Monday, February 13, 2006

H.R. Pufnstuf The Movie

In 1969 Sid and Marty Kroft brought to the Saturday morning viewing public their biggest hit H.R. Pufnstuf. My cousin Rachel loved watching it. Being older and wanting to seem older then I was I put it off as just a kiddie show. However, I quickly started to like it too. The show only lasted 17 episodes but it was such a huge hit that NBC ran those 17 episodes for 3 years. It had alot of merchandising. Rachel had a replica of Freddie the flute. It made a teen idol out of Jack Wild. He was a British actor so he was part of the last half of the British invasion. He released an album and had a hit song called "Some Beautiful." Saddly after this show and a few movies Mr. Wild developed a drinking problem. He did recover ad was on the way to getting his career back on track when he developed oral cancer. He is a cancer survivor but at a great cost. He had to have part of his tongue and all of his vocal cords removed and can no longer talk. He currently is writing his autobiography.
They did a live show of Pufnstuf at the Hollywood Bowl that Rhino released on video a few years ago. Also, they made a movie and a soundtrack to the film.
A few years ago the Disney Channel showed H. R. Pufnstuf the movie. I liked the Saturday morning TV show but never got to see the movie. I remember it was late at night so I put in a tape and recorded it. However, I put it away and forgot about it. Recently I found it and watched. The production values of the film were still of Saturday morning value but that is just what the audience they were aiming for would have expected. Most of any additional money for the film must have gone to scoring it and hiring Martha Raye and Mama Cass. While I never got to see the movie for some reason I had the soundtrack. Hearing those songs like "Living Here On Living Island", "I've Found A Friend In You", "Zap The World" and the others brought back many happy memories. The songs really hold up. They aren't what you would have heard on top 40 radio but they are really good showtunes. I believe this was Martha Raye's first time of working with the Krofft's but she worked with them again to further fame on Saturday Moring on The Bugaloos. She was to the Bugaloos what Witchiepoo was to H. R. Pufnstuf. Billie Hayes as Witchiepoo was the real star of the TV show and movie. The talent and energy it took to play that character is unbelieveable. Miss Hayes must have saved all her energy for showtime. Of course if you have Mama Cass in a film with music you better have her singing. With that great voice of hers she belted out the best song in the film. I no longer have the soundtrack but I believe it was called "Different." This may have been Miss Cass's last acting performance before her untimly death.
For voice over and voice acting fans the character voices in the film were done by Walker Edmision, Joan Gerber, Al Melvin (Sam the butcher from Brady Bunch), and the great Don Messick. Just like the tv show the voices were parodies of old movie stars ex: John Wayne and Edward G. Robinson.
The live show and the TV show have been released on home video and DVD. Hopefully Rhino or Universal will release the movie one day. Till then from my house, as they were on Living Island, we are like the song says "living here in harmony and hope someday the whole world will live this way."
The above photo is from Wikipedia. Posted by Picasa

1 comment:

Booksteve said...

Nice piece. I, too, had Jack Wild's record and I once had the movie soundtrack. The movie for some reason didn't play much locally so I didn't see it until years later either.

By the way, the term "Miss Cass" is just wrong as she was "Miss Elliot," Cass being her first name.

Remember also that Cincy's Coney Island had a live PufnStuf show at a special Kroffts theater for several years, sometimes incorporating other Sid and Marty characters also. That was always the highlight of my later Coney visits.