The Tales of Hoffmann (1951)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

Newly restored version of the 1951 Powell and Pressburger classic, based on the 1881 opera by Jacques Offenbach. An anthology of fantastic and romantic adventures, recounted by the fableist Hoffmann (Robert Rounseville) and featuring Moira Shearer (The Red Shoes), Ludmilla Tchérina, and Ann Ayars. The film has been singled out by both Martin Scorsese and George A. Romero as a major influence on their own work.
Action & Adventure , Classics , Musical & Performing Arts , Science Fiction & Fantasy , Romance
Directed By:
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Pamela Brown
as Nicklaus
Moira Shearer
as Stella/Olympia
Robert Helpmann
as Lindorff/Coppelius/Dr. Miracle/Dappertutto
Frederick Ashton
as Cochenille/Kleinzack
Meinhart Maur
as Luther
John Ford
as Nathaniel
Philip Leaver
as Andreas
Edmond Audran
as Cancer
Lionel Harris
as Pitichinaccio
Ann Ayars
as Antonia
Mogens Wieth
as Crespel
Leonide Massine
as Spalanzani/Franz/Schlemil
Jean Alexander
as Mother [The Tale of Antonia]
Edmund Audran
as Cancer
René Soames
as Singer
Dorothy Bond
as Singer
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Critic Reviews for The Tales of Hoffmann

All Critics (27) | Top Critics (10)

Most if not all of these performers have since died; here, they live on.

Full Review… | April 23, 2015
Seattle Times
Top Critic

The film will never rank among my favorites in the careers of these filmmakers, but filmmaking legends as diverse as Cecil B. DeMille, Martin Scorsese and George A. Romero all adore it ...

Full Review… | April 16, 2015
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic

"Hoffmann" is an immersive aesthetic experience best thought of as an art form all its own.

Full Review… | March 12, 2015
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

As a work of pure, imaginative cinema, it comes close to genius.

Full Review… | February 23, 2015
Time Out
Top Critic

One of the most completely realized marriages of color, movement, and music in the medium's history.

Full Review… | November 26, 2012
AV Club
Top Critic

Hard to take, despite the clear personal commitment of director Michael Powell and the enormous amount of talent on display in the photography, set design, and choreography.

Full Review… | November 26, 2012
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Tales of Hoffmann

The famed Powell/Pressburger team bring us an opulent staging of Offenbach's "The Tales of Hoffman," an opera divided into three parts in which the title character tells a tavern about his doomed past loves. The first and longest section, involving Moira Shearer as a life-size doll, is easily the most entertaining and includes cute, no-tech illusions of her body being "disassembled." Otherwise, the stories aren't easy to follow except in the broadest way (a prostitute and magician plot to steal Hoffman's reflection, and an opera singer sings herself to death), because the shrill lyrics are too difficult to discern. Furthermore, only two of the actors do their own singing, and there is an palpable awkwardness with the syncing -- especially when ballet dancers are trying to mouth words as they dance. The best features are Shearer's willowy dancing and Robert Helpmann's mugging as the recurring villain (he'd be perfectly at home in a Fritz Lang silent). And this is Powell and Pressburger, so of course the colors and sets are like magical paintings come to life.

Eric Broome
Eric Broome

Super Reviewer


Beautifully done, visually out of this world. I'm a big fan of the opera actually and this film does a great job of compacting it and moving it along. I kind of wish they had just had a better looking guy as Hoffmann and different vocalists... that sort of old fogey style overdone opera voice doesn't do it for me. But then again it was the 50s so whatever.

Jenna Ipcar
Jenna Ipcar

During the first intermission of a ballet in Nurnberg, students and other members of the audience retire across the street to a tavern for a quick beer before Act 2. While there, Hoffman(Robert Rounseville) starts to tell his stories of woe. So compelling are they, that his audience decides to skip the rest of the ballet, with the pipes being broken out, to hear what else he has to say; starting in Paris before the Eiffel Tower was built where he encountered Olympia(Moira Shearer). "The Tales of Hoffman" is a highly entertaining mix of ballet and opera, where Moira Shearer dances her legs off while everybody else sings their hearts out. Visually, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger pull out all the stops with the aid of cinematographer Christopher Challis who makes the perfect use of Techicolor for these dreamlike fantasia, each set in a different locale. As such as the movie is about the different expressions of art(Hoffman is a famed poet by the end), these settings also resemble paintings and are works of art in themselves. It is no wonder then that Hoffman gets so lost in them, missing what is right in front of him all the time, the constant companionship of his faithful friend Nicklaus(played by Pamela Brown, thus even adding a bit of genderblending into the equation) through thick and thin.

Walter M.
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

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