HOME |  CULT MOVIES | COMPETITIONS | ADVERTISE |  CONTACT US |  ABOUT US
 
 
 
Newest Reviews
True Don Quixote, The
Babymother
Mitchells vs. the Machines, The
Dora and the Lost City of Gold
Unholy, The
How to Deter a Robber
Antebellum
Offering, The
Enola Holmes
Big Calamity, The
Man Under Table
Freedom Fields
Settlers
Boy Behind the Door, The
Swords of the Space Ark
I Still See You
Most Beautiful Boy in the World, The
Luz: The Flower of Evil
Human Voice, The
Guns Akimbo
Being a Human Person
Giants and Toys
Millionaires Express
Bringing Up Baby
World to Come, The
Air Conditioner
Fear and Loathing in Aspen
Kandisha
Riders of Justice
Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki, The
For Those Who Think Young
Justice League: War
Fuzzy Pink Nightgown, The
Plurality
Scooby-Doo! Moon Monster Madness
Night of the Sharks
Werewolves Within
Honeymoon
King and Four Queens, The
Stray Dolls
   
 
Newest Articles
Truth Kills: Blow Out on Blu-ray
A Monument to All the Bullshit in the World: 1970s Disaster Movies
Take Care with Peanuts: Interview with Melissa Menta (SVP of Marketing)
Silent is Golden: Futtocks End... and Other Short Stories on Blu-ray
Winner on Losers: West 11 on Blu-ray
Freewheelin' - Bob Dylan: Odds and Ends on Digital
Never Sleep: The Night of the Hunter on Blu-ray
Sherlock vs Ripper: Murder by Decree on Blu-ray
That Ol' Black Magic: Encounter of the Spooky Kind on Blu-ray
She's Evil! She's Brilliant! Basic Instinct on Blu-ray
Hong Kong Dreamin': World of Wong Kar Wai on Blu-ray
Buckle Your Swash: The Devil-Ship Pirates on Blu-ray
Way of the Exploding Fist: One Armed Boxer on Blu-ray
A Lot of Growing Up to Do: Fast Times at Ridgemont High on Blu-ray
Oh My Godard: Masculin Feminin on Blu-ray
Let Us Play: Play for Today Volume 2 on Blu-ray
Before The Matrix, There was Johnny Mnemonic: on Digital
More Than Mad Science: Karloff at Columbia on Blu-ray
Indian Summer: The Darjeeling Limited on Blu-ray
3 from 1950s Hollyweird: Dr. T, Mankind and Plan 9
Meiko Kaji's Girl Gangs: Stray Cat Rock on Arrow
Having a Wild Weekend: Catch Us If You Can on Blu-ray
The Drifters: Star Lucie Bourdeu Interview
Meiko Kaji Behind Bars: Female Prisoner Scorpion on Arrow
The Horror of the Soviets: Viy on Blu-ray
   
 
  Nutcracker Fantasy Beware the Ragman, children!
Year: 1979
Director: Takeo Nakamura
Stars: Michelle Lee, Melissa Gilbert, Lurene Tuttle, Christopher Lee, Jo Anne Worley, Ken Sansom, Dick Van Patten, Mitchel Gardener, Roddy McDowall, Eva Gabor, Robin Haffner
Genre: Musical, Animated, Weirdo, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Lying awake in bed, young Clara (voiced by Melissa Gilbert, star of Little House on the Prairie) is too excited about an impending reunion with her boy crush to go to sleep. Even after Aunt Gerda (Lurene Tuttle) recounts an especially scary story about what can happen to children that stay up past bedtime. When Clara's beloved toymaker Uncle Drosselmeyer (Christopher Lee) arrives she is delighted with his gift of a charming Nutcracker Doll. That same night Clara is attacked by a horde of nasty mice led by the terrifying two-headed Queen Morphia (Jo Anne Worley). Whereupon the sword-brandishing little Nutcracker comes magically to life and helps Clara escape. Despite Aunt Gerda reassuring her it was just a dream, the next night Clara stumbles upon a magic portal hidden inside the old grandfather clock. It transports her to a magnificent palace inside the Kingdom of the Dolls. Where she finds poor King Goodwin (Dick Van Patten) mourning his daughter the beautiful Princess Mary (Robin Haffner) who lies under a sleeping spell cast by none other than Morphia. To save Mary's life, Clara assists Franz (Roddy McDowall), the dashing if somewhat familiar-looking captain of the royal guard, on a quest that tests their courage and belief in the power of true love.

One of the more obscure films inspired by Tchaikovsky's ballet (itself drawn from E.T.A Hoffman's story), this Japanese-made stop-motion animation nonetheless lingered in the memories of those that saw it as children. Chiefly because Nutcracker Fantasy ranks up there with Dougal and the Blue Cat (1970/72) and Watership Down (1978) among the creepiest children's animated films of all time. Fans point to the deliciously dark opening sequence. It features a sinister, snaggle-toothed spectre called the Ragman (likely drinking buddies with the similarly-attired Child-Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968)) invading bedrooms where children won't go to sleep and turning them into mice. Oddly, despite tapping a near-universal childhood nightmare, after this unnerving intro the Ragman never appears in the actual story.

As narrated by a grown-up Clara voiced by Michelle Lee, of The Love Bug (1969) and countless television shows and TV movies, the actual plot bears only passing resemblance to the ballet. But then most Nutcracker adaptations do. It is a haunting yet vivid candy-coloured coming of age fable about learning the value of inner beauty over shallow physical perfection. Co-writers Shintaro Tsuji (also co-producer), Eugene A. Fournier and Thomas Joachim have Uncle Drosselmeyer lament how he endeavours to imbue each of his dolls with “beautiful hearts” and personalities. Yet people only seem to want perfect-looking dolls. No doubt the message struck a chord with children learning to be comfortable in their own skin and embrace their own particular quirks and idiosyncrasies. It is a theme prevalent in a lot of Rankin-Bass animations, particularly Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964). Yet while often mistaken for a Rankin-Bass production, Nutcracker Fantasy was actually made by Sanrio: the company better known for flooding toy stores, stationers and clothing outlets with their kawaii-cute 'Hello Kitty' merchandise.

In the late Seventies into the Eighties Sanrio were making a concerted effort to be the next Disney studio with a slew of lushly animated feature films. Whether by accident or design many of these skewed towards the dark, with Nutcracker Fantasy joining the likes of The Mouse and His Child (1977), Ringing Bell (1978) and Fantastic Adventures of Unico (1981) as weirdly whimsical nightmare fuel. This was Sanrio's first venture into stop-motion and indeed their only effort in the medium until Hello Kitty's Stump Village thirty-seven years later. Beautifully intricate puppetry and model work feature through several stunning sequences, including a battle scene between mice and wind-up toy soldiers that evokes Suspiria (1977) of all things with its hallucinatory intensity, a lovely Waltz of the Flowers-inspired montage with cut-out paper animation, and a climactic toy parade that literally dazzles. On the other hand the languid, dreamlike pace is both a weakness and strength. The film weaves a very delicate spell that either enchants the viewer or lulls them to sleep. It is not for impatient children. Audiences in tune with its elegantly off-kilter sensibility will likely savour the touches of eccentricity and quirky humour (e.g. the scene where magicians from around the world try to wake Princess Mary) which is again very Rankin-Bass. Much like that studio's ambitious, underrated fantasy The Daydreamer (1966), Nutcracker Fantasy springs a plot twist that steers its second half down a headier, philosophical path. It evolves into a disarmingly mature rumination on the difference between saccharine fairy tale romance and true love as our likable plucky and resilient child heroine learns the value of sacrifice.

Scored with snatches of Tchaikovsky mixed with very Seventies AOR ballads, acid rock and eerie electronica, the film affords Christopher Lee fans a rare chance to hear the horror icon sing. He does so with gusto and performs multiple roles matched by a stellar ensemble cast. Evidently Nutcracker Fantasy was popular enough in Japan for Sanrio to re-release the film theatrically to mark the company's fortieth anniversary. This time featuring a dance remix of the theme song performed by super oddball J-pop phenomenon Kyary Pamyu Pamyu - who, much like the movie, is an acquired taste though undeniably memorable.


Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

This review has been viewed 1402 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

 
Review Comments (1)


Untitled 1

Login
  Username:
 
  Password:
 
   
 
Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.
   

Latest Poll
Which star probably has psychic powers?
Laurence Fishburne
Nicolas Cage
Anya Taylor-Joy
Patrick Stewart
Sissy Spacek
Michelle Yeoh
Aubrey Plaza
Tom Cruise
Beatrice Dalle
Michael Ironside
   
 
   

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
Andrew Pragasam
Darren Jones
Enoch Sneed
  Desbris M
  Paul Tuersley
  Chris Garbutt
  Sdfadf Rtfgsdf
   

 

Last Updated: