The Singing Ringing Tree (1957)
The original version of the Singing Ringing Tree ran for 73 minutes but we remember it cut into 3 parts, shown shortly before tea time on school nights in the early 1970's. We then think it made an appearance in the 1970s on Saturday morning television. According to the British Film Institute, it was made in 1957 in East Germany and was shown many times in the 60-70s on British TV. Although it was originally filmed in German, it had a monotone English voice over when transmitted on British television. The re-mastered version available comes with English subtitles as well as the audio track of the English 60s-70s version which was considered for a time to be lost somewhere in the archives.
The story concerns a beautiful but selfish and haughty princess who rejects the proposal of a wealthy prince. She scorns the gifts he offers her, and says that she will marry him only if he brings her the mythical "singing ringing tree". The prince locates the tree in the territory of an evil dwarf, who offers to give him the enchanted tree, on the understanding that, if the princess still rejects him, he will be in the dwarf's power and will be turned into a bear. Because the tree will only sing and ring when the princess falls in love with the prince, she is disappointed in it and continues to reject the prince. The prince is forced to return to the dwarf's lair and is turned into a bear.
The film was shot in color entirely in the studio in Potsdam, Brandenburg, East Germany. There was later confusion as to whether the actor who played the dwarf was named Richard Krüger and died in Strasbourg, or was Hermann Emmrich who died in 1995 and is buried in Prenzlau in north eastern Germany. It is now thought that they were one and the same person.
After its release in East Germany, it sold 5,901,141 tickets in the country. The film was then purchased by the BBC and cut into three parts to create a mini-series which was first broadcast on black and white television from 19 November 1964 to 3 December 1964 as part of Tales from Europe, with an English-language voice-over track (not dubbed, however, the original soundtrack was simply faded up and down). It was repeated many times through to 1980. In 1988 it was released on VHS video in Germany and it is now available on a DVD.