The Singing Ringing Tree

The Singing Ringing Tree Bluray (Network, 2021).

Once upon a time, a prince journeyed many miles and for many days, to seek the hand of a beautiful princess in a far-off land. Then someone in East Germany made a film about it, and in 1964, the BBC bought that film and edited into a serial which would both transfix and traumatise several generations of younger viewers. This was The Singing Ringing Tree. Not that anyone who saw it would need reminding of that.

Originally intended as a bit of seasonal fun that also taught children about good socialist values, the adventures of The Princess and her treasured melodic shrub in an abstract, expressionist, nightmarish and psychedelic world of giant fish, superpowered horses and every imaginable variety of spinning camera lens was a very different prospect when sandwiched between Jackanory and Blue Peter with accidentally creepy cliffhangers, and it’s hardly surprising that The Singing Ringing Tree had such an enduring and mind-frazzling impact.

Now – if you dare – you can experience that mind-frazzling impact all over again with Network’s Blu-ray release of The Singing Ringing Tree, complete with Tony Bilbow’s original narration from the BBC adaptation. As well as looking better than ever before, the Blu-ray also comes with a book by me about the suitably strange story behind this very strange television serial. It’s a story that takes in The Magic Roundabout, Mark Radcliffe, Captain America: Civil War, Stone Clearing With Richard Herring and a KGB officer being hit with a handbag, and that’s before we’ve even got started on the fascinating circumstances in which it was made – literally ‘the past is a different country’ – and eventually bought by the BBC. I’ve also contributed some thoughts on just why children’s television got quite so sinister and spooky in the sixties and seventies – it’s all a lot more mundane than some would like to imagine – and in addition there are a couple of brilliant essays from Stephen Brotherstone and Dave Lawrence from Scarred For Life. Even if you’re still too scared to watch The Singing Ringing Tree itself, it’s worth getting just for this!

You can get The Singing Ringing Tree directly from Network here.

The Princess from The Singing Ringing Tree (DEFA, 1957).

Get The Singing Ringing Tree

You can get The Singing Ringing Tree directly from Network here.

Buy A Book!

You can find much more about the BBC’s dubbed imported children’s serials in Well At Least It’s Free, available in paperback here or from the Kindle Store here.

Further Reading

You’ve Got To Fight For What You Want is a feature on the story behind The Singing Ringing Tree‘s dubbed contemporary The Flashing Blade; you can find it here. Wrapped Up In Books takes a similar look at Belle And Sebastian, and you can find it here.

Must Be All This Talk Of Witches… is a feature looking at the unusual amount of Wiccan-types around in popular culture in the sixties, and children’s television in particular – including The Singing Ringing Tree. You can find it here.

Further Listening

Stephen Brotherstone and Dave Lawrence joined me on Looks Unfamiliar for a chat about The Lone Ranger by Quantum Jump, Roger Moore And The Crimefighters, 10-4 ActionPicturesDeus Ex Machina and a withdrawn Williams Furniture Superstore advert, which you can find here.

You can find further Looks Unfamiliar expeditions into the mysterious world of dubbed children’s serials with Andy Lewis on The Secret Of Steel City here and Martin Ruddock on The Legend Of Tim Tyler here.

© Tim Worthington.
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