the wolf pack, for Cyril Ritchard as
the victimized Big Bad Wolf, for the polished musical score, and, if
you're a Liza fan, for her belting out tunes at age 19.
Songwriter Jule Styne conceived the idea of telling the Red Riding Hood story from a lupine point of view (and wrote the music with Bob Merrill, who wrote "Mambo Italiano"), and it is an ambitious idea, and even has a few amusing exchanges of dialog, e.g., when RRHood (Liza) asks the wolf (Ritchard dressed as granny) to play something on the piano from "when you were a girl-- maybe something by Bach."
Unfortunately the production values are minimal and the videotape from the original ABC broadcast is grainy and washed out. Happily for obscurity lovers, as of this writing it is available in five parts at dailymotion.com/video/xuvlm_4-little-red-ridinghood-xmas_music . The Animals show up in part 2, but don't really get going until their howling song in part 4.
Musical television special from November 1965, apparently broadcast live by ABC (and with very little rehearsal), is a coy, nutty take on the "Little Red Riding Hood" tale, with music by "Funny Girl" composers Bob Merrill and Jule Styne (who also served as executive producers!). Young Liza Minnelli is Lillian (a.k.a. Red Riding Hood) who fends off the friendship of a lonely, debonair, Shakespeare-quoting forest wolf; when he realizes he's lost her to a singing woodchopper, he decides to have her for dinner (literally). Despite some interesting camera-work (for its time) and good, clear sound, this black-and-white relic isn't very memorable. I'm sure Styne and Merrill left some of these songs off their resume, particularly the Lillian-Wolf duet "Ding-A-Ling". Cyril Ritchard is very confident as the suave wolf (he glides through this unsure production as if he didn't have a nerve in his body), but Minnelli is a different matter. This certainly wasn't Liza's first time in the spotlight (TV or otherwise), but she attacks her moments on camera with the overt eagerness of a brassy, bustling newcomer. Even her quiet solo, "I'm Naive", is jazzed up by Liza's over-emphatic delivery and kinetic body language. Minnelli-buffs will undoubtedly want to take a look, but the story and the songs don't really go together, and the Christmas theme is practically irrelevant.
I would be in heaven if someone would release this 1965 ABC TV special
" The Dangerious Christmas of Red Riddinghood" on DVD. This is worthy
of a DVD reissue. Christmas special on DVD. I hope I'm not 90 by the
time SOMEONE decides to release this JEWEL on DVD Given that this was a
score by Broadway Greats Jule Styne and Bob Merril and with an equally
stealer cast in Liza Minnelli and Cyril Ritchard, and Vic Damone, you
just can't go wrong. Eevry time about this year, I wish WISH WISH that
this TV special would come out. We can only continue to PRAY.
Originally the ABC TV network released this on November 28 1965. The
special got glowing reviews in TV guide and the New York Times. Jule
Styne was at his PEAK having just finished doing "Funny Girl" also with
Bob Merrill as well. UPDATE: On October 30, 2007, the above title was
FINALLY released on DVD ( YIIIPPPPEEEEE ). Fans of this Christmas
classic REJOICE !( PLEASE SEE BELOW UPDATE ).
UPDATE: "The Dangerous Christmas Of Red Riddinghood" was released on DVD October 30, 2007. The DVD also includes the TV soundtrack released originally on abc records in 1965. The film print is not very good but at leaset it's on DVD now.
agog over Timmy Everett
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