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  Gulliver's Travels Short People Are Just The Same As You And I
Year: 1977
Director: Peter Hunt
Stars: Richard Harris, Catherine Schell, Norman Shelley, Meredith Edwards, Michael Bates, Denise Bryer, Julian Glover, Stephen Jack, Bessie Love, Murray Melvin, Nancy Nevinson, Robert Rietty, Vladek Sheybal, Roger Snowden, Bernard Spear, Graham Stark
Genre: Animated, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Lemuel Gulliver (Richard Harris) has made up his mind: having trained as a physician, he does not wish to stay in England tending to the ailments of the moneyed classes, he would much rather head out to sea as a ship's doctor and discover where that takes him. His fiancée Mary (Catherine Schell) is supportive, realising he will only be happy if he follows his own will though her father (Norman Shelley) simply cannot understand his plans and endeavours to dissuade him. It's no use, and Gulliver takes a post on the next ship out of Bristol, which sends him into more danger than he had anticipated...

When adapting the arch satirist Jonathan Swift's novel Gulliver's Travels to the screen, be it large or small, it is the notion of the denizens of Lilliput which appears to capture the imagination of the films or television series. The miniseries of the nineties with Ted Danson went the furthest in tackling most of the book, but that had a few hours to play with and most movies will be over with within ninety minutes, if that - both this and the animated Fleischer Brothers feature of the thirties lasted barely and hour and a quarter - so it's usually the little folk of the island Gulliver washes up on after his ship is wrecked that concern us.

There was another connection between this incarnation and the Fleischers' version, and that was the animation. In that, Gulliver had been rotoscoped and the Lilliputians had been pretty much traditional cartoons with exaggerated features, but in this Gulliver remained live action while everyone else after the first five minutes were drawn - bad luck, Catherine Schell fans, she never reappeared after her initial couple of minutes during the introduction. It was a musical as well, taking an aspirational cue from Disney which turned out to be beyond its means, as Don Black had penned the script and the songs (Michel Legrand providing the tunes), which tended to be delivered by a hysterical-sounding choir.

Although Harris got a number of his own when he gets to know about his new environment, noting in basic terms how everything there is small and he is, er big, though mostly he spoke his dialogue as if to a small child, leaving this as resembling a rather dry episode of Jackanory presented by the notorious hellraiser. Appropriate enough when the former James Bond editor Peter Hunt's variation received its most exposure in its native land not in the cinemas, where it didn't last long, but as a clip on longrunning children's observational quiz Screen Test; if nothing else, viewers of a certain age will find the sequence where Gulliver is lashed to the beach with ropes very recognisable.

That was assuming you were not overly familiar with the story already, having been such a well known yarn that it had achieved the status of fairy tale. Gulliver gets involved with the politics of Lilliput by and by, discovering they are in conflict with the island across the bay because of a pointless dispute about the correct way to eat a boiled egg, so some of Swift's targets survived even in much simplified circumstances as there were here. The cartooning was adequate, created by a Belgian studio which might explain why the Emperor has a bare-breasted dancing girl appearing in his court in one scene - Disney wouldn't have risked that - but otherwise took few chances. It wound up in a way that made the next travel of the protagonist a punchline, which these days would prompt a sequel but nobody was particularly interested in that for this Gulliver's Travels, therefore we never found out if Richard ever returned home to Catherine. You could always read the book.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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