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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars If only they'd left out the songs..., 17 May 2011
This review is from: The Little Prince [DVD] [1974] (DVD)
Currently forming part of a bizarre DVD promotion to tie-in with the royal wedding that includes the potentially more appropriate Lady Jane, Anne of the Thousand Days and just about any film with a remotely regal title, The Little Prince was one of those last-gasp screen musicals that limped to box-office oblivion in the early 70s to almost unanimous disinterest from the public. It's a shame, because at heart there's a rather good screen adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's children's classic when Lerner and Loewe's songs don't get in the way. While they do improve as they go along, they're a mediocre bunch of fillers with only one fairly decent number, and that not much of a showstopper (Loewe's dramatic underscore is generally much more effective). But Stanley Donen's imaginative direction and Christopher Challis' gorgeous colour photography, both in the Tunisian desert locations and on the Elstree soundstages, are more than impressive enough to make you mourn the fact that they didn't have better songs to showcase or, better still, not bothered with them at all.

The decision to cast humans as the Flower (Donna McKechnie), the Snake (an overindulged sibilant Bob Fosse in a part that seems to be pure Sammy Davis Jr) and the Fox (Gene Wilder) doesn't really work. The latter in particular loses much of the magic and sadness of the story's best scenes while Ron Forella's too frenetic choreography works against the mood and panders to the actor's worst instincts in a couple of instances. Donen also makes the mistake of repeating the fish-eye lens trick he uses for the effectively bizarre sequence with Clive Revill's businessman, looking like a distorted glove puppet of Marty Feldman, with Victor Spinetti's historian, diluting the effect, but elsewhere the look of the film is often picturebook perfect, giving the film a rich and timeless look that effortlessly mixes fantasy with reality. Despite handling his sometimes lengthy dialogue respectably, Steven Warner is not much more than adequate in the title role, but Richard Kiley is a particularly impressive lead as the crash-landed pilot who encounters the visitor from a tiny planet and gradually relearns simplicity from him and it's a pity he never got a proper shot at a screen career as a leading man. It's not a perfect adaptation but despite the disappointing songs it'll do surprisingly nicely until the long-gestating French animated version hopefully gets it right...

No extras, but a decent widescreen transfer.
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