Tuesday, April 19, 2011
H.R. Pufnstuf, can't do a little, 'cause you can't do enough"
The first live-action, life-sized puppet show - of many - produced by brothers Sid & Marty Krofft for 70s children's television, H.R. PUFNSTUF (1971), has just been re-released on DVD so that the now-adult kids who were hypnotized (or traumatized) by its surreal trippiness can revisit its colorful world, and maybe inflict it on their own children.
A British teenager named Jimmy (Jack Wild) and his magic flute named Freddy, are lured onto a mysterious boat which takes them to the magical Living Island. There, they discover that they're stranded, and an evil witch named Witchipoo (Billy Hayes) wants the talking musical instrument for herself. Jimmy and Freddy are befriended by the island's ruler, a friendly dragon named H.R. Pufnstuf, and together, they try to find a way for the boy to get home while keeping Freddy the flute out of Witchipoo's clutches.
A pop fairy tale, with colorful characters and settings (and on Living Island, where everything is alive, it often amounts to the same thing) H.R. PUFNSTUF was incredibly popular 70s Saturday morning fare, with its meager 17 episodes constantly repeated for years. It kicked off a long run of similar programs from the Krofft Bros (THE BUGALOOS, LIDSVILLE, etc.) and even spawned a full-length theatrical feature film. The stories are simple morality tales and fall into familiar formulas, but they're also easily digestible and fun to watch.
Previously released by Rhino some years ago, this new DVD set from Vivendi Entertainment includes all 17 episodes in remarkably decent 1.33:1 "full frame" aspect ratio and Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound. While the prints show their age and 16mm film origins, the colors are fairly bright and detail is good. DVD extras include an episode of the Krofft's HORROR HOTEL (from the KROFFT SUPERSTAR HOUR), downloadable vintage music and H.R.PUFNSTUF coloring book in pdf format. It is also available in a "Collector's Edition" package containing a collectible Pufnstuf bobble-head (which sits proudly on my desk as I type).
I don't know whether modern kids - and certainly not any over the age of say, five - would dig the show's decidedly low-tech puppets and cramped sets, but I can tell you (because I was there) the kids of the early Seventies loved it. If you grew up with Pufnstuf, Witchiepoo, Cling and Clang, Jimmy, Freddy et al, and have young kids - or nieces or nephews - of your own, this new DVD set is a charmingly nostalgic package, and worth picking up.
BUY: H.R. Pufnstuf: Complete SeriesFamily Films)
BUY: H.R. Pufnstuf: Complete Series Collector's EditionFamily Films)