Sunday, June 24, 2012

Ballet on film

TCM showed The Mysterious House of Dr. C. this morning. I didn't know anything about the movie beforehand, other than seeing its title in the TCM listings during one of the previous showings several months back. It turns out there's quite a bit interesting about the movie, although it's not available on DVD.

"Dr. C." refers to Dr. Coppelius, played by Walter Slezak. And if the name Coppelius sounds familiar, that's because he's one of the lead characters in the ballet Coppelia with music by Léo Delibes, which in turn is based on stories by ETA Hoffmann, whom movie buffs might recognize from the British movie Tales of Hoffmann. One odd thing I noticed at the beginning of the film is that the copyright date didn't look consistent with the date TCM gave, which might be because there were two versions of the movie made. The first was a straight-up ballet, while the second added voiceover narration and a couple of dream sequences. TCM, in fact, showed the second version.

I have to admit I'm not the biggest fan of ballet. Oh, ballet dancers are incredibly talented, so there's no way I'm going to say that ballet-themed movies aren't good just because I might not like dancing. But as with science fiction movies, you need a good story to go with either the dancing or special effects, as the case may be. I had precisely this problem with The Turning Point. In the same vein, I'm always put off by The Red Shoes, although I have to admit it's a masterpiece of color cinematography and direction. In the case of Coppelia, I suppose the story isn't terrible, so fans of ballet may enjoy the movie. I should also add that the set design is garish and reminiscent of The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T., which is a plus.

Unfortunately, the movie doesn't have anothe appearance on TCM in the next few months, so I have no idea how you'll get a copy of this. If you like ballet it's worth the while.

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