Film Review: Jack Frost (1964)

Also known as: Морозко (translated Morózko) (Russia),  Frosty (UK), The Crystal Star, Father Frost
Release Date: 1964
Directed by: Aleksandr Rou
Written by: Nikolai Erdman, Mikhail Volpin
Based on: a Russian fairy tale
Music by: Nikolai Budashkin
Cast: Alexander Khvylya, Natalya Sedykh, Eduard Izotov, Inna Churikova, Pavel Pavlenko, Vera Altayskaya, Georgy Millyar

Gorky Film Studios, Embassy Pictures, 84 Minutes

Review:

There was an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 that always stuck out to me because it featured one of the most bizarre movies I had ever experienced. That episode was in season eight and it featured the Soviet film Jack Frost.

For years, I remembered the film but never knew what it was, as I originally caught it mid-episode and didn’t catch the title. The thing is, by comparison to the cinematic drivel that is usually featured on MST3KJack Frost is not a horrible movie. It also isn’t particularly great but I’ll elaborate.

It is based off of a Russian fairy tale and sees two young people have to go through a few magical trials on their path to love. The film is quite strange, as the boy is turned into a bear by a mushroom pixie and nearly baked in an oven by a witch that controls an army of trees. The girl is treated like Cinderella by her wicked stepmother but doesn’t have to deal with as much weird stuff as her future lover.

The picture is beautifully shot for the time and the place where it was created. 1960s Soviet film didn’t have the refinement or the resources of Hollywood but many films were still inventive and captivating, as is the case with Jack Frost.

Sure, it is hokey and perplexing, at times, but it wasn’t made for American audiences and some of its content and message is lost in translation, due both to bad dubbing that simplifies the original Russian dialogue and our unfamiliarity of Russian folk lore. It is an odd experience for those of us living in the Western Hemisphere but odd doesn’t mean bad. Strange things are often lovely things and Jack Frost is an example of that. Motion pictures are a great way to learn about other cultures, their history and their legends. Jack Frost is a window into that rich world.

It is a fun, lighthearted, fantastical adventure and it is cute and amusing. It is whimsical but that’s the point. It isn’t supposed to be taken seriously, it is a family film with playful situations.

Now Jack Frost isn’t perfect, by any means, but it has become a beloved classic in many European countries. I think a lot of that has to do with the heart in the picture and the fact that even though it didn’t have a lot of resources, it maximized those it did have. It resonates with people and if a film can do that, it is truly successful.

While Mystery Science Theater 3000 riffed the film, they were pretty kind to it in comparison to the awful schlock they usually put on display. It fit well with the show because of how strange it is. Visually, it is incredibly unique to American audiences and the producers at MST3K had to see that when going through stacks of films to feature in season eight. Its uniqueness is what drew me to it and I couldn’t shake its effect until I found the film once again, years later, and experienced it once more.

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