The Seven Dwarfs
to the Rescue
(aka I SETTE NANI ALLA RISCOSSA)
(1951, Italy) black and white 84 minutes
Screenplay: Paolo William Tamburella
Music: Alessandro Cicognini
Cinematography: Aldo Giordani
Produced by Ferruccio Biancini, Paolo William Tamburella
Directed by Paolo William Tamburella (as “P.W. Tamburella”)
With: George Marchal (the Prince of Darkness), Rosanna Podesta (Snow White), Roberto Risso (Prince Charming), Ave Ninohi (The Nanny), Rossana Martini (the Chambermaid), (“and the Seven Dwarfs”): Salvatore Furnari, Francesco Gatto, Ulisse Lorenzelli, Mario Mastrantonio, Giovanni Solinas, Arturo Tosi, Domenico Tosi
(1965) Childhood Productions 79 minutes (January release)
National Screen Service #65-67
DVD-R comes packaged as shown in color DVD case, wrapped in plastic!
THE SEVEN DWARFS TO THE RESCUE is a haunting gothic fairy tale-fantasy, rich in texture and nuance, more allegorical than literal. Like Jean Cocteau’s BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, 7D takes a traditional fairy tale framework and creates an exciting, atmospheric portrait of the eternal battle between good and evil.
7D delivers much more than one would expect from a “Kiddie Movie”. Indeed, producer Barry Yellen maintains that the source film, I SETTE NANI ALLA RISCOSSA, was originally intended as an allegorical fantasy intended for adults, not the youth market. While re-recording the English dialogue for Childhood Production’s inaugural release, Yellen had to virtually rewrite the whole script! “I kept asking the translator what the actors were saying, and kept responding, ‘They can’t say that! This is a kid’s picture!'”
In fact, there is abundant sexual tension in 7D, so likely there was considerable sexual subtext in the original script. Snow White, beautifully played by popular Italian actress Rossana Podesta, seems almost overtly sexually attracted to Prince Charming, a fact which reminds us that this film was intended as a sequel to “Snow White”, and the fairy tale couple have in all probability consummated their affections! Thus, the Seven Dwarfs, although wizened and wise, function as the couples’ extended family, their surrogate children. Indeed, when we first see the dwarfs, they are trying to “learn their lessons”, as all good children should.
The rich black and white photography by Aldo Giordani paints a true fairy tale landscape with lush, pastoral exteriors and fantastic, sculptural interior sets.
There are some wonderfully creepy scenes in a magnificent underwater city, as some sexy sea maidens attempt to seduce our little gnomes.
Alessandro Cicognini’s exciting musical score alternates rousing dramatic themes with ethereal, mystical cues that convey wonder and a sense of the supernatural.
The Prince of Darkness is a frightening character, a rage-repressed gentleman with a gruesome headpiece, looking like an animal’s skin, replete with what may be goat’s ears. His throne consists of an immense gargoyle, surrounded by grimacing stone lions.
As the dwarfs plod through the Dark Prince’s Hell-like kingdom to rescue Snow White, they are submitted to trials by water, by fire, by water again, and then by snow. As in many fairy tales, this figurative change of seasons figures heavily in the protagonists’ personal spiritual journey. (This breathtaking scene also brings to mind the pilgrimage of the damned soul through the rings of Dante’s Inferno.)
One amusing scene depicts the dwarfs tricking a caveman-like giant with a cat’s cradle, an simple but effective example of using intelligence to outwit idiot braun. In fact, using brains and perseverance to battle Evil’s half-baked plans and impulsive nature may be 7D’s most piquant lesson.
Two other pivotal characters in the film are Snow White’s Nanny, and the Dark Prince’s chambermaid, both of whom are willing servants to our embattled heroine.
The exciting climax takes place in the Dark Princes’ amazing scientific laboratory, a bizarre techno-scape which predates similar “magic labs” in SANTA CLAUS and BABES IN TOYLAND. In fact, the proto-modern lab here may well have been influenced by the art-deco set design in Fritz Lang’s METROPOLIS.
In all, THE SEVEN DWARFS TO THE RESCUE is a terrific adventure-fantasy, with a touch of “Sword ‘n Sandal”, and proved to be an auspicious beginning for Kiddie Matinee giants Childhood Productions. 7D purportedly cost a measly $20,000 to acquire and prepare for the U.S. market. And how did it fare at the boxoffice? According to Yellen, “Terrific, just terrific!”