Stars: Christel Bodenstein, Charles Hans Vogt, Eckart Dux
A brave prince wants to win the heart of a stubborn princess by finding the singing, ringing tree for her. He finally locates it in the realm of an evil dwarf who offers him a deal, he can keep the tree if it starts singing before sundown, which it will only do if the princess truly loves him. Otherwise, he will be turned into a bear.
I remember watching this film as a youngling on Channel 4 one morning (when telly used to be good, remember Cities of Gold?) and thinking, “Why are they showing horror films at this time?” It’s not a horror of course, it’s supposed to be a children’s fantasy tale based on the Brothers Grimm story, and it’s a fairly pleasant watch too up until the afforementioned evil dwarf pops up, when all of a sudden you realise that bed time is going to be a bit of an ordeal for the next few months. I’ve met quite a few people who saw this back in the day and I always get the same reaction, it kind of scarred them for life. So I’m about to watch this for the first time in years to see if it still lives up to it’s notoriety after all the bondage and snuff that’s filled my head in recent times. Is Wicked Dwarf (as he’s billed) more mental than Ralphus from “Bloodsucking Freaks”? Midget wars!
First off we meet Handsome Prince (none of the main characters in this have actual names) who’s riding on a horse through some woods. It’s not a real wood, this whole thing is filmed in a sound stage in Germany with colourful sets which really add to the fantasy aspect, like in that Wizard film from 1939. He gets off his horse and decides to spend the whole night sleeping on a rock in the same position. He wakes up the next morning all refreshed, somehow without any neck or back pain, and sets back off on his journey through the woods. Where’s he off exactly? Well, he’s going to meet Aged King to sort out a marriage with the princess, but when he gets there and gives her a box of pearls, she empties them onto the floor and generally acts twattish. I guess that’s why she’s billed as Arrogant Princess. Remaining a twat, she then demands that the prince bring her the singing ringing tree, and only then can he court her. Amazingly, he agrees. Well, she is pretty fit I suppose.
So off he goes to search for the singing ringing tree, asking farmers and a woman known only as Herb Woman if they know where it grows. They don’t, and Herb Woman gets all ratty and basically tells him to piss off. Maybe he shouldn’t have just pulled up at her door shouting “Herb Woman!”. After this, Handsome Prince mopes around looking all sad until he comes to some foreboding steps leading up to a door in a rock. Think Castle Grayskull but without the massive grey skull. This is also the first appearance of Wicked Dwarf who grabs some branches and squats down pretending to be a little tree. It works as the prince walks right past him. Skillz. The prince walks through the door and ends up in a picturesque garden with a waterfall and lots of colourful trees as the dwarf follows him.
Wicked Dwarf finally makes his presence known and asks the prince what the hell he’s doing in his hood, so he tells him that he’s looking for the singing ringing tree. The dwarf says he’ll give it to him and makes it appear in his hand, but he also says that it will only sing if Arrogant Princess truly loves him, and if it doesn’t sing by sunset, then the prince will turn into a bear and become his prisoner. The bear thing was actually the prince’s suggestion. The prince is all, “Whatever” and tells him that once he’s brought Arrogant Princess the tree she’ll be all over him. Handsome Prince? More like Naive Prince. When he brings the tree back to the princess, she immediately complains about not hearing any singing or ringing, so he tells her that she has to love him first to which she reacts badly. She calls him a liar and a bastard, well, a liar anyway and asks how dare he make demands of her. She then tells the king to throw him in the tower. Twat. Sexy twat. The prince mopes off once more.
Later on, the princess is still kicking off about the whole prince thing and then pussy whips the king into going after him and bringing her back the singing ringing tree. The king reluctantly agrees because he has no balls, a bit like the prince. It’s only the princess, the dwarf and Herb Woman that have shown any up to this point. The prince heads back to Dwarvesville, but on arrival, he clocks that the sun is just about to set and he immediately turns into what can only be described as a low rent Bungle from Rainbow with the face of the original 1941 Wolf Man. This makes him feel even sadder and he continues with his moping until Wicked Dwarf pops up and turns his horse to stone for no apparent reason. The prince kind of ignores this and goes after the dwarf shouting that he decieved him. The dwarf, quite rightly, points out that it’s not his fault that the princess didn’t immediately fall in love with him, he surely noticed that she’s a complete twat, and that the bear thing was the prince’s idea anyway. He then tells him that he can keep the tree in case it sings in the future, and if it does sing here in Fairyland, then the bear spell will be broken. Sounds fair to me, but the prince is all, “To hell with the tree”. There’s no helping some people.
It’s got to be said that they packed a lot into those first twenty minutes. Aged King comes along at this point and finds the tree on the floor, but Bear Prince is hiding behind the stone horse, watching. He runs out and the king shits himself, telling the bear he can have his kingdom if he doesn’t hurt him. Henry V this king aint. Bear Prince tells him that he can have the tree if he can have the first thing that the king meets on his return, and that he’ll pick it up at midnight. The kings like, “Fine yeah, just don’t hit my face” and flees with the tree. By “first thing you meet” I’m guessing he means the princess? Anyway, speak of the devil, Arrogant Princess is up in the tower looking out for her father and ball-aching some servant wench. I think we’re supposed to dislike the princess at this point, but she’s the most entertaining thing in it, like a sexy, German Veruca Salt. A load of birds randomly attack her and she makes the servant throw them all out of the window, then she asks if they’ve all gone, and when the servant says, “Yes”, she tells her to shut up. The best.
On the kings return to the castle, of course the first thing he meets is the princess who comes running down the steps, grabbing the tree. I think the king was hoping to meet his guard dog first to give to the bear, but Arrogant Princess literally kicked it out of the way. So Aged King is obviously disappointed by this turn of events and tells the princess she’s in grave danger as he orders more guards to secure the castle gates. Surely he could have just blagged the bear that he met the dog first? Well, he tells his daughter all about it so she gets him to send the captain of the guards out to kill the bear, which he agrees to, but fails miserably as Bear Prince just grabs him and hooks him to a tree like a coat. He then asks him who it was that the king met first and he blabs it was the princess. If he’s the captain of the guards, then bloody Herb Woman could take over that castle. Bear Prince heads towards the matte painting of the castle in the distance.
The next morning the princess is all pissy because the tree isn’t singing, so she decides to plant it in the garden where she can be kidnapped by bears. She decides to plant it in a fountain that’s home to a load of goldfish, which she orders the servant to get rid of, so she does by draining the fountain and putting the fish in her massive skirt. After planting the tree, she walks around it demanding it starts singing, but Bear Prince grabs her and smashes through a wall. As the guards start to chase him, he knocks over a tree to block their path. For some reason he’s decided to live in Fairyland, so he takes her there as the creepy dwarf looks on from up on the wall, giggling. They stop near the lake with the waterfall and a massive goldfish appears out of the water for no other reason than to give small children nightmares. What follows is the “I am the princess” montage, where she basically starts demanding her silver bathtub, golden plates and silk sheets, and Bear Prince replies with, “Bathe in the lake”, “Pick some berries” and “Sleep on the moss”, to which the princess always replies, “How dare you! I am the princess!” Oh yeah, the dwarf is listening to all this in little holes in the floor and stuff, generally being creepy.
After the princess throws rocks at some birds because they wouldn’t fly from a tree and eat berries from her hands, Bear Prince tells her that the animals aren’t arsed about her beauty because they sense how arrogant she is. He goes on to tell her that if she looked like she acted, then she’d basically look like a witch, to which she replies that she’s not arsed, she’ll look that way then. On hearing this, the voyeuristic dwarf does a little spell and turns the princess into an ugly witch. Thing is, I’d still do her. Anyway, she cops on to her hair being green, so then runs to the lake to look at her reflection where she starts twatting the water, screaming how she can’t be ugly. You’re not, love, you’ve just got green hair and a pointier nose now. Bear Prince starts building a cave for them to live in and the princess helps him because now that she’s not as beautiful, she’s not a twat anymore. Good times. A non specific amount of time passes and the cave is ready to live in. They’ve actually done a fantastic job as it looks like a room from the castle. All the time Wicked Dwarf is looking on non-plussed.
Witch Princess heads off to pick some berries, and when she fills her bowl, the dwarf picks a long plant in the shape of a cone and blows through it causing a massive gust of wind to knock her down. In doing this, he brings down a pigeon which breaks it’s wing. The princess picks it up and takes it back to the cave where she rips off some of her dress and uses it as a bandage which she wraps around the bird. Upon doing this, all the pigeons in the land appear at the entrance of the cave and so she kisses one and tells it that she’ll never harm them again like the ones in the tower. All of a sudden her nose goes back to it’s normal size. The dwarf is really messing up now as later the princess is washing her hands in the lake and the big terrifying fish comes along, so he freezes the water, waterfall and all, but she heads over to the fish and twats the ice surrounding it with her shoe thus freeing it and saving it’s life. After telling it that she’ll never harm another fish like the ones in the fountain ever again, she becomes even less ugly. I don’t really know why, I think she’s just wearing sexy red lipstick all of a sudden. Bear Prince notices this and tells her that good deeds are stronger than evil dwarf spells.
One more good deed should do the trick then, and of course, Wicked dwarf messes up again and gives the princess the perfect opportunity to do just that. She’s gathering moss now next to a random horse that seems to be dressed as a deer in a ditch, and the dwarf is watching from on top of a cliff. He decides to kill the horse/deer by making it snow loads and trapping it in the ditch, but the princess is having none of it. She runs and gets Bear Prince to help her rescue it, and as they do so, she tells it that she’ll never kick another dog again. Even though she says this to a horse-deer hybrid, it counts and she goes back to being fully beautiful again. Yeah, she does look better this way. Anyway, Wicked Dwarf is seething at this outcome and as the previously injured pigeon flies from the cave past him, he shakes his fist at it. Time for plan g. He destroys the cave then hides behind a bit of rubble as the princess arrives back. He tells her that he saw the bear do it and that he’ll kill them both if they don’t leave at once. Reluctantly, the now fully kind-hearted princess follows the dwarf out of Fairyland.
As they head through the Castle Grayskull door, the dwarf tells the princess that he has a message from her father and that he’s on his deathbed. She runs towards the castle and when she arrives, she finds the throne empty and the captain sitting on the steps. For some reason he doesn’t recognise her and he tells her that it’s a time of mourning, so she becomes really upset and asks why. He answers that it’s because the princess has been kidnapped and that the king and his people have been looking for her for a year. Wow, it’s been that long? I guess the cave house took a fair while to get so snazzy looking. The princess becomes all happy after realising that the dwarf was lying about the king, and then realises that he must have been lying about the bear too. At this, she hears a singing and a ringing and runs out into the garden to see the tree shaking about like the singing bush from The Three Amigos. It’s finally at this point that she realises that the bear was in fact Handsome Prince all along and decides to bring the tree to Fairyland to break the evil dwarf’s spell.
Next we see a very sad scene where Bear Prince is crying after finding out that the princess has left Fairyland. He then heads back through the Castle Grayskull door and the bridge leading to it suddenly collapses. Cut back to the princess heading towards the matte painting that represents Fairyland with the tree. Wicked Dwarf spots her in the distance and makes a tall, long, thorny bush appear across her path. She tries to move the branches with her hands, but comes out with stigmata looking cuts. All hope looks lost until, out of nowhere, horse/deer appears and she jumps on its back and it flies over the bush. It’s plan r now for the dwarf as he kicks out a stone in the wall he’s standing on and a great flow of water comes out flooding the place. You know what happens next, I’m already wondering how the bloody pigeons help her out. So after she rides the giant goldfish to the entrance, she spots the dwarf and calls him a filthy liar. He reacts to this by making all the water disappear, thus trapping the princess and the fish at the bottom of the moat. So yeah, after the pigeons fly down and save her (they just leave the fish), she heads through the door and confronts the dwarf who manages to grab the tree from her and run off with it. Doh!
He places it in the ground and creates a ring of fire around it. He also starts flying around it creepily for no other reason than to scar you for life. All of a sudden however, the tree starts singing, the fire disappears and the dwarf gets sucked into the ground as the princess looks on sexually, I mean, happily. Bear Prince soon comes on the scene and it’s not long before he turns back into Handsome Prince. Oh, and that horse that got turned into stone that I’d completely forgot about walks into shot. Good days. They decide to leave the tree where it is so that someone can find it and it can bring them luck. It could be you. They head off into the painted distance and live happily for ten years, until they were both murdered as they slept by Herb Woman, who never forgot the insult that Handsome Prince threw at her that fateful night since when she’s been training in the art of stealth murder ever since, and the giant goldfish died of suffocation after five agonising hours. The end.
Well first off, I think it’s more creepily weird then actually scary. The part I remembered most from the first time I watched it was the ring of fire bit, that’s when I mistook it for a horror film. It’s not that bad really, there was just no need for the dwarf to be flying around like a little mental. I can see how it could affect some kids who weren’t used to seeing anything too scary or graphic during their upbringing, but I’d say to anyone who did shit themselves on the first watch to see it again and feel ashamed of their younger selves. Apart from all that nonsense, it’s a really enjoyable film. It’s very colourful, which is what I need right now, and I think Christel Bodenstein’s performance as the princess, going from arrogant and nasty, to sweet and caring is quite excellent, and it’s not just because she’s a total box of sexiness, but it always helps. For me, this is certainly up there with “The Wizard of Oz” and “Babes in Toyland” (the original 1934 version of course) as one of the best children’s sound stage films of all time, and for personal nostalgia reasons, it might even surpass them both. Cheers.