With Rumplestiltskin, Cannon Films intends to launch a series of musical fairy-tale movies, faithful to the original sources. Certainly nothing wrong with that idea, although it seems imitative of Shelley Duvall’s successful Faerie Tale Theater series on the Showtime cable television network.
Some of Duvall’s shows are a lot of fun, and they dare to mix big-name directors with cleverly cast actors. Her series does seem overly enamored of its own campy, anachronistic style, which produces some cheap laughs.
If this first Cannon fairy tale is representative, the upcoming movies may take a more respectful approach. Rumplestiltskin is quite straightforward, true to its period, without any campy updating.
Billy Barty, the brassy actor who has been playing little-people roles for many decades now, plays the gnarly, magical elf from the Brothers Grimm story. Amy Irving is the comely miller’s daughter who dreams of marrying a prince, and John Moulder-Brown is that very fellow.
The crux of the story: Word has got ten about that Irving can spin gold from straw. The greedy king (Clive Reville) – he sings, “I’m greedy, yes indeedy” – demands that she perform the deed, and locks her in a castle vault with a bale of hay and a spinning wheel.
She knows she can’t do it, and her tears attract Rumplestiltskin’s attention. They work out a series of deals, which culminate in a sorry promise: If Rumplestiltskin will use his magic to transform the final batch of straw into gold, Irving will give him her first-born child.
You may remember some of this from your own Grimm adventures. The film treats it all in a stately style that is a little dull. It’s a reasonably nice looking production, and clearly aimed at children (there aren’t the over-their-little-heads gags that the Showtime series features), but it may be too deliberate for the young crowd raised on television’s fast pace.
Amy Irving is sweet. She’s surrounded by family: Her mother, the wonderfully weathered Priscilla Pointer, plays the wicked queen, and Amy’s brother, David Irving, wrote and directed the film. The best that can be said for his work here is that he seems fully appreciative of his sister’s beauty.
First published in The Herald, May 28, 1987
“Comely” again, hmm. If I’m understanding it right, Cannon pulled the plug on releasing the other installments to movie theaters, and they went straight to video instead (David Irving directed two of the other titles). They were shot in Israel, and included Puss and Boots with Christopher Walken, and Little Red Riding Hood with Isabella Rossellini. There are stranger projects in the Cannon roster, but not many. Billy Barty also appeared in the Snow White chapter. Moulder-Brown was the young leading man of Jerzy Skolimowski’s Deep End.