(1955, West Germany) color 72 minutes
Story: Charles Perrault
Screenplay: Fritz Genschow
Music: Richard Stauch
Directed by Fritz Genschow
With: Rita-Maria Nowotny (Margaret/Cinderella), Renee Strobrawa (the Good Fairy), Fritz Genschow (Margaret’s Father), Renate Fischer (Lottie), Rüdiger Lichti (the Prince), Aenne Bruck (the Stepmother), Maria Axt (Hulla), Herbert Weissbach (Bimble of Bimblestein), Werner Stock (the Demon Quirliquax), Erika Petrick (Girl who falls down the castle staircase)
(1966) Childhood Productions 49 minutes (November release)
National Screen Service #66-277
Music: Milton & Anne Delugg
Orchestrations: George Brackman
Narration: Paul Tripp
Plot Outline: In a faraway kingdom, a beautiful young girl, Margaret, lives with her mean stepmother and two spoiled stepsisters. The Prince of the kingdom throws a ball to find a wife. Margaret wants to attend, but her family thinks her too ugly and stupid, calling her a mere “Cinderella”. A Good Fairy, however, intervenes, and provides Margaret with the means to attend the Prince’s Ball. The Prince, of course, is enthralled upon meeting Margaret, for she is the only woman in the kingdom who possesses the spiritual bounty of inner beauty. Margaret runs away from the Prince before he can announce his intentions, however; she leaves behind only her slipper. The Prince searches the kingdom for the tiny foot which fits the slipper; some women even go so far as to mutilate their big feet to try and fool the Prince. The Prince eventually finds Margaret, and asks her to be his “Cinderella.” A big wedding follows, and the fairy tale couple live happily ever after.
The fairy tales produced and directed in Germany by Fritz Genschow are an amazing group in and of themselves, and we think CINDERELLA represents the Genschow fairy tale at its peak.
Another “big” production, with a large cast, lavish costumes and magnificent real-life settings, CINDERELLA is a masterpiece of fairy tale cinema. The photography is well-framed, and contains many intimate scenes, with lots of close-ups. The scenario is fast-moving, the editing is tight. It is the most streamlined and fetching of Genschow’s fantasy works.
The fairy tale world is an insular one, as a small cast is asked to represent a complete moral universe, and CINDERELLA encapsulates this microcosmic kingdom of symbols better than any fairy tale we’ve seen of late.
It’s good to see Fritz’s wife Rita-Marie Nowotny, as the lovely, downtrodden Margaret/Cinderella. Her grace amidst suffering truly embodies the noble spirit, and her beauty, seen here in some lovely close-ups, seems downright supernatural.
Renate Fischer, so good as the evil Marion in THE NEVER NEVER PRINCESS, reprises her role here as hopelessly spoiled brat, Lottie. Producer Renee Strobowa is alternately luminous and daffy as the good fairy (although we will always think of her as Frau Holle).
Werner Stock (excellent as Black Peter in Genschow’s FRAU HOLLE) plays a shape-shifting demon, who likes to scare women by turning into beasts! Comic relief again takes the form of a pair of impotent man-servants: Baron Bimble of Bimblesetin and Baron Bumble of Bumblestein.
As promised in the original fairy tale, magic abounds: the Fairy produces a dress for Margaret to wear to the Prince’s ball. She turns a nut into a coach, mice into horses, a dog and rooster into coachmen, and a gaggle of geese into maids of honor, all done through straightforward but effective opticals.
Also magical is nature’s intervention in the proceedings. At one point, a dove croons, “Coo-Ca-Ree-Coo, there’s blood on the shoe,” reminding us that the other sisters actually mutilated their feet in order to get the slipper to fit; a gruesome price for vanity!
There are several well-choreographed scenes, of groups gathering and mingling, and of course not one but two balls. These scenes work as ballet, drama and theatre, and are quite moving.
As in many of the Genschow fairy tales, we end with a wedding, in some circles the ultimate “happy ending”. And what has Cinderella taught us? That beauty isn’t based on ego or position or superificial things, but on strength of moral character; that hard work is its own reward; that one’s birth family may definitely not be one’s best friends!
The score by Anne & Milton Delugg is exemplary, containing some of their best songs, including “Bimble & Bumble”, “I Wish It Was Me” and “The Story of Cinderella”. We end with a majestic musical finale. Paul Tripp adds his usual sweet touch with a good deal of narration.
The only print we’ve been able to uncover of CINDERELLA is a TV print of the English-Language version, running a scant 49 minutes. We do not know if it was released theatrically at this length, or the 72 minutes of the original German release.
It is a shame that this fairy tale classic is so obscure. It is an exceptional example of postwar German fantasy cinema, and should have a far wider audience than it currently boasts.
Trivia Note: the white castle used in CINDERELLA is the small castle on the “Pfaueninsel” in Berlin-Wannsee, Germany.
Links of related interest:
Margaret’s cruel sisters mock her rags.
Margaret, no longer a “Cinderella”, marries Prince Charming, and they live happily ever after!
Special restored edition, color, mono, fullscreen, English dub, runs 70 minutes. DVD-R comes packaged as shown in color DVD case, wrapped in plastic!