Sleeping Beauty (1987) poster

Sleeping Beauty (1987)


USA. 1987.


Director – David Irving, Screenplay/Songs/Lyrics – Michael Berz, Based on the Fairytale by Charles Perrault, Producers – Yoram Globus & Menahem Golan, Photography – David Gurfinkel, Music – Joe Glasman, Special Effects – Carlo De Marchis, Makeup Design – Marie-Helene Yatchenkoff, Production Design – Marek Dobrowolski, Choreography – Yacov Kalusky. Production Company – Cannon Films.


Tahnee Welch (Princess Rosebud), Kenny Baker (Elf), Morgan Fairchild (Queen), David Holliday (King), Jane Wiedlin (White Fairy), Nicholas Clay (Prince), Shai K. Ophir (Master Elf), Sylvia Miles (Red Fairy)


A mischievous elf is banished by his master until he does some good. The elf comes upon The Queen, crying because she is unable to have a child, and so concocts a potion to help her conceive. The child is born and named Rosebud. All the fairies in the land are invited to a feast in her honour. It is then found that there are not enough of the gold plates that the fairies must eat from so the King decides not to invite the far-off Fairy Red. However, Fairy Red appears at the feast and angrily places a curse on Rosebud meaning that when she touches a spindle on her sixteenth birthday she will go to sleep for a hundred years until woken by the kiss of true love.

Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, owners of the Cannon distributor, gained some prominence in Hollywood during the 1980s as producers of a series of Chuck Norris and Charles Bronson action films, among others. One of their most peculiar sidelines was a series of fairytale adaptations released under the umbrella title of Cannon Movie Tales. Sleeping Beauty was one of these. Others included Beauty and the Beast (1987), The Emperor’s New Clothes (1987), The Frog Prince (1987), Hansel and Gretel (1987), Puss in Boots (1987), Red Riding Hood (1987), Rumpelstiltskin (1987) and Snow White (1987).

All of the Cannon Movie Tales were cheaply shot and made. Some of them occasionally emerged okay but the majority did not. Sleeping Beauty is a dreary by-the-numbers run through of the Charles Perrault fairytale. The film pads the original story out somewhat, notably with the introduction of the character of the elf played by Kenny Baker.

Tahnee Welch as Princess Rosebud and Morgan Fairchild as The Queen in Sleeping Beauty (1987)
(l to r) Tahnee Welch as Princess Rosebud and Morgan Fairchild as The Queen

On the other hand, when it comes to the guts of the fairytale – ie. everything that happens after Rosebud goes to sleep – the film seems indifferent and hurried. It is hard, for instance, to understand what killed all the other heroes trying to rescue the princess when all that prince Nicholas Clay’s quest consists of is brushing through some creepers.

The overacting and mugging indulged by most of the cast is awful, although the alternative end of the spectrum is the blankness presented by Morgan Fairchild as the queen and the non-performance from Tahnee Welch (Raquel’s daughter who failed to find much of an acting career) in the title role.

The one entertaining performance comes from Kenny Baker, famous as R2D2 in the Star Wars films, as the unflappably ebullient elf – although being the film it is, this is a dwarf is unable to conduct any action without having to take a slapstick pratfall first. The idea of the Seven League Boots, which involve Kenny Baker jumping from mountaintop to mountaintop in a pair of VW-sized shoes, is one moment of imagination in an otherwise tatty film. There is a musical score that sounds it belongs more to a cartoon.

David Irving, the brother of actress Amy Irving, was a director for several of the other Cannon Movie Tales with The Emperor’s New Clothes and Rumpelstiltskin. He has made other genre films such as C.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud (1989) and Night of the Cyclone (1990).


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