Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Snow Queen (1966)

Original Title: Snezhnaya koroleva 
Year Released: 1966
Country of Origin: Soviet Union
Run Time: 85 minutes.

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

Adaptation Accuracy: While Russia's previous adaptation was faithful, but boring, their second attempt goes off the rails in by making it EnTeRtAiNiNg!!!! It gets a little bit convoluted, so bear with me. Once again, we start off with yet another narrator, this time the Storyteller (Valeri Nikitenko) decides he wants to be a part of the story. Kay (Slawa Zjupo) and Gerda (Elena Proklova) are his 
students, who are raised by Gerda's grandmother (Yevgeniya Melnikova) but ARE NOT RELATED.

In comes the King's Commercial Counselor (Nikolai Boyarsky), an eeevil man in cahoots with a certain cold-hearted being. He wants to buy Grandmother's roses simply because they are rare. When she refuses, the Counselor swears revenge. In pops the Snow Queen (Natalya Klimova) who wants to take Kay...for some reason that is never quite explained. Kay refuses but grants the Snow Queen a kiss (on the lips!) instead. Batta-bing, batta-boom, Kay's heart is turned to ice and he follows the Snow Queen to her wintery realm.

This time, Gerda's journey is much changed. She never does meet the witch, so her first stop is at the palace of Princess Elsa (Irina Gubanova) and Prince Klaus (Georgi Korolchuk). They agree to help her, but the King (Evgeni Leonov) tries to trick Gerda and then enslave her to his Counselor. Luckily, the Storyteller saves the day (told you he wanted to be a part of the story) and Gerda continues on.

However, the Counselor refuses to give up now and convinces a robber to kidnap Gerda. (Why does he want her anyway? Ewww...) But the Robber Girl (Era Ziganshina) takes a shining to Gerda and the robber turns out to be the Storyteller in disguise! Oh boy! Eventually Gerda is set free, rescues Kay and has one last confrontation with the Snow Queen. This time, Kay and Gerda make it out of the palace first and then just continue to walk through the Snow Queen's storm at great difficulty...yeah.

Overall Likes: Ambition; Kay and Gerda's ages; The chemistry of the Princess and Prince; The Storyteller's tricks; The Robber Chief and the Robber Girl.

Overall Dislikes: No mirror; That goblin and inkpot; No witch; Those freakin' crows; The bumbling king; Weird animated moments; Magic skis?; The Counselor...seriously, WTF? and he just disappears; Anti-climax. 

Final Thoughts: Unlike say, Harry Potter, where there's almost too information for a film adaptation, The Snow Queen is quite sparse in places. In fact, it could only benefit from some detail being added. The filmmakers behind TSQ ('66) definitely realized this, but at a price. The Counselor becomes the main villain. He has way more screen time than the Snow Queen herself, but also lacks a certain motivation. Yes, Kay and Gerda are rude to him and their grandmother won't give him roses, but Jesus, 
this is a lot of trouble for revenge.

Also, while the Storyteller is a likable character, he is in the film a bit too much. The story should be about Gerda and her quest. The Storyteller horns in on her victory, making her seem like a little damsel, a Little Red Riding Hood to his brave and noble Woodcutter, if you get my meaning.

Plus, I just can't forgive the cutting of the witch. There's so much they could have done with that story line, but instead beefed up the Princess and Prince segment to fit in their convoluted Counselor shenanigans.

Still, it's a valiant effort and the film's heart is in the right place. I imagine this version wanted to distinguish itself from the 1957 animated film, which is apparently some kind of classic in Russia. I mean, just imagine how easily a live action Beauty and the Beast would fare against 1991's masterpiece.

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