Sunday, January 21, 2018

Tonight's Movie: Nutcracker: The Motion Picture (1986) - An Olive Films Blu-ray Review

NUTCRACKER: THE MOTION PICTURE (1986) was released on Blu-ray and DVD by Olive Films just before Christmas.

Thanks to a busy Christmas season I'm just now catching up with this seasonal favorite, which is also known as PACIFIC NORTHWEST BALLET'S NUTCRACKER.

I was interested in seeing the movie due to my love for dance and the Tschaikovsky music, as well as the fact it was directed by Carroll Ballard, best known for THE BLACK STALLION (1979).

NUTCRACKER was shot by Stephen H. Burum as essentially a theatrical production put on film, framed with some oddball sequences and unattractive special effects. The soundtrack was recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra.

I probably should have been warned off by the fact that the production was designed by Maurice Sendak of WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE. NUTCRACKER can always be a little "out there," as it's a fantasy with a broken Nutcracker, a Mouse King and such -- but this rendition is quite dark, with frankly creepy sexual overtones I didn't care for.

The ballet is the creation of the toymaker Drosselmeyer (High Bigney), taking place in a miniature theatre he builds, and he and his surroundings are downright ugly, kind of a negative assault on the senses.

The big group numbers are more traditional and some are quite appealing to watch; the Waltz of the Flowers is a superb standout, combining exquisite costuming and dancing. If only the movie were that beautiful for its entire 89 minutes!

Young Clara is danced by Vanessa Sharp, with Patricia Barker as an older Dream Clara. (The ballet seemed to be a dream within a dream within a dream...I lost track!) Julie Harris provides some narration, but most of the soundtrack is simply music; the sound quality is good.

The picture is fairly grainy at times, with miniaturized characters in special effects sequences coming off quite poorly. I suspect that's more how the original movie looked than any fault of the Blu-ray. There are no extras.

It's rather a shame this film was such a misfire...I think I'll go watch the Kirkland-Baryshnikov version from years ago as a palate cleanser!

Thanks to Olive Films for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.


Blogger Elisabeth Grace Foley said...

I never saw this one...perhaps thankfully! The first version I knew when I was little was the Kirkland-Baryshnikov one, but later on the New York City Ballet version narrated by Kevin Kline became my favorite—probably because it's similar to the production I was in at seven years old, which used a lot of the same Balanchine choreography and had a generally similar style! I always listen to the full score at Christmastime—I practically know it by heart.

8:31 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

If you ever do see it I'd be interested to know what your take is, Elisabeth! Especially as you are so familiar with other productions. (How neat you were in a production!)

Best wishes,

9:58 AM  

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