Tales of Hoffmann

The Tales of Hoffmann

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Director: Emeric Pressburger, Michael Powell

Cast: Emeric Pressburger, Michael Powell, Moira Shearer, Robert Rounseville


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Most baby-boomers are familiar with the Powell-Pressburger production of the Offenbach opera Tales of Hoffman only through the full-color stills from the film which were reproduced in the "Motion Picture" section of The World Book Encyclopedia. If this is your only memory of the film, we advise you to seek out a copy of this lengthy but visually enthralling…  See more details below


Most baby-boomers are familiar with the Powell-Pressburger production of the Offenbach opera Tales of Hoffman only through the full-color stills from the film which were reproduced in the "Motion Picture" section of The World Book Encyclopedia. If this is your only memory of the film, we advise you to seek out a copy of this lengthy but visually enthralling picture as soon as possible. Metropolitan opera star Robert Rounseville plays Hoffman, a university student who is spectacularly unlucky in affairs of the heart. Each of his love affairs with Olympia (Moira Shearer), Giulietta (Ludmilla Tcherina) and Antonia (Ann Ayars) is doomed to failure due to circumstances far beyond our hero's control (Olympia, for example, turns out to be nothing more than a life-sized mechanical doll). As in the previous Powell-Pressburger collaboration The Red Shoes, the film's best moments are its ballet sequences, choreographed by Jane Ashton. Offenbach's score is given a splendid rendition by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, under the baton of the legendary Sir Thomas Beecham. Most prints of Tales of Hoffman run 118 minutes, eliminating the closing "Tale of Antonia" sequence; the laserdisc version has been restored to 127 minutes, while the search goes on for the complete 138-minute negative.

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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
The British filmmakers Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger are responsible for some of the greatest movies ever to come from across the Atlantic, including A Matter of Life and Death (a.k.a. Stairway to Heaven, 1946), Black Narcissus (1947), and The Red Shoes (1948), to name a few. This luxurious adaptation of Jacques Offenbach’s famous opera is something of a Red Shoes follow-up; it, too, stars ravishing redhead Moira Shearer, whose beauty cinematographer Christopher Challis sublimely captures in Technicolor. Offenbach’s phantasmagorical piece is transferred to film with great imagination and taste, unusually inventive effects, and a lush, resplendent production that’s a joy to look at. A brilliant integration of narrative and dance, it presents three story lines, all of which spring from the imagination of Hoffman (Robert Rounseville), a student spurned by the prima ballerina (Shearer) whom he loves. In his dreams she represents lovers from his past lives -- a life-size doll (also Shearer) created by a magician, a beautiful and bewitching courtesan (Ludmilla Tcherina), and a famous conductor’s daughter (Ann Ayars). Powell forces his viewers to work a little: In true operatic fashion the dialogue is sung rather than spoken, and the individual stories may not be fully comprehensible without fairly close attention. But Tales abounds in cinematic virtuosity and ingenious stagecraft, and any viewer willing to immerse him- or herself in the fantasy world created by Powell and co-writer Pressburger will be amply rewarded for their attentiveness.
All Movie Guide - Craig Butler
The Tales of Hoffmann is a unique, visually and aurally stunning adaptation of the Offenbach opera. It will not be to everyone's taste; to start with, many are daunted by the mere concept of opera, and others have had bad experiences with operas inexpertly transferred to film. But even those not inclined to opera should give Hoffmann a go. There's such an abundance of visual riches that they may find themselves so absorbed in the beauty that they forget their prejudices against the art form. Rarely has a film taken advantage of the glories of Technicolor as has Hoffmann; the colors are so incredibly sensual that they seem to take on a life of their own, almost becoming a character in their own right. Similarly, rarely has a film been blessed with the beautiful voices that fill Hoffmann (many of them dubbed for performers who are essentially dancers rather than opera singers); they do full justice to the soaring Offenbach score. In the title role, Robert Rounseville is in absolute peak vocal form and dazzles with his technique, and if his acting is less than Oscar calibre, it is still more than adequate. Robert Helpmann is appropriately evil and Pamela Brown appropriately steadfast in important supporting roles, but it is the loves in Hoffmann's life that really shine, from a radiant Moira Shearer to a lusciously alluring Ludmilla Tcherina to an innocently doomed Ann Ayers. The choreography is marvelous, captured in Christopher G. Challis' brilliant camerawork, and Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger have directed with flair and imagination to spare. If Hoffmann is ultimately a little uninvolving emotionally and a trifle "fantastic" for many modern audiences, it is still a cinematic feast.

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Product Details

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Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Moira Shearer Stella
Robert Rounseville Hoffmann
Robert Helpmann Lindorff,Dapertutto [The Tale Of Giulietta],Dr. Miracle [The Tale Of Antonia],Coppelius [The Tale Of Olympia]
Pamela Brown Nicklaus
Frederick Ashton Kleinzack,Cochenille [The Tale Of Olympia]
Léonide Massine Spalanzani [The Tale Of Olympia]
Meinhart Maur Luther
John Ford Nathaniel
Richard Golding Hermann
Philip Leaver Andreas
Ludmilla Tcherina Giulietta [The Tale Of Giulietta]
Lionel Harris Pitichinaccio [The Tale Of Giulietta]
Ann Ayars Antonia [The Tale Of Antonia]
Mogens Wieth Crespel [The Tale Of Antonia]
Jean Alexander Mother [The Tale of Antonia]
Edmund Audran Cancer
Bruce Darvaget Actor
Owen Brannigan Singer
Monica Sinclair Singer
René Soames Singer
Dorothy Bond Singer
Thomas Beecham Conductor

Technical Credits
Emeric Pressburger Director,Producer,Screenwriter
Michael Powell Director,Producer,Screenwriter
Dennis Arundell Screenwriter
Ivy Baker Costumes/Costume Designer
Thomas Beecham Musical Direction/Supervision
George R. Busby Producer
Christopher G. Challis Cinematographer
John Cox Sound/Sound Designer
Freddie Francis Camera Operator
Hein Heckroth Art Director,Costumes/Costume Designer,Set Decoration/Design
Arthur Lawson Production Designer
Reginald Mills Editor
Sydney Streeter Asst. Director

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Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Essential Art House: The Tales of Hoffmann
1. Opening Credits [3:23]
2. "The Dragonfly Ballet" [8:24]
3. Luther's Tavern [3:31]
4. "The Legend of Kleinzach" [3:54]
5. Three Magic Visions [4:00]
6. "Love is Born" [5:49]
7. Coppelius [3:20]
8. The Negotiation [2:19]
9. Dance of the Dolls [2:27]
10. Olympia's Entrance [2:57]
11. "The Doll's Song" [5:39]
12. "Supper is Served" [2:22]
13. Alone with Olympia [4:43]
14. "Let the Dancing Proceed" [4:00]
15. Olympia: Finalee [1:46]
16. The Barcarole [3:51]
17. The Orgy [4:23]
18. "So Gleam with Desire" [3:04]
19. "Oh Heaven, a Joy Divine" [5:40]
20. Hoffmann's Reflection [1:53]
21. Giulietta: Finale [1:47]
22. "All in Vain" [6:25]
23. "Sweet is the Song" [4:16]
24. Dr. Miracle [7:17]
25. "No More to Sing" [6:15]
26. "You'll Never Sing Again" [3:45]
27. Antonia: Finale [4:35]
28. Intermezzo [5:53]
29. Luther's Tavern: Finale [3:45]

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4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I saw the original film in 1954, and it has haunted my memory ever since. Unbelieveably, the movie retains the splendor I recalled as an impressionable 14-year-old. I've never understood why Hoffman hasn't had the acclaim that other similar works possessed. This is a classic of the marriage of technique, use of the medium, glorious voices, and the inspired dancing of Moira Scherer. What a joy that this masterpiece is now receiving some of the recognition it so justly deserves.
REKNY More than 1 year ago
Offenbach's "Tales of Hoffmann" is a favorite of mine,no matter the edition, so I welcomed this reissue of an unusual 1951 movie in which music and dance wonderfully coexist. In a nutshell: Moira Shearer, Frederick Ashton and Leonide Massine, among others, dance to Offenbach's music while it is simultaneously sung by Robert Rounseville, Bruce Dargavel, Dorothy Bond, Ann Ayars, and others, and conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham. I'll not discuss the genesis of the film-the notes do that- but I will say there is nothing quite like it. The color and fantasy of Offenbach's masterpiece are fully evident, great singing, dancing and conducting, and important commentary by Martin Scorese and Bruce Eder.See this!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago