Wednesday, April 21, 2021

C'era una volta

Some time back TCM had a day of interesting love story movies, which gave me the chance to record a couple more movies I hadn't seen before. Among them was More Than a Miracle.

After a 1960s MOR song by Roger Williams with choir, we finally, mercifully get to the action of the story. Omar Sharif plays Prince Rodrigo, the prince of somewhere in Spain. He's busy breaking a horse, which rather irritates his mommy, the Queen (Dolores del Rio), who would rather he do his princely duties and get married and start producing more heirs to the throne. Rodrigo doesn't seem to care, so he rides off with the horse until it throws him.

After searching for the horse, Rodrigo comes upon a monastery where there's a flying monk (not played by Sally Field) named Giuseppe sees Rodrigo in torn clothing from the fall, so he (and nobody else) seems to know that he's a Spanish prince. Giuseppe gives him some magic flour and tells him to make seven dumplings from it and eat them, before giving Rodrigo a donkey to get back home.

On the way home, Rodrigo finds his horse, which is now being used by a peasant woman Isabella (Mrs. Carlo Ponti, Ponti having been the producer; of course, Ponti's wife was Sophia Loren) to carry the harvest. Isabella understandably doesn't want to surrender the horse and doesn't like this insistent man who keeps begging her to make those seven dumplings. Finally, just to get rid of him, she does, but she eats one of them herself.

The end result of all this falderal is that Rodrigo and Isabella wind up falling in love with each other, but it's going to take them a long time to get back together and wind up in love in the last reel. Isabella enlists the help of some witches, but later some of Rodrigo's men stick her in a barrel where she's supposed to stay for five days with only bread and water, except that the barrel starts rolling all the way to the sea. Don't ask, I don't think it's supposed to make sense.

Ultimately Rodrigo is going to be married off whether he likes it or not, and Mom has selected seven princesses as candidates, each having some political advantage. Poor Rodrigo isn't even going to get to pick, as the bride will be whichever princess wins an odd homemaking contest of washing a large stack of dishes as quickly as possible while breaking as few of them as possible. Aren't these princesses going to have servants? Isabella worms her way into the contest, and looks like she's going to win, but....

As you can tell from the snark in the preceding paragraphs, I had a lot of problems with More Than a Miracle. Now, the fact that magic and witches are involved could, I suppose, be used as an explanation for why the plot doesn't make much sense, jumping from point to point. But I don't think it's a good enough explanation. The movie is also quite slow, taking way too long to get to the conclusion even though it only runs 103 minutes.

The other problem might be guessed from my title for the blog post. More Than a Miracle was an Italian-French production that MGM somehow got the rights to distribute in the US. But it was originally filmed in Italian, with the American title release More Than a Miracle being dubbed into English, and not too well. I'd guess that Sophia Loren and Omar Sharif did their own voices with Ponti intending from the start for the movie to be dubbed for American audiences. But the rest of the cast is badly dubbed, especially the main witch and a group of ragamuffins who sound much older than they look. It's highly intrusive.

More Than a Miracle, having been distributed in the US by MGM, did get a DVD release courtesy of the Warner Archive.

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