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ALAKAZAM THE GREAT (1960)

aka Saiyu-ki
Article 2898 by Dave Sindelar 
Viewing Date: 4-14-2009
Posting Date: 7-20-2009
Directed by Lee Kresel, Daisaku Shirakawa, Osamu Tezuka and Taiji Yabushita
Featuring the voices of Frankie Avalon, Sterling Holloway, Jackie Joseph
Country: Japan

When a monkey becomes king of the animals, the power goes to his head and he seeks to rule the humans as well (with the help of magic he learns from Merlin). His arrogance gets him imprisoned, and in order to gain his release, he must go on a pilgrimage to learn mercy, humility and unselfishness.

I first heard about this movie from the book "The Fifty Worst Films of All Time". Quite frankly, the movie doesn't belong on that list, but I can see how it made it. Despite having a good story and making creative use of animation on occasion, the movie has some problems, some of which I'm sure have more to do with changes made to adapt the story to English-speaking audiences. The choice of voice actors is questionable at times and the songs are very weak, but these are minor problems. I think its biggest problems is the music; the score seems to be perpetually frantic, constantly giving the sense that it's some sort of non-stop action-packed spectacle when it should pull back and take a more lyrical approach much of the time. As a result, the movie ends up having a rather queasy unpleasantness about it, making it much harder to watch than it should be. I don't know if the original version has this problem, but I suspect that if I watch it again, I may do so with the sound turned off so I won't be distracted from the visuals. At any rate, I believe there's a decent animated fantasy underneath all of this.

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