Tag Archives: evil trees

H.R. Pufnstuf 1.13 – A Tooth for a Tooth

It’s a rare day when Billie Hayes gets upstaged in this show, but one of the very few examples comes in this episode. This time out, when Jimmy escapes into her forest, she calls out the always-incompetent evil trees again, leading to one of this goofy show’s goofiest moments.

You sometimes wonder whether this program’s writers, Lennie Weinrib and Paul Harrison, actually remember their previous scripts, because the trees are so patently bumbling that you’d think Puf would, by this point, just sit back and wait for Jimmy to kick the bejesus out of them as he’s done at least five times before. But Pufnstuf fears the worst and calls for the good trees to step in.

Now, up to this point, Hayes has, as always, been the star of the show. She gets to rant and rave because she has a toothache, pose as a little girl to get her tooth pulled by Dr. Blinky (reusing the costume from “The Stand-In“), and, once she’s given the whammy of a love potion, act like a bundle of sunshine who loves everybody on Living Island. But then the trees have a fight, which turns into a dance once the evil trees get a dose of the love potion, and it’s the funniest thing in the universe.

I’m impressed by so much about the bizarre costuming and puppetry in the Krofft series, and just the way the actors navigate around each other while wearing these silly things is always amusing. But this is a really funny spectacle of chaos, especially when Jimmy takes off his jacket so he can start swatting one of the evil trees from behind. We loved it!

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H.R. Pufnstuf 1.8 – The Horse With the Golden Throat

This episode is absolutely hilarious! Daniel and I laughed up a storm during it.

So this time out, Jimmy absent-mindedly sets Freddie down on a stack of carrots that the Polka-Dotted Horse is eating. The horse swallows Freddie, wacky hijinks ensue. Except these really are funny. Highlights include the Peter Lorre Evil Tree finally telling the Bela Lugosi Evil Tree to knock off the poetry, already, and the ridiculous and wonderful resolution to the problem.

See, Dr. Blinky’s fireplace – that’s him in the back of the picture above, he talks like Edward G. Robinson – insists that he knows how to get Freddie out of the horse, but Blinky shushes him. Then Witchiepoo shows up, claiming that Seymour is deathly ill, leading Dr. Blinky outside, so the fireplace can explain his plan to Pufnstuf and Jimmy. It’s a simple plan: flood the house with smoke and make him cough it up.

Even expecting smoke, and for things to go somewhat askew, the volume of smoke that instantly fills the set is really freaking hilarious.

Some gags get repeated this week – Orson knocked out by a zapped lamp, Witchiepoo’s clothes being sneezed off by the house – but I’m pretty sure that any four year-old watching this didn’t mind one bit. What a little gem of a story.

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H.R. Pufnstuf 1.6 – The Golden Key

“The Golden Key” is the first appearance of a regular Krofft trope: the hero, trying to escape, is given every opportunity to do so, but gets delayed by a plot complication and the villain, solves the problem, and then gives up on that opportunity. This is really weird. The first episode of Lidsville has exactly the same construction, and so do a couple of other Krofft shows, and all the lousy 1970s cartoons from Hanna-Barbera and the like that riffed on Krofft plots did the same thing.

This time, Ludicrous Lion sells them a map off the island for ten buttons. The map leads them to three parts of a key, which act as a compass to a golden door. But they stop using the key when they find a sign that Witchiepoo has altered to point to her dungeon delivery door instead. After escaping and leaving Witchiepoo and the “gruesome twosome” locked in her own dungeon, they all go back to town, the episode finished, and this way off the island forgotten.

This is the first episode that attempts to give some scale to Living Island’s enormous size, and try as they might, they just can’t pull it off. All of the costumes and the sets for interior places simply ate up all the budget, so all of the Living Island exteriors are simply the same “bright outside floor” dressed with different two-dimensional cut-out trees and plants, and different little dumps of moss or something.

Earlier episodes established that the witch’s patch of the island is lit more darkly, but the Evil Trees and the talking mushrooms always seem to be in the same place. For suspension of disbelief, I’m willing to pretend that the same slightly redressed “sunny day” floor is intended to be lots of different areas, but come on, there’s only so many times you can interact with a cigar-chomping mushroom who cannot actually move around and who speaks with a Jimmy Cagney voice before you say “I’m in the same place, the witch’s castle is a hundred feet from here.”

Speaking of the witch, Daniel is firmly no longer frightened or unnerved by Witchiepoo, and looks forward to seeing how she gets her comeuppance each time. Whew! I never thought she was going to scare him in the first place!

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H.R. Pufnstuf 1.1 – The Magic Path

We began the Fire-Breathing Dimetrodon Time experience with the first of four series that I thought the least likely to cause undue panic, but Wilhelmina P. Witchiepoo caused exactly that.

We did warn Daniel that this show has a witch in it, but that she’s “a kooky old witch,” and really not very good at being bad. Unfortunately, he went straight from “there’s a witch on screen” to “hiding behind the couch.” It turned out all right in the end. He said that he really liked the show and wants to see more, and for that, we can probably thank Witchiepoo’s underlings for being so wonderfully incompetent. He liked the scene where Orson and Seymour crash into each other and knock themselves out, and he liked Cling and Clang, their slide, and the Rescue Racer.

This episode introduces Stupid Bat, who’s my favorite character, and the Evil Trees, one of whom has a wonderful line, “I think that I shall never see / A tree as terrifying as me!” Daniel didn’t like these as much as I did.

The first unflattering cultural stereotype in a Krofft show comes at five minutes into the episode, when we meet a Native American – “Indian” – tree called “Redwood,” and who calls Jimmy “Paleface.” At the end, we meet the four winds, and sadly the East Wind talks in a vaudeville Charlie Chan voice.

I’ll talk a little more about the absolutely bonkers set design and puppetry in future installments, but it’s worth noting that “The Magic Path” introduces Judy Frog, a character mostly abandoned to crowd scenes after this appearance. Judy Frog is an homage to Judy Garland, which makes sense as H.R. Pufnstuf owes so much to the film version of The Wizard of Oz. The Kroffts’ puppet show had been an opening act for Judy Garland’s live shows in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Garland passed away in June 1969, aged 47. I’m not certain when in 1969 these episodes were actually filmed, but I suspect that they made this episode before her death. It was first shown on NBC on Sept. 6 1969.

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