The Pied Piper


1h 30m 1972

Film Details

Also Known As
Pied Piper of Hamlin
MPAA Rating
Release Date
Jun 1972
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: week of 20 May 1972; New York opening: 25 May 1972
Production Company
Goodtimes Enterprises; Sagittarius Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures Corp.
Country
Germany, Great Britain and United States
Location
London, England, Great Britain; Rothenburg,Germany; Rothenburg,Germany (West)
Screenplay Information
Based on the legend ¿Der Rattenfänger von Hameln¿ collected by Jakob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm (Germany, 1812-14) and the poem The Pied Piper of Hamelin by Robert Browning (London, 1849), which were based on a 13th century German legend.

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 30m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Eastmancolor)

Synopsis

In 1349, when the Black Plague is threatening all of Northern Germany, a group of gypsy musicians, led by Mattio and his wife Helga, encounter a lone minstrel known as the Pied Piper. The musician accompanies them to the walled city of Hamelin. In the town, Burgermaster Poppendick's family is preparing for the wedding of their eleven-year-old daughter Lisa. Her intended is Franz, the wicked and arrogant son of the Baron, who plans to use Lisa's dowry to wage war against his enemies and is secretly having an affair with Lisa's mother, Frau Poppendick. The Baron, hoping to save himself from the plague by currying favor with Church officials, is building a huge cathedral, which has been funded by exorbitant taxes he has forced onto the community, and plans to complete the cathedral with Lisa's dowry. When Lisa becomes ill with a fever, the Jewish alchemist, Melius, prescribes rest and soothing music. The pied piper, who, along with the gypsies, has been denied entrance into the city, is now allowed inside to play for her and she makes a miraculous recovery. Later, Lisa is given a hand-painted miniature portrait of herself by Melius's crippled apprentice Gavin, an artistically inclined youth who has long been in love with her. As she is admiring it, a swarm of black rats appear. Melius warns the town officials that the rats carry the plague, but, instead of listening to his concern, they imprison him for his decision to search for the plague's antidote rather than develop a formula to make gold. After the wedding ceremony, the celebration is ruined by the appearance of more rats that emerge from the huge wedding cake, which has been designed as a replica of the cathedral. As panic ensues, the piper is hired to lure the rats with his playing to the Weser River, where they drown. However, when the officials then refuse to pay him the amount they had promised, the piper plays a different tune, luring Lisa and the other children far away from the city. Although Gavin is also affected by the music, he is unable to keep up with the children, and watches sadly as they disappear into the mist. When the gypsies leave for the Netherlands, Gavin accompanies them there, where he hopes to become a painter. Blamed by Franz for the town's problems, Melius is burned at the stake as a heretic. As Franz is watching the execution, he realizes that his body shows the preliminary symptoms of the plague and that he, too, will soon die. Although the pied piper and the children are never seen in Hamelin again, a cross lies in the town square, commemorating the sad tale.

Film Details

Also Known As
Pied Piper of Hamlin
MPAA Rating
Release Date
Jun 1972
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: week of 20 May 1972; New York opening: 25 May 1972
Production Company
Goodtimes Enterprises; Sagittarius Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures Corp.
Country
Germany, Great Britain and United States
Location
London, England, Great Britain; Rothenburg,Germany; Rothenburg,Germany (West)
Screenplay Information
Based on the legend ¿Der Rattenfänger von Hameln¿ collected by Jakob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm (Germany, 1812-14) and the poem The Pied Piper of Hamelin by Robert Browning (London, 1849), which were based on a 13th century German legend.

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 30m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Eastmancolor)

Articles

The Pied Piper - Donovan in Jacques Demy's 1972 Version of THE PIED PIPER on DVD


In the small medieval German town of Hamelin, the threat of a nearby plague terrifies the populace, particularly the dominant forces of the Catholic church. A traveling troupe of actors arrives at the barricaded town, which allows them in only after one of their party, a vagabond piper (Donovan), revives the mayor's ailing daughter, Lisa (Cathryn Harrison), with a song heard through her bedroom window. However, their troubles are only beginning as the sniveling burgomeister (Donald Pleasence) and his corrupt and irresponsible military-aspiring son Franz (Jon Hurt) perform underhanded deals with the church to establish a papal-sanctioned war and a completely indulgent church based out of the town. On the other side of the moral spectrum, alchemist Melius (Michael Hordern) and his artistic, crippled young assistant, Gavin (Jack Wild), become friendly with the actors. Gavin is nursing a crush on Lisa, who, despite having yet to reach adolescence, is engaged to marry Franz. When Lisa's doomed wedding arrives and the eventual influx of infected rats arrives, the powers that be arrange an unusual bargain with the piper which, as all fairy tale lovers know, is destined to end on a very melancholy note.

Though ostensibly marketed to family audiences with a G rating, The Pied Piper is an uncharacteristically grim and brutal offering from Goodtimes Enterprises, a UK-based production company during the 1970s whose films like Performance, Lisztomania, and That'll Be the Day were largely conceived as star vehicles for music performers. The big name in this particular film is Donovan, a Scottish folk-pop singer best known for 1960s standards like "Hurdy Gurdy Man," "Atlantis," and "Sunshine Superman." His presence in the film is something of a sticking point for many modern viewers, but in fact the small numbers of spare, haunting ditties he performs in the film work well with the period setting, and while he'll never be confused with a master thespian, he acquits himself well enough with his one-dimensional role. The real acting demands rest with the British pros like Pleasence, Hurt, and Hordern, who chew into their meaty roles with gusto. The dark undertones of the original story (made famous by the likes of the Brothers Grimm and Robert Browning), essentially a metaphor for the loss of multiple children to a disease epidemic or tragic accident (elaborated upon most tantalizingly in Atom Egoyan's The Sweet Hereafter), are certainly not sugarcoated in this version, which presents unflinching depictions of the ravages of the plague, a horrific wedding banquet scene with hordes of rats bursting from a grandiose wedding cake, and a harrowing climactic burning at the stake for one sympathetic character which left many unprepared viewers shell-shocked. The end result would actually make a perfect double bill with Ken Russell's The Devils from the previous year, as they share very similar storyline trajectories, visual schemes, and pessimistic views on the poisonous relationship between politics and religion. In fact, this film is a perfect example of the mainstream fallout from the notoriously violent cinematic year of 1971, which found such brutal offerings as A Clockwork Orange, Straw Dogs and Macbeth invading theaters around the world. This one may not be as graphic, but this is easily the grittiest and most brutal "children's" film until it was eventually usurped by Dragonslayer.

Though it was widely distributed by Paramount, The Pied Piper only did marginal business and disappeared from circulation almost immediately. It rarely appeared on television and became known primarily through word of mouth, and a fleeting Japanese laserdisc release was its only home video edition for three decades. Nevertheless, public curiosity continued to mount as its director, Jacques Demy, underwent a significant critical reappraisal in the wake of a resoundingly successful restoration and theatrical rerelease of his most famous film, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. His subsequent French-language films like Young Girls of Rochefort, Lola, Bay of Angels, and his other major fairy tale adaptation, Donkey Skin, all found new generations of followers with the full participation of the late director's wife, director Agnes Varda. However, Demy's two English-language films, this one and 1969's experimental Model Shop, have had a more difficult time due to the lack of interest from their studio owners.

Paramount's aversion to sublicensing its films to other companies eventually took a welcome turn as it began shopping out its back catalog of unreleased titles, with Legend Films snagging some key cult films to be issued in brand new anamorphic transfers. Incredibly, The Pied Piper was one of the first to make it out of the gate, and the results are quite satisfying all around in terms of the presentation. The DVD itself is bare bones (a shame as Varda and Donovan have both supported the film in recent years), but the transfer looks terrific (though the opening titles have always had a dupey-looking quality-don't let those first three minutes fool you). Decent repertory prints have been difficult to come by, but Paramount finally struck a much-needed new one for limited showings in 2007, which appears to be the same source used here. Demy's trademark aesthetic concerns are still in evidence here, from the integration of songs into the narrative to the bittersweet and ultimately unrequited romance at its core which forms the basis of the haunting final shots. The mono soundtrack sounds clear and solid overall, making one also pine for a soundtrack release which sadly never came. Still, as this unexpected and richly rewarding DVD release proves, anything is still possible. For more information about The Pied Piper, visit Legend Films. To order The Pied Piper, go to TCM Shopping

by Nathaniel Thompson
The Pied Piper - Donovan In Jacques Demy's 1972 Version Of The Pied Piper On Dvd

The Pied Piper - Donovan in Jacques Demy's 1972 Version of THE PIED PIPER on DVD

In the small medieval German town of Hamelin, the threat of a nearby plague terrifies the populace, particularly the dominant forces of the Catholic church. A traveling troupe of actors arrives at the barricaded town, which allows them in only after one of their party, a vagabond piper (Donovan), revives the mayor's ailing daughter, Lisa (Cathryn Harrison), with a song heard through her bedroom window. However, their troubles are only beginning as the sniveling burgomeister (Donald Pleasence) and his corrupt and irresponsible military-aspiring son Franz (Jon Hurt) perform underhanded deals with the church to establish a papal-sanctioned war and a completely indulgent church based out of the town. On the other side of the moral spectrum, alchemist Melius (Michael Hordern) and his artistic, crippled young assistant, Gavin (Jack Wild), become friendly with the actors. Gavin is nursing a crush on Lisa, who, despite having yet to reach adolescence, is engaged to marry Franz. When Lisa's doomed wedding arrives and the eventual influx of infected rats arrives, the powers that be arrange an unusual bargain with the piper which, as all fairy tale lovers know, is destined to end on a very melancholy note. Though ostensibly marketed to family audiences with a G rating, The Pied Piper is an uncharacteristically grim and brutal offering from Goodtimes Enterprises, a UK-based production company during the 1970s whose films like Performance, Lisztomania, and That'll Be the Day were largely conceived as star vehicles for music performers. The big name in this particular film is Donovan, a Scottish folk-pop singer best known for 1960s standards like "Hurdy Gurdy Man," "Atlantis," and "Sunshine Superman." His presence in the film is something of a sticking point for many modern viewers, but in fact the small numbers of spare, haunting ditties he performs in the film work well with the period setting, and while he'll never be confused with a master thespian, he acquits himself well enough with his one-dimensional role. The real acting demands rest with the British pros like Pleasence, Hurt, and Hordern, who chew into their meaty roles with gusto. The dark undertones of the original story (made famous by the likes of the Brothers Grimm and Robert Browning), essentially a metaphor for the loss of multiple children to a disease epidemic or tragic accident (elaborated upon most tantalizingly in Atom Egoyan's The Sweet Hereafter), are certainly not sugarcoated in this version, which presents unflinching depictions of the ravages of the plague, a horrific wedding banquet scene with hordes of rats bursting from a grandiose wedding cake, and a harrowing climactic burning at the stake for one sympathetic character which left many unprepared viewers shell-shocked. The end result would actually make a perfect double bill with Ken Russell's The Devils from the previous year, as they share very similar storyline trajectories, visual schemes, and pessimistic views on the poisonous relationship between politics and religion. In fact, this film is a perfect example of the mainstream fallout from the notoriously violent cinematic year of 1971, which found such brutal offerings as A Clockwork Orange, Straw Dogs and Macbeth invading theaters around the world. This one may not be as graphic, but this is easily the grittiest and most brutal "children's" film until it was eventually usurped by Dragonslayer. Though it was widely distributed by Paramount, The Pied Piper only did marginal business and disappeared from circulation almost immediately. It rarely appeared on television and became known primarily through word of mouth, and a fleeting Japanese laserdisc release was its only home video edition for three decades. Nevertheless, public curiosity continued to mount as its director, Jacques Demy, underwent a significant critical reappraisal in the wake of a resoundingly successful restoration and theatrical rerelease of his most famous film, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. His subsequent French-language films like Young Girls of Rochefort, Lola, Bay of Angels, and his other major fairy tale adaptation, Donkey Skin, all found new generations of followers with the full participation of the late director's wife, director Agnes Varda. However, Demy's two English-language films, this one and 1969's experimental Model Shop, have had a more difficult time due to the lack of interest from their studio owners. Paramount's aversion to sublicensing its films to other companies eventually took a welcome turn as it began shopping out its back catalog of unreleased titles, with Legend Films snagging some key cult films to be issued in brand new anamorphic transfers. Incredibly, The Pied Piper was one of the first to make it out of the gate, and the results are quite satisfying all around in terms of the presentation. The DVD itself is bare bones (a shame as Varda and Donovan have both supported the film in recent years), but the transfer looks terrific (though the opening titles have always had a dupey-looking quality-don't let those first three minutes fool you). Decent repertory prints have been difficult to come by, but Paramount finally struck a much-needed new one for limited showings in 2007, which appears to be the same source used here. Demy's trademark aesthetic concerns are still in evidence here, from the integration of songs into the narrative to the bittersweet and ultimately unrequited romance at its core which forms the basis of the haunting final shots. The mono soundtrack sounds clear and solid overall, making one also pine for a soundtrack release which sadly never came. Still, as this unexpected and richly rewarding DVD release proves, anything is still possible. For more information about The Pied Piper, visit Legend Films. To order The Pied Piper, go to TCM Shopping by Nathaniel Thompson

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The credits above were taken from a cutting continuity contained in the file for the film at the AMPAS Library. Before the title, a written statement reads: "Northern Germany/Noon-Midsummer Day-1349/Year of the Black Death." This is followed by the logo for Sagittarius Productions and "A Goodtimes Enterprises Film." The names of four of the actors appear above the title, ending "with Donovan as The Pied Piper." The end credits, which list the actors in order of appearance, have Donovan's character simply as "Piper." After the film, a written statement appears, stating that the Black Death ended four years later, but that the religious persecution continued "until this century." The statement ends with a brief excerpt from the 1888 poem, The Pied Piper of Hamelin by Robert Browning. The cast's ending credits are listed in order of appearance.
       A November 1970 Variety news item reported that Sagittarius Productions, Inc. had announced plans to produce a story about the Pied Piper in association with Goodtimes Enterprises, which would star popular singer Donovan. Although the British company The Hemdale Group was not involved in the final film, a December 1970 Variety news item reported that they had, at that time, plans to co-produce the Pied Piper story with Sagittarius. A June 1971 Variety news item reported that Studio Hamburg was involved in the film's production. According to the Variety review and other contemporary sources, exteriors for The Pied Piper were shot in Rothenburg, West Germany, with interiors shot in London at Lee International Studios. June and July 1971 Variety news items reported that director Jacques Demy had two hundred live rats brought to Rothenburg from London, at the cost of $7,000, and had 2,000 more made of pasteboard. The Pied Piper marked the feature film debuts of Donovan and Cathryn Harrison, the daughter of actor-singer Noel Harrison and granddaughter of actor Rex Harrison.
       Several reviews noted that the film was too dark for a children's story and the Films & Filming review reported that the character of the piper was reduced in importance in this telling of the tale. The Daily Variety review mentioned that the tale contained an anti-clerical theme and Filmfacts described the film as an "allegory with strong contemporary parallels."
       Among other films based on the Pied Piper tale are the 1903 Selig Polyscope Co. production Pied Piper of Hamlin; the 1908 Clarendon Film Co. production Pied Piper of Hamelin, which was directed by Percy Stow; and the 1961 Hal Stanley Productions release, The Pied Piper of Hamelin, which was directed by Bretaigne Windust and starred Van Johnson (see entries below). The 1942 Twentieth Century-Fox production The Pied Piper, was based on a novel by Nevil Shute, in which an Englishman leads children to safety during World War II, and only vaguely inspired by the fable. Several animated films were based on Browning's poem and the old story, among them, a black-and-white silent cartoon by animator Walter Lantz, which was released in 1924; a thirty-minute 1981 British animation, The Pied Piper of Hamelin, which featured actor Robert Hardy as narrator; an eight-minute cartoon The Pied Piper produced by Walt Disney and released in 1933; and a television special, It's the Pied Piper, Charlie Brown, which featured cartoon characters created by Charles M. Schulz and aired in September 2000.


Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1972

Film was made for UNICEF.

Released in United States 1972