Saturday, November 11, 2017


About a month ago TCM ran Sissi, the first of three movies in a trilogy about Austro-Hungarian Empress Elizabeth; actually they ran the whole trilogy although I haven't gotten around to seeing the second and third movies yet. The trilogy, along with a condensed and dubbed version, have been released together in a box set, so I'm OK doing a full length post on the movie.

Sissi (Romy Schneider) is the 16-year-old daughter of a Bavarian Duke Max, living an idyllic life at the family castle in southern Bavaria. Her mother Ludovika (played by Romy's real-life mother Magda) is worried about what will happen to her daughters since Sissi and older sister Helene, nicknamed Nene, are of the age where they should start being looked at as marriageable and should be married to good royalty. Anyhow, they're in luck as they receive a letter from Aunt Sophie in Vienna that her son Austrian Emperor Franz Josef (Karlheinz Böhm) will be visiting Ischl (not far from southeastern Bavaria), and she might be able to work an arranged marriage between him and Nene. But Mom is worried about Dad screwing things up, so Mom decides to take Sissi along with Nene to Ischl.

All Sissi really wants to do is go hunting and fisching, but her mom doesn't think that's appropriate for a lady; besides, Sisi is really too young for all the courtly engagements Nene and Mom will have to take part in. So they lock Sissi in her room! She climbs out the window to go fishing, and that's how she meets Franz Josef. (A humorous subplot in the first half of the movie involves a policeman trying to stop assassination attempts against the Emperor, and thinking that Sissi is an assassin.) Of course, the two fall in love, knowing that they can never have each other. Sissi doesn't realize that he his supposed to get engaged to her sister, while Franz Josef doesn't realize that he's talking to Nene's sister. Sparks fly when they meet in their royal capacities.

The story presented in Sissi is impossibly romantic and rose-colored. But damn if the movie isn't just gorgeous to watch. It was filmed in lush Agfacolor, which makes the already good-looking backdrops of the Austrian Alps look even better. Having access to real European castles also helps, and the sets and costumes are beautiful as well. The actors, for the most part, do a reasonably good job, so the end result is that even though you should dismiss the material as treacle, the movie as a whole entertains. (They had the good sense not to make it a musical.)

As with foreign films, the DVD box set is a bit pricier than I'd like to pay. But the restoration is beautiful; I can't stress that enough.

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