15 July 2019 | TheLittleSongbird
Weirdness turned into gold
What attracted me into watching 'The Devil's Three Golden Hairs' primarily was that it was based on the story by the Brothers Grimm. Have always held their stories in very high regard, they are sometimes dark and strange (in a good way) and there are things like allegorical elements that one notices as an adult not noticed as a child. They are also though very imaginative and highly engaging with lots of charm and memorable characters.
Another primary attraction was that it was another East German fantasy part of my recent, and very worthwhile, quest to see as many of those possible. While the story itself is not one my absolute favourites from Brothers Grimm, as far as the quest goes 'The Devil's Three Golden Hairs' has been among the better and more interesting ones. 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, a feeling that has been felt a lot watching the films.
The bumbling is occasionally a touch overdone, most of it was greatly entertaining but occasionally it was a little on the silly side.
Like a few other East Germany fantasy/fairy/folk tale films the acting's theatricality could have been turned down a slight notch.
Visually though, 'The Devil's Three Golden Hairs' is one of the best of the DEFA films. Although it's beautifully filmed and atmospherically lit, the production design especially is something else. The standout being that for Hell. really deliciously creepy and strange, as well as elaborate. That pipe organ! Had no problem with how the music fitted or was used, neither too low-key or intrusive. A highly listenable score on its own too.
Writing avoids being too childish or complicated, so didn't find myself questioning the target audience or cringing at any degree of unintentional campiness. The story, a very loose adaptation mind, is charming and has enough to it to make it engaging, avoiding taking simplicity too far or being too dark. Some DEFA films have problems with over-stretched pacing from padding and too long lengths, not 'The Devil's Three Golden Hairs' which is a pretty eventful story. The direction is adroit, having breathing space but allowing enough momentum.
Characters engage, the protagonist is bumbling but not in an irritating way, pretty likeable actually and worth rooting for. Katrin Martin is charming as the Princess. Most memorable is Dieter Franke, when talking about the at times over-theatricality he may have been the worst offender and could have done with more wit but much of the time he is great fun and suitably sinister and imposing in the right places.
Overall, very well done. 8/10