Once Upon a Time (1973)

“Maria has a new stepmother and stepsister, Mary Lou. One day Maria falls in love with a hunter she meets in the woods, who gifts her a garnet stone. Mary Lou steals the garnet stone from Maria, and tosses it down a nearby well. It’s then revealed that the hunter is actually the Prince, who announces he wishes to marry the girl who holds the garnet stone. While trying to retrieve the stone, both girls fall into the well, and they embark on a journey to find Mrs. Holle – the one whom holds the garnet stone and the way home.”

– Anonymous, IMDB.

Once Upon a Time was written and directed by Roberto Gavioli and Rolf Kauka. Rolf Kauka was a German comic book artist most well known for his series Fix un Foxi. The movie was first released in black and white in West Germany in 1973. A colour version was released in West Germany in 1975, and an English version of the film was released in 1976.

Some thoughts from me (Potential spoilers below)…
So pretty early on in my hunt for Bad Princess Movies, I stumbled upon a terrible VHS transfer of Once Upon a Time that had been uploaded to Youtube. I went in hoping for another hilariously bad Princess movie, but instead I found myself so charmed by this film that I went on a year-long hunt to acquire one of the long out-of-print DVDs.

As mentioned in the above introduction, Once Upon a Time was based off the work of Rolf Kauka, a comic artist, and the film really feels like a comic put into motion. There’s a lot of fun visual gags that took me multiple viewings to spot, characters are nicely designed and well posed, and the voice acting is pretty on point. The animation is fairly stiff, I’d compare it to the limited animation of Hanna-Barbera (The Jetsons, The Flintstones, etc.), but I don’t feel like it detracts from the movie at all (In fact I think it probably adds to the charm for me).

I mentioned my year-long hunt for this movie earlier… In general, I like to physically own my movies. Especially when it comes to bad movies, there’s just something that adds to the experience when I can hold in my hand a physical copy that was sold in a store, as if to say “Yes not only does this movie exist, but someone thought it was worth putting on DVD”.

With Once Upon a Time, once I found out how hard it was to get a physical copy of the DVD, I was honestly super annoyed! So many crappy movies out there are so easy to buy, but this charming movie that deserved a bit more attention gets forgotten about? What a huge shame! I’m very glad to give my copy a good home. I hope that, somehow, more people are able to find and enjoy this movie. While it’s not a ‘so bad it’s good’ film, it’s still one that deserves to be watched.


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