Greed, corruption, ignorance, and disease. Midsummer, 1349: the Black Death reaches northern Germany. Minstrels go to Hamelin for the Mayor's daughter's wedding to the Baron's son. He wants her dowry to pay his army while his father taxes the people to build a cathedral he thinks will save his soul. A local apothecary who's a Jew seeks a treatment for the plague; the priests charge him with witchcraft. One of the minstrels, who has soothed the Mayor's daughter with his music, promises to rid the town of rats for the fee. The Mayor agrees, then reneges. In the morning, the plague, the Jew's trial, and the Piper's revenge come at once.
Considering the people involved I am shocked that this is as bad as it is. Admittedly Demy can be patchy but I thought I was in safer hands with the man responsible for The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. The film is, obviously, a retelling of the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin with added evil church folk. Folk icon Donovan plays the titular Piper and even provides three insipid songs. The rest of the cast is pretty strong on paper with a young John Hurt in a key role along with Donald Pleasence (the only one who comes out looking good), Diana Dors and a smattering of respected British character actors. Unfortunately they are all terrible and some performances border on the embarrassing. The Bishops even evoke memories of Monty Pythons Spanish Inquisition sketch although they aren't helped with their ridiculously large and puffy costumes. The film also suffers from some of the worst ADR I've ever seen/heard. It isn't an element I normally notice in a film but it sticks out like a sore thumb here. The script doesn't help proceedings either and I did feel sorry for some of the actors as certain lines were excruciating.