Tag Archives: sigmund and the sea monsters

Sigmund and the Sea Monsters 1.3 – Frankenstein Drops In

I decided early on that we’d take a couple of days’ break from Freewheelers every few episodes, and this turned out to be a good idea. More on that later. So my son and I watched Sigmund tonight and enjoyed another episode written by Si Rose. I was really amused that he remembered what his mother had said about Johnny Whitaker’s hair last week. As though it was a brand new gag, he said “I’ve heard of long hair, but a rose bush?!”

He also completely adored the various fish and monster puns, including “peanut butter and jellyfish,” “abalone on rye,” and “ghoul in the family,” and missed an important plot development we had to wind back to hear because he was so busy laughing over Big Daddy calling his two older sons “yo-yos.”

Speaking of monster puns, here’s something cute. I love specially-made one-of-a-kind prop newspapers, press kits, and magazines. Big Daddy is reading an issue of Playbeast, and the front cover is some dopey piece of artwork, but look what’s on the back! It’s Orson Vulture from H.R. Pufnstuf standing in front of a chalkboard covered with math stuff. Evidently, Witchiepoo sent him to learn about cosines. We get no clearer picture than this grab. I wonder who else is in the picture or where it was used.

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Sigmund and the Sea Monsters 1.2 – Puppy Love

Forty-some years before working with dogs on Mutt & Stuff, Sid and Marty Krofft brought along a few four-legged friends to the Paramount stage where they filmed this silly show, and let things get really silly as Sigmund falls in love with one of the neighborhood puppies. Fluffy’s owner, Peggy, is played by Pamelyn Ferdin, who we remember from 1977’s Space Academy. She made two appearances on the show; it’s strongly hinted during Johnny Whitaker’s closing bubblegum rock tune that he has a schoolboy crush on Peggy, but sadly this really wasn’t developed on the show.

Our son adored this episode, from all the dopey puns (“Clam up? Some of my best friends are clams!”) to the climax, in which Fluffy brings several other neighborhood dogs to chase off Blurp and Slurp. Incidentally, this is the second episode in a row where the noise of all the sea monster brawling is dismissed as “prowlers.” Zelda, the housekeeper, is oddly unconcerned about all this potential crime.

Regarding the quality of these screen captures, as with the DVDs of Land of the Lost, the copies available are very badly in need of restoration and remastering, and suffer from color bleeding and blurs. The seventeen episodes of season one have been released twice in North America, by Rhino and later by Vivendi, but you can get both seasons, all 29 episodes, in a region-free four-disk set from Beyond in Australia. Amazon’s currently sold out of that version, but click the pic above and you can order a box set that includes the complete Sigmund along with H.R. Pufnstuf, Land, and Electra Woman and Dyna Girl. That’s 105 episodes in one package for about $60. Not bad at all, even with the need for some extensive restoration work.

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Sigmund and the Sea Monsters 1.1 – The Monster Who Came to Dinner

When we first started this blog and our son had just turned four, I had planned to show him at least some of the entire Saturday morning Sid and Marty Krofft lineup, in the order the shows were made. That got derailed. He was so frightened by Witchiepoo, Benita Bizarre, and Hoo Doo that I knew that my ever-so-gentle son would absolutely hate the Ooze family in Sigmund and the Sea Monsters.

The Kroffts’ first three antagonists, after all, are ridiculous fantasy villains. They may have a few traits in common with real-world nutcases and narcissists, but our son’s not going to have to worry about blowhards like them until he’s much older and starts paying attention to politics (HEY-OH!). But the Oozes are a dark mirror of a real family. They’re dysfunctional and horrible and, if they were to move to Blackpool, they’d prove stiff competition for Monty Python’s Most Awful Family in Britain competition, but they’re close to what a real family could become in the worst circumstances. And though hilarious stupidity rules the roost in the Ooze cave, Big Daddy’s demented cruelty and Blurp and Slurp’s unreasoning bullying would be too much for our kid at the time.

He’s old enough now to see it and appreciate it as something completely unreal, even though these “family members” do their darnedest to shatter his image of how all families should be loving and safe. Last year’s pilot for the revamped Amazon series – I haven’t heard yet when it will begin broadcast, but I’m waiting! – sensibly focused much more on the human cast and never went into the caves or introduced Sigmund’s awful parents, just his two dumb brothers. So, in anticipation of the new series beginning sometime soon, I’ve picked an eleven-episode “greatest hits album” of some of this goofy show’s high points which we will watch over the next couple of months.

If you’ve never seen this series, it has Johnny Whitaker and Scott Kolden as two brothers who befriend the hapless and kind Sigmund (Billy Barty) after his family throws him out for incompetence. His family then has to get him back to meet the demands of a rich uncle. Johnny and Scott have to hide Sigmund from the prying eyes of their family housekeeper – Mom and Dad are eternally away – along with various neighbors and incompetent policemen.

When I was a kid, I honestly didn’t like this show at all. Seeing it again, when I was a teenager, on the Krofft Super Stars syndicated package didn’t improve matters. It wasn’t until adulthood that it finally clicked. There certainly are a number of indefensible, lousy episodes – particularly in the second season, when everybody involved with the show used up their last ideas – and nobody’s going to call this art, but at its best, it’s triumphantly funny slapstick, with Blurp and Slurp’s violence and under-their-breath grumbling devolving into clenched tentacles and the sort of physical mayhem totally absent from later seventies live-action children’s television.

Last night, I was still a little leery and cautious about this show, so we had a “prologue” talk about bullying and how absolutely nobody we’ve ever met is anything like the Ooze family. Perhaps I was being too cautious, but dads can be that way sometime. Tonight, we watched the first episode, which was written by the Kroffts’ veteran comedy scribe Si Rose, and he really enjoyed it. He did get antsy with worry when Blurp and Slurp chased Sigmund and the boys all around the house, but he liked all the fish-related puns and bad jokes (although he misheard one as “two shakes of a needle’s tail,” so that one doesn’t count), and of course he loved the climax, in which the two idiot monsters mistake the local sheriff’s police car for a cute, albeit standoffish girl monster.

Marie was alternately fascinated by just how much physical damage the suit actors seemed to be inflicting upon their costumes – these things had to last for seventeen episodes but they seemed to do everything to Blurp and Slurp short of setting them on fire – and by the remarkable hair shown off by Johnny Whitaker. Even accepting that it was 1973 and fourteen year-old boys had long hair then, the “random bush” on top of his head is a pretty amazingly seventies ‘do.

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Sigmund and the Sea Monsters 1.1 (2016 pilot)

Wa-hey! Of course Daniel and I sat down to watch this pilot this afternoon. It went up at Amazon Prime this morning (clicking the images should link you to Amazon so you can watch it yourself) and we just had a hoot enjoying it.

Considering that the Kroffts don’t have the greatest of track records in relaunching old properties (although, as I said the other day, I haven’t seen the new Electra Woman yet), there is every reason to be a little leery, but this worked completely beautifully. It’s silly and ridiculous and incredibly fun. It’s grounded in the real world, with some lovely location filming and an eyebrow-raisingly large clubhouse, and the new monsters look superb, retaining much of the original design with a lot more detail and different things that the operators and puppeteers can accomplish.

It’s also packed full of injokes for anyone who remembers the original well. Sid and Marty popped in, and so did Johnny Whitaker, “1973,” and the guitar part that opened the first theme tune, and it even credits Si Rose despite not really having a lot to do with the nuts and bolts of that original teleplay. The director is Jonathan Judge, teleplay by Garrett Frawley & Brian Turner.

The really big difference from the original series is that the principal adversary is a human played by David Arquette. He plays a salvage pilot called Captain Barnabas who insists that a sea monster ate one of his toes years ago. Instead of a busybody housekeeper from whom Johnny and Scott keep Sigmund, it’s their aunt, who dotes on the captain. And happily, there’s something for a girl to do in this one; Rebecca Bloom plays the boys’ cousin Robyn, who’s in on the secret.

Solomon Stewart’s Johnny is the pratfall-prone ringleader, and Kyle Harrison Breitkopf gets all the best lines as Scott. He had me laughing aloud a couple of times. (“What’s a net?” is a work of genius.) They kind of struggled to fit Bloom’s Robyn into things and give her a chance to shine, but she gets a great little scene, and Eileen O’Connell plays the clueless Aunt Maxine. There’s just a tiny, tiny bit of that Nick/Disney school in the kids’ performances – my daughter watched most of those programs from about 2002-2011, so I’ve seen a lot of that – but since this isn’t done before a studio audience, nobody’s playing to the rafters or being aggressively stupid as the boys in those shows are. This is a more grounded and believable environment, despite the supernatural premise, and the kids feel more like real people and not stage school talent.

Back in September, I explained that I didn’t plan to watch the original Sigmund with Daniel (here’s the story), so I’m glad he’s getting the chance here. Briefly, my issue is this: I’ve got no objection to the original series at all – unlike some of the ’70s Krofft shows, it definitely improved with age and time – but the downright delicious nastiness of the bullying Ooze family would really, really bother the heck out of my son. In this version, Blurp and Slurp are present, and stupid, and a little bit mean, but they don’t have that delightful, cruel spirit of the original, and they certainly never threw Sigmund out.

The danger in this pilot episode is being found by Captain Barnabas, and he does indeed trap Sigmund, to which my son immediately shouted “I don’t want to watch this,” followed immediately by a howl of laughter from a very well-timed gag. The slapstick throughout is perfectly kid-friendly, and Sigmund himself is of course instantly charming. He also loved Blurp and Slurp, who, thanks to modern special effects, can do things the original monsters could never do, and he was laughing at them, especially when they completely misunderstand the difference between trash and treasure.

At this stage, the show’s just a pilot, one of six kid shows under consideration. I really hope this goes to series. It’s got heart and brain and slimy defense mechanisms and I would love to see more. I’m not sure how long it’s available to stream, but definitely give it a play and, hopefully, a high rating!

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What About Sigmund?

Sid & Marty Krofft’s fourth family TV series premiered in the fall of 1973. It was called Sigmund and the Sea Monsters and, when I was a kid, I didn’t like it at all. It was the first Krofft show to get a second season, and the first Krofft show to invert their formula and bring a character from a fantasy universe into the real world, but I just cringed watching it as a kid.

When the cable network The Family Channel started running many of the Krofft series in 1996 (along with some very odd new interstitial shorts called Okie Dokie), I finally got this show. It’s really, really clever, full of puns and mumbled jokes and ridiculous insults. It’s downright fascinating from a production standpoint. The demands of the show called for entirely different puppet designs. Any mayhem that befell the costumed characters in all the Kroffts’ previous shows had to be carefully choreographed to avoid damaging the costumes. The Sea Monsters, however, are constantly in a tumbled tangle of tentacles. Whoever was unfortunate enough to be in the Burp and Slurp and Big Daddy suits were perpetually doing somersaults and pratfalls on top of each other. That’s probably the reason some of the characters changed color slightly in season two: the suits had to be rebuilt from scratch because they couldn’t take any more crashes into the sand-covered studio floor!

(Actually, there was a fire at Paramount during the second or third week of production on season two. It’s possible they had to remake some or all of the costumes after that, I suppose…)

So yes, I greatly enjoy Sigmund and would love to watch it again – the first season, at least, is in print and I might pick it up – but the target audience is my son, and I believe that he would really be troubled by this series. The problem is that Sigmund’s big brothers Burp and Slurp are just remarkably mean and cruel bullies, without any of the redeeming silliness of Witchiepoo, or without the identifiable “other” that marks bad guys as totally separate from good guys. Well, they’re endearingly stupid, but that’s not what I mean.

They’re family, and I know that Daniel would have a really hard time with that. Sweet Mama and Big Daddy also pose huge problems in my book; just the whole concept of a family being something so terrible that they throw you out and then keep screwing with you… he would hate that and the show simply would not be any fun for us to watch together at all.

Regrettably, therefore, we’re tabling Sigmund for the time being. We may or may not come back to it when he’s a little older, but first, we’ll check out something that the Kroffts’ competitors at Filmation were doing on CBS. I actually plan to watch a lot more Filmation than Krofft for this blog, since almost all of the live-action Filmation catalog was released on DVD at sensible prices. Almost all. Uncle Croc’s Block wasn’t, but I never watched that show anyway.

I hope that somebody will release or reissue Far Out Space Nuts and The Bugaloos and Horror Hotel and Electra Woman and Dyna Girl before my son gets too old… fingers crossed!

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