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Kids’ shows in the key of Krofft In Focus by Richard Crouse IN FOCUS June 05, 2009

hr-pufnstuf-02Without Sid and Marty Krofft the ’60s and ’70s would have been much less colorful. The brothers produced trippy Saturday morning kids’ shows like Sigmund and the Sea Monsters, Lidsville and H.R. Pufnstuf. They were mind-bending romps with wild fluorescent puppet characters that looked like hip castoffs from McDonald’s-land and a psychedelic sensibility that had more to do with Reefer Madness than Captain Kangaroo.

Not that I knew that at the time. Later when I realized H.R’s surname was pronounced “puffin’ stuff” the hallucinogenic humor of the show made (slightly) more sense.

The Kroffts were best known for their insane puppet shows, but among their other credits were fantasy series like Land of the Lost, which gets the big screen treatment this weekend. If it’s a hit expect more shows from the Krofft vault to make the leap to theatres.

“I think a number of our titles are conducive to film,” says younger brother Marty, “Like Lidsville, Electra Woman and Dyna Girl; I know there is a big star that wants to be Electra Woman.”

This isn’t the first time the Kroffts have dabbled in film. In 1970 the brothers produced a theatrical version of the H.R. Pufnstuf television show. Simply titled Pufnstuf, it centred around Jimmy (Jack Wild), his magical talking flute, Freddy, and Jimmy’s old foe Witchiepoo (Billie Hayes) who tries to steal the flute and win the Witch of the Year Award.

It’s not Dostoevsky, but Witchiepoo and her Vroom Broom is worth a search on YouTube. (If they bring Pufnstuf back to the big screen Marty already knows who he wants to play Witchiepoo. “How great would Johnny Depp be as Witchiepoo?” he says.)

If Pufnstuf was Cheech and Chong for kids their next movie was John Waters-lite.

Shot in 1978, Side Show is a demented little flick that didn’t see the light of day until 1981. Directed by William Canon Conrad this strange piece of celluloid is a murder mystery set against the backdrop of a circus.

The Kroffts and Conrad almost outdo Tod Browning’s Freaks, bringing together a collection of actual side show performers to add a sense of eccentric authenticity to the picture.

Side Show was a flop, but that didn’t slow down the brothers. They have been producing television and movies for almost five decades with no end in sight. As Disney chief Michael Eisner said, “The Kroffts always have one more show in them.”

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