27 June 2019 | TheLittleSongbird
The Story of Little Muck
'Little Muck' is one of Wilhelm Hauff's most famous fairy tales and has been adapted a few times. It is charming enough with a likeable titular character and interesting thematically, but is very slight and one of those stories that lends itself better to a short film or 20-30 minute television episode from personal opinion. As far as Hauff's fairytales go, there is a vast personal preference for 'The Cold Heart', which is even more interesting from a psychological standpoint and has much more to it.
That fairytale/story was also adapted three years earlier in 1950 in East Germany distributed by DEFA. Found that film vastly superior, partly because of the story itself, but also because it did better at respecting its source material, took it more seriously and the characters in general are more memorable. 'The Story of Little Muck' is still worth seeing though, and is enough to make one feel why there aren't any more older East German fantasy/fairy-tale films and why those that exist aren't better known regardless of their overall quality. 'The Story of Little Muck' is one of the most popular and successful of them, but for me while it is not a terrible film and did like it better than the other commentators (respectfully, do share their flaws though) other films of theirs have held up much better.
Will start with the good things. It still looks pretty great now, which is amazing considering there are many fantasy/fairy-tale films made later that look nowhere near as good, cheap-looking even. It may not be flashy or big in spectacle, the budget and technology being not as advanced at the time, but the story didn't call for that and appreciated that it wasn't overblown and didn't rely too much on effects at the expense of everything else. The production design is suitably rustic and colourful and didn't look simplistic, while it is beautifully shot in colour that never looked too drab or garishly gaudy. Any effects aren't overused or abused.
Other DEFA films have music scores that stick in the mind more, but the music doesn't make the mistakes of being intrusive, too loud, monotonous, over-used, cheap-sounding, juxtaposing too much mood-wise that it doesn't fit or too much of its time that it dates the film. Nice score on the whole. Little Muck is as likeable as he should be, always relate to his type of characters, as is Hassan. There is charm and imagination when it did get going, though not enough, Thomas Schmidt is appealing as Muck and the ending rounds things off nicely.
Conversely, 'The Story of Little Muck' is one that doesn't really lend itself to a feature film. It is too slight and the film does try to stretch scenes out to fill out the running time (which is not that long really, but in context of this film it felt too long) and the film feels over-stretched as a result. This affects the pace which is very uneven, sometimes perfect but at other points dull, if it got going quicker for example that would have improved it.
Do agree that the comedy is too broad and actually consider a lot of the acting on the wrong side of theatrical, especially the villains. Outside of Little Muck and Hassan, also didn't connect with the characters, all of which bland and broadly acted. The blandness and lack of naturalness is present in the writing. The direction is competent but not much more than that.
In conclusion, above average but couldn't help feeling disappointed because the East German fairy/folk-tale films have been a more than worthwhile experience for me. 5.5/10