The Plot of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

There’s no-one better than Walt Disney for taking someone else’s story and making it feel like their own.  Most people would incorrectly assume that Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Disney’s first full-length cel animated feature film released in 1937, was an original work from the House of Mouse, but they’d be wrong. The story is actually based on a German fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm written in 1812.

It may be classed as family entertainment with its beautiful hand-drawn animation but the story has darker overtones which belies its colourful characters and catchy, sing-a-long musical numbers. The film has all the hallmarks of a traditional fairytale. A wicked step-mother / queen, a charming prince and damsel in distress waiting to be rescued. So far, so good but at first glance Snow White might not have seemed like a typical character a country under the cloud of austerity could get behind, but get behind her they did. When the film was released, America was struggling under The Great Depression. Unemployment was incredibly high, society was seeing authority getting tough under increasingly harsh conditions and food was in short supply. They shared a bond with our heroine that has lasted ever since. Despite being a princess, Snow White was suffering under her own hardships. Living under the tyranny of her regally wicked stepmother, she had to fight for everything as was forced to work under very difficult conditions.

As the film begins, the Magic Mirror that the Queen consults on a daily basis to reinforce her own self esteem delivers some bad news. She is no longer the ‘fairest of them all’, that honour now belongs to her step daughter Snow White, so named as her “skin is as white as snow”. To remove this problem she instructs her huntsman to take her into the forest and murder her, returning with her heart in a bejewelled box. So far, so dark. Thankfully, he can’t go through with it and orders her to escape into the forest. Lost and alone she finds comfort in a variety of woodland creatures who lead her to a cottage. This is no empty, deserted house and she wrongly assumes, due to the number of small chairs she finds, that it belongs to seven orphaned children, much like her.

In fact the chairs don’t belong to children, but to 7 working-class, mining dwarfs with names that illustrate their characters or traits. They appear uncivilised with a lack of etiquette and one is so uneducated he can’t even speak. From the token fool (Dopey) to the brains of the operation (Doc) they are wary of Snow White to the point that one remarks that “all females are poison”. Despite their initial scepticism, they soon warm to her and roles are reversed, laying down rules as any parent would to their children; don’t speak or take things from strangers and to be wary of any tricks her step mother might play on her. She doesn’t listen and, whilst in the woods, soon takes a cursed apple from a mysterious stranger who, unbeknown to her, is the Queen in disguise. The Queen still wants her dead and her jealousy is making her blind to right and wrong.

Of course, it’s a Disney movie so we know good will always triumph over evil in the end. The prince reappears for only the second time in the film and lays a kiss on Snow White’s lips. The curse is broken and, naturally, they all live happily ever after, unlike the original story. What does it tell us? Well, despite the dark times, hope and belief in good things will ultimately see you through. Whether it’s the broken country struggling under the depression era or the broken family within the story, love will conquer all. The film is now considered an animated classic and has been enjoyed by countless people since its release.

Children love Snow White but there are darker undertones to the story and it is a plot that gains significance when you consider the time in which it was set.

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The plot of the film The Sixth Sense

The Sixth Sense wasn’t the first film directed by M. Night Shyamalan but it was certainly his first stand out hit. Released in 1999, the film stars Bruce Willis as child psychologist Dr. Malcolm Crowe and newcomer Haley Joel Osment as Cole Sear, a boy with an unnerving ability to see dead people. Whether the film is classed as a thriller, a horror or an old-fashioned ghost story is up for debate. One thing that is clear is that it sent shockwaves through audiences the world over when it was first released.

At the start of the movie Dr. Malcolm is returning from a night out with his wife. They have attended a glitzy event where he had been honoured for his work with children. Despite a lovely home and a beautiful wife, his work remains Dr. Crowe’s first love, but that love is about to come crashing down. Vincent Grey, an ex-patient of Malcolm Crowe, has invaded their home brandishing a gun. He strongly believes that he was wrongly treated by Dr. Crowe years earlier when, as a child, he was suffering from hallucinations. This mistreatment has caused him serious mental problems into adulthood. Not wanting to be afraid anymore, he takes revenge and shoots Dr Crowe before turning the gun on himself.

After recovering from the gunshot, Dr. Crowe returns to work and soon meets Cole, a boy who seemingly suffers from the same condition as Vincent. Despite some doubts, he is determined not to let this patient down and Malcolm dedicates himself to helping the boy and his fraught mother. Cole, in his own words, “sees dead people”. They haunt his every waking day. He sees them at school, he sees them at home although whether he actually sees them or not is a key choice the audience has to make. Either way, the boy believes he does, which causes the relationship with his mother to become increasingly strained. Enter Dr. Malcolm Crowe. Dr. Crowe isn’t sure whether to believe him either, but worries that another misdiagnosis could have huge ramifications on everyone. As he throws himself back into work, his wife is drifting into the arms of another man.

The film plays on the notion that children are more attuned to seeing strange, even psychological events than adults. By removing their cynicism and disbelief, they are open to experiences that adults choose not to believe in. It also asks a question that most other films of this type do not. What is it that ghosts want? If they take the trouble to appear, why don’t they ask anything of them? The Sixth Sense answers this profound question in spades. Crowe suggests to Cole that he finds a purpose for his ‘gift’; helping the spirits he sees to resolve any unfinished business they may have. He also helps Crowe to better communicate with his wife, by suggesting he speaks to her whilst she sleeps. Cole promises that this way, she will hear everything he has to say.

Cole soon learns not to fear the dead people he sees, but to use his skills to help them. By learning about their lives and death, he becomes the conduit for their resolution. As much as he helps the dead, he also helps the living by reconciling his relationship with his mother who has issues of her own with her deceased mother. Sadly, Dr. Crowe’s marital problems can not be solved.

Of course, the biggest talking point occurred at the end of the film. Everyone who saw it wanted to keep it secret, but most of them found it difficult to keep quiet. If you haven’t seen the film then stand by for a huge Spoiler Alert. Be careful though, as once you know there’s no turning back. Are you ready for it? It turns out that Bruce Willis CAN act after all.

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Mysterious Events

Mysterious trees on a foggy night.Murder mysteries have grown in popularity as a corporate event. One of the major advantages of this format is that people do not need to physically participate so it suits more or less any guest.

Typically a murder mystery is delivered by a group of actors from an external corporate event company. Sometimes parts can be written for employees of the company organising the event and this can make it more personal and memorable.

This sort of event can become quite competitive as the storyline builds. Those who want to really get involved tend to do so while those who are less interested can break away and chat. This social team bonding event format works well because it is not forced and people can approach it however it best suits them.

Murder mysteries can be arranged at any location with suitable space. The best events are held at venues with the right atmosphere; so gothic mansion style hotels or castles are ideal. There are also specialist locations such as crypts and prisons which make ideal settings. As with any event the quality of the meal is crucial, but compromises do not need to be made as plenty of suitable venues have excellent catering.

The key is to choose a professional company who have experience of delivering events to an intelligent and sophisticated corporate clientele. A badly written script with corny lines can be excruciating.

There will be a high level of audience interaction and this is crucial in making the event enjoyable. Often the funniest moments happen ‘off script’ as exchanges between the actors and the characters that exist in every group.

Experienced actors know how to choose those people by observing the group from the outset. Some people prefer to watch quietly whilst others enjoy getting involved and having the chance to show off a little. Differentiating between the two is a key skill of experienced actors.

The format is also particularly effective as a team building event. If you have a wide range of ages and a mixture of genders this event will have a broader appeal than, say, quad biking or paintball. Teams will need to communicate in order to investigate the crime and solve the mystery so it makes an excellent icebreaker.

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Preparing For Murder

A gun, hat and murder mystery script.

Tonight we are holding a Murder Mystery at the Grand Harbour Hotel in Southampton. It’s our Little House of Horrors script which centres around the UK launch of a film that has done very well in America. The plot is a cross between a horror film and 50 Shades of Grey, so it fits in with current memes. I must remember to research whether 50 Shades has made it into America and whether it means anything over there.

The procedures of preparing are almost ritualistic. First the script and clues is changed to take into account the date. How many times have I done this now? Seeing the dates and places of the last performance of this script takes me back, this time to exactly a week ago – last Friday – at Syon Park south of London. Was that really only a week ago? That was an audience of 150 from Germany and other countries in Europe. After a slightly confusing start for them they warmed up and loved it. What a great way to learn more English.

I am convinced that one way of making a life seem as though it lasts longer is to fill it with experiences. There is a paradox; you do a lot of different things with different people at different locations and what what recent seems long ago while what was long ago often feels recent.

As well as the script costumes and props need to be prepared. My Trilby hat is starting to look well worn – how many times has that been worn to imply that the character is a gangster? Trilby hat, pinstripe suit and black and white brogues; what am I, some sort of cliché? Finally, there is the gun. Used rounds from the last event are removed and replaced with fresh ones. This is Gun 2 and it’s fresh and tight, whereas Gun 1 – the original – is now grey with gunpowder and much looser after a few hundred shows.

We’re ready to go. This is quite an enjoyable ritual and while I’m doing it I go through the script in my head. I expect that many actors have a ritual before their performance – the calm before the storm. Can I say ‘break a leg’ to myself?

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Avoiding Clichés In Writing

I’m preparing to write a new script. It’s called ‘The Ball’s In Your Court’ and it’s about a down and out baseball coach who is given one last chance. He takes on a group from a poor neighbourhood who are being ostracised from their community because of a mixture of issues including race relations, gang violence and petty crime, which is in reality incidental as they are good kids. The star player and the coach don’t get on. The coach doubts the star player’s commitment and the star player thinks the coach is washed up.

As the story progresses the group is brought together by being a team and the coach starts to believe in the star player’s abilities. The star player learns that the coach actually sustained a serious injury which ended his career and finds some old footage of him in action, which makes him see things differently.

They meet their main opposition at a pre-match event and they are better dressed, better equipped and generally seem to have a better chance. On the way back from the event the brother of the star player, who is also on the team, is involved in a fatal car accident. The star player goes off the rails and back to his old ways.

The rest of the team do their best to pull together, but it’s not looking good. Just as the big match is about to start the star player turns up, dressed to play and gives an emotional speech saying that this is what his brother would have wanted. He and the coach exchange knowing looks.

So far so good. However, it’s the next bit I’m a bit concerned about. During the match the star player is injured and it seems that the team have no chance of winning. But he comes back and wills them on from the sidelines which turns the game round and they win by a point with just seconds left on the clock. I’m worried that might be a bit of a cliché.

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How Do Murder Mystery Evenings Work?

Someone looking through a magnifying glass.A murder mystery evening comes together a bit like a jigsaw. Guests are trying to establish three things; method, motive and murderer. The challenge is that each of the suspects will have a possible method and motive. Each can be the murderer.

The murder itself often happens in front of the audience, who are usually divided into teams, often defined by the tables that they will eat on. When the murder happens in front of everyone the method is usually poison, but the audience have to establish how it was administered. In the opening scene each suspect will do something that could have administered poison, for example a drink may be thrown. The victim then either staggers out of the room to die or falls to the floor in the room.

In some scripts the murder happens offsite, and this opens up the possibilities to include gunshots, stabbing, suffocation and other methods. In all plots there will be preliminary forensics but in more complicated plots a full scene of crime suite may be opened up.

Each suspect will reveal a motive during the opening scene. Sometimes this is obvious, but often it is alluded to and paper based clues given out later will add to the motive. The audience must pay attention during the opening scene and it’s probably the most difficult time for this because the event has just started and the senses can be overwhelmed. Watch the facial expressions of the actors; if love is declared is it reciprocated? What might it mean if an actress declines a drink and strokes her stomach?

Paper based clues will back up the storylines. These may include love letters, bank statements and contracts. How do they fit together and add to the plot? One very effective way of dealing with clues is to set out a timeline. What happened and when?

The main element of the event is interaction with the suspects who will go from table to table for questioning. This is the part that many enjoy most of all because they can have a lot of fun putting questions to the suspects and trying to catch them out.

Finally teams establish their version of events and the detective who is acting as MC of the evening will read these out and choose the best one who will win a prize. However, it’s often the more creative solutions that are the most enjoyed.

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Murder Mystery Idea – The Intriguing Letter

A letter from the Discrete Investigation Bureau

Over the weekend I was going through my grandfather’s old briefcase which I have kept for sentimental reasons. It’s a battered old brown leather case and it contains various papers, mainly dividend receipts from his investments. It smells of old documents and I find it a very comforting thing which reminds me of a wonderful man.

In among the papers was a letter which I hadn’t noticed before. It’s dated 19th January, 1963 and it’s from a time when my grandparents owned and ran a school. The matter it addresses is Parkfield Schools Ltd -v- S.Faux and it’s from the wonderfully named ‘Discreet Enquiry Bureau’. Sadly this no longer exists and Google earth shows me a residential house at the address. It’s likely that the Bureau was a lone self-employed private investigator; a ‘gumshoe’.

The Bureau had been contracted my my grandfather to track down this Faux fellow, who they were suing for some reason and who appears to have done a runner. Perhaps their solicitors put him in touch with the Bureau, as they forwarded the letter to him. A more romantic idea is that he found it in the small ads in the back of a newspaper. My grandmother was a wonderful lady and she would not have been directly involved in such matters, but I know that she would have followed the shenanigans with great interest.

The Bureau followed the rogue Faux to the address he had given as a forwarding address and found that his name was not on the nameplate. Instead there was the name ‘Raux’. Faux is French for ‘false'; had he given a false name, even using it in court, and been so brazen as to taunt with wordplay?

The false fellow had moved on again and had given a forwarding address, but cancelled it after four weeks. At this point he goes off radar. However, the Bureau, no doubt by discreet enquiry, ascertained that Faux or Raux was known to frequent the infamous Curzon Club in W1. Now we really are starting to get the measure of the man. A rogue, a gambler, in my imagination now sporting a thin pencil moustache and wearing a sharp pinstripe double breasted suit.

It is just one chapter of a bigger story. We don’t know what this chap had done in the first instance, nor do we know what happened next. Did the Discreet Enquiry Bureau ever find their man? Was he called up to explain his nefarious activities. You don’t use an alias in life without good reason, and having the sangfroid to stand in court and swear by it certainly implies a villainous nature. My search for further documents sadly yielded none.

I was delighted to find this letter. It made me feel close to my grandparents again, whom I adored and who died over 30 years ago. However, the writer in me would have been intrigued by this letter even without that connection. The wonderfully named Discreet Enquiry Bureau harks back to a time long gone. These days almost everything in the letter would have been discovered using the internet and much of the investigation would have been conducted using it. Has the internet made it easier for rogues to vanish and hide, or has it made it more difficult? Locard’s Exchange Principle is one of the principles of forensic science and it is summarised as ‘every contact leaves a trace’. Then we have a respectable private school being wronged by someone who appears to go by an alias. I wonder what happened. No doubt it was some financial matter and nothing too serious, or I would have heard about it I’m sure. The final piece of intrigue is his frequenting of the Curzon Club, which throws in glamour and a little extra seediness.

I am probably imbuing the story with more romance than it deserves, but I shall continue to develop the story and it will be the starting point for my next murder mystery script. It began with the discovery of an intriguing letter.

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