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The Singing Ringing Tree - The Singing Ringing Tree(Blu Ray) [Network - 2021]

Originally released back in the late 1950s The Singing Ringing Tree (aka Das singende, klingende Bäumchen) is a surreal and strange west German fairy tale film, which landed up been sold to the BBC in the mid 60’s- going onto the puzzle and freak-out a generation of kids. Here from Network is a new Blu Ray release of this oddity- taking in a new HD 1080p print of the film, and an early 2000’s interview with one of the lead actors.

The Singing Ringing Tree is apparently based on a Grimm Brothers tale, though I don’t know how close it is to the original text- but it’s most certainly a damn wacky 'n' weird tale. The film was made in East Germany by DEFA-Studio für Spielfilme & Deutsche Film (DEFA) in the year 1957- and it went on to have a popular run at theatres in the country. Then in the year 1964 the BBC brought the film, dubbed it with an English storyteller voice- and put it on the TV schedule for children, and this is where it gained notoriety as one of the more bizarre and surreal tripped out fairy tales of all time.

The whole thing has a very stagey/ pantomime feel, as it was all filmed inside a studio hall. With clearly fake backdrops, rickety sets, and fake landscape/ rock work- with the whole thing having a hazy bright-to-glittery costumes type look, and this adds an even more strange air to the already crazed story. 

The plot tells of a brave and gallant prince who wants to win the heart of a stubborn and sploit princess- she requests that he finds ‘The Singing Ringing Tree’ meant to be a mythical item. He starts offhis travels- asking a few people along the way, then just when he’s lost all hope he comes across an evil small man- who rules a magical realm. The dervishes little man gives the prince a seeming dead up-rooted tree telling him it’s the tree she wants- he says that the princess must fall in love with the prince, otherwise, he’ll turn into a bear- so he heads back to her castle, and surprise, surprise she wants nothing to with the Prince and his dead rooted up tree. He heads back to the little man's kingdom- and promptly turns into a huge brown bear.

As the film unfolds we get all manner of oddness- a creepy beady-eyed and fake giant fish, an antlered and blond wigged horse that gets buried in fake snow, then later jumps over a huge coarse hedge that makes those who touch it bleed. The little man darkly chuckles popping up here there and everywhere over his strange land. The talking bear builds a cave, with shell lined beds, the land gets frozen at one point, and the little man conjures up flame circles.  The film runs at the one hour and fourteen-minute mark- and is a most eventful and surprisingly plotted tale, that shifts from one surreal and strange set-up to the next. So you'll be certainly entertained- though I  do think it would seriously trouble or bore a modern child….so it’s certainly not for the kids.

This new Blu Ray takes in full screen and widescreen versions of the film- which feature either an English narrated soundtrack, German audio or alternative music-only soundtrack, and alternative French and Spanish soundtracks. On the extras side in the disc, we get a fourteen interview with Christel Bodenstein- who played the princess in the film. And this is rather interesting- as she talks about her take on the film, how she got the role, and its filming which was largely done in a huge hall- this interview is copyrighted from 2003, so it’s an archive interview. Sadly there are no other extras on the disc- it would have been great to have a commentary track from either someone like Kat Ellinger or Vic Pratt, discussing the history of the film, etc.  Apparently, the finished release comes with a booklet featuring writing by cultural historian Tim Worthington- though I can’t comment on this.

The Singing Ringing Tree is a wonderfully surreal and strange curio. Don’t be put off by the children’s film tag, as it really is an eventful and bizarre ride that will appeal to anyone who like weird fantasy-based stuff, or odd 1950s/ 1960’s films.

Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5

Roger Batty
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