A couple of years ago, we watched the episode of Batman that had Chad and Jeremy in it, and I wrote about that old Hollywood habit of presenting faded hitmakers playing themselves as major celebrities. Jack Wild certainly wasn’t major, and absolutely not in Hollywood.
After the Pufnstuf film, Jack had gone back to England. It looks like he appeared in four films in Europe and an episode of the long-running BBC drama The Onedin Line, none of which were mainstream hits in the US, over the next three years. His bubblegum pop music career had tanked, and there was the really sad and unfortunate problem that Wild’s reputation for partying really, really hard had preceded him and he wasn’t getting any offers from American companies. However, Zelda, and, bizarrely, Sweet Mama are starstruck by Jack Wild, who bumps into Johnny and Scott on the beach taking a break from the “rat race” of making movies and wants to spend a quiet weekend without the studio knowing where he is.
I really liked Sweet Mama recognizing Jack from Oliver!, the only film named here. She knows him from “those foreign human movies on The Late, Late Show,” and Jack makes a cute joke about the Artful Dodger when he’s escaping. But really, John Fenton Murray’s story is the Kroffts giving a fading star of their acquaintance another chance to grab the spotlight, this time spending half an hour shirtless in a denim vest for the preteen girls to enjoy. Jack Wild needed the Kroffts more than they needed him. You’ll notice Jack wasn’t invited to be a special guest star on Donny & Marie. Not even on Pink Lady.
Our son didn’t recognize Jack; he’s not all that good with faces anyway, and it’s been quite a few months since he’s looked at any H.R. Pufunstuf. We told him who the guest star was and he was very pleasantly surprised. I guess, however, that since the fictional character of Jack did not actually say anything like “You know, three years ago, I played a kid stuck on an island with weird monsters kind of like this,” we can pretend that this fictional character of Jack had, instead, made dozens of hit movies at that Hollywood studio. I’ve often said that Jack Wild’s deterioration and long demise is a horrible shame and a real waste of a great talent. It’s nice to pretend for a few moments that in the fictional universe of Sigmund and the Sea Monsters, there are a whole mess of great and fun Jack Wild movies, because there, he was the star that he should have been here.
Besides, in the fictional universe of Sigmund and the Sea Monsters, H.R. Pufnstuf isn’t a TV show. Stay tuned.