Based very loosely on Goethe's fairy tale Der Zauberlehrling, Flip De Tovenaarsleerling was a popular Dutch children's program that was broadcast between 1961 and 1964. Only three episodes survive to this day and they seem to have been broadcast live, this despite the obvious need for magic acts as performed by the royal sorcerer Pytagor (Jan Hundling) and to a lesser extend by his apprentice Flip (Leen Jongewaard). Indeed, every episode credits professional magician 'Balsamo' as 'advisor'.
Pytagor and Flip recite in the castle of King Sopramus 1 of Mallonië (Lex Goudsmit). The king has a habit of mixing up the words in his sentences whenever he gets excited or nervous. His royal Queen Gwendolijn (Jeanne Verstraete) always calls her husband by his first name Archibald just as Pytagor continuously refers to his apprentice Flip as 'Filipe'. The king and queen have one daughter, Princess Milo (in one of the surviving episodes the queen wonders aloud why she didn't think of naming her 'Goldylocks' instead) and the comic relief is provided by head servant Gijs (Henk Molenberg). Because there are so few episodes left to watch, It is difficult to tell if Gijs was a very important character from the beginning, but in those that did survive (epis 14, 16 and 26), Gijs is a much more prominent character than both Flip and Pytagor.
According to plot summaries found on the web, the series is set around 1500. Flip is studying to be a royal magician but his spells don't always work out well. He and Gijs (who does everything around the castle from driving the carriage to cooking diner) get into all sorts of trouble in and around the kingdom of Mallonië. However, by the middle of the series, as evident in episodes 14 and 16, the royal family is on an extended trip, traveling by means of a flying chamber bed (no doubt provided for them by Pytagor). Of course Pytagor, Flip and Gijs are also along for the ride, so that makes six people on one bed fit for two. You can also tell that the entire series was written by one person, Bob Verstraete, for although each episode stands on it's own, the characters keep referring to people they met in previous adventures such as Toeleknal who lives in the land of Niks and King Oboe-Moela. Now unless there are picture books floating around somewhere that adapted these stories, their significance will have been lost forever.
At least they managed to keep hold of the final episode, in which Sopramus has invited a lot of friends and acquaintances to his palace in order to make an important announcement. Having grown tired of ruling an entire kingdom, he, Archibald and his wife Gwendolijn (sounds familiar, eh?) are off on yet another holiday, this time to stay with their friend King Tomo Bakke. Disappointingly, this does not mean Princess Milo will become ruler. Instead she is allowed to go visit her best friend, the Indian princess Sheila (spelled Sheela during her first appearance in ep 14). Pytagor will take care of the affairs of state and Flip will ascent to the position of court sorcerer (even though there won't be much of a court for him to do his trickery). Gijs is also ordered to travel abroad, but unfortunately there was an audio problem in the recording at this point, obscuring the ultimate fate and destination of Gijs.
Of special note were the imaginative sets designed by Roland de Groot, which made use of every nook and cranny in the small recording studio. One particularly effective set was used at the end of episode 16, which takes place in a forest that turns out to be within walking distance of Sopramus' castle. In the final shot of the show, the actors pretend to look out over a hill to the castle in the distance, and despite the fact that the castle is painted on a backdrop probably no more than a meter away from them, the illusion of distance is quite convincing. I guess the black and white photography also works in it's favour here.
Of course by today's standard the series is awfully slow and talkative, but it remains a shame that the episodes weren't kept for reruns. They could at least enchanted a few more generations of Dutch children during the seventies and early eighties, despite the lack of colour.
7 out of 10
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