Saturday, September 1, 2018

Fairy Tale Media Fix: Rumpelstiltskin (1987)

Okay, I’m going to admit, the loss of the poll widget has been a bit of a blow for the Cannon Movie Tales project.  Going forward, the polls will now have to be done via social media.  Look for the Fairy Tale Fandom page on Facebook or my personal account @FolkTaleGeek on Twitter.
Anyway, on to the next movie chosen by you, my amazing readers (all one of you who voted.  Come on folks, I know you’re out there).

That movie is 1987’s Rumpelstiltskin.  Here, have a trailer video:
Now, I’ve never been particularly fond of the story of “Rumpelstiltskin” and I’ve never been able to really put my finger on why but I think I’ve finally figured it out.  None of the characters are all that likable.  The title character is the villain.  The miller is a liar.  The king is greedy.  And while the Grimms don’t do too badly by way of the miller’s daughter, there are some variants that introduce her as either lazy or a glutton.  Even in the Grimms’ version, you have to question her sense of judgment.  Almost every character leads with their worst foot forward, and that’s saying something in a fairy tales where characters get very little characterization.

But let’s get back to the movie version.

All the Cannon Movie Tales have at least one big name marquee star in them to lead the production.  For Rumpelstiltskin, that star is the one and only Amy Irving.  Ah, yes, Amy Irving.  From such famous films as . . . um [checks IMDB] . . . Carrie and Yentl and Deconstructing Harry.

Okay, I’m going to admit something.  I’m not the biggest expert on Hollywood stars.  Also, this movie was from thirty years ago.  It’s possible she was a bigger star then.  According to what I’m reading online, she is still acting in movies and on stage though, which is pretty good for any actor.

One actor that I recognize a lot more readily is Billy Barty who plays Rumpelstiltskin himself.  Barty was one of those little person actors who absolutely had fantasy dwarf roles nailed down back in the ‘80s.  If you’re a fan of genre films from that decade, you’d probably recognize him the minute you saw him or heard his voice.  He was in Legend.  He was in Willow.  He was also in a whole bunch of other movies for Cannon Films/Golan-Globus like Snow White and Masters of the Universe.

The plot is fairly standard for a “Rumpelstiltskin” retelling, just stretched out with some songs and some elaboration on events.  There are some little changes toward the end, including ones that involve added characters like Rumpelstiltskin’s pet magpie and a little mute girl.

In this case, I’m not sure fidelity is really a strong point.  Remember how I said the characters don’t seem all that likable in the tale of “Rumpelstiltskin”.  Well, that’s the case for a lot of them here too.  The miller is still a liar.  The king is still greedy and so is his queen this time.  Rumpelstiltskin is still the villain and they elaborate that he wants a child to serve as a slave for him (though, at least he’s entertaining).  As for Katie, the miller’s daughter?  Well, they try but the character shoots herself in the foot pretty much from the beginning.  You see, Katie starts out by singing a song entitled “When I’m Queen of the Castle” that’s all about her wanting to live a life of ease.  It makes her seem kind of lazy and selfish.  It might have worked if they had established that her life was unusually hard, but it's the first we see of her.  Really, one of the saving graces of this film is they split the greedy king character from the fairy tale into two characters.  In the fairy tale, the king wants the miller’s daughter to spin straw into gold and when she does it three times, he marries her.  In the movie, there’s the greedy king who makes her spin the straw and his son the prince who she marries.  The prince isn’t a bad guy, even if he’s not particularly interesting.  For some reason, he spends a good chunk of the movie pretending to be a palace guard to befriend and woo Katie, which might have made for an interesting love story in more capable hands.  They don’t even do anything interesting with the king now that he’s been changed into a secondary villain.  There’s no depth or nuance to him.  He has a song entitled “I’m Greedy” that basically sums up his entire motivation but that’s it.
I’m going to be honest here, this movie is missable.  While the other Cannon Movie Tales I’ve looked at were flawed but had some little things to make them interesting, this one really doesn’t.  It’s slow.  It’s relatively dull.  The characters aren’t very likable.  You won’t be missing much if you don’t watch this one.  Unless you’re the world’s biggest Billy Barty fan or something.

Anyway, that’s it for this movie.  Remember to vote for the next Cannon Movie Tale you want me to tackle on the Fairy Tale Fandom Facebook page or on my home Twitter account @FolkTaleGeek.

Until next time.

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