Die Bremer Stadtmusikanten (The Bremen Town Musicians)by Matthew Revert on May 3, 2012 • 9:46 pm No Comments
This is a strange post this evening. My internet has been capped and I can’t even stream the movie in question to verify the horrific memories I have of it. I do have memories surrounding how I saw this film, and in lieu of any deep analysis of the content itself, I’ll share that instead. In our youth, my friend and I made it a mission to see as many bad movies as possible. I’m not sure why, but scouring the video shops of our youth for putrid entertainment really seemed to tickle our fancies. The night we saw ‘The Bremen Town Musicians’ was the same day we first saw ‘I Spit on Your Grave’. To say this was an odd movie night would be an understatement. It was our custom to source oor terrible movies from the horror and action sections of the videostore, as it seemed logical to assume most of the truly awful films would reside there. On this particular trip, I had something resembling a brainwave. I reasoned that the children’s movie section would be rife for poorly made video entertainment, and in light of ‘The Bremen Town Musicians’, I was right. I remember the cheap-looking cover depicting people dressed in vaguely disturbing animal costumes. Their arms were linked in unity, but the frozen expressions of their poorly made animal heads suggested terror. I showed the cover to my friend and we both agreed that seeing this film must happen.
Here’s where everything starts to get a bit sketchy… I don’t remember the contents of the film at all. I know there were moral lessons within that didn’t seem exactly moral, and the characters themselves were infused with a sense of nastiness that never made me feel comfortable. What I really remember, more than anything else, was a feeling of dread as, for 70-minutes, we watched something unfold that we didn’t quite understand. The laughter that normally accompanied our bad movie nights was replaced with an awkward, increasingly uncomfortable silence. As ‘The Bremen Town Musicians’ ended, my friend and I exchanged the sort of glance that said, ‘let us never speak of this again’.
Having just performed a (very slow) internet search, I have come to learn a little bit about ‘The Bremen Town Musicians’. As I’m sure many are aware (I wasn’t), this is a famous folktale by The Brothers Grimm. I’m actually a little surprised that I was so unaware of this folktale as its impact on culture has been rather pronounced. Wikipedia explains more:
The tale has been retold through animated pictures, motion pictures (often musicals) and theatre plays. Jim Henson produced a version with his Muppets called The Muppet Musicians of Bremen. In the Soviet Union, the story was loosely adapted into an animated musical in 1969 by Yuri Entin and Vasily Livanov at the studioSoyuzmultfilm, Town Musicians of Bremen. It was followed by a sequel called On the Trail of the Town Musicians of Bremen. In 2000, a second 56-minute sequel was made, called The New Bremen Musicians (Но́вые бре́менские, Novyye bremenskiye).
Carl Zuckmayer cites the tale in his 1931 play Der Hauptmann von Köpenick, particularly the line “We can find something better than death anywhere”, which becomes a key line for the last part of the plot.
In the mid-1960s, Tupper Saussy wrote a composition titled The Beast with Five Heads on a commission from the Nashville Symphony to teach schoolchildren aboutorchestration, intended as a substitute for Peter and the Wolf.
A persiflage of this tale can be found on the wall in the Fort Napoleon, Oostende, Belgium. Heinrich-Otto Pieper, a German soldier during World War I, painted the German and the Austro-Hungarian eagles throned on a rock, under the light of a Turkish crescent. They look with contempt on the futile efforts of the Town Musicians of Bremen to chase them away. These animals are symbols for the Allied Forces: on top the French cock, standing on the Japanese jackal, standing on the English bulldog, standing on the Russian bear. Italy is depicted as a twisting snake and Belgium a triciolored chafer. In the early 20th century, the American folk/swing/children’s musician Frank Luther popularized the same musical tale as the “Raggletaggletown Singers”, presented in children’s school music books and performed in children’s plays.
Richard Scarry wrote an adaptation of the story in his book Richard Scarry’s Animal Nursery Tales in 1975. In it, the donkey, dog, cat and rooster are all fully anthropomorphic (as is the case of all Richard Scarry characters), and set out since they are bored with farming.
On Cartoon Network in between cartoon breaks during the Out of Tune Toons marathon and on Cartoonetwork Video, there are cartoon shorts (called “Wedgies”) of an animal band based on the tale called “The Bremen Avenue Experience” featuring a cat (Jessica), dog (Simon), donkey (Barret) and rooster (Tanner). They are either a modern adaptation ofTown Musicians of Bremen or descendants of the old musicians of Bremen.
Hello Project‘s Mini Moni starred in a drama based on the fairy tale called Mini Moni.de Bremen no Ongakutai (Mini Moni’s Bremen Town Musicians). The drama goes backwards in time through three periods of Japanese history unveiling the story. The drama does not have much in common with the fairy tale.
In the anime Otogi-Jūshi Akazukin one of the main villains is named Randagio, who is based on the cat of the story as well as on Puss in Boots. He has three underlings that are based on the other three animals from the fairy tale and have a band named Breman.
Nippon Animation Co., Ltd. adapted the tale in the first episode of the anime TV series Grimm Meisaku Gekijou, released in English as Grimm’s Fairy Tale Classics. The four main characters are seen in the opening of the anime.
In the video game The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, the Bremen Mask is a reference to the Town Musicians of Bremen.
In the video game Kyuiin, the Town Musicians of Bremen are a boss fight with each animal having its own attack.
Bremen is also the title of a manga series by Haruto Umezawa about a four-member punk rock band, each member of which bears a physical resemblance to one of the four animals in the fairy tale.
During their Germany-themed event, Farmville offered a replica of the statue for purchase to decorate players’ farms.
The 1991 Sierra adventure game Mixed-Up Fairy Tales includes Bremen Town Musicians as one of the stories the player must correct.
In 1976, in Italy, Sergio Bardotti and Luis Enríquez Bacalov adapted the story into a musical play called I Musicanti, which two years later was translated into Portuguese by the Brazilian composer Chico Buarque. The musical play was called Os Saltimbancos, was later released as an album, and became one of the greatest classics for children in Brazil. This version was also made into a movie. In Spain, the story was made into an animated feature film in 1989, directed by Cruz Delgado.
In Germany and the United States, the story was adapted into an animated feature in 1997 under the title The Fearless Four (Die furchtlosen Vier), though it varied considerably from the source material. It starred James Ingram as Buster the dog, B.B King as Fred the donkey, Oleta Adams as Gwendolyn the cat and Zucchero Fornaciari as Tortellini the Rooster in the original English version.
Statues modeled after the Town Musicians of Bremen statue now reside in front of each of the five German veterinary schools. These statues were a gift.
I want to make it clear that the film we saw – the film that unnerved us so, while related to this storied history, is divorced from the history by virtue of it’s fucked-up-ed-ness. The film itself is German, which makes sense, and our version was very badly dubbed in English, which I’m sure contributed to its otherworldliness. What is perhaps most remarkable is not that this film is available on YouTube in its entirety, but that over 25,000 (mostly German) people have watched it. This messed up piece of cinema clearly meant something to a lot of people.
And so, I present to you, ‘The Bremen Town Musicians’ in full and in its original German. What’s more, there are no subtitles, so if you choose to watch it, be prepared not to understand what it is you’re watching. And with my internet connection what it currently is, I can’t even go in before you to make sure the coast is clear. All I have are my memories from that strange movie night in which we paired ‘The Bremen Town Musicians’ with ‘I Spit on Your Grave’ and found ‘I Spit on Your Grave’ less disturbing. Please enjoy, ‘The Bremen Town Musicians’.