Hansel and Gretel: An Appalachian Version

Back in the seventies, filmmaker Tom Davenport had a vision of re-telling modern day versions of fairy tales in an Appalachian setting. The first entry of this series, entitled “From the Brothers Grimm”, was Hansel and Gretel: An Appalachian Version. It was filmed on a budget of $10,000 in Virginia, and released in 1975.

This is one of the first films that I can remember from my childhood that actually had a great impact on me. It terrified and inspired me. It was an incredibly disturbing take on the classic tale of child abandonment, witchcraft, and cannibalism. It was shot in a neo-realist, matter-of-fact fashion and felt authentic as a result. It didn’t feel like a fairy tale, it felt like a nightmare – and I fell in love with it. The music, the rural setting, and the understated performances all came together to create a sense of unease and danger. You could call this my first exposure to the horror genre for many reasons. In fact, the film was rather controversial upon it’s release.

As Davenport recalls on his website, “When we released “Hansel and Gretel, An Appalachian Version” in 1975, it created immediate controversy. The realism of the live-action style and the fidelity to the old folktale upset some reviewers who considered the frightening aspects of film inappropriate for children. However, many other children’s film specialists recognized the film’s overwhelming popularity with young children, and saw it as a positive breakthrough in children’s films.

Hansel and Gretel: An Appalachian Version was groundbreaking in its approach to children’s programming. There is nothing else quite like it.

I won’t go into a synopsis. By now, you know the tale. I can only encourage you to seek this one out. It took me several years to find the film, and when I finally did, it wasn’t until after the DVD had been released. The “Brothers Grimm” films are now available on Amazon Instant Video. I suggest that you check every single one of them out, starting with Hansel and Gretel.

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