The Doctor Zhivago of Fairytales
This will probably sound daft but if you are a fan of the fairytale "Cinderella" then I am pretty sure that the 1976 musical "The Slipper and the Rose" will be one of your favourite movie adaptations. Unfortunately I am not such a huge fan and whilst I can appreciate what director Bryan Forbes was aiming for, an epic romantic, musical fairytale which mixes romance, humour, song and dance it doesn't quite do it for me. And sadly because Forbes' "The Slipper and the Rose" is trying to be romantically epic it becomes drawn out and over dramatized for my liking making too long at nearly two and a half hours.
Prince Edward (Richard Chamberlain - The Towering Inferno) of Euphrania is not a happy royal as he is under pressure from his father the King (Michael Hordern) to marry, not out of love but out of duty because their country is in fear of war and if Edward married a princess from one of those looking to attack it would sort things out. But Edward is a man who believes when he marries he will marry for love and whilst his father and the High Chamberlain (Kenneth More) set up a Ball with Princesses from neighbouring countries invited he is not happy. But it is there he meets Cinderella (Gemma Craven) who having fallen foul of her wicked stepmother (Margaret Lockwood) and step-sisters attends the ball with the help of a Fairy Godmother (Annette Crosbie - Calendar Girls), except as the clock strikes midnight she has to flee leaving a dainty glass slipper as the only clue to who she is.
Now to be honest I thought I knew the story of Cinderella, I've certainly seen a few movies which have used the story as their basis so one thing which took me a little by surprise is the story in "The Slipper and the Rose". Whilst we have the familiar elements of the wicked stepmother, the Prince, the Fairy Godmother there are other elements in Bryan Forbes' version I had not come across from the Prince being forced to find a bride to stop war to what happens to Cinderella when the Prince finally finds her. Now on one hand these elements I wasn't expected are good because they expand the fairytale into a story with scope but unfortunately they also extend the movie. And that is a problem because at nearly two and a half hours long "The Slipper and the Rose" is not a quick watch.
Now part of the reason why it's not a quick watch is that this almost feels like Bryan Forbes' was really trying to deliver on the romance of the fairytale. Soft focus lenses, long speeches about romance and of course the extra bits which I wasn't aware of make it feel like it is trying to be the "Doctor Zhivago" of fairytales. Now for some it will be, I am sure fans of the fairytale will love the romanticized vision which Forbes has created but at times it feels too forced to the point that some of it borders on the cheesy.
Of course there are other sides to "The Slipper and the Rose" and there is some nice humour which flows subtly in the background thanks to Kenneth More and Michael Hordern who make a good double act as the High Chamberlain and the King. When the King reaches for the Chamberlain's staff and takes out a secret flask from the top it is a beautifully simple yet funny scene which you can't but help smile at and there are a lot more.
Smile is also what you will end up doing when it comes to the musical elements because the Sherman brothers have crafted a fun musical score with plenty of songs with clever lyrics. When their songs are combined with various dance numbers the movie comes alive be it when Prince Edward and his friend John are dancing around the Royal crypt with gay abandon or when the Royal staff sing and dance about their place. It is very 60s in style but ironically the song and dance side of it doesn't feel out of place.
Now part of my problem with "The Slipper and the Rose" is the casting and in particular that of Richard Chamberlain as Prince Edward. Now the scenes Chamberlain shares with Gemma Craven are great, there is chemistry there, something which makes the characters feel right but in the rest of the movie where we have the Prince being unhappy it doesn't feel right, in fact it feels weak. And it is a shame as the rest of the cast do a good job be it Gemma Craven as Cinderella or Sherrie Hewson and Rosalind Ayres as the evil step sisters. Although Annette Crosbie as the Fairy Godmother steals the movie as she has a sparkle in her eye and displays that sense of mischief of a woman who decides to have some fun. And it is because Crosbie and Craven work so well together that the transformation scene where Cinderella is magically made ready for the ball is magical.
What this all boils down to is that "The Slipper and the Rose" is a very good version of Cinderella and there is plenty which is right about it especially some of the scenes which are magical. But because it is long, and trying to be epically romantic it doesn't quite work and instead feels a little too drawn out.