Almost Angels (1962)

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Released as Born to Sing in the UK, Almost Angels is a little-known Disney film dealing with the famous Vienna Choir Boys. Directed by Steve Previn (André Previn’s brother), this is a film that if it weren’t for Disney+, I probably wouldn’t have ever seen it! But is it a film that should be checked out? Let’s take a look!

And remember, SPOILERS AHEAD!

The film opens up to a train station in Austria where the Vienna Boys’ Choir has just arrived home after a recent tour. A young boy, Tony, played by Vincent Winter, is there to witness the homecoming of the choir and wants nothing more than to be one of them. However, his father, Herr Fiala, played by Fritz Eckhardt, would rather train Tony to be an engine driver just like him.

Ah, “train”…I see what you did there!

Tony’s mother, Frau Fiala, played by Bruni Löbel, is on Tony’s side though. She takes Tony to nearby auditions that the Vienna Boys’ Choir is having without telling Herr Fiala. Tony happily performs and is chosen to be one of the two boys that the Choir has accepted for a trial period. While Tony is overjoyed that his dream is coming true, Herr Fiala is upset when he discovers the truth. Nevertheless, Frau Fiala is able to convince Herr Fiala to relent.

They take Tony to the Director Eisinger, played by Hans Holt, who reminds them that Tony is on probation at the moment and later, a decision will be made as to whether or not to keep him on permanent. Herr Fiala makes a strict demand though that should Tony start to do poorly on his academic work, he will pull Tony out of the Choir.

“It’s a deal.”

It’s not long before Tony feels right at home at the…”campus” wherein the Choir resides. He practices singing with the other boys under the direction of the trainer/conductor, Max Heller, played by Peter Weck. One of the elder boys, however, starts to feel jealous of the new arrival. Peter, played by Sean Scully, used to sing all the lead parts that Tony is now being assigned to sing. He tries to get Tony in trouble by playing his transistor radio late in the night and causing a pillow fight when they all should be asleep.

However, it’s to no avail as Tony is soon accepted to be a permanent Choir Boy. Peter tries once more to foil Tony by locking him in a room at the hospital where they are supposed to perform for the sick children there. He assumes Tony won’t be able to make his cue, but Tony manages to escape by climbing out of the window into the next via a very dangerous maneuver.

They’re sure making gargoyles way more colorful these days!

Thankfully, he doesn’t fall and Herr Heller realizes that Peter had something to do with this. He gently confronts Peter who confesses. He then tells Peter that since he’s the oldest, he should look out more for Tony and help him with his singing. Peter heeds this advice and he and Tony soon become close friends.

Tony’s singing just gets better and better that even Herr Fiala doesn’t mind that Tony’s doing a bit poorly in his academic studies. It’s not long before the Choir Boys are set to go on another tour to which they are all excited! Before that, however, they are to perform a Strauss opera. Sadly, Peter’s voice breaks right during this time rendering him sad that he would no longer get to go on the tour due to not being able to sing anymore. Tony finds out and comes up with a plan that Peter will lip sync while another boy will sing for him backstage so that nobody has to know.

Yeah, this can’t end well!

Peter tries this the day of the performance, but realizes that Herr Heller suspects something prompting Peter to run off during his performance. Herr Heller goes after him and Peter apologizes. Herr Heller sympathizes that Peter didn’t want to feel left behind. He convinces Director Eisinger to keep Peter on as his assistant so that he can still go on tour with the Choir Boys.

And that was Almost Angels. Honestly, even though it seems that there’s a lot of story in this film, most of the film is just the choir boys singing about a dozen or so songs throughout the film. What we do have for a story is good, but it feels that the focus of the film switches from Tony in the beginning to Peter in the end. It’s nothing bad or frustrating; it’s just…all we are given.

Most of the actors perform well, with the exception of Vincent Winter whom I feel only has one facial expression throughout the entire film. I feel this film would have been better as a half-hour television episode. Maybe the Disney executives thought the same because not long after its theatrical release, it would be shown on TV in two parts. I just feel they should have done that in the beginning to begin with.

So, my final score for this film is 21/35 = 60% (D-) !

The next review will be posted on February 11, 2020.

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