Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Man Who Had to Sing About "The Man Who Had to Sing"

[This post was originally placed on my main blogsite, The Cinema 4 Pylon, on February 2, 2007. For some reason I neglected to place it on here, so until I get a new review on here, this bit of mystery will have to suffice...]

When I first got the "series of tubes" (Ted Stevens, bless your technological acumen!) hooked up in April of 2005, just after I moved to Anaheim, before I even thought of starting up a blog, or even multiple blogs, I had a mission. Inspired by a small, obscure animated short that I had not seen for over a quarter century, but whose presence in my brain had stuck with me that entire time, I made my way to IMDB to start researching the film's whereabouts. Not only did the film appear to not have been released on DVD or VHS, at least in the English-speaking world as presented on the "BUY" section of the website, but the entry for this film didn't even have the minimum number of votes required (a mere 5) to qualify to have a rating on the site (it still doesn't, which seems to speak to its current obscurity). And because this lonely little film titled The Man Who Had to Sing, which seemed to me still like the scraggly, unloved Christmas tree in the Charlie Brown special, didn't have any user comments either, I felt compelled to leave this brief note regarding my past involvement with the film:

"I remember seeing this film back in the late 70's on PBS when I was a teenager, and just beginning to turn into an animation nut. The show was "The International Festival of Animation", hosted by Jean Marsh, and while there were a great many wonderful cartoons presented on the series, this is the one that stuck with my brother and I. The lead character's endlessly repeated singsong refrain of "Yeah-yeah, yeah-yeah-yeah!" super-glued itself to my brain, and I still sing it all the time over 25 years later, though I have not seen hide nor hair of the film since that show went off the air. Unfortunately, I did not own a VCR until 1980, and never thought to tape it when I did get one. Hopefully, Spike and Mike or some similar group will collect some of these wonderful old films and let them find a new audience. Perhaps it wouldn't hold up in a fresher viewing, but it was a very sad, quirky but poignantly beautiful gem, at least, as I recall it.."

That was it. I titled the comment, "Sometimes You Just Have to Let It Out...", but to this day, I am unsure of whether I was merely referring to the character in the film or to myself, too. I also left a couple of other comments following this one for other likewise obscure and fondly remembered trifles of my youth, but my real hope with this particular one was to locate others who not only shared my love for this film, but to also track down a copy, by any means necessary.

Time passed, and I never received a reply. And more time passed... nothing. It seemed, apart from my brothers, that I was alone in my "Yeah-yeah-yeahing". And then, Wednesday night, I received an email from someone who was conducting a Google search for The Man Who Had to Sing. Nearly two years later, they ended up on my comment at IMDB, and they were then nice enough to contact me. The email as follows...

Hello - I went googling for this Yugoslavian Animation short tonight and found your comment on IMDB. I had such a similar experience that I had to write.

I also saw it with my brother who was a good deal older than me (now deceased). He used to watch the same PBS show late at night and I would get home from a night out and find him sitting there with a smile on his face watching this show. I had never seen stuff like this before and I found it really interesting, especially the Slavic stuff. And one night I saw "The Man Who Had To Sing" and we laughed ourselves silly... I also could not get that song out of my head and now years later at 53 I still remember the whacky, oblivious way that the guy went through life singing that same refrain over and over. Like you said, "... glued to my brain".

I wonder... did you ever get to see it again?

Well, thanks for listening. Just had to write. "Yeah-yeah, yeah-yeah-yeah!"

I was elated that there was someone besides my brother and myself that had not just seen this in their youth, but had also become inflicted with the "yeah-yeah" madness. But it also served to remind me that my quest was far from over, and that I needed to start anew my search for this film. Unfortunately, Google offers little in the way of an immediate solution, but it did list a few potential bright spots:

  • A website for the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon lists the film in its rentable video library thusly:

    Media Type: Audio (Cassette(s))
    Audience Level: JHA
    A little guy (Charlie Brown type) goes through life with a song to sing ("Ya , ya, ya-ya") that nobody wants to hear. As a child he gets deserted by his parents, beaten up by other children, kicked out of school, and tagged
    Subjects: Growth & Development; Faith Enrichment; Self-Esteem; Life
    Running Time:10

    Mass Media Ministries

  • A website for the Ruth Dudley Resource Center, which also seems to be a religious library, offers this description:

    The Man Who Had to Sing
    A hilarious portrayal of the life of a luckless Charlie Brown-type, a real loser who had only one thing to offer -- a song for which the world had no need. 10 minutes. 1989. JH - A.

  • And best of all, the San Bernardino Valley College website offers up a list of their library films (which consists of the usual mix of public domain titles, industrial films and obscure art flicks). It gives more of the real deal on the film:

    The Man Who Had to Sing
    Year : 1971Type : FilmsColorization : colorLength : 10 min.
    This film is an animated cradle to grave fable - funny, quirky, and sad. A little guy goes through life with a song to sing that nobody wants to hear. As a child he gets deserted by his parents, beaten up by other children, kicked out of school. As a man he has a hard time with the army, with religion, with a wife who soon takes her leave of him, with psychiatrists who declare him hopeless, and with society in general. But he hangs in there, until an outraged public silences him in his grave. Or, is he silenced? The caricature becomes a clue to many problems of human interrelations and individual integrity.

I find it amusing that the Archdiocese's subject description notes "faith enhancement", when I believe that "The Man" finds just as little comfort in church as he does in the rest of his life, and is summarily dismissed from the environs when he takes up his Tourette's-like burst of inappropriately loud and off-key singing. Whatever people take from the film (and it has been so long since I have seen it, so that practically anything could be within the film and I would have forgotten much of it), I am glad that it is around in some form.

I can't rent from the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon because they limit their rentals to the borders of the state, unless you give them a good reason which they will study "case by case". I don't know whether my lack of religion will either hurt or help my case. This same problem might apply with the Ruth Dudley catalog. And I am pretty sure that one must be a student of the San Bernardino Valley College to rent from it, and even if I could, it would be hard to convince Jen that we need to make the trip to S.B. just to rent a 10-minute long obscure Yuogslavian cartoon with a guy who just blurts out nonsense lyrics at every given opportunity.

She would say that she already has someone like that around for real. Why would she need a cartoon for that?

Yeah-yeah, yeah-yeah-yeah...

The Man Who Had to Sing [Covjek koji je morao pjevati] (1970)
Directed by Milan Blazekovic
Cinema 4 Rating (Distantly Remembering How Much I Loved It): 8


Alexis said...

According to my search, Berkley also has it... on 35 mm film. It is the only library listed in our catalog to own it, but I don't think we connect to EVERY library as it doesn't list the ones you mentioned.

David Ritchie said...

I searched for this for years, and upon renewing my search - - landed here! I'm ecstatic to find out that someone else shares this experience. That song is deeply etched in my psyche, where it's been periodically rearing its head every few months for 38 years. I didn't even have a brother to reassure me that I didn't imagine the whole thing.

So I guess there's no new news about availability? I'm dying to see it again.

Steve Champeon said...

It's on Youtube now:

I also have a londstanding fondness for this cartoon; first saw it in college back in 1991, found an old schedule for the animation festival and figured out the actual title, and voila. Enjoy!

David Ritchie said...

Steve, thank you. Almost 40 years did little to erase that little film from my mind, except for one was in B&W on my TV back in the 70s.
Now, if PBS would just replay that entire "International Festival of Animation" series, I'd be a happy man.