Tuesday, September 27, 2011

From the Brothers Grimm: Willa: An American Snow White

From the Brothers Grimm: Willa: An American Snow White from Davenport Films happens to be one of my favorite film versions of Snow White. It is not inexpensive on DVD, but thanks to modern technology it is available to rent for 72 hours for $1.99 on YouTube. You may not be familiar with the From the Brothers Grimm series, but it is a fun and educational one, offering fairy tales with a Southern U.S. flavor--which I adore since I am a Southern girl.  Willa is one of the best in the series although my husband and I have a fondness for From the Brothers Grimm: Soldier Jack: The Man Who Caught Death in a Sack, one of our personal favorites. We haven't watched it in several years--we only have it on VHS--but John still talks about it on occasion as if we watched it only a few weeks ago. It is one of his favorite fairy tales as a result of this film, although being John, he predictably loves trickster tales.

Really, these films should be watched, especially Willa and Soldier Jack. And where else can you see and share film versions of Mutzmag or Bearskin or Ashpet or The Goose Girl and others? It's too bad the series has essentially ended but I'm happy we have these.

Here's a preview:

And here's a review:

Once upon a time there was a filmmaker in Virginia named Tom Davenport who had the uncanny knack of being able to create winsome live-action American Versions of classic fairy tales in a multi-award winning series called From the Brothers Grimm... and, by golly, he's gone and done it again! In Willa: An American Snow White -- based on the timeless tale of monstrous vanity transforming into a murderous jealousy -- the young Becky Stark is radiant as the photogenic orphan Willa. Having lost her mother and later her (remarried) father, poor Willa now lives with her aging stepmother Regina (Caitlin O'Connell), a former queen of the stage who carries a certain mirror which reassures her regularly that she's the bee's knees. "Although Willa tries to court her stepmother's favor, she makes the nearly fatal error of attending a house party looking better than her stepmother; an offense which is, of course, punishable by death. Taking mercy on the child, Regina's henpecked servant Otto (Mark Jaster) takes her into the woods, where she later hooks up with a traveling medicine fair (the story is set circa 1915) and -- sweet irony -- ends up playing Snow White on stage to rapt small-town audiences. "From a business standpoint, naturally, the play is not the thing; what's important are the commercials. Which is why the crowds are regularly regaled with eloquent sales pitches for Chief Tonka's Elixir of Life (the innocent Willa, when questioning the potion's actual efficacy in alleviating all and sundry woes is told succinctly: "It's not meant to cure, it's meant to sell.") "Needless to say, complications arise when Regina discovers that her stepdaughter is not only still sucking in oxygen, but playing to (relatively) packed village fields, a fact which really makes her come unglued in a kind of Gloria-Swanson-Sunset Boulevard-ish way. Clever scripting, wonderful comic timing, Davenport's trademark faithfulness to the darkness of the tales. --Randy Pitman, editor Video Librarian (September-October 1997)

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