The kingdom of Euphrania is not large, so although they have enjoyed many years of peace with their neighbours, that security comes at a price, which is that they have to cement various ties and bonds to their ruling families and governments. The easiest way to do so is marry the Prince, Edward (Richard Chamberlain), to one of the neighbour's Princesses, but this is proving difficult when he believes in a thing called love and does not wish to marry for convenience. So as he returns from yet another fruitless excursion, the King (Michael Hordern) grows worried...
The Slipper and the Rose was sort of the story of Charles Perrault's enduring fairy tale Cinderella, except here we got more of the Prince Charming side of things than other versions might care to indulge in, possibly because that character had to go to a star like Chamberlain, and Cinderella was played by the pretty much unknown Gemma Craven, here making waves in a role that she had won after a publicity-baiting search for an actress. Not that this was a runaway success, as it might have secured Craven a career but there were plenty of grumblings at the time that what we had here was less a gossamer confection and more a lumbering behemoth.
TV beckoned for both stars after this: Chamberlain had The Thorn Birds to continue making the ladies swoon, and Craven had the bit with the lipstick everyone recalls from Dennis Potter's Pennies from Heaven, and then the pinnacle of her career, accidentally harrassing an embarrassed Father Ted. But it's not as if The Slipper and the Rose completely disappeared because due to regular showings on television it picked up a fair-sized fanbase who cared nought for the dismissals of the critics or those audiences who turned their noses up at something so determinedly old-fashioned. All they cared about was if it was romantic, if it looked nice, and if the music was pleasant, and for them that was the case.
The music consisted of songs penned by the legendary Sherman brothers of Disney fame, although to be honest for the most part this was not their best work. With Angela Morley assisting, they did however come up with a terrific waltz number for the central ball sequence, a tune that has lyrics later on and if anything was taken away from this film it was that lilting melody which tended to stay agreeably in the memory. But for the story it was business as usual, relating a tale which everyone who settled down to watch would be all too familiar with, hitting all the beats from Cinders victimised by her wicked stepmother (Margaret Lockwood in her final role) and not so ugly this time sisters to the fairy godmother (Annette Crosbie) saving the day and our heroine leaving behind the glass slipper on the big night.
So far, so much as we'd seen before, but once it got to the part everyone expected, what would traditionally be the "and they all lived happily ever after" bit, the British disease of class entered into the frame as Cinders was judged all wrong for her Prince. Previous to this, the scene stealer had been Crosbie's amusingly level headed godmother who outshone her co-stars in the acting stakes, but here, with a good stretch of the movie to go, was a lovely scene where the kindhearted but pragmatic chamberlain Kenneth More had a heart to heart with Cinderella about why the marriage was impossible and she should forget about it, charmingly played and even moving in its quiet dignity. After that the fairy tale deus ex machina was a given, but this took the plot in an interesting direction after sticking to it so faithfully for so long, and made you wish they'd taken more chances with the material before. As it was, it did go on too long, the songs could have been better, but there was a quaintness about this which appealed.