H.R. Pufnstuf, who's your friend when things get rough?
First in a long line of surreal and sometimes disturbing offerings from Sid and Marty Krofft Productions.
To get an idea as to what you're in for, we turn to VH-1's "I Love the '70s" show (never mind that this show was aired in 1969), and their description of H.R. Pufnstuf:
"So, the deal with H.R. Pufnstuf is, Sid and Marty Krofft did a lot of drugs back in the '70s when they were given a TV show..."
For a more technical description, read on.
Jimmy, a young boy with a British accent and the world's most annoying speech impediment, is abducted by the sinister and disturbingly Oedipal witch Witchiepoo in a gambit to snatch his magical talking golden flute. Yes, really.
But Pufnstuf was watching too, and knew exactly what to do...
Jimmy is rescued by H.R. Pufnstuf, a large Muppet who serves as mayor of Living Island, a bizarre place where everything, "even the trees" are "alive". (The writers appear not to have understood the difference between "living" and "anthropomorphic"/"sentient".)
The short series (only seventeen episodes aired) followed the adventures of Jimmy, Puf and Freddie [the flute], as they made various attempts to smuggle Jimmy off the island while staying clear of Witchiepoo and her henchmen. A film version, featuring guest stars Martha Raye and Cass Elliot, appeared in 1970, a year after the show's premiere.
To say that H.R. Pufnstuf was disturbing is like saying the ocean is wet. There is just something almost seductively creepy about the whole thing, from Jimmy's constant prancing and the vaguely homoerotic relationship between boy, flute, and muppet, to the bizarrely twisted maternal figure of the witch, to the generally drug-induced artistic design of the costumes and sets. This is not a show to watch sober.
As a historical note, the basic design and characters of McDonald's "McDonaldland" commercials were blatantly plagiarized from H.R. Pufnstuf in 1971 after the Krofft brothers refused to license the Pufnstuf characters for use in a McDonald's commercial campaign. The Kroffts sued in 1973, and won the case in 1977. For more information, see this article at Cecil Adams' The Straight Dope, or this one at coolcopyright.com.
- Crossover: Witchiepoo once appeared on Lidsville as HooDoo's date.
- The 1973 live stage show "H.R. Pufnstuf & The Brady Kids Live at the Hollywood Bowl".
- Crowd Song
- Dem Bones: Witchipoo's guards are armored skeletons. Dr. Blinky also has a talking skull.
- Ending Theme
- Expository Theme Tune
- Failure Is the Only Option: After all, the show is basically just Gilligan's Island on even more drugs.
- Flying Broomstick: Witchiepoo's Vroom Broom.
- Giant Spider: Seymour.
- Least Rhymable Word: Witchiepoo's song in "Show Biz Witch".
- The Movie: Chiefly memorable for Cass Elliot's song, "Different," and for her sitting in a bathtub filled with fruit.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Ludicrous Lion is a thinly veiled stand-in for W. C. Fields. Witchiepoo's guardian trees seem to be imitating Bela Lugosi, and other impersonations abound.
- Non-Human Sidekick
- Our Dragons Are Different: That's what Pufnstuf was supposed to be, believe it or not.
- The Owl-Knowing One: Dr. Blinky.
- Parental Bonus: With a twist: it's not so much a "bonus" as "the show is a whole lot more disturbing if you're an adult."
- Spin-Off: The Krofft Supershow featured a segment called "Horror Hotel", with Witchiepoo running the titular hotel along with Seymour, Orson, and Stupid Bat, although for some reason, Dr. Blinky (originally one of the good guys), and Hoodoo (the lead villain from Lidsville) also appeared as well.
- Stop Trick
- Surrounded by Idiots: Witchiepoo's bungling henchmen.
- Talent Show
- This Is Your Premise on Drugs: It's just a question of which one, really.
- Those Wacky Nazis: Benita Bizarre (from The Bugaloos) Expy Boss Witch's (she's even played by the same actress) rat henchman, Heinrich (actually Funky Rat, also from the The Bugaloos), who wears a Gestapo-type uniform.
- What Do You Mean It Wasn't Made on Drugs?: Believe it or not, it wasn't, according to Sid and Marty Krofft themselves. At one point they even fired a crew member for showing up stoned.
- Wicked Witch: Witchiepoo (who would take it as a compliment).
- Wig, Dress, Accent: Everyone at some point, but especially Witchiepoo and company as the singing groups "The Three Oranges" and "The Three Lemons".