A Little Lost Gem of a Film
R. M. Fisher | New Zealand = Middle Earth! | 08/24/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The odds of anyone running across this review for such a small, forgotten film are very slim, but I am compelled to write it anyway just to prove to myself that this charming and faithful re-telling of the old fairytale does in fact exist.
Hansel and Gretel (the two very attractive child stars Hugh Pollard and Nicola Stapleton) are the children of the poor wood-dwelling couple Stefan (David Warner) and Maria (Emily Richard) who make ends meet by scouring the woods for food due to the merciless employment of the baker that Stefan works under. While on a trip to the village with their father Gretel is given a pouch of - you guessed it - breadcrumbs from the baker, and the two children are enchanted by the Punch and Judy show, quickly learning the words and steps to the dance that makes them neglectful in their duties later that day. Whilst they dance madly in the next room, the donkey enters the house and eats the pie that Maria has just made. When she returns she sends the children out in a temper to pick berries, but is instantly regretful (no evil stepmothers here!) when she realises her children must have ventured into the forbidden North Woods, where demons and witches are said to dwell.
The children are indeed lost in the woods thanks to the watching crows destroying their trail of breadcrumbs, and after much wandering, the two come to a gingerbread house, where the seemingly kindly old lady Grizelda (played with great zest by Cloris Leachman) lives. Of course, this is not the case, and the two are captured - Hansel to be fattened up till the witch deems him big enough to eat, and Gretel to perform menial chores around the house.
A happy ending is undoubtably in store, but on the way the good-guys must struggle through the witch's unending oppression, the knowledge that the gingerbread boys and girls that line the path outside were once real children and their parents desparate search for them - one particularly striking scene involves Stefan searching the forest and hearing his children's voices... before the cries for help change into deep, menacing growls. There are other scary moments too, such as when Grizelda positions a knife over the sleeping Gretel, so although most kids could sit through this and get the 'good goosebumps', more sensitive ones may need a helping hand.
The main protaginists of this movie are outstanding - Hansel and Gretel are sweet without being too sugary, and create a touching brother/sister bond - Hansel tells Gretel: "Don't be a baby," but also: "Don't worry, I'll protect you."
There are a few short songs scattered throughout the movie that are used to good effect, and the set of the gingerbread house is great fun - it really does look good enough to eat! It also continues to amaze me how such a simple story can be lengthened to movie-length thanks to some background information on the characters and interesting plot devices (such as the transformed duck, the witch's magical staff and the initial disguise of the witch).
So there you have it - a great little movie that no one knows anything about - are you going to track it down?"
A GREAT FILM FOR ALL FANS OF FANTASY
J. Fees | Port Carbon, PA United States | 12/30/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I saw this movie last year for the first time and I was really excited to see this particular production. I knew it was in the Cannon Movie tales series so I knew that it was going to be great. Most of the music in the film is adapted from the Humperdinck opera of the story which accents the story nicely. This isn't the happy, jumpy version of the story that everyone is used to seeing. There are moments of suspense, afterall it is about a cannibalistic witch. Especially frightening are the moments when hansel and gretel are lost in the woods at night and you hear all different kinds of strange, eerie demonic voices. The sets are amazing. When I saw the gingerbread house I was stunned and when Hansel and Gretel start to eat from the house out pops Cloris Leachman as a somewhat whimsical old woman. Leachman gives hints throughout these earlier sequences that she enjoys, well, human flesh. I liked the touch when she is reading the story of the Sleeping Beauty to the two siblings saying that everything came to life after the princess awoke, the fire rose and cooked the children, instead of saying cooked the chicken, giving the viewer an insight of things to come. Eventually, we find out that the old lady is really a witch. This sequence is really frightening when the witch, in true witch form, is casting a spell over a cauldron. Overall, this movie is one of the best in the collection and defintely deserves a place on the video shelf and is a film that every fan of the brother's grimm tale should see. AAAA+++++"
Hansel and Gretel 1988 directed by Len Talan
J. Fees | 12/04/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For years I have ADORED this film, I saw it first when I was eight years old and was mezmerized! It was such a scary tale and the witch was just fantastic. I'm now 20 years old and her ugly face still burns in my memory! I also loved the actors who played Hansel and Gretel, they both featured in the T.V series of 'Simon and the Witch' which was great. I wish more fairy tales would be turned into real films, it makes brilliant viewing. I think it should be aired on T.V because it is just such a shame that its a forgotten film, everyone would love it as much as we did! and then I'm sure they would release it on DVD and VHS; I live in hope! If anyone knows where I can buy a copy of the film please reveal it on this sight, I've literally been trawling video shops for years looking for it. Its the best film ever!"
Sweet AND Scary!
Monty Moonlight | TX | 05/20/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Screen faves David Warner and Cloris Leachman turn out for this amazing rendition of the classic Grimm fairy tale, "Hansel and Gretel," greatly influenced by the renowned operatic version. The tale is that of two poor, near starving German peasant children, Hansel and Gretel, who live in the woods with their bitter mother and woodcutter father (Warner). Cast out one day by their mother for wasting what little food they had, Hansel and Gretel wander far into the forest in search of berries to redeem themselves at home. The small children leave a trail of breadcrumbs to find their way back, but these are quickly eaten by the birds, and the children soon become lost. The next morning, as their parents search for them unsuccessfully, Hansel and Gretel come to a little cottage in the forest made entirely of gingerbread and candy. The two are thrilled and quickly begin eating when they are interrupted by the lady of the house, an ugly old woman named Griselda who seems quite sweet and eager to feed the waifish pair. However, later that night in the gingerbread house, Gretel discovers the truth about Grandmother Griselda. She is actually a witch with wicked plans to devour the children! The next day, Gretel finds herself the slave of the old witch, as they work hour after hour in Griselda's kitchen cooking up cakes, pies, and other goodies with which to fatten up poor little Hansel!
"Hansel and Gretel" sits among the best of the nine wonderful Cannon Movie Tales, which are among the best live-action fairy tale films available to date. Sticking more closely to the original stories than the usual fare, "Hansel and Gretel" and the other Cannon tales mix in simple but fun-filled songs with fantastic casts and writing that blends realism and fantasy seamlessly. "Hansel and Gretel" is a particularly sweet and simple entry into the Movie Tale film series, but Cloris Leachman (and her wonderful musical number) brings a scary yet humorous bite! It's so terrific that these childhood favorites many of us remember from the Disney Channel's 1980's and early 90's glory are finally available on DVD (most of them at least). The DVDs include trailers (not sure if these films ran anywhere theatrically), and most (including Hansel and Gretel) are presented in fullscreen format. The Cannon Movie Tales are mostly family fun, though be warned that some can have their scary moments (for example, "Red Riding Hood," my favorite, is done as a werewolf story that at times may be a bit frightening). The other Cannon Movie Tales, all of which I highly recommend, are: Rumpelstiltskin, The Emperor's New Clothes, Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Puss In Boots (starring Christopher Walken!), Beauty and the Beast, The Frog Prince, and Sleeping Beauty. Those last two have not yet been released to DVD, and I have yet to see Rumpelstiltskin at any retail stores, though Amazon seems to carry it. I wish to get them all, but currently only own my favorites: Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Puss In Boots, and Hansel and Gretel. Fairy tale fanatics should own all these films, and I also highly recommend my top favorites, the Disney animated versions. Also, for a scarier version of Snow White, pick up the outstanding, "Snow White: A Tale of Terror," starring the beautiful Monica Keena. More recommendations: Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre collection (also best known from the Disney Channel airings), Shrek and Shrek 2, The Slipper and the Rose (for a live-action Cinderella), Ever After (another live-action Cinderella), The Adventures of Pinocchio (1996), Peter Pan (2003), The Wizard of Oz, Return to Oz, and Rodger's and Hammerstein's Cinderella (1965) among others!