Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Star Looks Down - 1975

Once upon a time, in the kingdom of Langton Magna, there was an enchanted princess. 
Her name was Elizabeth Partridge.  Elizabeth Partridge of Chifney House.  At her christening an evil fairy cursed her with Plainness of Face - the curse was quite effective, but it couldn't diminish her violet eyes and titian hair.  The curse could only be broken by True Love

After the death of their father, the king, her evil stepbrother Philip assumed the throne and exiled Princess Beth and Prince William, her brother, to the Dark Abyss of London.

Prince William is left just enough money to finish uni and take a medical course. Beth is left much less...she becomes a nurse to supplement the tiny annuity that was given her.  The two exiles share digs which means that Beth usually covers the rent and the groceries and the cooking and the cleaning.  Prince William is diligent in his studies, but often borrows a fiver from the princess for dates or new clothes - never realizing that the plain little princess might want a new pair of court shoes herself - after all, she is quite plain.

On her way to the hospital one day, Princess Beth runs into a mighty wizard from a far country.  A mighty wizard with a keen sense of sight - he can see past The Curse of Plainness. The wizard is not only powerful, he's also hot.

My favorite wizard.
The wizard has a sister who is under a spell...a cruel spell that necessitates an appendectomy. Mevrouw Thorbecke (wizard's sister) needs an indentured servant to take care of her 4 little horrors.  Prince William has a man-crush on the wizard, and blithely volunteers Princess Beth. He sees no problem with her forgoing her upcoming vacation to be a temporary nanny. What does she need with a vacation anyway? It's not like she was going to have any fun.  Much better for Beth to work and make a bit of lolly(I♥Betty) that  she can share with him. Beth is tempted to turn down the job, but Prince William is right, Beth really didn't have anything better in the offing...and there is that hot, hot wizard.
The wizard stops by the digs and is treated to a meal of macaroni cheese and orange squash while giving Beth a description of the children, ages 5 to 10.  Mind you, he's a bit misleading - Beth has no idea she'll soon be minding The Bad Seed. More on that later.

Princess Beth takes care of the children for a week in Darkest London.  They all get along just fine, and Beth enjoys the late night chats with the wizard.  He's really a bit of a poppet.  On her morning off, she makes a bee-line back to her shared digs, where she spends the morning cooking and cleaning.  During one of those late night chats, Princess Beth tells the wizard about her childhood home, her old pony Sugar and her horse named Beauty.  They were left in the hands of the evil stepbro, Philip.  Hmmm.
Princess Beth's leave is extended (she has been 'lent' by the hospital) so she can spend a couple of weeks in the country!

Thank you for saving my horse.
You really are a wizard!
The wizard, whose real name is Professor Alexander van Zeust, takes the whole party - Mevrouw Thorbecke, the 4 little horrors and Princess Elizabeth down to his country home.Three of the children are just fine - but the eldest is another story.  More on that later...yes, yes, we'll get to it soon.
The wizard has a surprise for her...he takes her for a ride one day - right up to the palace of the evil stepbro. The wizard casts a spell or two and manages to flatten Philip and save Sugar and Beauty from the knackers. Professor Wizard is some kind of wonderful.  He even invites Beth to go riding with him - of course she knows how- what with being a princess and all.  He also tells Beth what his idea of a good marriage is.
Him: I want fun, fights and a love to toss me to the skies.
Her: You should marry a beautiful princess who wears beautiful gowns and runs your wizard castle beautifully and is a  super hostess too.
Him: That sounds like a dead bore to me.

Mevrouw Thorbecke has recovered enough to go for a ride with Professor Wizard, Princess Beth and the kids.  A journey to Cheddar Gorge!  The mevrouw stays in the car while Beth and the Wiz shepherd the kiddies around. It's all good fun...right up until the Wiz leaves Beth alone with the kids in the canyon (so as to take the mevrouw out for tea). The Bad Seed scampers up the cliff despite repeated entreaties not to. Princess Beth has to climb up and join him. Of course she can't get him down...but the Wizard comes to the rescue. Up until this point, Dirk (The Bad Seed) has been a fairly normal boy of 10 - but he comes out of the Wizard's study a changed boy.  From here on out he is sullen, moody, full of rage, dislike and contempt.  He's loaded his emotional M-16 and pointed it directly at Princess Beth.  It's too bad she doesn't own a bullet-proof vest.

Because Mevrouw Thorbecke suffers from SSoRDD Syndrome (spoiled sister of rich Dutch doctor), she needs Princess Beth for MORE time (so far Mevrouw is at least 3 weeks post-op)...so arrangements are made for Princess Beth to accompany the troupe to Holland. A quick stop off in London - just enough time to cash her cheque, cook and clean for Prince William and leave him part of her hard earned wages (grrr...), and they're off to the continent and the Thorbecke's hometown of Willemstad! Not before a little foreshadowing in the form of an enigmatic incantation from the Wizard, "I'm waiting...."

Willemstad is a lovely little town, right smack on the waterfront. This is important.

Princess Beth has an incredible Dawning Realization.  Instead of  the usual "I love him and now must hide my love away"....she says the 'L' word right out loud! "Oh, my goodness, I love you...sorry.  I promise I won't bother you a bit - I'm quite sensible." It seems like her curse is broken.  Or is it?  She has accidentally spilled her emotional beans. In spite of all the clues we have that the Wizard is in love with Princess Beth, he fumbles the ball here.  Epic Fail!  She has declared her love and pretty much laid bare her soul, but for whatever unfathomable reason, Alexander the Wizard doesn't bother to seal the deal right then and there.
Her: No...no harm done.  I may not have ever been in love before, but I promise not to moon around.  You're so hot and rich, I'm sure you can forget all about me with anyone you fancy - all you need do is lift a finger and they'll come running.
Him: I am not in the habit of chatting up the birds.
Her: Let's just forget this conversation.
Him: I have a retentive memory.
Sure, it sounds okay, and I'm a big fan of Beth right now - she isn't pretending that she's not in love - and she's woman enough to say it.  I am irritated with the all-knowing all-seeing Wizard.  As far as I can tell, the only reason he doesn't put a ring on it, is that she doesn't think she's his ideal wife.  Instead of words of encouragement, Beth is packed off to bed.

Lovely House Tour O' Love...with some even lovelier snogging.  Princess Beth kisses right back, 'may as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb', thinks she. 'Call me Alexander', says he. He dances around the subject of marriage...no outright declarations...no, she's fobbed off with 'Next Time we'll talk about love'. (grrrrr...teeth grinding).  You just know that something will happen...Alexander was tempting the fates when he left her hanging like that. 
The Revenge of Moby Moody Dirk!!!
Ten year old thug Dirk decides it's time to make Princess Beth pay for her alleged crimes.  He nicks a small sailboat and bundles his other three siblings in - they will all go sailing! Beth sees them and tries to stop the young felon.  Since he won't stop, she sheds her shoes and swims out to the boat.  Now they're all in trouble.  Bad weather is coming, Moody Dirk is all talk and no trousers - he doesn't know how to sail.  Princess Beth may ride horses but she's hopeless at water sports...the other three kids are just ballast. By dint of working together, Moody Dirk and Princess Beth (mostly Beth) manage to finally make it into a harbour and off the boat.  Alexander is in a white hot rage, Mevrouw Thorbecke has roused herself enough to be mildly put out that Beth would endanger her children.  Yes, Moody Dirk has managed to shift the blame to Princess Beth.  Everyone, it seems, is mad at Princess Beth and ready to blame her for the entire nautical debacle.  She's suddenly tired of the whole business, so instead of explaining, she leaves.  Leaves Holland and takes the next boat to England. It seems she's back under the curse again.

Moody Dirk confesses his sins to Uncle...the little toe rag finally feels remorse for his transgressions. Alexander catches up with Beth at the train station in London. A final few kisses to break the curse, proposal of marriage...
...and they lived happily ever after.  
Epilogue: Beth kept a wary eye on their children...she had to be sure that the taint of Moody Dirk was not hereditary. All the right fairy godmothers were invited to every christening to help ward off the whiff of Bad Seed-i-ness.

Fancy waistcoat?
Check.
Rating: Gosh, there's a lot of fun here, but it's a real curate's egg for me. I have a tough time with Beth being such a doormat for Brother William.  I don't mind that they share digs, I don't mind that she does the lion's share of the cooking and cleaning (some people are just like that).  What I do mind is that she constantly sacrifices her wages so that Willy Boy can go on dates and wear fancy waistcoats - that behaviour just strikes me as beyond the pale. I also have a problem with the dear professor.  He works just fine for me right up until the point Beth has her dawning realization and blurts out her love.  She's adorable...really, really adorable - but he's a bit of a prat.  Although it's never stated, it's pretty obvious that he fell in love at first sight, and now that the girl confesses her love...he fumbles the ball. Moody Dirk leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  I don't have a problem with his first foray into disobedience - it really only affects himself...and it is something a naughty ten year old would do (thus speaks a woman who has had 5 ten year old boys of her own, and dozens of 10 year old cub scouts.  I know what I'm talking about here).  The entire scene where he takes his younger siblings (including 5 year old sister) on a boat ride is frankly disturbing. That and the fact that he would hold a grudge and act on it. Ew.  I really can't do better than Mince Pies on this one, but if someone can give me a really good reason for a) giving money to brother William for dates and fancy waistcoats and b) why Alexander doesn't get off the dime sooner, I'll be willing to reconsider.
Food: Sandwiches and yoghurt from the canteen, macaroni cheese and orange squash, anchovy toast, rich chocolate cake, beef olives Provenḉal (which strangely enough, don't have any olives...), apple pie and cream at least twice, pâté of cod's roe, Sole bonne Femme, bread and butter pudding, ratatouille, fillet steak, cake batter licked from the bowl.
Fashion: Brown tweed skirt and sweater, William has a taste for wildly expensive waistcoats, suede jerkin, leaf green jersey dress, Irish tweed suit, uninteresting brown woollen dress, deep mauve jersey dress, Alexander wears proper riding gear while Beth wears slacks and borrowed wellies, quaker grey jersey dress.