A Mikádó

Hungarian TV, 1974

Á MikadoSuka Sáka Sándor
Nanki-PooFarkas Bálint
Ko-KoKibédi Ervin
Poo-BahCsorba István
Pish-TushBodrogi Gyula
Yum-YumSzerencsi Éva
Pitti-SingDomonkos Zsuzsa
Peep-BoBujdosó Mária
KatishaBakó Márta

Hungarian Translation: Romhányi Josef
Conductor: Seregi László

Original air date: 15 June 1974

This production appeared on Hungarian TV in 1974, apparently as part of a long-running series called Zenés TV színház. There are numerous cheap video effects that I thought expired with a late-night horror show that I used to watch in Detroit called "The Ghoul". The effects include heads separating from bodies, characters suddenly going "miniature", characters suddenly floating into the air and onto the scenery, and so forth.

It is only eighty-two minutes long. J. Donald Smith counted eight missing songs. These are:

  • "Young man, despair"
  • "As some day it may happen"
  • "So please you sir"
  • "I am so proud"
  • "Braid the raven hair"
  • "The sun whose rays"
  • "Here's a how-de-do"
  • "See how the fates"

Most other songs lose a verse. The Act I finale ends after the "laughing song and merry dance" movement — no entrance for Katisha until Act II.

The video was sold in two versions: one with English subtitles, the other without. The subtitles are back-translated from the Hungarian. The writer of them was clearly not a native English speaker, considering the numerous errors. At first, the translation seems merely unpoetic. Here is how the first section of "A wandering minstrel" turns out:

I'm a lost traveler,
I have been to many places.
If you want to hear a song
or a poem, I can do both.
When you are happy or sad,
I will make a poem for you.
I will sing a song for you.
A new and beautiful song.

But, as the dialogue afterwards makes clear, there has been a ton of rewriting:

Pish-Tush: Dear Nanki-Poo. You have so nicely introduced yourself. Now let me reveal who I am. I'm an aristocrat. My name is Pish-Tush. I'm almost as powerful as the person standing next to you. He is the almighty Poo-Bah [sic].

Pooh-Bah: Don't forget that you are not as powerful as I'm.

Pish-Tush: What kind of business have you got with the beautiful Yum-Yum?

Nanki-Poo: I'd like to marry her.

Pish-Tush: Poor boy.

Nanki-Poo: A year and a half ago, I was playing the trumpet in a band. That's where I have [sic] met her. We fell in love. But she got engaged to my [sic] guardian Ko-Ko. My love has acted as if she was in a European comedy. In my desperation, I left town. But now, I rushed back. I heard that Ko-Ko has been sentenced to death for forbidden womanizing.

Pish-Tush: It's true.

Nanki-Poo: How lucky I'm. I had no idea they punished this so severely.

Pish-Tush: Listen to this.

After Pish-Tush's song (only the first two verses of it), the dialogue continues:

Nanki-Poo: Thank you for telling me about this peculiar law. My love's guardian must have broken it and now he's in trouble.

Pish-Tush: That's precisely how it happened. Except there was a mistake. The executioner has sinned himself and was sentenced to death. But they mixed up the order of things and he got executed before Ko-Ko. After he lost his head, he couldn't chop Ko-Ko's head off.

Nanki-Poo: What an idiot. And when they noticed the mistake, it was too late.

Pooh-Bah: That's right.

Pish-Tush: The great Mikado.

Men's Chorus: The almighty merciful Mikado.

Pooh-Bah: To live up to his name, Mikado had mercy on Ko-Ko. In the very same document, he appointed him to be the executioner of the town. It saved him to sign two documents instead of one.

You get the idea. Sometimes, the Hungarian version shows some humor the master would have admired:

Mikado: Let's set the time for the execution. Since we need oil, we may as well do it at lunch time.

Ko-Ko: Your majesty, we don't need to hurry. Why don't we wait until at least dinner time?

Mikado: It's a little heavy for dinner. We'll do it a [sic] lunch.

The scenery and costumes are opulent, the characters look their parts, and the Yum-Yum is a gorgeous lady I could look at all day. But overall, there is too much gratuitous rewriting, too much essential material on the cutting-room floor, and too many tacky video effects. Naturally, the orchestrations are souped-up (did you expect otherwise?). Purely for a bad laugh, this one's worth a look, but perhaps it's not worth the price.

The video is available as Catalog #470 from:

European Video Distributors
2402 West Olive Avenue
Burbank, CA 91506
Toll-free tel: 888-423-6752

The price is $49.95 for the version with English-subtitles, $29.95 for the version without. (Note: This is extremely old information, and the video may no longer be available from this source. As of 2008, it does not appear to be in print.)

Issue History
1974Hungarian TelevisionBroadcastN/A
199-?European Video DistributorsVHS NTSC470