(c1968), B/W, 70 minutes
Presented by K. Gordon Murray
Adaptation from the Fairy Tale by The Brothers Grimm
English Adaptation by Reuben Guberman (as “Rubin Guberman”)
Edited by J.R. Remy
Associate Producer: Sheldon M. Schermer
Assistant Director: Thomas Finucane
Script Clerk: Diana McAtee
Produced by K. Gorodn Murray
Directed by Reuben Guberman (as “Rubin Guberman”)
(1954), West Germany, B/W, 70 minutes
Executive Producer: Gerhard Franck (as “Gerhard Frank”)
Directed by Herbert B. Fredersdorf
Cinematography by Willi Kuhle
Music by Norbert Schultze
Cast: Georg Gutlich (Konig), Maria Hofen (Erste Hofdame), Peter Lehmbrock (Flitzo), Gunther Mehrholz (Bammel), Ottokar Runze (Konig Drosselbart), Eleonore Tappert(Zweite Marktfrau), Kurt Vespermann (Oberhofmeister), Alexa von Porembsky (Erste Marktfrau)
KING THRUSHBEARD is a most interesting fairy tale; a veritable neo-realist fantasy of the old school. Told in a completely straightforward (almost bleak) noir style, the film has a reality and presence, as well as an artfullness, which makes it highly engaging, in spite of obvious cultural and temporal impediments (i.e., being old and foreign).
One might even call KING THRUSHBEARD an OPEN CITY for kids.
The film has a tangible reality which evokes an authentic, “modern” chronicle of a distant, possibly mythical time. This, and not bland moralising-through-metaphor, is all a period film (and a fairy tale for that matter) can realistically hope for; that it evokes the invoked era structurally as well as aesthetically. Ideally, the resultant melodrama will be genuinely real, and arguably adult.
The story contains, surpirisingly, a good deal of extra-dry sexual humor, virtually the shadow of the overt sexual humor which is embedded in many children’s films today: double entendres and sexually-implicit suggestions, for the parents of the kids who dragged them to the movies.
Sadly, the film tells its tale in a highly verbal manner; much of the dramatic nuance is revealed through dialogue. This would likely be difficult for an action-oriented Western kid to absorb.
And who can say what a “modern” (circa 1969) kid, weaned on THE MONKEES and ROWAN & MARTIN’S LAUGH-IN and YELLOW SUBMARINE, would have thought about sitting through a creaky old foreign film, badly dubbed, in black and white, from almost a generation ago?
Nonetheless, KING THRUSHBEARD is a light and engaging bit of fantasy fluff, with a plot not unsimilar to THE PRINCESS AND THE SWINEHERD. Also, some lovely Bavarian settings, and rich costuming, make this a most compelling entry in the Murray fairy tale Wonder World.
* One of several German fairy tales purchased by Murray after he had depleted his store of highly successful Mexican fairy tales, KING THRUSHBEARD may, like its brethren, have been released directly to TV.
* An important note about the German fairy tales: Unlike the Mexian fantasy classics, the songs are left undubbed. They would imbue a cost and an effort Murray could not justify with the diminishing boxoffice returns of the fairy tales. Thus, the lowest production cost prevailed. This is why several of the German fary tales sport no opening credits nor end titles; also why two of them were released in the late 1960s, in obsolete black and white; indeed, why the marketing campaigns were so anemic, in comparison with the dynamic campaigns for the first eight Mexican fantasies.
* (06-28-04) Steve Burstein informs us that composer Norbert Schultze also composed the famous popular song “Lili Marlene”.
* (06-28-04) Harald Gruenberger of Germany informs us that Ottokar Runze, who played King Thrushbeard, never made his mark as an actor, but did some dubbing jobs in the 1950’s and 1960’s.