Sunday, January 8, 2012

Krofftverse: H. R. Pufnstuf (1969)

Puppeteers Sid & Marty Krofft had developed some of the puppets used on The Banana Splits Adventure Hour for Hanna-Barbera, but then, a year later, they struck out on their own, becoming as much a major player on Saturday mornings during the 70's as H-B themselves.

The first part of what I like to refer to as the Krofftverse was H. R. Pufnstuf, a surrealist fantasy that spent a total of three seasons on NBC, the last two entirely in repeats, and then the reruns shifted over to ABC for a 4th and final season in 1972.

The title hero was the mayor of the Living Island, defending his fiefdom, if you will, from the nefarious Witchiepoo (Billie Hayes), who now had more reason to take control. A teenager, Jimmy (Jack Wild, "Oliver!") and a talking flute named Freddy had landed on the island. Witchiepoo coveted the flute, but, as most often happens, was foiled either by Pufnstuf or the bumbling of her own aides.

Not only did actor Len Weinrib voice Pufnstuf, he was also one of the show's writers, and would serve in a similar capacity a year later, working on Dr. Doolittle for DePatie-Freleng, also for NBC. Weinrib had also been an independent filmmaker during the 60's before turning full time to children's television.

Here's "The Golden Key":

There was also a feature film, "Pufnstuf", with the regular cast, but that hasn't seen the light of day in years. Pufnstuf & Witchiepoo would return a few years later on the short-lived Krofft Superstar Hour, and that would mark the end of the line for both. We have to assume Jimmy & Freddy made it home by then.

If you can get past all the insinuations regarding drug use that have cropped up in various media outlets in the years after the series ended production, you'd see that this was all just absurdist fantasy, with a few musical numbers thrown in to take advantage of Wild's talents as a singer.

Series producer Si Rose came over from Universal, which, oh by the way, distributed the "Pufnstuf" movie, even though the series itself was shot at Paramount. Go figure.

Rating: B-.


Anonymous said...

Out of a sense of nostalgia I rarely feel, I looked up the first episode of H.R. Puffnstuff a short while back. The magic is completely gone. Whatever I saw in that show as a child, that drew me to watch week after week, is gone.

hobbyfan said...

As we grow older, we realize that what looked like a fun trip as a child isn't quite like that anymore. Today, if they remade the show, Jimmy would be an inner-city kid, and Freddy might have a female voice this time.

And, even so, that's asking for trouble.

magicdog said...

A lot of Krofft productions are painful to watch after the fact.

Some may be rebootable, but the fact remains childhood nostalgia will only take you so far before you realize you were watching crap in the first place.

The theme song was fun though - especially the version that appeared on the Saturday Morning Cartoons Greatest Hits CD.

How can you repeat a show for 3 consecutive years and call it a season? I thought only new episodes constituted a season. Just curious.

hobbyfan said...

Back in those days, it wasn't a priority to renew live-action children's shows, and the networks saved money by keeping selected shows on the air in perpetual repeat for an extra year or two, such as with Pufnstuf.

I think by the time they green-lighted a 2nd season of Sigmund & the Sea Monsters, NBC finally got a clue, and everyone else followed suit.