(1965), Color/Scope, 79 minutes
Distributed by Trans-International Films
Produced by K. Gordon Murray
Directed by Paul Nagel (uncredited)
Voices: Paul Nagel (Rumpelstiltskin), Marge Nagel (Marie) (uncredited)
Narrated by Judy Wallace (uncredited)
(1955), Germany, Color, 82 minutes
a Forster production
Directed by Herbert B. Fredersdorf
Screenplay: Christof Schulz-Gellen
Editor: Lisa Thiemann
Music: Richard Stauch
Art Director: Alfred Butow
Cinematographer: Ted Kornowicz
Sound: Hermann Birkhofer
Special restored edition of RUMPELSTILTSKIN – a DVDRPARTY exclusive! color, mono, fullscreen, dubbed in English, and runs 78 minutes.
When one meditates on RUMPELSTILTSKIN, two words come to mind: dreary and creepy. It would actually be cruel to let a child sit through this picture, if you knew in advance how antique, corny and boring it was. There is so little engaging in the artless, ultra-literal depiction of drama by 50s German cinema, one wonders where the Wenders and Fassbinders came from, but realize they were sorely needed.
RUMPELSTILTSTKIN is a tired, straightforward stage play, lacking dramatic or aesthetic vigor, deficient in insight or visual impact. One wonders if German “kinder” sat happily through this film upon its first release in the mid-50’s, raptly ingesting its lengthy and tedious dialogue? Or did it suck then too?
On the other hand, you never know. When I bemoaned to a fellow audience member, “Its virtually unwatchable,” he replied, “Yeh, that’s what they used to say about THE BEAST OF YUCCA FLATS, and look at it now…”
The title character is a truly diabolical creature, one of the most sinister icons in fairy tale cinema, and a real spooky dude. An actual midget, he is endlessly fascinating to watch, with his lecherous eyes, grizzly beard and goofy daffodil antenna. With the features of an old man in the person of a small child, he looks like humanity condensed and deranged, a walking, talking shrunken head. He is as ugly as sin, and yet somehow charismatic.
The miller’s daughter is quite sexy, with full, rosy lips and big, flirty eyes. Her relationship with the forest man is questionable at best. Certainly the act of promising the perverse midget the woman’s first-born child has an undeniable sexual aspect to it, and in addition it may be true that Rumpelstiltskin represents a sexualized surrogate father figure to the girl, with its myriad, highly Freudian implications.
The spare mini-songs are pretty perfunctory as well, with “Spin, Spin, Forest Man” coming across as somewhat pleasant.
Most odd is a cameo by Hansel & Gretel of fairy tale infamy.
When we finally reach the long-awaited ending, its like falling off a cliff, or being kicked out the door: “The little man disappeared from sight..”, fade out, ten seconds of organ fanfare to a blank screen, no end title, ende!
* You can tell Murray was running out of creative/financial steam by the time he released this, his first German fairy tale. There are no identifying credits of any kind on the film, save for the original German title card, “Rumpelstilzchen”! No English credits whatsoever. And no end title! I.E. Murray bought the original German interneg and didn’t do a thing to it, (except dub it of course).
* While it may have been passable marketing to release a very old-fashioned fairy tale such as LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD in the early 60’s, by mid-decade it seems wishful thinking at best to pawn off a dreary, ten year-old foreign film as a new product and draw large audiences. By 1965, US Pop culture was exploding. The aesthetic of the babyboomers was growing up, and fast. Yet RUMPELSTILTSKIN did quite well at the boxoffice, against all odds. In some markets, RUMPELSTILTSKIN played from Thanksgiving THROUGH Easter, a remarkable feat not matched by any other Murray fairy tale (or any other companies’ kiddie matinee product, most likely.)
* RUMPELSTILTSKIN marks a definite change in the look of Murray’s ad campaigns. It is the first fairy tale to use a crude original drawing as its main artwork for ads and posters, replacing the vibrant, garish graphics and photo montage used in marketing the Mexican fairy tales. The German fairy tale posters look limp, corny, anemic, in comparison to the bold, sexual “grafix” used to hawk Murray’s libidinous Mexican fairy tales. The German fairy tale posters look like they belong in the innocent 50’s, whereas the Mexican fairy tale posters, with their vigorous lettering and bold color schemes, would have been right at home in the Op-Art world of the late 60’s.
* Murray released RUMPELSTILTSKIN twice (1965 and 1968) before selling the film to Paramount Pictures, who released it again in 1974, as part of their popular mid-70s “Children’s Matinee” series (which itself took a cue from Murray’s groundbreaking work in the field of niche marketing).
* According to AFI, RUMPELSTILTSKIN had its US premiere on November 13, 1965, in New York.
* (06-28-04) Harald Gruenberger of Germany informs us that player Harry Wuestenhagen, often seen in Märchenfilmen or Edgar Wallace movies, was more noted for lending his voice to American actors.