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The Sissi Collection
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**Perenially classic and universally adored family films, starring Romy Schneider, restored in 2K and being released for the first time on Blu Ray.**
**Box set includes the Sissi trilogy, along with Romy Schneider's first film, Victoria in Dover, a precursor to the Sissi films, in which Schneider plays Britain s Princess Victoria.**
**Blu Ray and DVD box sets include Forever my Love, the beloved Sissi Trilogy presented in a condensed English-dubbed version, originally released by Paramount Pictures in the U.S. and featuring the theme song written by Burt Bacharach.**
**The Sissi Trilogy is presented in both a 1.78 and a 1.33 aspect ratio.**
**Blu Ray features include: From Romy to Sissi, a 20 minute Making-of Featurette; rare footage of Sissi s great-grandson at the movies in an excerpt from the documentary Elisabeth: Enigma of an Empress.
**Package includes 20-page commemorative booklet with new essay by film critic Farran Smith Nehme.**
Romy Schneider makes an impressive starring debut in the delightful Austrian comedy Sissi. The titular heroine is a preteen 19th century lass of noble birth, who charms everyone she meets. Especially impressed is young Franz Joseph, emperor the Hapsburg Empire. When Sissi comes of age, the emperor pursues the girl romantically, with fascinating results. Filmed in 1955, Sissi was the first of a popular series of films showcasing Romy Schneider as the young Empress Elizabeth.
Sissi: The Young Empress:
The second in a trilogy of movies about Elisabeth 'Sissi' of Austria, the film chronicles the married life of the young empress as she tries to adjust to formal and strict life in the palace and an overbearing mother-in-law.
Sissi: The Fateful Years of an Empress:
In Vienna, young Austrian Empress Sissi (Romy Schneider) is fatigued from the pressures of having to hold court. Though happily married to Emperor Franz Joseph, Sissi must endure the familial machinations of Franz's mother, Archduchess Sophie.
Victoria in Dover:
England, the 19th century. Young Victoria is crowned to be the queen of England. She aims to do her best in order to help her country prosper. However, the family and her trustful advisor, Lord Melbourne, plan marriage for her. She is to get married to a German prince Albert. But Victoria sees her future differently and decides to leave London for a few days. She goes to Paris. On her way to France, she stays incognito in a little tavern in Dover with a baroness. There by chance she meets a handsome man and falls in love head over heels. Later, however, in very strange circumstances, it turns out that the handsome man is prince Albert himself.
Forever my Love:
A compilation of the Sissi film trilogy, depicting the marriage between Austrian Emperor Francis Joseph and his cousin, Bavarian Princess Elisabeth (Romy Schneider). Originally released by Paramount Pictures in the U.S. in 1962 and featuring the theme song written by Burt Bacharach, this film is presented in the original English dubbed version.
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I have long been fascinated with the later history of the Hapsburg monarchy, of the problematic marriage between Franz Josef and Elisabeth, and the tragedy of Mayerling. This series presents a rather whitewashed version of historical events; a friend of mine who lived in Vienna told me that Austrians think of these films less as history and more as light entertainment, sort of the way Doris Day movies are perceived by Americans. They are also the films that are credited with making Romy Schneider a star, and deservedly so. The historical Elisabeth was widely regarded as the most beautiful woman in Europe, and Schneider's radiant beauty does her full justice. So if you're willing to set aside any expectations of probing psychology and historical details, you can derive an enormous amount of pleasure from these sumptuously filmed excursions into the world of Austrian royalty. I have had the complete set first on VHS, then on DVD and now, finally, on breathtakingly restored Blu-ray. The visuals are absolutely sumptuous, with magnificent costumes and Austrian scenery, and most of the interiors were filmed in actual Viennese locations. Some of them are not the true locations--for instance, the church in which we see Sissi and Franz get married in the first film is not the Augustinerkirche where the historical event took place, but rather the nearby St. Michael's, which is surprisingly used again in the second film as the site of the royal couple's coronation in Hungary. These minor lapses aside, the clarity of the visuals and extraordinary detail make every scene a treat for the eyes, and the soundtrack is in excellent fidelity, showcasing Anton Profes's lush romantic score. Some of the music he has selected is anachronistic, featuring waltzes by Johann Strauss, Jr., that hadn't actually been composed at the time of the events portrayed, but that's neither here nor there; they wonderfully evoke the fantasy of what we would all like to think the imperial lifestyle should have been. An unexpected feature of the set is that the films can be viewed either in the original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, or in 1.78:1 wide-screen. Normally I would not be a fan of such "conversion"; obviously something is lost at the top and the bottom of the screen when you try to fill a wide screen with a movie that was not filmed in a widescreen format, but it has been so skillfully edited that you do not notice anything awry in the widescreen versions; the tops of heads are not cut off, vital visual elements are not missing, and the high-definition image makes it look as though the series was actually filmed in widescreen yesterday rather than 60 years ago. I can honestly say I have never enjoyed these films more or been more involved in the story than while watching these incredible faux widescreen adaptations. And for purists, of course, the original aspect ratio is also an option. Life in 19th=century Vienna could be dark and grim, a place where every silver lining seemed to have a cloud. But if you want to travel to the fantasy operetta Vienna in which everything is gilded opulence, whipped cream and prancing Lipizzaner horses, these delightful entertainments will take you there.
Elisabeth's beauty was legendary. 17-year old Romy Schneider was perfect in the role of the enchanting, outgoing, free-spirit. She plays Sisi from the age of 15 to her mid-20s when the last film ends.
The films were made between 1955 and 1957 as an Austro-German co-production under the helm of Austrian director Ernst Marischka. They are not historically accurate. They are in the style of mid-50s romantic comedies, good-natured and innocent and with a large dose of cornball humour. To modern viewers they may appear dated, schmaltzy and yes corny.
The first film "Sissi" is my favourite. It has the most pageantry and is the archetypal romance with the fairy-tale ending. It begins with Elisabeth's chance meeting with the young Franz-Josef, literally "hooking" him while out fishing in the lakes around Austria's picturesque Salzkammergut. It chronicles their secret whirlwind romance against the wishes of their parents and ends with the lavish Royal Wedding in Vienna amidst general rejoicing.
"Sissi: Die Junge Kaiserin" (The Young Empress) charts the first year of her marriage to Franz-Josef, her unhappiness at court, the meddling of her mother-in-law, her championing of Hungarian rights and ends with the Hungarian coronation.
"Sissi: Der Shicksalsjahre einer Kaiserin" (The Fateful Years of an Empress) chronicles her estrangement from the Austrian court, her diagnosis with a severe lung disease, presumably tuberculosis and her moving to warmer climes; her travels to Madeira, Corfu, Athens, Milan and Venice. The third film takes the most liberties in conflating fact and fiction. All the sad parts of her life have been removed or altered. The film ends with the Imperial Family meeting the Pope at St Mark's Basilica in Venice. The final lingering shot is of the happy family waving at their loyal Italian subjects in the Piazza San Marco as the band strikes up Haydn's rousing Kaiserhymne one last time.
Each of the 3 films is presented on its own individual disc. Disc 4 contains the 139min abridged version shown in America. It is recut with scenes reordered and dubbed into English and contains a new title song "Forever My Love" sung in English. In doing so it omits the original Sissi theme music. It is too truncated for my liking though American viewers averse to reading subtitles and not wanting to spend 5-plus hours on the originals may find this a worthwhile substitute.
Disc 5 contains the 1954 film "Mädchenjahre einer Königin" (Youthful Years of a Queen). 15-year old Romy Schneider plays Britain's newly crowned Queen Victoria. Amidst the scheming to get her married off to one or other of the royal houses of Europe, she travels to Dover and falls madly in love with a dashing young man who turns out to be the love of her life, Prince Albert of the German House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Like the Sissi films this is also a light-hearted romance with humour provided in the form of the 3-stooges-like ladies-in-waiting and the young Queen's bumbling old manservant. Nice costumes and sets but not on the scale of the Sissi films. And the lovely Miss Schneider is much too beautiful to be believable as the stumpy, dour-faced Queen. Still it is a nice change from the Austrian court. And after 4 films filled with the Kaiserhymne (Deutschlandslied), it's actually a pleasure to hear "God Save The Queen" once again. The film is in German with optional English subtitles.
Picture quality is excellent in the main Sissi Trilogy. The entire trilogy has been restored and remastered. A few scattered instances of damaged and off-colour segments can be found but they are thankfully rare. All 3 films are presented in their original 1.33:1 aspect ratio (fullscreen). Sound quality is clear 1.0 mono, although it tends to be very bright, noticeable especially when the children come screeching onto the screen. Overall, very pleasing picture and acceptable sound. Optional English subtitles are provided. The 139min American version has NOT been restored. Contrast is set pretty high, the image looks a lot brighter, washed out at times, and colours are slightly off - Franz's blue uniform looks almost green at times. "Mädchenjahre einer Königin" has similarly not been restored and suffers from the same deficiencies. Still they are watchable, about comparable to a TV broadcast of vintage 50s material. Extras are pretty limited: A trailer each for the first and last Sissi films and a vintage 18-minute "Behind the Scenes" featurette for "Die Junge Kaiserin" on Disc 2. Romy Schneider takes us through the filming at the Schönbrunn Summer Palace, the honeymoon in the Tyrolean Alps, and Fuchsl Castle which stands in for Sisi's childhood home of Possenhofen. Three truly delightful gems from the past, beautifully restored. The price though should be a little lower.