Maria the Wonderful Weaver (1959)

Maria the Wonderful Weaver (1959) still

director Aleksandr Rou
viewed: 06/23/2014

It was actually Aleksandr Rou that turned my tipping point to getting a Roku box and joining the streaming movie universe.  Netflix DVD service had one Aleksandr Rou film available, the quite amazing Vasilissa the Beautiful (1939).  Hulu Plus offered three later Rou films and I keenly queued them up.

I am still learning about Rou, the Russian fantasy filmmaker.  I learned of some of his films from Scumbalina’s Atomic Caravan, but haven’t had the chance to see the two that she wrote about, 1964’s Kingdom of Crooked Mirrors or 1973’s The Golden Horns.  And really I haven’t much context for the director, the genre, its history, contemporaries, or perception.  It’s all new to me.

Of course, fantasy films are fantasy films.  These are Russian fairy tales, featuring evil kings, kidnapped women, transformed frogs.  Whether you know the stories or not, you recognize the scenarios.

In this one, a happy-go-lucky soldier is returning home when he encounters first two baby bears crying for their grandfather to be released from a trap (Vasilissa the Beautiful also featured some pretty remarkable trained bear acting).  The soldier then stumbles upon a young boy whose mother has been kidnapped by king from under the sea and goes on a venture to save his mother, the “wonderful weaver” of the title.

The effects in this film weren’t nearly as dramatic but the art design was pretty amazing and cool.  The colors of the film may have been more vivid at one time, and some of them are very effective.  There are brief musical interludes and a goodly amount of comic play.  My favorite was Prime Minister Croak, the frog man, coated with a very thick green paint until he falls into the boiling water and remains red for the rest of the film.

The film reminded me vaguely of things like The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974) and other American fantasy films from the 1960’s to 1970’s, aimed at an audience of children and fully indulging the beauty of the form, wheeling out a good yarn, with gentle humor, adventure, and strange fantastic beings.

I will venture further into the work of Aleksandr Rou and Russian fantasy films.

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