The Bremen Town Musicians
With: Christa Welzmüller (the Cat), Toni Mang (the Rooster), Peter Brand (“Captain”, a Robber), Peter Thom (the Donkey), Max Bössl (the Hound)
(1965) Childhood Productions 67 minutes (November release)
National Screen Service #65-279
Music and Lyrics: Anne & Milton Delugg
Orchestrations: George Brackman
Musical Director: Lehman Engel
Narrated by Paul Tripp
This most curious, and obscure Childhood Productions release features protagonists in animal costumes, not unlike next year’s wild and wooly THE BIG BAD WOLF. The costumes boast interesting, quasi-realistic animal heads, in the Donkey’s case with a moving mouth. The effect of these theatrical creatures interacting with human actors is surrealistic, to say the least, and may be seen as either quite fantastic, or thoroughly unbelievable, depending on your approach to the film.
The film offers a noble (and somewhat radical) “animal rights” agenda in a fairy tale setting, as our four heroes are forced to find independence when faced with severe abuse, or even death, from their ignorant human masters.
The film is visually pleasant, using a liberal mixture of woodland exteriors and fanciful, well-crafted interior settings, a Schonger Films trademark.
The animals’ masters are, to a man, lazy, opportunistic entrepreneurs who exploit their slave labor mercilessly, yet take all the credit, monetary and otherwise. This is surely a negative portrayal of small business!
The creepy, grotesque robbers (Snip, Snap, Snoop and “the Captain”) which our heroes encounter are another strange example of small business gone awry, causing more destruction than harmony, and adding nothing to the economy.
The Donkey is a banjo player who, faced with extinction, takes his instrument and leaves. The Dog is likewise abused by a farmer, and actually attacks his master, before running off with a string of sausages. Suzy the cat, in her cute little Gingham dress, is threatened with death for not catching mice (!), so certainly she escapes at the earliest opportunity. The Rooster is scheduled for dinner, were it not for the intervention of his new-found friends.
There is one unusual, quasi-erotic scene in the General Store segment, in which a brassy young woman comes in and suffers a mouse attack. First, she flashes her breasts quickly at the camera, and then we get a close-up of sexy stockinged legs in motion. There is no nudity in this scene, but far more suggestive action and motion than we are used to seeing in a sterile fairy tale setting.
The animals all fancy themselves musicians, and intend to go to Bremen and get hired as “town musicians”. However, Evil intervenes, and a good portion of the film consists of a somewhat tedious, multi-tiered battle of wits between the animals and the robbers for possession of a house which was abandoned to begin with. This serio-comic territorial conflict or turf war, illustrates well the attraction of opposites, as the worst of humanity matches wits with the best in animal nature.
It is significant that the animals win over the base humans by attacking their Achilles’ heel, their faulty reason, in the form of their superstitions. Base humans believe in ghosts and spirits (i.e., religion), and will thus be eternally vulnerable in this weakest spot of their intellect and psyche.
Alternately, the animals use a high level of unclouded reason to survive the day, showing an impressive intellectual evolution on their part. They have learned that “dumb brawn” aside, survival is primarily an intellectual process.
It is also telling that the animals decide, at film’s end, not to continue to Bremen, but to stay together in their little home, and make sweet music for each other. Apparently, they have rightly decided that humanity is not fit company for anyone!
The English language version features unusually cartoonish dubbed voices, especially for the dog and the robbers, and only one memorable song, used several times throughout: (“A Musician”). Paul Tripp narrates sparingly.
A soundtrack album of the Anne & Milton Delugg score, along with much of the dubbed soundtrack, narrated by Paul Tripp, was released on Golden Records.
THE BREMEN TOWN MUSICIANS was shown theatrically in the U.S. on a double bill with the equally delightful Schonger Films version of HANSEL AND GRETEL.
THE BREMEN TOWN MUSICIANS remains very hard to find, having been released on home video in the U.S. only once, in 1988, in what was surely a limited release. The original German version is easier to obtain, on PAL video, from European video outlets.
Special Restored edition! DVD-R comes packaged as shown in color DVD case, wrapped in plastic!