SISSI (1955), the first film in the German-language trilogy about the Austrian Empress, and tonight was Part 2, SISSI - THE YOUNG EMPRESS (1956). These films are movie escapism at its glorious best.
SISSI - THE YOUNG EMPRESS chronicles the first year of marriage of Austria's Emperor Franz Josef (Karlheinz Bohm) and Empress Elisabeth (Romy Schneider), affectionately known as Sissi. They are radiantly happy, until Franz Josef's mother, Empress Sophie (Vilma Degischer), decides that Sissi is too young to raise her infant daughter and takes over the child's upbringing. Needless to say, Sissi does not take well to being pushed out of her child's life. Meanwhile Franz Josef faces the challenge of attempting to unite Austria and Hungary.
It's a bit difficult to explain these unique films, which are royal romance with, as Moira described, touches reminiscent of Disney as well as THE SOUND OF MUSIC. Though based on real people and incidents, the films constitute a fairy tale and leave the worst parts of the story to the history books. The color photography of the Austrian locations is absolutely glorious, the theme music by Anton Profes is lovely, the costume design is pure eye candy, and the cast do an excellent job bringing their characters to life.
Schneider and Bohm are excellent in the lead roles, and their young love is quite touching at times. Particular kudos go to Romy Schneider's real-life mother, Magda Schneider, for her warm-hearted performance as Sissi's mother, Duchess Ludovika. She's really wonderful, and her performance adds a great deal to the movie's charm. Also effective is Vilma Degischer as Sissi's dragon of a mother-in-law -- who also happens to be her aunt!
SISSI - THE YOUNG EMPRESS was written and directed by Ernst Marischka. It runs 107 minutes. The final film in the trilogy is SISSI - THE FATEFUL YEARS OF AN EMPRESS (1957).
This film is on DVD and is available from Netflix. There is an excellent extra, a vintage 20-minute "making of" featurette narrated by Romy Schneider, with extensive black and white behind-the-scenes footage.