Tuesday, August 27, 2019

MOOM PITCHER REVIEW BY BILL SHUTE! THE GOLDEN GOOSE (East Germany, 1964), presented by K. Gordon Murray!

The Saturday/Sunday “kiddie matinee” with special programming aimed at the under-12 set still hangs on here and there in various forms, but not in the same way it did in the 1960’s (and into the early 1970’s), when the scene was dominated by Florida-based “master showman” K. GORDON MURRAY. Murray got his start as a distributor with imported exploitation films (such as WASTED LIVES) which he dubbed into English. He then moved into horror films, importing dozens of fine atmospheric horror films from Mexico, and having his professional, Spanish-speaking crew (many Cuban expatriates) translate the dialogue and create English scripts. He was able to corner the market in the USA with these Mexican horror films in English (his only competition, on a minor level, being Jerry Warren, who used a very different technique in creating English-language versions of the Mexican source films), showing them at drive-ins (with outrageously attention-getting ad campaigns dripping with over-the-top ballyhoo) and eventually creating packages for television, where the films were widely seen in horror packages.

Murray’s keen sense of what an audience will buy also led him to dub and distribute in the US imported children’s films, originating in Mexico and in Germany. The first and most successful of these was the legendary Mexican SANTA CLAUS film, which played weekend matinees for at least 10 years around the nation. That film’s success led Murray to create many more English language “family” films, often based on classic fairy tales, whenever possible in “storybook color.” With eye-catching posters and special TV and radio ad campaigns, the films had great appeal for parents looking to have a few hours freedom from Junior, able to drop the child off at the local theater for two hours for a measly 25 or 50 cents and the cost of a box of popcorn.

This worked well for about 7 or 8 years, but Murray’s well eventually ran dry, and by the late 60’s, he was reduced to distributing 15-year old black-and-white German films which by then would have had little broad appeal, and with reduced box-office receipts, he did not even bother dubbing the songs into English. I can review one of those films at a later date, as I love them myself, and I had my children watch them when they were youngsters. Such films as TABLE, DONKEY, AND STICK are still beloved classics in the Shute family home!

However, at the time of THE GOLDEN GOOSE—an eye-popping color feature from East Germany (!!!!), made there in 1964 and released here in 1965, Murray had a recent film that truly played like a storybook come to life. It’s no surprise that the film did very well for him and was re-released for a few years after that. I actually reviewed this film on the IMDB many years ago, and just rewatched it yesterday, and it still works its magic, as only the products of “THE WONDER WORLD OF K. GORDON MURRAY” can!

Of all the many children's films exported to the US by Murray in the 1960's, THE GOLDEN GOOSE is one of the three of four best in terms of entertainment value. It’s fill of color, slapstick comedy, comforting broadly-played characters, and a sense of fun that even a four-year-old could understand and be part of. Also, it lacks the Gothic touches and overall weirdness found in some of Murray's Mexican imports (although those have a lot of appeal for adults watching them today). The young women in the film are dubbed by adults trying to sound like children, which gives the whole film a non-realistic quality, almost like story time at a daycare! I don't know what frame of reference today's children would have to help them with something like this (I should show it to my grandsons, who are 4 and 7)--perhaps the skits performed at theme parks or when the high school musical comedy players go to elementary schools to perform--but THE GOLDEN GOOSE holds up well as timeless, simple family entertainment for the under 10 crowd. And the visuals are interesting enough that adults would not be bored. Unfortunately, the days when films such as this played in actual theaters were dead by the early 1970's--your best bet today for finding old children's films might be in the DVD/VHS pile at your local dollar store. Some of the children's films imported by Murray in the later 60's were more strange than entertaining, but THE GOLDEN GOOSE still contains a lot of entertainment value for those with old-fashioned tastes, or those parents who want to broaden their children's horizons.

It would be interesting to see a subtitled version of the original German film with the original soundtrack, to see if the tone differs at all from what Murray grafted onto it, but honestly, I consider these Murray adaptations of Mexican and German films to be separate and unique creations. I’ve seen a number of the Mexican originals of the horror films, and there’s no comparison. Murray’s are not inferior (to me); they are just different VERY different. Maybe it’s similar to when Andy Warhol appropriates the paintings of Edvard Munch or junk-store print of The Last Supper and creates new and fresh works from them—maybe not.

K. Gordon Murray’s THE GOLDEN GOOSE will take you to another world, a world full of bold colors, happy people straight from the pages of a sanitized fairy tale, and narration that sounds like Miss Matilda’s Story Time for six year olds at the local public library. If you wanted to make a case that Murray actually DID create a “wonder world” for a period in the mid-60’s, this would be the film that could make your point for you.


Anonymous said...

There was a Daffy Duck cartoon where Daffy was kidnapped by mobster Rocky who thought he laid golden eggs; when Daffy succeeded in laying a golden egg, Rocky showed him a pile of egg cartons for him to fill; even the REAL goose that laid golden eggs would be overwhelmed by the challenge. LOL! XD!

Gary Field said...

Where the heck is this on dvd??.
K.Gordon's work needs to be seen.
As does Larry Buchanan's slop.