Originally a television musical that received a later theatrical release, The Pied Piper of Hamelin has been more widely seen than most television specials of the period, thanks largely to the fact that it was (a) filmed, rather than kinescoped, (b) shot in color rather than black and white, and (c) was allowed to become part of the public domain, allowing several different companies to release video versions of it. It's a mildly entertaining but somewhat strange musical. Clearly aimed at children, the musical is certainly wholesome and unobjectionable from a moral point of view, but the music -- based upon strains and themes from Norwegian classical composer Edvard Grieg -- is a little advanced for most young ears. The music does, however, amply reward more mature viewers for sitting through some tiresome dialogue scenes, an overabundance of rhymed dialogue, and overly broad characterizations. Viewers of all ages will likely be enchanted by Van Johnson, creating a Pied Piper that is appealing, sly, and very hard to resist; his performance in his other role, Truson, is a tad too conventional, but more than serviceable. Claude Rains is dependable (if hardly taxed) by his role as the villainous mayor (and does rather well with the catchy number, "Prestige,") and Kay Starr is in pretty good voice, if no great shakes as an actress. The film betrays its television origins in its extreme staginess, but director Bretaigne Windust keeps things moving at a fairly decent pace.
by Craig Butler review