Having really liked all of Ptushko's films, especially Stone Flower and The Tale of Tsar Sultan, I knew I wanted to see The Golden Key. And after seeing it on Youtube, I'm glad I did. The New Gulliver, also directed by Ptushko, is perhaps more historically significant regarding stop-motion animation, but as a piece of storytelling and fantasy I personally prefer the lesser-known The Golden Key. It is a beautiful-looking film, the sets are lavish and shot with simplicity but elegance and atmosphere. The stop-motion is not quite as impressive as it is in The New Gulliver(of which Ray Harryhausen held in high regard), but is done with great detail and care and used very well throughout. I fell in love with the music, the score itself is lushly orchestrated and charming in its lyricism. The very Russian-folk-song-sounding song is just beautiful and not one I'm going to forget in a long while, I also loved how it was sung with a light lyrical tenor voice(like Russia's answer to a slightly richer-sounding John McCormack). The story is told with a real sense of wonder, with charm, with heart and a dose of humour. The more antagonistic elements of the film are appropriately menacing and used in a way that's not too heavy-handed. The climax is exciting and rounds off nicely. The dialogue reflects these qualities and tell the story well, even though I'm not Russian my Russian lessons for my operatic vocal studies degree is helping enormously so I got at least the gist of what was being said. It helped also that the facial expressions of the characters, all of which are compelling and none feel pointless to the storytelling in any way, told a lot. The acting has a command and nobility, if occasionally on the broad side. The voices for the stop-motion characters are appropriate and generally very well done and emotive, though the pitch some of it is voiced in might get on your nerves a bit. Overall, a very good film and underrated. If you like Ptushko, fantasy, stop-motion or all, you'll find plenty to like with The Golden Key. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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