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Even these tapes cost something

  Winds of Change
 
1979 | Sanrio
Winds of Change Magic Window

70's Disco + Greek mythology x Sanrio / American assistance = Metamorphosis.
Or, for an easier equation...

Metamorphosis - 7 minutes + Peter Ustinov = Winds of Change.

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Winds of Change or Hoshi no Orpheus (Orpheus of the Stars) was a co-production between Japan and America. It was conceived by Hello Kitty creators Sanrio as a contemporary Fantasia and they were keen for it to be the first Japanese animated movie to use 70mm film as Disney had done with their much loved classic.

The film is based on the Roman poet Ovid's work entitled Metamorphosis which was his take on a number of Greek myths. The stories chosen for adaptation were Actaeon, Orpheus and Eurydice, House of Envy, Perseus and Phaeton. Over 170 US and Japanese staff worked for three years in Sanrio's Hollywood studio to create the film.

The finished movie was distributed by Columbia Pictures to American cinemas on 3rd May 1978 under the title Metamorphoses. It featured a soundtrack featuring many of the big name rock acts of the period including the Rolling Stones, Joan Baez and the Pointer Sisters accompanying the narrative-less animated spectacle. All five of the stories are acted out by the same characters in the main roles.

 

The release of Metamorphosis was not a success. The film was panned by critics, and audiences were confused by the same characters playing all the roles in each tale. It became unclear as to whether it was a anthology or one, full length tale that made little sense. It was also felt that the modern soundtrack had simply been added on to the finished movie as it seemed little consideration had been made to how the lyrics in the songs would match the on screen action.

Metamorphosis quickly disappeared from theatres but Sanrio wasn't giving up on it yet. The running order of the stories was altered moving the opener Actaeon to second place. It was bumped in favour of the tale of Perseus, originally one from last. Orpheus and Eurydice filled its gap in fourth place.

The ill fitting rock tracks were replaced by a brand new score especially written for the movie by underground disco pioneer Alec R. Costandinos. The Rolling Stones were replaced with Pattie Brooks and Arthur Simms, hoping to attract a new audience of disco fans.

Finally, to help the audience follow the stories, the well known actor, writer and raconteur Peter Ustinov was hired to narrate the adventures on Wondermaker, as the main character was now referred. As a multi Oscar winner he brought some integrity and class to the project. He had also worked with Disney a few years earlier providing the voice of Prince John in the animated re-telling of Robin Hood.

1979 saw the re-release of the new version of Metamorphoses now titled Winds of Change. It was accompanied by an LP of the film's disco soundtrack which has since become more sought after than the movie which spawned it. This seven minute shorter release was also the first time it was shown in Japan on the 27th October. The Japanese version followed the same pattern as the US cut, using a narrator to describe the events.

In Japan the movie's life continued on home video from Sanrio and Laserdisc from Toshiba during the eighties. It took Winds of Change six years to reach VHS in America, released through Columbia's children's label Magic Window in 1985. It was later re-released by Columbia themselves in 1992. Hoshi No Orpheus was released on DVD in Japan in 2006 under the Classics of Sanrio label.

The original Metamorphoses was never seen again after its brief cinema run in the late 70's. Neither version of the animated movie has ever been available in the UK.

 
USA Winds of Change poster   Japanese Winds of change ost  
The Japanese Poster
 
The US Poster
 
The Japanese Soundtrack LP
   
 

I wonder if in the original edit, which predated Star Wars, the credits scrolled off into the distance...

"The Heavens! We came out of them, riding on this Earth of ours and we move under them and through them every day of our lives."

Using all his command and diction the narrator reads aloud a thinly veiled succession of lists written in a way that would suggest it had been hurriedly scribbled down in the time it took Ustinov to arrive at the recording.

"It's been thousands of years since these myths were invented and first told and written and sung. And in that time there have been hundreds of variations of these stories, by poets and artists both great... and small. There have been fairy tale versions and modern versions and musical versions. Here ... is still another version."

... an animated disco version! The introduction drags on; various definitions of 'Heaven' are trotted out dropping in mentions of "the creation" and "gods" and "petulance". And while this three minute shopping list enters your ears all you're given to look at is the black expanse of space.

Nearly five minutes into the movie and the audio padding is finally over and the animated padding begins. A purple mist swirls around, the faint appearance of a face fading in and out. Next it cuts to film footage of waves swelling bordered by animated foam, that occasionally resemble galloping horses. The entertaining orchestral score keeps this overwrought spectacle from growing tiresome before the two show reel set pieces collide in a meaningless maritime explosion which probably cost a large number of animators their sight.

Winds of change Metamorphoses hoshi no orpheus

But we're not into story time just yet. Next, a purple rock sitting amongst a live action desert pulses and mutates, increasing in size until it gives birth to a horribly mawkish cartoon boy in a tunic. Sir Ustinov steps in to mark the occasion with this lengthy and unwieldy paragraph...

"Meet our new born hero, Master Wondermaker. He doesn't look like the type to send up against obstacles and monsters in this first of five episodes in which he'll play all the leads, but if the ancient Asirians could make deities that were part bull and part eagle and part man, and the Aztecs could make demons out of serpents, we've got to suppose that it's possible to make a terrific adventurer out ... of a boy."

That was practically all one sentence. No English teacher has been through this script with a red pen.

Winds of change Metamorphoses hoshi no orpheus

The first tale on this Greek menu is the story of Perseus. Wondermaker, in this guise, wanders listlessly across a money-saving single colour background to the castle of Polydectes, so the narrator informs us. Mr Dectees thinks he's in with a shot at Perseus's hot mum but hitting on a single mum is never easy when her kid's around to get in the way so he hatches a plan to get rid of him. He'll send him off to kill Medusa, something which many men have tried but none have succeeded. We get the edited highlights of a couple of courageous adventurers failing, "Urgh... it's no joking matter to be stoned like that..." reveals Ustinov.

Winds of change Metamorphoses

Polydectes hands perseus the sword with which he is to carry out his mission and the audience gets another small snippet of Ustinov's trademark wit that made him such a popular fixture of the talk show circuit.

"Alright lad, take this sword, compliments of the house!"

Winds of change Metamorphoses hoshi no orpheus

Perseus sets off on his adventure in the most enjoyable sequence of the movie. This chapter's hero wanders the rocky trails accompanied by the first of Alec R. Costandinos' disco hits, laying down a funky 70's groove and setting the ancient Greek atmosphere.

# Where are you goin', goin' Perseus?# the singer repeatedly asks, not realising that this is a silent cartoon, and in a vocal style not dissimilar to Earth Wind & Fire, # Hey, is there somebody waiting for you in the trail of the staaaaaaars?#

Sir Peter butts in; "Pretty good mountain climbing for a kid. This is at least a 45 degree slope and he's not even wearing crampons!" Imagine that, no crampons! What an athlete!

Winds of change Metamorphoses hoshi no orpheus

# Gotta find Mah-doooooo-saaaahhh!#, its a catchy tune, alright, and the literal nature of the lyrics helps me keep a pace with the hectic story line. At the top of a steep hill Perseus crosses paths with a frail and exhausted old man with the knobbliest chin you've ever seen. Being a kind hearted new-born rock-boy he shares some water and what looks sort of like a biscuit with the old man. Considering the old guy is clearly inches from death he could've been more generous but the gods seem to think it sufficient as the codger transforms into his true form of Hermes. As a reward for the good deed Hermes shares something with Perseus, the power of flight. Ustinov adopts an unintentionally camp tone for Hermes' lines which is added value.

Winds of change Metamorphoses

On his inaugural flight Perseus spots another old timer in trouble, a woman caught out in a flash flood. He once again helps the aged and, as before, the granny turns out to be a god. This time it is Athena who hands our mawkish leading man the key to his survival, a shield which just happens to be reflective. The next stop on his journey is a sparsely decorated desert and three witches who share an eye. Perseus holds the solitary eye ransom until one of them reveals the location of his snake-haired nemesis. All of this is, of course, done completely without dialog, the narration approximates what would have been said.

Within Medusa's lair our hero finds not a petrifying monster but a beautiful (well, so we're told) young blonde girl. Only Wondermaker is surprised when she transforms into the legendary creature. Legendary and nude! Shock nude scene #1; ugly monster boobs! Normally this sort of thing wouldn't be ok, but this is art!

Winds of change Metamorphoses hoshi no orpheus

Medusa and her demonic rack chase our hero around the dark and cost consciously detailed island until he gives up and cowers behind his reflective shield. You know how this goes, the creature inadvertently turns herself to stone (you'd think she'd have some sort of natural defence against that). Next her previously unseen sisters transform into their Zoanoid forms and attack. Rather than just repeat his last finishing move Perseus is saved when the severed head morphs into Pegasus, a winged horse with a serpent's head. Did it always have a serpent's head? Perseus flies to safety and immortality transformed into a star formation in the night's sky. See, this video is fun and educational.

Metamorphoses

Into the second of the five tales, now. Don't worry they get progressively shorter and less involved from here on. Actaeon is out hunting in the woods. He has a loyal pack of ferocious hounds. Remember that, it will be important later. He hunts various animals including a wild boar ("A crashing bore!") and the fox out of Marry Poppins. On his jaunt through the woods he stumbles across a hidden running spring. Going in for a closer look he finds a griffin (or "Grrrifon"), some annoying squeaking fairies and Diana: The Goddess of the Hunt™. Shock nude scene #2; Diana is washing herself in the spring. Specifically, vigorously rubbing her butt when the audience happens by. It's impressive how well the animators captured the movement. That's some convincing ass scrubbing.

Winds of change Metamorphoses hoshi no orpheus

Actaeon innocently walks into this and is discovered by Diana and her irritating friends. I feel sorry for any kids who sat down to watch this tape with their parents - first Medusa and now a whole bathing scene! It must have made for some awkward and uncomfortable viewing. Enraged by his peeping, She-Hulk transforms anything within reach into living creatures which fly and swoop and swirl around inside the TV like some kind of exciting animated spectacle.

She-Hulk waves her arms around with such force that she pops out of her toga. Now the animators are just being rude. The conclusion to all this is that Diana uses her mystical powers to turn Actaeon into Bambi. Hardly seems fair to me, it was an accident after all. Oh yeah, and then his dogs mistake him for an ordinary deer and rip him to shreds. I told you that would be important. There's probably a moral in there somewhere too. That concludes episode two of the compendium and if that seemed short it wasn't. That tiny slice of plot takes more than twenty minutes of your life to watch!

Winds of change Metamorphoses hoshi no orpheus

We're getting there, only three more episodes to go. Wondermaker plays the god Mercury in this one, or so we're told. To me he looks a lot more like Hermes from the first episode, but if two time Oscar winner Sir Peter Ustinov is willing to put his name to it, who am I to doubt. The story opens in a festival. Three sisters bring gifts to lay at a statue of some god or other (if you're that interested read the book!) and one of them catches Mercury's eye. She is the kindly Perce who brings the statue a solid gold cup which takes the fancy of her evil sister Aglorus. Aglorus waits for everyone else to leave and then swipes it. It's good when there are multiple female roles in a story because then we get Mr Ustinov's lady voices, which are always enjoyable. Imagine his Prince John only slightly higher.

This act of brazen theft doesn't go unnoticed... BY THE STATUE!!

Winds of change Metamorphoses hoshi no orpheus

Later that night Mercury visits the home of Perce, where she lives with her sisters, hoping to give a rose to his beloved. But the path to true love is blocked by Aglorus who will pass the token on but only if there's something in it for her. Sounds like one of those stories doesn't it, but unfortunately the art excuse doesn't stretch that far, so instead she demands five gold "kerblunkies" (another Ustinov original). A trusting softy, Mercury pays the girl, hands over the rose and leaves. Before he is even off screen Aglorus tosses the flower.

This is one act of selfishness too many and before you can say "Ghostbusters II" the statue of Athena comes to life and makes its creaky, rigid way on a course for celestial revenge. She enlists the assistance of the goddess of envy and together they pay a house call. An extreme house call!

Envy sneaks upon on her victim and kisses her while she sleeps. Totally hot. Aglorus awakes screaming as she now has something "worse than heart burn" in her heart - jealousy. I've been telling people you can catch terminal jealousy from kissing for years but no one believes me. And apathy from toilet seats.

"What goes on in the mind's eye can be just as envy making as what one sees in the eye's eye." Well put, Peter. Mercury comes back the next night to visit Percy. Why does he keep waiting until she's sleeping? Aglorus blocks the way and tries to convince him to try his luck with her. But, again, this isn't one of those stories so he brushes her aside. When she tries to bribe him with the stolen gold cup he becomes angry and casts a spell on her. The gold cup falls to the ground with the sound of an empty plastic beaker, good job sound guy. The jealous girl turns to stone and then crumbles into pieces on the floor.

Winds of change Metamorphoses hoshi no orpheus

"Moral; If you have nothing but envy in your heart you're bound to crack up sooner or later!"

Three down, two to go. We're an hour in... only twenty minutes left! Episode four and Wondermaker returns in the role of Orpheus. He has just seconds ago been married to Eurydice and the very newly weds are off (or "orf" as the far better bred Sir Ustinov puts it) for a stroll in the woods. In a puff of flames an evil snake appears from the under world. "A burning bush!" exclaims our narrator. No Peter, wrong story book. The nasty snakes eats the bride, or is that now wife - where does one end and the other start? - but this doesn't make her dead, just taken to the underworld. Kind of like in Saber Rider.

Winds of change Metamorphoses hoshi no orpheus

Orpheus follows a leaf, and a disco love song, to the entrance to hades. He then follows another disco tune through it. On route he finds himself inside a strange ice cream and candy room, lined with cakes and sweets. But this is hades so the ice cream isn't cold it's spicy! Yet more wandering. And then more. And more. At last Orpheus meets with Pluto and a tune from his harp is enough to win back his missing bride. But he gets the instructions for her release wrong and ends up loosing her forever. It's that abrupt but I'm not complaining... there's only one story left!

Metamorphoses

"There is nothing in the heavens to remind us of the lovers but the music of orpheus lingers in the hearts of all mankind."

At last we are reaching the end, but there is only 16 minutes left. How much story can they fit in that? The answer... not much! The last episode concerns Phaeton the cart driving son of Helios the god of self-floating balloons and squeaky voices. Every morning dad rides a flaming chariot across the sky while sonny boy struggles with his donkey drawn cart.

"It's scandalous when two asses try to make an ass of their master!"

Winds of change Metamorphoses hoshi no orpheus

To say that this one is short on plot would be an understatement. Phaeton really wants to drive dad's chariot so one morning he does. And soon looses control. Pattie Brooks accompanies the action with Red Hot Rivers of Fire, which was important enough to be printed all over the posters so it's worth mentioning. The chariot twirls around the dark night sky, leaving a trail of fire as it goes. Eventually the flames engulf Actaeon and he falls from the cart and plummets Earth bound like a shooting star.

"There he goes. The same actor who you saw in the starring roles of Perseus, of Actaeon, and Orpheus and Mercury. But now he's a falling star. Not a bad way to go...!"

And that's it. The shooting star explodes and the credits role. No conclusion, no wrapping up just a three minutes of credits.

 
Missing videos Missing videos

Where are you going Perseus?
Gonna find Medusa! Funky disco grooves meet tacky animation.

"The Heavens!!"
The opening. Marvel at the spectacle of glowing giant vs live action horse waves.

 
Fairly short
 
Unexpected nudity
  Good score
 
Dull
 
Ugly characters
  Poor script
  Lousy ending
  Short of story
  Doesn't look too much like anime

Winds of Change started off intriguing; ancient tales set to a dated disco score with unexpected boobies, all narrated with a wit and humour long past its time, but it soon grew tiresome. The plots get increasingly shorter and more shallow and rely more and more on long sequences of padding - animated spectacle which has long since lost its power to amaze. Imagine, 30 years from now, watching a Pixar knock-off with a soundtrack by My Chemical Romance narrated by Kelsey Grammar and I don't think you'll be far off.

The Disney influence is obvious and the only visual input from it's Japanese side is the cutesy-ness of Sanrio's ugly human characters. I found Wondermaker a really unappealing hero to be staring at for eighty minutes and the support characters weren't much better. Easily the best thing about Winds of Change was the disco soundtrack. It's easy for me to see why the spin-off LP is more sought after now than the movie that spawned it. I defy anyone to be able to prevent # Where are you goin', goin' Perseus? # from echoing around their head for days after.

It's a pity that the original Metamorphoses version was never released on video, I'd like to see how it looks having Mick Jagger singing instead of Peter Ustinov narrating. It must be impossible to follow.

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