Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Snow Queen (1957)

Original Title: Snezhnaya koroleva
Year Released: 1957
Country of Origin: Soviet Union
Run Time: 55 minutes.

How I Watched It: Youtube. Russian version with English subtitles.

Adaptation Accuracy
After the opening credits, we meet a character not in the original story named Ol' Dreamy (Vladimir Gribkov), a composite of the Sandman and Jiminy Cricket (seriously, the opening scenes from Pinocchio and this flick are eerily similar). It turns out Ol' Dreamy is pals with Hans Christian Andersen, and the Snow Queen is actually the product of our new friend and not HCA. And since we are good little children, he is going to tell it to us. (That intro lasts five minutes, BTW).

Cut from this adaptation is the Devil/Troll/Evil Being. The magic mirror actually belongs to the Snow Queen (Mariya Babanova). After hearing Kay (Anna Komalova) say he does not fear her, the Snow Queen purposefully breaks the mirror herself to send a piece into Kay's eye. From then on, the story is very faithful adaptation that follows Gerda's (Yanina Zheymo) journey, meeting every character along the way. Only once do we flash to the Snow Queen's palace to see how Kay is getting along. (In the original, we don't even get this).

Then comes the end. Kay is tinkering with ice pieces, but he is given no specific duty to put together the word "eternity". Gerda melts his heart and all is well, except the Snow Queen returns! One of my biggest beefs with the HCA version is the lack of final confrontation between Gerda and the Snow Queen. In this one, there is a confrontation, but it consists of Gerda saying "He's mine, bitch!" and the Snow Queen fading away...yeah.

Overall Likes: Accuracy; Brevity; Snow Queen's motive; That dead bird; The fat prince; The princess's romanticism; The robber girl's eye make up; Bae; The Snow Queen's character design.

Overall Dislikes: Weird rotoscope-y character animation; Not enough of the witch; That robber song; Lack of confrontation at the end; slapstick.

Final Thoughts: This film was dubbed in English and re-released in the United States in 1959. It had an extended live action opening featuring Art Linkletter and more songs. One can only imagine the disappointment of watching this after one had seen Disney's Sleeping Beauty, released the same year. Then again in 1998, TSQ ('57) was re-dubbed with Kathleen Turner and Kirsten Dunst. That version also fell into obscurity.

It's old. It's Russian. It's a bit treacly. But hey, it was the first attempt of a film adaptation. There are bound to be a few missteps. I'm actually quite impressed by how much of the original story is actually there. Han Christian Andersen's story is far from perfect. At times it is outright nonsensical and seemingly pointless. In these adaptations, I'm looking for some deeper meaning or a motivation. Why does the Snow Queen take Kay? Luckily, this version answered that question. Others, not so much.

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