Monday, 14 April 2014
The Singing Ringing Tree (1957)
"The Singing Ringing Tree used to make me pee my pants when I was a kid"
- Paul Whitehouse, comedian.
Small wonder then that, to get over the psychological scars he received from watching the East German export as a child, he went on to skit it with 'The Singing Ringing Binging Plinging Tinging Plinking Plonking Boinging Tree' in The Fast Show.
If you were a child in the 1960s and 70s chances are you have a similar memory to Paul's. The Singing Ringing Tree was a summer holidays perennial, broadcast under the umbrella 'Tales For Europe', and no doubt an attempt to counterbalance the American influences British schoolchildren received elsewhere on TV.
Being a little bit younger, a child of the 80s, I don't think I ever actually saw it (I do remember The Flashing Blade however) but its legend is one I'm very familiar with and I've seen many clips and The Fast Show's skit to get the gist.
Today was my first real experience of it.
Watching it with 34 year old eyes means the terror it struck upon children on the hot and sticky summer mornings of the 1960s passed me by.
I should also point out that I watched it sober and drug free, so I've had none of that ironic post modern 'wow this is really trippy stuff' experiences either. Though I should add its trippy enough without the aid of alcohol and narcotics!
Whilst I may have missed the actual fear I may have experienced if I viewed this as a child, I could still appreciate it for a traditional Grimms Fairytale affair (not the Disneyfied stuff you understand, but the proper unsettling morality fable which featured true evil lurking on the periphery of the happy ever afters and handsome princes who would sexually assault those sleeping beauties to allegedly save the day) featuring a prince who is turned into a bear and a spoilt princess who is turned into a harridan before realising the error of her ways in life. And the person responsible for this trickery? A truly malevolent and creepy dwarf. The message is surprisingly free of political bias as one might expect of a production from a Cold War rival and is pure and in keeping with Grimm; be nice to people or something will bad will happen to you and believe in honest feelings.
The Singing Ringing Tree was made in 1957 yet, thanks to its traditional values, its still a strong piece of well crafted entertainment. The inspired production design is a key factor here, whilst the glorious technicolour cinematography of strong primary hues, makes the costumes and landscape of the mythical kingdom heavily redolent of that other classic fairytale, MGM's The Wizard Of Oz.
If perhaps The Wizard of Oz was made by David Lynch that is.