As an operetta, "The Mikado" was the culmination of Gilbert & Sullivan's work--the tale of Japanese prince Nanki-Poo, who is on the run from an arranged marriage, masquerading as a balladeer. He falls in love with Yum-Yum,... more » a woman betrothed to the Lord High Executioner, who has problems of his own--his job (and life) depends upon at least one execution taking place each month, but he's without a current prospect for the ax. Nanki-Poo agrees to be executed if he is allowed to marry Yum-Yum so that he will have a month of romantic bliss, and a comedy of errors ensues, all sparked by classic songs such as "A Wandering Minstrel I" and "Three Little Maids from School."« less
Virginie D. from ORLANDO, FL Reviewed on 4/17/2008...
I love this movie because of the excellent work of Martyn Green as Koko. He is funny and I enjoy this version very much. The quality of the singing is also good and although Kenny Baker's acting abilities leaves much to be desired, he makes a believable and romantic Nanki-Poo.
Even though some sections of the operetta were cut that did not make the movie any less enjoyable or prevent the plot to flow effortlessly from beginning to end. It is really magical that thanks to technology we can still listen and see the actors sing and perform this G&S famous operatta as it was enjoyed by 1939 audiences.
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Famous D'Oyly Carte Players on film
firstname.lastname@example.org | Lincoln, NE | 05/08/2000
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This wouldn't be my first choice for a DVD or VHS Mikado, but IS interesting in its own way. A big technicolor production from 1938, one has the opportunity to see D'Oyly Carte greats Martyn Green and Sydney Granville in action as Ko-Ko and Pooh-Bah. I must disagree with most about Kenny Baker as Nanki-Poo; sure, it is an American approach, but this role isn't high drama--he's a young prince in love, and I think Baker is just fine in the role, and sings it as well, and at times better, than most of the recorded Nanki-Poos, and I've heard them all on records. A pure, sweet, naturally high lyric tenor. I'm not surprised he also gets Yum-Yum's song--he was the main star of the film (this was his heyday in radio and movies.) The costumes are bizarre, and sometimes the sets, and, yes, the plot is messed with, but it still is a fun watch if you can put purist notions aside about Gilbert & Sullivan production. I was a bit amazed, though, how much Martyn Green "hammed-up" the role; did he get away with this on stage for years with the esteemed company? Oh well, at this price, give it a try!"
Green & Granville make for pleasant MIKADO
Hazen B Markoe | St. Paul, MN United States | 06/27/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
"True love never runs smooth in the classic operas of W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan. When the son of the Mikado of Japan falls in love with the fair Yum-Yum, he must not only out-wit the man she is to wed (Ko-Ko), but the lovesick Katisha and his own father as well. What follows is a tuneful comedy of errors that has become one of the classics of the musical stage. If nothing else, THE MIKADO has long been regarded as one of the best of the Gilbert & Sullivan creations, with it's sharp satire wedded to the lovely music and Japanese trappings. However, many fans of the Savoy operas have tended to view this 1939 film adapation as somewhat of a mixed bag. While they appreciated the use of stars from the D'Oyle Carte Opera Company, they didn't enjoy seeing the opera trimmed to fit into a 90 minute time frame. Having said that, I will state that this version is a solid enough introduction to the classic show, while preserving the great performances of D'Oyle Carte veterans Sydney Granville and Martyn Green.
Green truly makes the most of his role as the nervous Lord High Executioner, Ko-Ko. His dances of glee in the "Here's A How De Do" number are a great highlight. In contrast, Granville is the epitome of pompous officialdom as Pooh-Bah, the Lord High Everything Else. Kenny Baker's Nanki-Poo doesn't quite have the flair of the others, but he's pleasant enough in the role.
In the title role, John Barclay makes an absolutely gleefully ghoulish Mikado. Some of the costumes are a little strange and the "prologue" which basically sets up the story is charming, if a little strange to those familiar with the opera. If you're a solid G & S fan, you might not appreciate the abridgement, but the performances of Green and Granville are truly classic.....and that alone makes this film worth recommending."
Comparison to Statford Edition
Hazen B Markoe | 09/23/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It is certain that the biggest problem with this make of the Mikado is that so many good songs were cut. However, I am glad that they cut out "As someday it may happen" I never liked that in the least. I mostly compare this to the Statford 1986 version. Overall, it wasn't as good, but it is worth seeing both. I think that this is definitely the Mikado to watch first because it is shorter and the sets are so excellent the watching is easier. I tried watching the Statford version and was desparately bored, until I became enough of a Mikado lover from watching this version to watch it again.
I thought that Kenney Baker made a fine Nanki-Poo, he was much better than Stratford's Henry Ingram, who overacted even more, if that's possible. Baker's voice was good for the role. The accent wasn't much of an impediment, though getting an English one may have helped.
I liked this Yum-Yum because she was much different than the Stratford one, she was quiet and graceful while the other was bouncy, active and perky.
I like the way that Martyn Green hammed up the role, he is the best Ko-Ko I know and did that very well. The Mikado, however, I thought was very bad because he was nothing compared to Gidon Saks of Stratford, a better Mikado than Saks never did in DVD exist.
My favorite character was certainly Sydney Granville, he really captured and haughtiness and snobbery perfectly. While the Stratford Pooh-Bah makes one laugh more, this Pooh-Bah had the correct personality and was better. I loved his fake stomach."
What would Willie and Artie think?
Robert Ray (email@example.com | Australia | 11/06/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"While it is wonderful for its preservations of Martyn Green's KoKo and Sydney Granville's Pooh Bah, I find that the rearrangement of the scenes for this movie most odd. Once you get past the interpolated opening, it is quite enjoyable. But too much of the music is missing for my taste. Still it gets more respectful treatment than poor Lehar's Merry Widow did both from Maurice Chevalier and Lana Turner (!). Martyn Green in his autobiography states they were going to make The Yeomen of the Guard and changed their minds at the last minute. Probably beacuse they couldn't imagine Kenny Baker as Colonel Fairfax. Green thought it would have made the better film. I agree (if without Baker though - who's American accent just grates). Still an invaluable record of two great Savoyards, but I suspect strictly for the fans only."
D.D. | Jacksonville, FL United States | 07/21/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This film is a great adaptation of what's been called the most popular musical of all time...if you are able to accept the edits. In bringing the production to an end at least 30 minutes quicker than a typical stage version, they opted to cut Katisha's role down to a mere plot mechanism, which works fine if it must. In the 1960 TV production, overseen by Martyn Green himself, she didn't even show up until the second act, and it worked just fine (though it did help that she got her two big numbers at the end, which sweetly helped to layer Groucho Marx's under-rehearsed but hilarious Ko-Ko). The other cuts are of lesser-known numbers (the packaging says only one song was omitted!), except for the "List" song, and the abrupt and jarring fade to black after Ko-Ko's wonderful entrance sequence indicates that it may have been filmed (as I have seen written) and dropped, either because this was a few years before the official "banjo" lyric substitution, or because of some business involving a Hitler image. As great as it is, that song always seems stuck-in (as it was) and counter to Ko-Ko's personality.
The mouthing of pre-recorded lyrics is exceptionally well-done, and until I read Green's account of lip-synching experiences I wondered if the songs were actually recorded live...he is particularly sharp, especially in the "Criminal Cried" sequence. Some of his business seems over-done, especially in the "encores," and inside-jokes like the stubbed-toe bit seem weird and out-of-place (I think the film would have benefited from editing out both encores). But he is the classic Ko-Ko, and his changing motivations and emotions expertly show why this complex character is one of the great characters of the theatre.
Sydney Granville's Pooh-Bah perfectly calibrates a character that can be very tiresome if presented too one-dimensionally. John Barclay's Mikado is not like the buffoon we're used to, but his ghoulish countenance seems to work here. There is something jarring about the sound of his voice when speaking, however, almost as if it were dubbed by another person. Kenny Baker's Nanki-Poo is fine but, well, his hair is distractingly effeminate.
As for the prologue, I found it a bit long and frustrating, seeming almost like a pantomime, or even a silent movie. If they had worked the "Wandering Minstrel" song in where it should have been, I don't see why they couldn't have avoided it altogether. In all, however, this is a beautifully shot, very effective adaptation. (And the numbers are much more spirited than the beautiful but flatly-performed ones in "Topsy Turvy.") There are filmed stage productions out there if you are sensitive to the editing process...enjoy this if nothing else as a historical record, and be grateful it's on DVD!"