H.R. Pufnstuf 1.9 – The Stand-In

This episode introduces two new characters, Puf’s little sister Shirlee, who is a great film star, and her producer-director-boss, The Great Toadenoff. Their voices are based on Shirley Temple and Erich von Stroheim, and, in the way of children’s entertainment, the motion picture they are making is completely improvised and has a crew of however many of the Hippie Ants can be used in a scene. I love how charmingly naive kids’ TV and comics are about this, not wishing to complicate children’s understanding of how movies are made by introducing concepts like a script or a plan. Toadenoff just shoots whatever’s happening and apparently a movie will result and somebody, somewhere, will watch it.

This episode actually breaks from the formula, as Witchiepoo has no design on the flute this week. She just wants to answer the call for extras and stand-ins so that she can be a big star, too. She disguises herself as “Lola Lollapallooza” this week, and for once, everybody actually knows it’s her and execute their plan: to delay her on the film set long enough for Jimmy to get into the castle and steal her Vroom Broom.

They delay her by way of the classic vaudeville “makeup” routine, with Pufnstuf walloping her with a gigantic makeup sponge several times. Once the day’s shooting is finished, she and Puf have a rather charming conversation about how he shouldn’t think of her as a witch, but as a woman. Puf concedes that he never thought of her that way, and suggests that they make up. So yes, you saw this coming, but Witchiepoo knocking the blazes out of Pufnstuf with that sponge is still completely hilarious. I haven’t laughed like that since… well, since the last time we watched this show last week, probably.

The episode ends with Witchiepoo mourning the loss of her Vroom Broom, which she set ablaze trying to zap Jimmy. Daniel spent the next twenty minutes asking why she was crying and why she likes that broom so much. Then he wanted to know why Pufnstuf lives in a tree. Answers on a postcard, readers…

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