• Sid & Marty Krofft's Saturday Morning Hits

    Released by: Vivendi Entertainment
    Released on: 11/30/2010
    Director: Various
    Cast: Jack Wild, Billie Hayes, Johnny Whitaker, Martha Raye, Butch Patrick, Charles Nelson Reilly
    Year: Various
    Purchase from Amazon

    The Film
    Do the names Sid and Marty Krofft ring a bell? If they do, your memory is probably flooded with hallucinatory images of talking hats, trees, clocks, flutes and just about anything else you can think of, as well as gaudy/beautiful two-dimensional sets that look like something from a school play and designed by someone on a three day STP trip. What's that? Another, slightly more negative memory surfacing? It's the sound of your parents' voices marveling with mild disgust at how you can "watch such crap", isn't it? It's ok, lots of us are there with you........

    If you have never heard of Sid and Marty, chances are you didn't grow up in the 1970's aka the era of the Krofft's near-total domination of the television airwaves, but that's ok, too, because Vivendi Entertainment have brought together a niftily low-priced sampler of six of Los Bros. Krofft's most delightfully demented half-hours of kid show insanity entitled SID & MARTY KROFFT'S SATURDAY MORNING HITS.

    Bursting onto the scene in '68 with the character and set designs for Hanna-Barbera's THE BANANA SPLITS, NBC execs (no doubt thinking "I don't understand it, but the kids seem to love it!") threw some cash and opportunity the Krofft's way to do their own show, and the result was H.R. PUFNSTUF, the story of young Jimmy (Jack Wild, OLIVER!) and Freddy, his talking golden flute who are kidnapped aboard a ship owned by hipster witch Witchiepoo (Billie Hayes, who set the tone and bar for all future Krofft antagonists) and rescued by the Gomer Pyle soundalike Mayor of Living Island, H.R. Pufnstuf. Of course, Living Island is aptly named, as everyone and seemingly everything is someone (little people, often) in one of Sid and Marty's insane costumes that seem like the next logical step from the puppets that had been their stock in trade up to that point (pre-SPLITS).

    The plots would usually center around Jimmy's attempts to both leave the island and thwart the evil machinations of the 'Poo, and in "Showbiz Witch", Jimmy wants to buy a "supersonic pogo stick" from snake oil salesman (and W.C. Fields soundalike) Ludicrous Lion in order to return home, but as Jimmy and Co. are short on buttons (the currency on Living Island), they decide to throw a talent show. How are they to know that Witchiepoo has showbiz aspirations, and will crash the show and steal poor Freddy?

    A good choice to kick off the set, this episode is pretty much the litmus test to determine which side of the fence you are on with regards to the Krofft style: while the mixture of purposefully two-dimensional sets, almost tactile props and costumes (like puffy kid's toys come to life), and song-and-dance numbers in garish late 60's color might still be too much for some sensibilities, the show's main target audience was quite young (like, under 10!) and it wouldn't be hard to imagine it still having some appeal there (despite potential nightmare fuel) as well as with self-medicated adults. Shot on film, H.R. PUFNSTUF (as well as its theatrical release counterpart, titled simply PUFNSTUF) represents the high-water mark in Sid and Marty's output on a visual quality level, because as we shall see, almost all future shows would be shot on video.

    Next up on the disc (and throwing off the chronology somewhat) is SIGMUND AND THE SEA MONSTERS, the story of hapless but good-natured Sigmund (Billy Barty), the tentacle-waving runt of a clan of particularly brutish sea monsters (including the clearly Phyllis Diller-inspired Sweet Mama) who oust him from their cave at the show's opening. Luckily, he is rescued from inevitable extinction by beach kids Johnny (Johnny Whitaker, FAMILY AFFAIR) and Scott (Scott Colden) who put Siggy up in their clubhouse. "Make Room For Big Daddy" finds Siggy excited to receive an old junker TV in his pad, only to be invaded by brothers Burp and Slurp who have broken the parental unit's own set back at the cave and split, fearing their wrath. Guess who's coming to dinner?

    Though not a patch on PUFNSTUF in terms of budget and production value, SIGMUND is smack dab in the middle of what most late 30's/early 40's kids remember as being the Krofft brand: from the Beach Boys/"Teach The World To Sing" mashup theme "Friends" to the boldest rip of "Got To Get You Into My Life" imaginable for a closer (and always with a song montage near the end) this show seems to exist soley to promote little Johnny's singing career (and yes, there IS an album, called FRIENDS. Look for it!), if it weren't for those pesky and rather iconic character designs featuring google eyes, a single tooth and seaweed for hair.

    It's a shame that this episode doesn't include regular Pamelyn Ferdin (1978's THE TOOLBOX MURDERS) as bossy neighbor Peggy, but you do get the greatest riff on the old BEWITCHED "Mrs. Kravitz" character with The Wicked Witch of the West herself, Margaret Hamilton, playing terminally nosy Mrs. Eldels.

    Next up on the disc is PUNSTUF's immediate successor and the Brothers' first all-video production, THE BUGALOOS. Clearly modeled on The Monkees/Archies/Banana Splits concept of kid friendly pop music with a TV tie-in, mass auditions for English hopefuls were held (Phil Collins didn't make the cut) and eventually some cheeky young nobodies were cast as this happy-go-lucky gang of musical insects (who sometimes ride leaves as surfboards) from Tranquility Forest. Managed by a firefly named Sparky (Barty again), they spend a lot of their time avoiding trouble in the form of jealous rival singer Benita Bizarre (Martha Raye), a talentless hack that lives inside a giant jukebox and is assisted by a distinctly SS-like chauffeur Funky Rat ("Yes, mein leader!").

    In typical fashion, "The Great Voice Robbery" concerns Benita's jealousy of the rival artist's sunshine pop sounds and butterfly Joy's dulcet tones in particular (she's played by Caroline Ellis), causing her to kidnap the singer and trade voices with the aid of a maniacal contraption.

    Though far from the most exciting show in the Krofft canon, THE BUGALOOS benefits from Raye's gloriously OTT performance as Benita, who takes the Witchiepoo approach to a whole new level of comedic dementia with expressions both physical and facial that will have you rolling on the couch.

    From there, it's a trip to LIDSVILLE whereupon young (well, teenaged) Mark (Butch Patrick aka "Eddie Munster") is so mesmerized by the performance given by magician Merlo (Charles Nelson Reilly) that he just has to find out what's backstage, and in doing so falls into Merlo's growing top hat and landing in the faraway land of Lidsville, populated entirely by living hats and under the fearsome rule of green-skinned Horatio J. HooDoo (also Reilly), who keeps the populace in line with magic "zaps". Luckily, Mark is joined by Weenie The Genie (Billie Hayes), who is a bit of a scaredy cat but still somewhat effective in trying to help the lad return home, and in "Mark & The Beanstalk" she conjures magic beans that produce a stalk way up into the sky, a fact not unnoticed by HooDoo, who concocts a plan to kidnap Mark and Weenie and extort ransom from the shaggy teen's folks.

    Next to PUFNSTUF, LIDSVILLE may be the most outright psychedelic of the Krofft shows, with a concept that must have been incredibly fun to craft characters and costumes for: you have gangster hats, cowboy hats, nurse, Chinese chefs, football helmets, you name it, it's there. Butch isn't the strongest lead, but with Reilly and Hayes on board, he doesn't have to be.

    Those are pretty much the "big four" that established the Krofft formula so much so that their next Saturday morning move was to premiere the KROFFT SUPER SHOW, which initially contained six 12 minute mini episodes (plus a wraparound with the latest Krofft music act, Kaptain Kool and the Kongs) but was then shortened to an hour. The big attraction for many young male viewers finding their puberty was ELECTRA WOMAN AND DYNA GIRL, the clearly BATMAN series-inspired adventures of two intrepid femme reporters turned crime fighters Electra Woman (Diedre Hall) and teen titan Dyna Girl (ROOM 222's Judy Strangis, in reality just a bit younger than Hall), who in "Ali Baba" fight the titular character (Malachi Throne) and his wicked genie (Sid freakin' Haig!) who have kidnapped Russian scientist Prof. Nabokov (seriously!) to gain use of his Metamorphosis machine. Testing it on Dyna Girl, its success is proven as she becomes just as evil as they! BooHahaha!

    With lots of Dutch angles, zoom-in/zoom-out segues and narration from Marvin Miller, ELECTRA was (along with the SPIDER MAN segments on THE ELECTRIC COMPANY) the ultimate SOV superhero kid's show, with archly portrayed arch-villains and clumsy attempts at catch-phrases ("Electra-WOW!") coming together in a way that us little-un's couldn't resist (maybe it was the costumes?). When dropped from the SUPER SHOW lineup after one season, these two-part episodes were grafted together for one half-hour of syndication enjoyment.

    Remember WONDERBUG, the junked dune buggy named Schlepcar that could turn into a Super Buggy (yep, it appears that this concept was lifted in part from the Hanna-Barbera cartoon of that name) at the sound of a magic horn? Well, if not, you probably should because along with David Levy as "Barry Buntrock" and Carol Anne Seflinger as "Susan Talbot" (sporting the same gas station-inspired jumpsuit that Cherie Currie was pictured wearing in Runaways promo shots of the time), you have one John-Anthony Bailey as "C.C. McNamara", familiar not only to HAPPY DAYS fans as African American drummer "Sticks" and Sun Ra freaks for his performance in SPACE IS THE PLACE, but also to 80's smut mavens under the nom de porn "Jack Baker" for his memorable (mostly non-sex) comedic performances in Dark Brothers features like DEVIL IN MISS JONES 3: A NEW BEGINNING and DMJ 4: THE FINAL OUTRAGE!

    Presented here are episodes one and two: in "Go West, Young Schlepcar" the kids find themselves in an old ghost town ("Gruesome Gulch") where a couple of car thieves act as ghosts to scare off snoopers, and in "Schlepnapped" the beloved buggy is stolen by a couple of nefarious crooks and hypnotist/magician The Great Zucchini (Avery Schreiber) looking to benefit from the 'Bugs abilities. In each, the kids rely on pop culture disguises (John Wayne, Sherlock Holmes, Columbo) to hoodwink the criminals while a sped-up chase follows.

    Heading farther away from the cream of their earlier high concepts, WONDERBUG is equal parts THE LOVE BUG and SCOOBY DOO, and while there is some morality at play for the young audience, the end result feels more than a little half-baked. Luckily, Bailey is a major hoot to watch and makes these two mini-episodes an essential inclusion even if the show itself is not so hot.

    Wrapping things up, we have the apparently rare and elusive BIGFOOT AND WILDBOY, an adventure series that marked the Kroffts return to celluloid as a medium but sacrificing just about everything else in the process, as the minimal cast for "UFO Parts 1 &2" seems to prove (looking up info and watching the episode leads one to believe that this is not the actual episode title, being that it's all one segment and there are no UFO's contained within!), but here goes: Bigfoot (Ray Young) and his young assistant Wildboy (Joseph Butcher, who looks at least 30) rescue an archaeology professor and his female assistant when the prof. is enslaved by the evil Lohr-Khan (one of which is portrayed by NIGHT COURT's Richard Moll, though the Templar-style costume makes it hard to notice) whom Bigfoot had banished to the old mine some time previous. These ratty creatures have the ability to melt rocks with their gnarled hands, and if B&W don't act soon, they may dominate the world!

    On par quality-wise (maybe a tad less) with live action Filmation shows like SHAZAM! and ISIS, BIGFOOT AND WILDBOY was successful enough to break out of the SUPER SHOW lineup and receive its own 30m slot (from which this episode was probably culled) but has sunk to near-oblivion since. It's a tad of a comedown after all of the candy-colored goodness of the earlier shows, but still provides a decent end point for both this disc and the Saturday morning supremacy of Sid and Marty Krofft, whose creativity and artistry made the most of both limited budget and an inherently limited form (the kiddie show), delightfully warping a generation who remember their efforts with warmth.

    All are presented in what until recently was the broadcast standard ratio of 1.33:1 fullscreen, and while H.R. PUFNSTUF is the obvious winner in the visual quality department (with bold colors and nice detail that makes one really appreciate all of the work that went into the production of the series), it should probably still be mentioned that out of the rest of the shows on the disc, only LIDSVILLE and ELECTRA WOMAN really come close in terms of clarity of image: SIGMUND, THE BUGALOOS, and WONDERBUG all suffer from a bland, washed-out look that may very well be indicative of original broadcast quality, but could just as likely be a result of sub-standard masters being the only available source. BIGFOOT fares a tad better, but looks duped down a generation or so. The fact of it is, this sampler set is quite reasonably priced and may very well be the only chance newer generations will have to catch at least a couple of these shows.

    The sole extra (apart from animated menus that play each theme song) is a nifty step-through gallery of 25 character and set sketches from various Krofft shows that are almost worth the disc price alone, from detailed renderings of Pufnstuf and Ludicrous Lion to Electra Woman and Dyna Girl, with a few landscapes in between.

    The Final Word
    Vivendi Entertainment bring you SID & MARTY KROFFT'S SATURDAY MORNING HITS, a groovy sampler of seven of their mind-bending 70's kiddie concoctions, still just as suitable for youngsters as self-medicated adults!

    Comments 7 Comments
    1. Alison Jane's Avatar
      Alison Jane -
      Is that Sid Haig as a genie?
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      Bigfoot and Wildboy rules.
    1. Todd Jordan's Avatar
      Todd Jordan -
      I loved those shows. Bigfoot and Wildboy was so cool (back then...probably pretty hokey now) and Electra Woman and Dyna Girl got my little kid blood pumping. Sigmund was awesome too. THe Bugaloos however...we used to make fun of it, even as 6 and 7 year olds.
    1. Ian Miller's Avatar
      Ian Miller -
      Quote Originally Posted by Todd Jordan View Post
      I loved those shows. Bigfoot and Wildboy was so cool (back then...probably pretty hokey now) and Electra Woman and Dyna Girl got my little kid blood pumping. Sigmund was awesome too. THe Bugaloos however...we used to make fun of it, even as 6 and 7 year olds.
      C'mon 80's porn guy, JACK BAKER is in WONDERBUG!! No comment on that?
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      Dude has an amazing filmography.

      RIP Wonderbug porn guy.
    1. Todd Jordan's Avatar
      Todd Jordan -
      He was an accomplished director too, helming the epic "Slut Safari".
    1. Ian Miller's Avatar
      Ian Miller -
      i need the SPACE IS THE PLACE dvd, he's so great in that, Johnny Keyes too!