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THE PIED PIPER (1972)

Article 3031 by Dave Sindelar 
Viewing Date: 8-25-2009
Posting Date: 12-1-2009
Directed by Jacques Demy
Featuring Donovan, Donald Pleasence, Diana Dors
Country: UK / USA

In the year 1349, a traveling troupe of players picks up a musician and takes him to the city of Hamelin, where the villagers are engaged in building a cathedral and preparing for a wedding. When the town is overrun by rats, the piper offers to rid the town of the beasts for 1000 gilders. When he is not paid, he exacts revenge.

Now here is an audacious way to handle a fairy tale; rather than emphasizing the cuteness and whimsy, this one puts it in a historical context (the rats carry the black plague that was spreading through the country at that time), dovetails it with a tragic story of a well-meaning alchemist whose belief that the plague is a natural occurrence puts him at odds with the clergy and who is eventually charged with heresy, and places it all in an authentic milieu (the town is dirty and thoroughly medieval). It may be a fairy tale, but the mood is serious, dark and tragic, and it's very well acted by an excellent cast which includes Donald Pleasence, Roy Kinnear, Diana Dors, and John Hurt. Donovan is a good choice for the role of the piper, and he ends up meshing well with the ensemble acting of the cast. His music is a tad bit anachronistic, but this ends up being a very minor problem. I love the complexity of the story and the relationships as well. It's a little slow on occasions, especially in the middle of the movie, but it ends up having a real power to it, especially as the climax of the movie juxtaposes the familiar ending of the pied piper story with the tragic fate of the alchemist. All in all, I was quite impressed with this one.

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