and the Kids
(aka THE PIED PIPER, SVIRACHAT)
(1967, U.S./Bulgaria) color/Cinemascope 102/75/69 minutes
Brown-Fox-Boyana Films / Bulgarian State Films/ Childhood Productions
Screenplay: Mende Brown
Cinematography by Dimo Kolarov
Music: Tony Velone
Directed by Mende Brown
With: Emmett Kelly Jr. (the Piper), Burt Stratford (as “Robert Stratford”) (Mark), Katie Dunn (as “Kathy Dunn”) (Freny), Mikhail Mikhajlov (as “Michael Michealov”) (Scrag), Leo Conforti (Mayor), Bogomil Simeonov (Scrag’s assistant), Oleg Karvatchev (Billy)
DVDR comes packaged as shown in color DVD case, wwrapped in plastic!
This live-action remake of “The Pied Piper of Hamelin” is visually interesting, with handsome production values, spoken in the English language but filmed in Bulgaria, with locals filling in most of the peripheral parts.
Famous clown Emmett Kelly Jr. is sort of odd as the head of the traveling circus. Although professionally, he brings joy to kids via his clown persona, we never see him laugh nor smile in person, and he is consistantly mean and tyrannical to his daughter and son-in-law.
When circumstances dictate, he turns, somehow, into a supernatural Pied Piper character, with a silly hat, putty ears and nose. He then leads the sad kids of Scragsville to revolt and freedom.
The lead boy and girl, Kathy Dunn and “Bert Stratford,” are strange-looking newcomers, marginal actor-singers with big mouths. The villain Scrag is a hoot, a European curmudgeon who speaks his lines in phonetic pidgin English. He is determinedly indecipherable throughout.
The circus itself is extra-neat (although we do witness some questionable animal exploitation such as boxing bears and an elephant giving a man a shave). Kelly the Clown does some great bits, including trying to sweep away a clingy spotlight.
Add to this some affable production numbers by Tony Velona and a bundle of atmosphere, and you have one of the most pleasant and ultimately successful films that Childhood Productions released during their too-short reign as Kiddie Matinee kings.
The plot bears much similarity to Childhood Productions’ THE CHRISTMAS THAT ALMOST WASN’T, in which an evil businessman tries to deprive children of their greatest holiday. Both were produced in the U.S., and filmed in Europe, featuring at least one “name” talent from the States. One wonders if Childhood’s big 1966 Xmas hit was a prototype for this children’s fantasy.
Regardless, THE CLOWN AND THE KIDS is a pleasant low-budget morality tale with an infectious charm, a lighthearted romantic expression of emancipation and the sanctity of childhood.
The obscure but talented director, Mende Brown, also helmed two other Kiddie Matinee features, both hard to locate: LITTLE JUNGLE BOY (aka MAMAN), and JULES VERNE’S STRANGE HOLIDAY.