TALES FROM EUROPE AND BEYOND.

During the 1960’s as a child I saw many programs on the TV which were produced in Europe and some were dubbed into English others were in the language of the country that had produced them and a narrator told the story over the images, this was more prevalent in the series Tales from Europe, which had tales from all over the European continent and also from the Eastern European or Warsaw Pact countries as they were referred to at that time. Many of these tales had a strange and at times ghostly appearance which I suppose was to be expected as many were based upon Fairy Tales and Folklore, as in the DEFA East German production The Singing Ringing Tree (1957).

Which was more of a horror than a fairy tale, written in the style of the Brothers Grimm, and partly based upon their “Hurleburlebutz” the film which was serialized by the BBC was directed by Francesco Stefani and contained a score by composer Heinz-Friedel Heddenhausen who was born on August 8, 1910 in Langenhagen, Lower Saxony, Germany as Heinz-Friedrich Heddenhausen. As well as a composer he was also an actor, and is known for Philharmonic (1944), Ballade (1938) and  Hans im Gluck  (1936). In the 1960’s he scored a handful of movies and TV productions one of these being Acquittal for Old Shatterhand – A documentary about the trial of Karl May against Rudolf Lebius (1964). His music for The Singing Ringing Tree became an important and an integral part of the film, creating a magical and mysterious atmosphere throughout. He died on August 12, 1992. Tales from Europe, gave us an insight into the style of filmmaking outside of England and the United States, at times these tales would not really make a lot of sense but remained entertaining for “children of all ages. The series began in 1964 and ran for five years on and off until the latter part of 1969.

It opened with The Tinderbox from Germany, which was a three-part story, the series continued with Heidi from Switzerland and then came The Singing Ringing Tree, that was followed by the likes of The Boy and The Pelican from Russia. With films from Poland, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, The Netherlands, France, Hungary, Mongolia, Sweden, and Yugoslavia also being included. The initial reason for the BBC showing fairy tales from European and predominantly Communist countries at teatime in England at what was really the height of the cold war, was because there had been an upset at the BBC because they were unable to make children’s dramas of their own at the time, so they desperately needed something to plug the gaps as it were and it was thought that these tales would be suitable. The series included many traditional fairy tales such as Snow White as well as the stories that came out of Eastern European folklore. So basically, a mistake or a slightly misguided decision of the BBC turned into a runaway success for them and some of the tales were even repeated because they were so popular.  

There seemed to be an abundance of shows from France at this time as well, Belle and Sebastian, Desert Crusader, The White Horses, The Aeronauts and The Flashing Blade, and one of the most well known being The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, the latter was for myself and a handful of friends essential viewing and I remember getting home from school to watch it not even changing out of uniform. It is a weird thing also that it was the music for Robinson Crusoe,

The Flashing Blade and The White Horses theme sung by Jacky that have stayed with me forever. As soon as I hear the opening notes to any of the themes or songs, I recognize them straight away and I am taken back to the 1960’s and those black and white images on the BBC, Ok, they might have been in colour but we only had a black and white TV so they will be forever monochrome in my minds eye. The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, I remember a single being released in the UK as I had seen it in a record shop on the wall being displayed as the record of the week, the theme being on the A side and the track Adrift on the B side or flip side. That was the thing about the 1960’s there was such a variety of music being played on the radio and the TV too. The series was first aired in Germany in 1964, but it was screened as four ninety-minute episodes, the BBC however, thought that this would be too much for their audiences and decided that they would take the series and dissect it into thirty-minute episodes which they would show on a weekly basis. The BBC also stipulated that the original music by vintage French movie score composer Georges Van Parys should be removed from the series.

Van Parys had written the scores to many what are now considered classic French movies, but the BBC wanted a more melodic sounding work, which was eventually written by Italian born Gian Piero Reverberi and Ukrainian/American music mogul Robert Mellin and it is this haunting score that many associate with the series without even looking at any images on screen. It is not certain if Mellin actually wrote any music for the series as he was known at this time primarily as a music producer/publisher but he had been successful writing music and lyrics since the late 1950’s with many of his songs being recorded by the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and Louis Armstrong. He had also been credited on A Fistful of Dollars alongside Ennio Morricone, but again there is no evidence that he wrote a single note of music for this either.

The style employed within the series is however certainly something that we can associate with Reverberi on listening to some of his earlier and later works for both TV and cinema, the latter works being co-written with  his musical associate and brother Gianfranco Reverberi, which included a handful of Spaghetti westerns soundtracks from the mid to late 1960’s, the Italian western sound manifesting itself in tracks such as Smugglers and Scanning the Horizon/ flashback-Escapades in York. Gian Piero Reverberi also became associated with the popular orchestral performers Rondo Veneziano during the 1980’s acting as composer and arranger for them on a number of recordings. The orchestration and the style employed was refreshing with rich and romantic and adventurous sounding strings being combined with upbeat percussion, harpsichord and organ the many themes on the soundtrack soon becoming haunting and popular and firmly placed within the sub-conscious of any watching audience. Considering when the series was aired the music is quite modern and almost pop orientated in places. Silva Screen records in the UK released a CD of the score back in the late 1980’s originally and then re-issued the score in 1997 with a re-recorded suite performed by the Prague Symphony Orchestra included to flesh out the re-release but many felt that this was not required and added little to the attraction of the score, as it was already a firm favourite. The same label is now about to re-issue the score again with even more music that has been found from the series.

The compact disc will be available in July 2021, with striking new artwork as well as extra cues and greatly improved sound quality. There is an edition available on digital platforms, but I think it will be great to have this expanded version on compact disc. The score is filled with emotive, and poignant themes that become an essential part of the scenes involving the island on which Crusoe has made his home, the discovery of Friday’s footprints in the sand and accompany the realization that Cannibals use the island for sacrificing their victims, plus it underlines and supports the solitude experienced by Crusoe and punctuates the flashbacks and memories that he also has about his life before being marooned.  

The music is still as quirky, melodic, and attractive as it was back in 1965 when I first heard it, the rumbling percussion at the start of the score still making my stomach flutter in anticipation of what is to follow. This is one for your collection.  Certainement un Classique.

As far as I am aware a full soundtrack recording of The White Horses was never released, the song however did well and was in the British pop charts back in 1968, reaching number ten in that year, the title song was performed by Irish born Jackie Lee, and released on the Phillips label. The song was written for the UK version of the series, which was dubbed, and aired on the BBC. Written by Michael Carr and Ben Nisbet the song became so popular in the UK that the producers of the series decided to add it to the opening of all editions of the series including the French production.

BARBARELLA’S SONG sung by JACKIE LEE by Michel Magne – with Jackie’s story of the recording – Bing video

In 1968 Jackie also recorded the original song for the sci fi sex movie Barbarella with composer Michel Magne which was written to accompany the opening sequence and titles of the movie, but the song and most of Magne’s music were replaced when Roger Vadim the Director of the movie decided it was unsuitable with a score by Charles Fox and Bob Crewe being utilized instead, however some of Magne’s score can still be heard in the movie. I think it is the title song for The White Horses that I remember more than the series or its scores to be honest, as the series was like a French version of Skippy with the kangaroo being substituted with a horse and the scores for the series were just like source music or musical wallpaper. The Lyrics are as follows.

On white horses let me ride away

To my world of dreams so far away

Let me run – to the sun

To a world my heart can understand

It’s a gentle, warm and wonderland

Far away, stars away

Where the clouds are made of candyfloss

As the day’s born

When the stars are gone

We’ll race to meet the dawn

So when I can only see the grey

Of a sad and very lonely day

That’s when I softly sigh

On white horses, snowy white horses

Let me ride away

Where the clouds are made of candyfloss

As the day’s born

When the stars are gone

We’ll race to meet the dawn

So when I can only see the grey

Of a sad and very lonely day

That’s when I softly sigh

On white horses, snowy white horses

Let me ride away

Away, away.  

Which were accompanied by a sugary but melodic instrumental arrangement. The song is available on digital platforms on a Jackie Lee compilation of hits.

The Flashing Blade was a rip-roaring French period drama, based loosely upon tales of musketeers or at least elements of various famous stories that involved them, and events that took place in France in the same period. The fictional story is also based upon historical events during the War of the Mantuan Succession which began in 1628 and lasted until 1631 between France and Spain.

Originally aired in France in 1967 Le Chevalier Tempête, to give it its original title was first shown on the BBC in 1969, and would make a return on a few occasions throughout the 1970’s. The original French series was shown in four seventy-five-minute episodes, but like they had done previously with The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe the BBC edited these down on this occasion to twelve, twenty two minute episodes, which worked better for the British audience, although at times the editing was much to be desired. The series had a fast-paced song that would open and close each episode. The English lyrics being.

You got to fight for what you want,
For all that you believe.
It’s right to fight for what we want,
to live the way we please.

As long as we have done our best,
then no-one can do more,
and life and love and happiness
are well worth fighting for.


And we should never count the cost,
or worry that we’ll fall.
It’s better to have fought and lost
than not have fought at all.

Let’s always take whatever comes
and never try to hide.
Face anything and anyone
together, side by side.

You got to fight for what you want,
For all that you believe.
It’s right to fight for what we …

Sung in an upbeat pop style by a group who called themselves The Musketeers with racing timpani and harpsichord flourishes and a catchy harpsichord rift punctuating and lacing the proceedings. “Fight” was released in 2014 by Trunk records on a single and is available on digital platforms. I think like The White Horses the opening song was possibly more popular than the series itself and has attained something of a cult status with collectors.

With no other music from the soundtrack being released.  The Desert Crusader had much in common with The Flashing Blade, as in several cast members from The Flashing Blade appeared in this series from 1968. In fact, apart from The Desert Crusader or Thibuad being set during the 12th century it was almost identical to The Flashing Blade.

The series contained a dramatic and eloquent soundtrack from talented composer Georges Delerue who wrote a powerful theme for the series opening titles sequence, which in all honesty was probably the best bit of any of the episodes and there were over twenty of them. Although many of these foreign dubbed series were not made as children’s entertainment, they became firm favourites in children’s programming in the UK and are recalled with much fondness by British adults of a certain generation.

The series Thibuad aired in the UK in the early part of 1970, and like other French shows soon became essential viewing.

The Aeronauts, first screened in France in 1967 its original title being Les Chevaliers du Ceil, and ittoo proved to be popular with British audiences and had a run of three years from 1968 to 1971 on the BBC.  The music was courtesy of Bernard Kesslair and Francoise De Roubaix. Kesslair scoring series one and Roubaix replacing him on series two. Both composers providing an upbeat and jazz orientated soundtrack for the series. With De Roubaix collaborating with vocalist Johnny Hallyday on a song for the series. The list of popular shows from foreign lands is endless, and even today there are many superb series being aired on the BBC and other channels. However, I don’t think that these will ever match the series from the 1960’s through to the late 1970’s, at least not for this kid anyway.

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