Early film adaptation of Gilbert and Sullivan's comic operetta. After escaping an unwanted arranged marriage to an old hag, the son of the Mikado, Nanki-Poo (Kenny Baker), arrives in the town of Titipu disguised as a travelling minstrel. There he falls in love with the beautiful Yum-Yum (Jean Colin) - who, unfortunately for Nanki-Poo, is also the object of affection for tailor-turned-executioner Ko-Ko (Martyn Green).
With the exception of (the excellent) Kenny Baker,who was American;this Mikado is a pure D'Oyly Carte (cast) delight. The filming is in very early Technicolor,and the soft pastel hues suit The Mikado down to the ground. The other big reason to buy this is to see undoubtedly the greatest Ko~Ko of all time in Martyn Green. Before you think of buying any other version of The Mikado get this first,because every other version has to stand up to this one. Given that this is often selling at a bargain price,what other reason do you need? I could give you more reasons,as "I've got a little list",but I think the ones above are enough. "Well here's a how de do!"
This is one for the true lovers of G&S. The film shows signs of age but this in no way detracts from the performance, if anything it adds to it. The only down side is the leading role is not performed by the Doly Carte, sadly Kenny Baker 'croons' his way through the leading role. Wonderful for all the family, highly recommended.
This film starts with a peculiar way of telling the story. Instead of the usual chorus of Japanese Gentlemen "in attitudes queer and quaint" we are treated to a little pantomime of Nanki Poo (Baker) quitting the Mikado's court because he has been betrothed to Katisha. He then proceeds to play a (bamboo)tombone in the town band whilst Koko (the tailor tutned executioner) flirts with his wards. Baker also treats us to a verse of Yum Yum's song (The sun whose rays...) as he serenades her a la Romeo and Juliet whilst she hides behind a paper window. Only on re-enetring the town does the film actually start to follow the operetta. Baker was a Californian and was a film industry choice rather than using a D'Oyly Carte lead. Geoffrey Toye's production loosely follows the D'O C traditional performance and allows Martyn Green (Koko) to display his wonderfully delicate intricacies.Sydney Granville as Pooh Bah is delightfully pompous. It's a neat film and will be enjoyed by G & S devotees but it is a little dated in style and serves mores as a historic record. Of the film, Martyn Green wrote: "That summer also brought us to the filming of The Mikado. Discussions had been going on for some time between the interested film-makers and D'Oyly Carte. A Company was formed under the name of "G. and S. Films, Ltd.", with Geoffrey Toye as the Producer and Director of Music. He had already been associated with the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company as Musical Director during the 1919 and 1921 seasons at the Princes Theatre. The original intention had been to film The Yeomen of the Guard, and a shooting script had been prepared. When it was decided instead to film The Mikado my first reaction was one of disappointment. I am still of the opinion that it would have made a better picture than The Mikado, and in my view the script proved my point. Of course it may be that I had a sneaking preference for Jack Point over Ko-Ko, but I only say "may be."
We had fun making the picture, but it involved a lot of hard work. Victor Schertzinger was engaged to direct, and, as everyone knows, Kenny Baker played Nanki-Poo. John Barclay was in the title role, with Jean Colin as Yum-Yum and Constance Willis as Katisha. The D'Oyly Carte Chorus was engaged in toto, but the only active Principal members of the Company to be engaged were Sydney Granville, who proved himself a very fine artiste on the screen as well as on the stage, Elizabeth Paynter and Kathleen Naylor as Pitti Sing and Peep Bo, and myself."
I had always wanted to see this film, as it's the only chance to see Martyn Green in one of the parts he played for D'Oyly Carte. He and Sidney Granville are very good. The whole film is rather bitty, however, with an odd prologue explaining how Nanki Poo flees the court to escape from Katisha. An interesting oddity, although I never like what Geoffery Toye, the conductor, does to G and S operas in the way of cutting and reordering. (Ruddigore suffered at his hands for many years).
This is by far one of my favourite versions currently available on dvd. The costumes are very lovely, Koko has great comic timing, and Katisha is excellently played. Very good quality film considering it was made in 1939.
This review refers to the 1939 film of `The Mikado'.
I happen to like G&S in general and `The Mikado' in particular; but I fully appreciate that there are people who don't. Therefore, no amount of `dumbing down' will provoke them into changing their minds but this is what Geoffrey Toye endeavoured to do when producing, conducting and adapting this film - and according to the DVD's sleeve was responsible for the original music as well, which is a bit rich.
There's a pointless spoken prologue (and the libretto is spoken again and again throughout the film) and many of the songs - `As some day it may happen', `See how the fates their gifts allot', `Alone, and yet alive' are just three that are missing. In addition, `The sun, whose rays are all ablaze' is sung, once in the first act by Nanki-Poo and again in the second act by Yum-Yum. Kenny Baker is the Hollywood addition brought in to sell the film and is not a compelling Nanki-Poo.
The Technicolor (unfairly credited, as always to Natalie Kalmus as part of a cheeky divorce settlement) is good but the direction by Victor Schertzinger is poor; quite often the characters who are an important part of a scene are permitted to drift out of camera range.
But on the plus side, Martyn Green is splendid as Ko-Ko and Jean Colin sings the part of Yum-Yum beautifully - indeed the vast majority of the cast sing their parts extremely well, when they're allowed to, that is - when the music and libretto hasn't been hacked about.
All in all, the film's a great pity. `The Mikado' is arguably the most colourful, witty and tuneful of all the G&S operettas and it's a great pity that Geoffrey Toye didn't remember the old maxim: `If it ain't broke, don't fix it.'