Seven Dwarfs to the Rescue (1952)

Own it!

review by Scott Hamilton and Chris Holland
See also:

Hawk the Slayer

The Hobbit

Monkey Business

Seven Dwarfs to the Rescue

Lava Lamp

Our rating: one LAVA® motion lamp.

This is how Larry "Bud" Melman
got his start.
Much was made of Seven Dwarfs to the Rescue by the perpetrators of the New Orleans Worst Film Festival; they grinned down at us, making a big deal out of the fact that they only show it once every five years, because that's all that the festival's regular attendees can take. And while this 1950's Italian sequel to the popular fairy tale certainly qualifies as a movie So Bad It's Good, we feel that it is far from the worst we have seen. Perhaps we are simply bitter old critics, hardened like diamonds under the pressure of movies like Trancers 3 and The Lonely Lady. Maybe Seven Dwarfs to the Rescue really is one of the worst cinematic efforts of all time.

But heck, it sure ain't no Nukie.

As the credits roll (or, in the video version, as they are edited into freeze-frame stillness), we are re-acquainted with Snow White (Rossana Podestà, the only actress we've ever seen make Snow White seem like a hottie) and her Prince Charming (Roberto Risco). Snow must be a modern sort of gal, because she has kept her last name. Either that or she realized that "Snow Charming" sounds like the name of a detergent. Also joining the party is Snow's nurse, a portly old gal who wrings her hands during tense moments and offers her pretty young charge large plates of fruit.She reminded us a lot of Nursie on Black Adder II, only not nearly as smart. If you've already guessed that the nurse will end up as comic relief for the dwarves, give yourself ten points and keep reading.

Funky the Dwarf was sent to bed
after he failed his breathalyzer test.
The movie's true stars are, of course, the dwarves themselves. (Webster's lists both dwarfs and dwarves as proper plural forms of the word dwarf, but we find dwarves to be a bit more pronounceable.) But these are not your familiar, Disney-fied, sanitized, safe little munchkin-like fellows. These are unpleasant little creatures with a penchant for imitating the Three Stooges and indulging in the occasional episode of transvestitism. We're not kidding, folks: we couldn't make this stuff up. These dwarves (and we suspect that there may have been a young dwarf impostor or two among them) spend their days on the dwarf commune doing their chores, practicing their chivalry, and engaging in distasteful, allegedly humorous bits of mischief. Snow White lives so far away from her little pals that she has to send messages via messenger falcon, and with one look at their faces, like those of wizened and deranged cherubs, you'll know exactly why she chose to do so.

As these aren't the Disney dwarves, they don't have the familiar names. We never did figure out a couple of them. However, we found it easiest to just make up names that fit. We named them Ratty, Smelly, Dildo, Creepy, Crawly, Funky and George. Ratty (so named for the large white rat he keeps upon his shoulder) is their leader.

This man is about to die. In a few moments
now he will be killed. For Billy Barty is a
convicted criminal who has been allowed to
choose the manner of his own execution.
The story, oh the story. In the unnamed kingdom where Prince and Snow live, word has come that an evil duke is revolting. He's trying to buck the Prince's authority too. So Prince takes his army of knights (what, all twenty of them?) to fight the duke. Then a messenger comes back to report that the Prince's army has surrendered. (From this we deduce that he is the Prince of France.) In any case, Snow White is charged with taking the royal crown to the evil duke.

On her way to deliver the crown, Snow White is kidnapped by the Prince of Darkness. In fact, Prince Charming's army was not defeated at all, as evidenced by scenes wherein a short-pantsed Prince speaks with his merry men. Man, what is it with bad movies and men in short pants? Okay moviemakers, listen up. We don't care if you have a script written by drunken koala bears, or if you have to pay your crew with food stamps. If you can’t afford slacks for your male actors, don’t make the freaking the movie!

"Yes, I raided Kenny's locker.
Why do you ask?"
The Prince of Darkness (Georges Marchal) takes Snow White into his kingdom, where he plans to brainwash and/or blackmail the young woman into becoming his bride. This Prince of Darkness is a mincing feathered guy, as opposed to Satan's bottle of Scope. Judging by the belt buckles he and his main toady are wearing, he's also a bit more fashion-conscious. The Prince and his minions inhabit a castle that on the inside looks a lot like the evil castle from Krull. The similarities don’t end there, but we don't want to ruin the movie for you.

The dwarves all have dreams that tell them that Snow White is in trouble, so they head off into the forest. (Man, if we did everything our dreams told us to do, we'd probably be in jail by now.) After a couple of minutes of strenuous walking, they decide to rest for a bit in a clearing. Suddenly the ground starts spinning and six of the dwarves are flushed down a forest toilet. Phew, that was easy. Can we go home now?

No, it seems that against all logic, the movie is going to continue! All of the dwarves end up in some sort of underwater wonderland populated by "water maidens." (Huh? An underwater kingdom miles away from the nearest exposed body of water?) The maidens seem to be intent on un-maidening themselves with the dwarves, but thankfully we are spared this libidinous spectacle when the maidens are repulsed by Ratty's pet rat.

Ugly dwarfs go down the hole.
Traveling on, the dwarves run into Snow White's nurse, and hilarity results in the form of a bunch of fat jokes. The eight adventurers find themselves in a race against time to rescue Snow White before she is forced to marry the Prince of Darkness. The climax involves the return of Prince Charming, a traitor among the ranks of Darkness, and a great deal of vandalism by the dwarves in the evil Prince's Magic Laboratory.

It's tough to say whether your kids will enjoy Seven Dwarfs to the Rescue; on the one hand, the dwarves are amusing in a simple sort of way -- in other words, they're short and they have high-pitched voices. For some children, this is all one needs for an evening of high-spirited entertainment. Alternately, the dwarves can be frightening in appearance, not to mention bewildering in action: how does one explain that the dwarves are coming to Snow White's rescue when they appear to be taking a leisurely nap in a sun-drenched meadow? The punishment for such sloth comes quickly, it's true (the aforementioned forest toilet appears beneath their slumbering heads and swallows them whole), but that could lead to some pretty horrific nightmares too. What will the kids think when the next naptime comes around? Or when they see the potty flush? It's a minefield of household horror, we tell ya!

On a less facetious note, adults with low expectations will have a good time poking fun at the simplistic humor of the dwarves. Nearly everything they do can be put slightly out of context with hilarious results and those with an evening to kill and perhaps a few alcoholic beverages could do worse than to pop this tape into the VCR. It also offers sights you won't see in any other movie, and it's a fascinating specimen of European fantasy cinema that even draws comparisons to classics like Flash Gordon and The Phantom Menace.

So, is Seven Dwarfs to the Rescue one of the worst films ever made? No, not really, but it does have a goofy charm of its own and some of the strangest and most disturbing sights on celluloid. (Why did that one dwarf always stick his ass in the air?) It is the sort of film that one inflicts on friends with pride, knowing that they'll never forget the uncomfortable and hallucinogenic experience of seeing it for the first time.

No wonder the NOWFF people had those silly grins on their faces.

"But Brainwave Helmets are in this year!
I saw it on House of Style!"

Own it!

Review date: 08/31/2000

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