Wednesday, November 12, 2008

At the Island of Madness

Other than The Land of The Lost I failed to enjoy a lot of the Krofft television programs mainly due to my age. I was just a bit too old for most of them and the stories were really aimed at an audience several years before my time. My sister, being younger, loved nearly every show they made and the tube was usually reserved for her on Saturday mornings. One show she enjoyed more than I was H. R. Pufnstuf.

While Sid & Marty have always denied the show was one big drug reference (except for the occasional joke) it really did come out as nothing more than an acid trip for kiddies. Each week the Brothers Krofft would take you on a magic carpet ride that alternated between groovy, psychedelic delight and the unbridled terror of a bad flashback. The setting of the show was in a fantastic place called Living Island, where everything was alive, intelligent and anthropomorphic. The rocks, trees, houses, air and in fact any object you could imagine were all animate, awkwardly staggering and shuffling around the landscape. The citizens of the island displayed irredeemably evil or benevolent traits, presumably depending on the quality of the trip the production crew were having that day.

Performer and child star Jack Wild played Jimmy, a boy marooned on the island through the machinations of an evil witch. Each week Jimmy would attempt to escape the island with his friend Freddy, a magic, talking flute coveted by the witch. Jack was was the star of the show and he could sing and dance up a storm. There are a few tunes he performed that I can still remember and they rise to the surface every now and then like the songs from School House Rock are wont to do. While Jack looked okay to me then, another examination by my adult eyes reveals the harsh toll being a child star can be. In many scenes he does not look all that well and often appeared exhausted.

In the episode Book, Flute & Candle (Originally broadcast November 15, 1969) Jimmy is running from the witch after an attack on the peaceful settlement tended by Mayor Pufnstuf (a dragon whose name may have been inspired by the Peter, Paul and Mary tune Puff the Magic Dragon). Lost in the dark forest with the magic flute, Jimmy is attacked by the living trees and mushrooms that serve the witch.

The forest scene from that episode embedded here is pure nightmare fuel the terrifying World of Sid & Marty Lovekrofft. The pitiful, mournful cries for assistance by one of the victims is horrifying. Book, Flute & Candle is a perfect example of a show geared toward children that make you wonder what the producers were thinking. I can't imagine any child of 1969 that didn't scream themselves awake for a month after seeing this.

Decades have passed and my sister still won't knowingly eat mushrooms.


  1. Yay! I loved H.R.Pufnstuf, too. ('Course, I also loved Dopey the dinosaur.)

    But, nah, H.R.Pufnstuf never scared me like Land of the Lost did. There were no SLEESTAKS, for one thing ...

  2. I have a soft spot for Jimmy because every time I see him there's a part of my brain that just won't stop saying, "holy crap, that's Joan Jett from before she started bleaching!"

    Man, the mushrooms are trying to touch his flute and "turn him into one of us". How did anyone see past the constant homoerotic subtext to find any drug references?


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