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The Pied Piper

4.1 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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(Jul 01, 2008)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

The Pied Piper is director Jacques Demy's masterful retelling of the classic children's tale. Set in the Middle Ages, the divided town of Hamelin tries in vain to rid itself of the black plague. When a mysterious musician arrives (played by music legend Donovan), can the townspeople put aside their personal agendas to rid themselves of their rat infestation? Or will the petty and greedy town leaders, led by the sublimely creepy Donald Pleasence, attempt to take advantage of their savior? With great music and spectacular costumes and sets, The Pied Piper is a fascinating take on a familiar legend.


French director Jacques Demy s The Pied Piper is an early 1970s adaptation of the Grimm fairy tale, filmed in Germany with a mostly British cast. A dark yet sometimes droll and allegoric mix of fantasy, horror, religion and politics set during the dark ages, the film has been largely unseen since it aired on the USA Network (that s right, they used to show stuff like this back in the day) in the 1980s. [...]

In Germany during the summer of 1349, the plague (aka Black Death ) is sweeping the countryside and claiming many victims as a disease spread by rats. A young gypsy (Keith Buckley, Dr. Phibes Rises Again) is traveling by wagon to the town of Hamelin with his family of actors. Along the way, they run into a friendly Pied Piper (Donovan) who joins their group, and ultimately earns them entrance into the town when he sooths the ill Burgomaster s daughter Lisa (Cathryn Harrison) with his music. Lisa (who is 11 years old) is about to marry power-hungry Franz (John Hurt), whose father, the Baron (Donald Pleasence), is mainly concerned with financing the building of a cathedral. While the wedding is being prepared, black rats carrying the plague have invaded Hamelin, and even though wise old Alchemist Melius (Michael Hordern) is trying to use a scientific approach to the problem, he is thrown into a dungeon cell. Is the mystical Pied Piper the only soul capable of freeing the town of its rat infestation?

When Paramount first released The Pied Piper in 1972, its theatrical run was very limited and it has remained fairly obscure to this day, even to those who follow director Demy s career. While it s certainly not a perfect film, it s very good one at the least, retelling the Grimm Brothers tale fairly faithfully with cinematic style and a satirical distaste for religious and political hypocrisy. Although the film got away with a G rating in the U.S., the opening minutes show a couple of skeletal corpses being ravished by rats (apparently they were trained, and none are shown being abused or actually attacking anyone), and forcing an adolescent girl to be married, as well as a climatic burning at the stake of one of the main characters, don t exactly fit the mold of a children s film. It s all done rather tastefully though, and this could be deemed a fairytale for adults and children alike. [...]

As the Pied Piper, 1960s folk rock icon Donovan is well cast, and he even gets to sing and strum some pleasant tunes on his guitar. He seems a little distant (I guess that s the point, as he's an ambiguous stranger in town) and plays it low key, but always gives the impression that the character is enlightened and has the upper hand over a mostly doomed community. The late Jack Wild [...] plays the lame boy Gavin, though he was pushing 20 at the time. Michael Hordern is great as the Jewish alchemist disparaged by the church despite his sensible ways.. [...] John Hurt (still years before he found worldwide accolades from Alien and The Elephant Man) stands out as the nasty Franz, and as his father, Donald Pleasence s character is underdeveloped but he s still great to watch.

As mentioned before, The Pied Piper has never been released on home video in the U.S. until now, and although it is a barebones affair, this DVD is still cause for celebration. The film has been presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement, and framing looks good throughout. Aside from some minor speckling here and there, the print source is very clean and detail is crisp. Although the film was shot with a primarily drab look, the colors shine here, especially the red robes of the Bishop and his cohorts, and all in all, this is an excellent transfer. The mono English audio is also well rendered, and although there are no subtitle options, the disc is close captioned. --George R. Reis of DVDDrive-In.com

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Donovan, Jack Wild, Donald Pleasence, John Hurt
  • Directors: Jacques Demy
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Full Screen, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: G (General Audience)
  • Studio: Legend Films
  • DVD Release Date: July 1, 2008
  • Run Time: 91 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0019UGYD2
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #91,550 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Pied Piper" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
First, I would like to say that this movie has a 'British' rating of G. Their ratings are a bit different than American and this movie may be a bit off-putting for younger children (there is a seen where rats have eaten the faces of some people in a cottage and a burning - not graphic - at the stake).
But the important thing about this movie, is that is really a great retelling of The Pied Piper. Although, the acting is surprisingly stiff considering the calibur of actors, the scenes are realistic for the times. Filmed in Germany, itself, the countryside is gorgeous. The costumes are really funny, especially the hats!!
Donovan does two really pretty songs, but this is not a musical by any means. He plays a small role, even though he is the Pied Piper (and he plays a real guitar instead of lute). Jack Wild does the best acting job (a very underrated actor). He plays the crippled boy who is left behind. But unlike the written version, where the boy is crying "wait for me!", Jack's character is on the verge of becoming a man and realizes that he has a new life ahead of him and accepts being left behind.
Unless you know the real story, it is not really clear why the Piper takes all the children and it ends without the adults realizing the children are even gone.
This is a more adult-centered version of 'The Pied Piper', and the story and the color are well worth the price, even if only for the historical value of a young Donovan, the late Jack Wild and a celebration of the 70s!
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Not what you'd expect, this movie comes off as something between "The Seventh Seal" and "Monty Python & the Holy Grail". And that's a good thing! Perhaps the strangest 'children's movie', with a grim and cold style, moments of horror, a distant and creepy Donovan floating through the movie not being the nicest singer in the world, not to mention the dirt, filth and grime. Add the Plague, a child bride, and one of the good guys getting burned at the stake - not to mention a very ambiguous ending - and it would be a rare child indeed who wouldn't be traumatized by this film.

However, if you've ever read 'The Brother's Grim', you might recognize the authenticity. This ain't no Disney version! There are some great actors involved, especially Donald Pleasant and Michael Hordern. Even Donovan has the right 'vibe' for the story. The whole thing has an early 70's feel, where anything can happen, and to some degree it does.

This is much better than "The Model Shop". I suspect the director was more comfortable in medieval Germany than in hip Los Angeles. Add great costumes, good songs, and excellent acting, and you get a pretty unique experience. If you are up for something a little different - something that certainly could never be made today, with no happy ending - this movie could be very entertaining and memorable
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Donovan has said he had a hard time working on this film, he had little interaction with the director, etc. It was his only major starring role in a film (he had previously appeared in a cameo role in If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium
In response to it not being a musical or a children's film, it was originally intended as a children's film (according to Maltin) and Donovan did write five or so songs and had he written seven it would have been a musical. He does a beautiful rendition of "Sailing Homeward" (here retitled "Riding Homeward" written a year earlier for his Open Road documentary) It is a crime that Donovan didn't release a soundtrack for this nor Brother Sun Sister Moon released two years later. Not a bad film, although I brought it just to see Donovan.
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Jacques Demy's The Pied Piper is neither musical (though there are three songs) nor children's film, more an almost resigned fable about the foibles of human nature. The Piper isn't even the main character. Rather it's an ensemble piece, with the town of Hamelin, with all its pettiness and everyday corruptions, that takes centerstage. It's the kind of film that could only have been made in the 70s, set in a vividly realised medieval world that at times threatens to make Monty Python and the Holy Grail look glamorised, though it doesn't revel in the filth or the grotesque. Aside from the travelling players, almost everyone is out for whatever they can get - even Donovan's piper, for all his hippie folkie songs (and there are only three of them) wants a thousand gilders for a spot of pest control he knows won't prevent the plague from coming to Hamelin, while Donald Pleasance's baron won't pay up because he's bankrupting himself buying his way out of Hell by building a cathedral for the Church. The Church would much rather he provided them with troops for another civil war ("The Pope wants a new emperor because the emperor wants a new Pope."). Even the nominal love interest is far from a Disney princess, but the Burgomaster's bored young daughter bartered to the baron's callous son (John Hurt) for political power by her father (Roy Kinnear) and for a bit of adultery with the husband-to-be by her mother (Diana Dors). It's not so much a portrait of superstition versus reason as one of superstition versus superstition with the hint of the seed of reason that may take generations to flower: as Michael Hordern's Jewish alchemist tells his inquisitors, where once he had hoped the world would learn from his discoveries, now he can only hope the world learns from their mistakes.Read more ›
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