1987 American movie / musical starring Diana Rigg
I jumped on this movie because I’d never heard of it before! Diana Rigg was one of my favorite British actresses, especially because of her role in The Avengers –the 1960’s TV series, not the recent Marvel movie. Then, I realized she couldn’t have taken the role of Snow White because of her age, so… yup, she was the witch. Ah, well. Can’t win them all.
The other reason for watching this is of course because of my interest in fairy tales. After all, I am writing a series (“The May Fairy”) based on retold fairy tales, or stories that could have been fairy tales. I love picking at the weird illogical strands in fairy tales and twisting them into a more palatable story. Strangely enough, I’d never studied the inconsistencies in Snow White, maybe because the story was too well entrenched in my childhood.
The movie bases its plot on the original German fairy tale, not the Disney version of it. This meant three attempts of murder, and the prince only appearing at the end.
It started with the prince returning from a trip of treasure-gathering. Whatever. I’m going to refrain from criticizing this part. The only reason I see for this innovation is to explain why they had a cart right there ready to transport the glass coffin. Let’s move on.
Then the dwarves recount the story of how Snow White ended up in the glass coffin. Flashback. The queen (the first one) pricks her finger, not embroidering, but because the king came from behind and surprised her! [rolling eyes] I guess it would have shown her as a poorly skilled embroiderer? Now I don’t know why the “wish” was changed from “lips red like blood” to “cheeks red like blood”. Really? Can you visualize a girl with a face like a Japanese doll, totally white like snow, and two red circles on the cheeks? Maybe bloody lips in a white face brings up visions of vampires?
Anyhow, the next surprise is that the king is actually alive during Snow White’s childhood. I wonder why I never asked about his total disappearance from the original plot. How could he not know that his darling princess was dressed in rags and made to work as scullery maid? We know Cinderella’s father died, giving free reins to the stepmother to act as a wicked stepmother. But we were never told about Snow White’s father’s death. If he did die, then did the witch rule the country?
The huntsman’s attempt occurs on a hunting trip, which makes sense if the king doted on his little girl. He would have questioned why a huntsman was taking his daughter out for a stroll in the forest… right? Next, a wild goat was substituted for the deer, and the liver for the heart. Is it because of environmental factors? Goats are OK to kill for food, but not deer? Whatever.
The other surprise is that Snow White is still a child when she runs into the forest. A pre-puberty child. Why? Is it inappropriate for a teen to live with seven dwarves? However, she does go on to grow up right there in the little cottage, so what was the point?
Interestingly, the dwarves dig for “anything”, from truffles to diamonds. I mean, suddenly one day, one of the dwarves (named Liddy, Giddy, Biddy, etc) finds a huge perfectly cut diamond on the floor of a cave. I can see jewelers rolling their eyes here…
Anyhow, the mirror tells the queen one day she is not the fairest in the land any more. By the way, I always wondered about this part. Why that particular day? Did Snow White suddenly get her period and therefore qualify as a woman? Or did her beauty suddenly appear that day? How does a mirror decide?
By the way, I haven’t talked about the songs. Because it’s best not to talk about them. One thing about Disney movies, starting with the days of Walt Disney himself: he always picked lovely melodies. This one tried, but…
The queen starts off with a corset. Hum, I seem to remember it was a scarf… But a corset will do. Tight corsets do cut off breathing. I have no quarrel with corsets. Failure. The queen changes her disguise and the second time appears as… you won’t believe this… a Chinese/Japanese woman (they can’t make up their minds what she is) with aforementioned white paste all over the face, to sell combs. Please, European women also used combs. Why an Asian? Just so she could say, “I have traveled a long way…” ? Or because a poisoned comb sounds more Asian? The fake Asian accent killed me. Sorry, Diana, I still love you, but the director, or script writer, did not do you a favor.
The apple now was interesting. Originally, the doctored apple was half red and half green. Here green was changed to white. White? Why didn’t Snow White question why an apple would be half white? Then the worm. What was the point of the worm? To prove there was no poison? She was going to bite it anyway…
I like the return to the apple dislodging and falling out of the throat, instead of “Love’s First Kiss”. I know it sounds romantic, but it isn’t really. I mean, a guy strolls through a forest, comes upon a dead body and starts kissing it? So here, the prince begs the dwarves to allow him to take Snow White back to his palace so he can guard the body better than they can. Makes sense. Still, I don’t see why Snow White would wake up and happily jump into the prince’s arms instead of freaking out.
Now, the two returned to the castle, and ruled “together”. Hahaha. Nod to women’s lib. However, totally improbable in the Middle Ages. But which castle? It wasn’t clear. Snow White’s father had “died in a battle faraway” with no one ruling at all, unless it was the witch. The prince would eventually rule his own kingdom, so unless his father the king had died, he couldn’t have ruled there. So, was the kingdom then Snow White’s? Was the prince a younger son, not the heir to the throne? and therefore happy to have found another kingdom to rule?
This version is definitely better on the logical side, though still leaving plenty of loopholes for my logic-addicted mind. But all in all, I enjoyed watching it very much, only yawning during the songs. They did try to create some digging song for the dwarves, but couldn’t match the greatness of “heigh ho”.