Director: Francesco Stefani
Writer: Anne Geelhaar and Francesco Stefani
Starring: Christel Bodenstein, Charles Hans Vogt, Eckart Dux, Richard Krüger, and Dorothea Tiesing
Originally released in 1957 in what was then known as East Germany, The Singing Ringing Tree is a strange and surreal fairy tele about a spoiled princess who wants a potential suitor to find her the mythical titled tree that can dispel all evil from the world. In the 1960s, the film was bought by the BBC and cut into three parts as a mini-TV-series as part of Tales from Europe. Because of this it has a legacy in the UK of terrifying children, with it’s strange and bizarre moments.
Now it has received a Blu Ray release in high definition for the first time from Network. The Blu Ray comes with a couple of extras, most notably a 2003 interview with Christel Bodenstein, who played the princess. It’s an interesting interview for fans of the film. The film also looks great in the new restoration.
Based on the fairy tale by The Grimm Brothers, The Singing Ringing Tree, tells the story of a prince who travels half way around the world to meet a princess. She rejects his gift of pearls and asks instead for The Singing Ringing Tree. He sets off to find it and bring the tree back to her. Once he finds the tree the princess must love him by midnight, or he will turn into a bear. She rejects the tree and he turns into a bear as promised, with the princess’s love being the only way to break the curse.
The film was noted in the 1960s with it’s release in the UK for being bizarre and nightmarish. For a children’s film, this does have some strange moments in it that could scare children. It’s not trying to be scary, but there is some absurd moments, including a giant fish and a magical reindeer, that are more than a little strange. For older audiences there is something charming about the strangeness. When the prince turns into a bear it’s just a costume, making it feel a little bit like a pantomime without the humour. While the film was recorded in German, when it was re-released in the UK, including this release, there is a narration filling in everything that’s happened. The dialogue isn’t dubbed.
The whole thing looks like a storybook, with handmade scenery and backgrounds. It feels like you are watching a classic storybook on the screen. The colours are bright and nothing looks quite real. The visuals are reminiscent of something like The Wizard of Oz, with bright bold colours. Even though nothing looks real, and the effects are dated, it still looks magical and takes you away on the story.
The Singing Ringing Tree is a fine family film. It looks great in high definition, but this isn’t a classic that’s going to make any children’s (of any age) favourites list. It’s a classic fairy tale told and is charming in its own way.
The Singing Ringing Tree is on Blu-ray 18 October from Network
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