Sunday, December 21, 2008

Pufnstuf? aka A Boy and His Magical Talking Flute

I just watched the 1970 film Pufnstuf. I include a ? in the entry title because I'm not entirely sure what the hell it was. I have never seen (nor had I really heard of) the original '60s TV series although watch five minutes of the movie and you can tell they just used the same cardboard sets and flimsy costumes that are synonymous with kids morning programming. It's quite possibly the trippiest kids movie of all time, which is quite apt considering it's title. It's directed by some man called Hollingsworth Morse, which I find funnier than almost anything in the actual movie.

The movie revolves, much like the TV series I have become aware, around a witch trying to get a magical flute that speaks and has diamonds on it (yeah, I'm not sure why either). The flute is in the possession of a young British kid who accidentally winds up on an island where everything talks and where Pufnstuf - this grotesquely odd yellow dragon who frequently does his bizarre sour lemon look with his lips - is the Mayor. Then there's something about a witch convention (it's not as amazing as the one in Nicolas Roeg's The Witches mind you) and the "witch of the year" contest. It's all very bizarre and I really do think somebody was smoking some primo marijuana left over from Woodstock. I imagine there were plenty of kids who were frightened by H.R. Pufnstuff as a kid, much like I'm scared to death by EC and the doll from What's in the Box (aagh!)

The early portions of the film are quite hilarious, particularly as it evokes copious amounts of symbolism for penis' and puberty as well as drug use. The song "A Friend in You" is about the sudden realisation that this British kids' (Jack Wild) previously unexciting "flute" can "come to life" and becomes his "new best friend". The boy even has to protect the "flute" from a nasty case of herpes Witchiepoo (Billie Hayes) and keeps it safe in his pocket, taking great care not to hurt him. Gay panic gets a spin too later in the film as Wild's character is made to dress in women's clothes (not once, not twice, but three times!) as a means of saving his poor defenseless "flute". I'm surprised the instrument didn't start frothing at the mouth at such a prospect.

After a while though it just gets excruciating, particularly Hayes' high-pitched evil witch routine. Mama Cass shows up for absolutely no reason whatsoever and sings a song called "Different" that doesn't fit into the soundtrack at all. The ridiculous tackiness of the production too and it's cheap look don't help either especially when my grown up/sober mind can't quite grasp an appreciation of seeing HR Pufnstuf literally being roasted on a spit after baring through various other nonsensical shenanigans for over an hour by then. Potheads, '70s flower children and Andrew O'Keefe would enjoy it, but I doubt anybody else would get quite such a perverse enjoyment out of it. D-


Here are two of the funnier parts of the movie, the musical numbers "A Friend In You" and "Living Island"both from the start of the picture. In regards to the former, somebody uploaded the entire movie onto YouTube (is it a Public Domain title ala Plan 9 from Outer Space?) and so to get to the hilarious talking flute song just skip forward to the 5:30 mark. Don't bother watching the dire opening song. It's truly terrible. One must wonder if upon hearing the flute speak that the character of Mr Hanky from South Park was based on it or not? They sound awfully alike, don't they?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

More Pufnstuf Movie Songs At: http://www.youtube.com/ronneyrottenbox