Saturday, 19 November 2016

The Singing Ringing Tree - Disturbing Tales from Europe

Someone in the comments for the previous entry mention this 1970s TV series. Well, I'm old enough to remember it, and it was indeed a disturbing piece of work. It also has interesting origins. Over to you, Mr Google,..
The Singing Ringing Tree (German: Das singende, klingende Bäumchen) was a children's film made by East German studio DEFA in 1957 and shown in the form of a television series by the BBC. It was a story in the style of the Brothers Grimm, directed by Francesco Stefani.
It was quite lavish stuff by Eastern Bloc standards. But what made it stand out in the BBC's 'Tales from Europe' strand for kiddies was that every other scene contained something striking and/or disturbing. I mean, this is one of the less weird bits. Checkout that goldfish. Flippin' 'eck.

Here's a Telegraph article on the DVD release. Yes, there is one...
The BBC's reliance on Continental and, particularly, Eastern European children's drama came about through an administrative anomaly. For a brief period in the early Sixties, the children's programmes department was unable to make drama programmes of its own, and was forced to scout round foreign film festivals for suitable material. 
Much of what they found had a poetic resonance that British television has only rarely achieved, principally because they were made not by television companies, but by their respective countries' national film industries, which were all heavily subsidised.
Ah, the good old BBC cock-up that led to communist fairy tales appearing at tea time. Actually I think they had a fairly benevolent effect.

If you want to see a list of all the Tales from Europe, covering both sides of the Iron Curtain plus Mongolia, it is here. And it would be completely wrong for me to end this without featuring the greatest theme tune of all. It's not classed as a Tale from Europe, but it is a dubbed Euro-series that we lucky oldies saw as kids.

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