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Sid & Marty Krofft's Saturday Morning Hits DVD Review

Sid & Marty Krofft's Saturday Morning Hits DVD cover art -- click to buy DVD from Amazon.com Sid & Marty Krofft's Saturday Morning Hits (1969-1977)
Series & DVD Details

Featured Series: "H.R. Pufnstuf", "Sigmund and the Sea Monsters", "The Bugaloos", "Lidsville", "ElectraWoman and DynaGirl", "Wonderbug", "Bigfoot and Wildboy"

Creators: Sid Krofft, Marty Krofft ("Pufnstuf", "Sigmund", "Bugaloos", "Lidsville"); Joe Ruby, Ken Spears ("ElectraWoman", "Wonderbug", "Bigfoot"); Si Rose ("Sigmund") / Writers: Dick Robbins, Duane Poole, Lennie Weinrib, Paul Harrison, Milt Rosen, John Fenton Murray, Warren Murray, Mark Fink, Donald R. Boyle / Directors: Tony Charmoli, Hollingsworth Morse, Richard Dunlap, Walter Miller, Art Fisher, Leslie H. Martinson

Cast: Billie Hayes (Witchiepoo, Weenie the Genie), Billy Barty (Sigmund Ooze, Sparky the Firefly), Lennie Weinrib (voice of H.R. Pufnstuf, Mr. Big, Colonel Poom, others), Sharon Baird (Big Daddy Ooze, Funky Rat, Raunchy Rabbit), Van Snowden (Sweet Mama Ooze, Tweeter), Walker Edmiston (voice of Ludicrous Lion, Raunchy Rabbit, others), Joan Gerber (voice of Freddy the Flute, others), Joy Campbell (Woofer, others), Jack Wild (Jimmy), Johnny Whitaker (Johnny Stuart), Mary Wickes (Aunt Zelda), Scott Kolden (Scott Stuart), Margaret Hamilton (Mrs. Eddels), Paul Gale (Slurp Ooze), Larry Larsen (Blurp Ooze), Joe Higgins (Sheriff Chuck Bevans), John McIndoe (I.Q.), Wayne Laryea (Harmony), John Philpott (Courage), Caroline Ellis (Joy), Martha Raye (Benita Bizarre), Charles Nelson Reilly (Horatio J. HooDoo), Butch Patrick (Mark), Jerry Maren (Rah-Rah), Angelo Rossitto (Mr. Big), Felix Silla (Colonel Poom), The Hermine Midgets (Hats), Deidre Hall (ElectraWoman/Lori), Judy Strangis (DynaGirl/Judy), Norman Alden (Frank Heflin), Malachi Throne (Ali Baba), Sid Haig (The Genie), Ian Martin (Nabakov), Marvin Miller (Narrator), David Levy (Barry Buntrock), Carol Anne Seflinger (Susan Talbot), John-Anthony Bailey (C.C. McNamera), Frank Welker (voice of Schlepcar/Wonderbug), Richard Foronjy (Pierce), Read Morgan (Dennis), Avery Schreiber (The Great Zucchini), Dick Dinman (Bad Guy), Ted Noose (Bad Guy), Ray Young (Bigfoot), Joseph Butcher (Wildboy), Yvonne Regalado (Cindy), H.M. Wynant (Professor Sewell), Richard Moll (Lohr-Khan One), Stan Haze (Lohr-Khan Two)


Running Time: 160 Minutes (7 episodes) / Rating: Not Rated
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Broadcast Ratio), Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles: None; Not Closed Captioned; Original Airdates: September 1969 - 1977
DVD Release Date: November 30, 2010; Suggested Retail Price: $14.93
Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase; Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)

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In terms of television partnerships, Sid and Marty Krofft may not be as revered as Rankin-Bass or Hanna-Barbera, but their live-action programs produce similar nostalgia and comfort for those who grew up on them the same time that the other pairs were making their animated specials and shows. The Krofft brothers made a very specific kind of children's television, big on fantasy, bulky costumes, puppets, low-tech effects, and song. Modern kids might know them for creating the series on which Will Ferrell's big-budget flop Land of the Lost was based, but I wouldn't bet on it.
Aside from the short-lived 2002-03 "Family Affair" remake starring Gary Cole and Tim Curry, the Kroffts (now aged 81 and 73) haven't made a show since their 1991 "Land of the Lost" revival, but that hasn't stopped kids of the late '60s, 1970s, and early '80s from fondly recalling the productions from their heyday.

There is no better way to recall such productions than to watch a DVD holding them. Such DVDs have come and gone, and buying a sealed copy of them can cost you upwards of $40 on Amazon Marketplace. Fortunately, for those who missed out on 2002's 3-disc The World of Sid & Marty Krofft and 2005's Saturday Morning with Sid & Marty Krofft, both released and discontinued by Rhino, there is the upcoming Sid & Marty Krofft's Saturday Morning Hits. This low-priced compilation disc from Vivendi Entertainment supplies episodes of seven Krofft shows, including three "Krofft Supershow" series never before released to DVD. Both incarnations of "Land of the Lost" and the Krofft-produced celebrity variety shows ("Donny & Marie", "The Brady Bunch Hour") are the most notable exclusions, presumably due to rights laying elsewhere. Most of the duo's other popular works are sampled here.

H.R. Pufnstuf and Jimmy (Jack Wild) give us their best looks of despair after Witchiepoo steals Freddy the Flute. Mark (Butch Patrick) shows off his wallet family snapshots to Lidsville's Horatio J. HooDoo (Charles Nelson Reilly), turning the gears of the rotten magician's ransom plan.

Prior to reviewing this DVD, I knew some of the Krofft show titles and had seen some clips, so I had a good idea of what to expect. And my expectations were met. Technically crude, amateurishly acted and generally ridiculous, the series nonetheless have a certain quaint charm to them that is almost entirely due to being products of a bygone era. It's no surprise that many have associated the trippy, psychedelic feel of the shows' conception, execution, and characters with hallucinogenic drugs. For their part, the Kroffts deny any illicit substances as fueling their creative process. That's too bad, because that might have been the "cool" or logical explanation of their work.
The reality, I guess, is that they're just two brothers with the wherewithal to channel their strange imaginations and puppet skills into inexpensive, deliciously terrible children's television.

It's not necessary to have grown up watching Krofft shows to appreciate them today, but again, that would be the logical explanation for it. Otherwise, you're just a viewer with a taste for strange, inexpensive, deliciously terrible yesteryear children's television. There are worse things, I suppose. Like being a druggie. Or being humorless. You have to have a sense of humor in seeing these shows today. Your amusement won't likely align with the preposterous laugh tracks, but with the sheer absurdity of it all. The expositional title sequences. The musical number that doubles as a pronoun lesson. The spoofs of Columbo and John Wayne.

The seven episodes seen here are said to be some of Sid and Marty's favorites. That makes me curious, because I'm assuming their pride is sincere and that they really enjoy these shows. Does that then mean that worse (i.e. far more entertaining) episodes were passed over for these? Because no matter how much you loved these as kids, the so-bad-they're-good factor is essential to liking them now. It's not a huge concern because there is plenty to ridicule/ironically like here.

Let's take a close look at the featured shows and episodes...

Sigmund (Billy Barty), Johnny (Johnny Whitaker), and Scott (Scott Kolden) are surprised to find sea monster patriarch Big Daddy enjoying their clubhouse television. The rest of the Bugaloos can't stand hearing Benita Bizarre's voice coming out of the pixieish Joy (Caroline Ellis).

1. H.R. Pufnstuf (3 of 17): "Show Biz Witch" (21:29) (Originally aired September 20, 1969)
The first and probably most beloved Krofft series, this centered on Jimmy (Jack Wild, fresh off playing the Artful Dodger in Oliver!), a shipwrecked boy who ended up on the strange and colorful Living Island, befriending its dragon mayor H.R. Pufnstuf. In this episode, the wretched Witchiepoo (Billie Hayes) sets her sights on Jimmy and his talking flute Freddy. To raise the 200 buttons needed for the solution (a protective product from shyster salesman Ludicrous Lion), the island throws a talent show, which Witchiepoo and her henchmen crash.

2. Sigmund and the Sea Monsters (11 of 29): "Make Room for Big Daddy" (23:52) (Originally aired December 29, 1973)
This two-season show told of brothers Johnny (afroed redhead Johnny Whitaker, of "Family Affair" fame, back on television after a brief but fruitful film run) and Scott (Scott Kolden) who secretly befriend Sigmund (Billy Barty), a young green seaweed-covered sea monster. In this installment, after their "shellivision" is broke, Sigmund's older brothers and father come to the boys' clubhouse to watch an old TV set up there for Sigmund. Johnny and Scott have to hide the shenanigans from housekeeper Zelda (Mary Wickes) as well as their noise-sensitive neighbor (Margaret Hamilton, the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz).

3. The Bugaloos (3 of 17): "The Great Voice Robbery" (21:43) (Originally aired September 26, 1970)
The Bugaloos are a British music band and also insects. To advance her own singing career, the group's nemesis, Benita Bizarre (Martha Raye), decides to swap voices with Joy (Caroline Ellis), the female Bugaloo. The episode tries to get as much out of that concept as humanly or insectually possible.

Who needs male superheroes when you've got the powerful duo of ElectraWoman (Deidre Hall) and DynaGirl (Judy Strangis)? When the Schlepcar turns into Wonderbug, it transforms Barry (David Levy), Susan (Carol Anne Seflinger), and C.C. (John-Anthony Bailey) from merely cool youths to ice cold sky pilots.

4. Lidsville (9 of 17): "Mark & the Bean Stalk" (22:17) (Originally aired November 6, 1971)
This show, the Kroffts' third, tells us of the adventures experienced by Mark (Butch Patrick, better known as Eddie Munster), a teenaged boy who falls into the world inside a magician's hat, a world populated largely by good and bad living hats. In this episode, Mark sees a giant beanstalk as the way to escape back into the real world, but the broke, evil Horatio J. HooDoo (Charles Nelson Reilly) decides he can get a ransom from Mark's family instead and transforms himself into Mark to make it happen.

5. ElectraWoman and DynaGirl (7 & 8 of 16): "Ali Baba" (23:25) (Originally aired October 23-30, 1976)
This is basically a hammier female version of the '60s "Batman" with no masks to cover our heroines' pretty faces.
In this contained pair of quarter-hour episodes, Ali Baba (Malachi Throne) and his Genie (Sid Haig) abduct a Russian scientist to obtain the top-secret Metamorphosis formula, which turns people opposite to their nature. Electra Woman (Deidre Hall, "Days of Our Lives") and DynaGirl (Judy Strangis) come to the rescue, but face off against one another when one gets sprayed with the formula.

6. Wonderbug (1 & 2 of 20): "Go West Young Schlepcar" & "Schlepnapped" (23:20) (Originally aired September 11-18, 1976)
Three young adults -- a white guy (David Levy), a black guy (John-Anthony Bailey, future adult movie star), and a blonde girl (Carol Anne Seflinger) they don't often listen to -- drive around in a junkyard jelopy that with the right horn becomes Wonderbug (vocalized by Frank Welker), who's able to fly and do other fancy things that situations call for. In the first installment, the gang ends up in a ghost town that's less haunted than corrupt. The second episode finds Schlepcar stolen and put under a magician's spell.

7. Bigfoot and Wildboy (4 of 20): "UFO Parts 1 & 2" (24:15) (Originally aired October 1, 1977)
Bigfoot (Ray Young) and Wildboy (Joseph Butcher) are friends and their names aren't ironic in any way. Here, the unlikely buds come to the assistance of a young woman (Yvonne Regalado), whose cave-exploring professor friend (H.M. Wynant) is captured and enslaved by the vile, spewing Lohr-Khan. The show's more serious stylings make it the least knowingly campy and possibly most ludicrous thing on this disc.

VIDEO and AUDIO

With the exception of "H.R. Pufnstuf", picture and sound is pretty terrible, but I suspect that is more the result of original production methods than insufficient DVD restoration. The problems (soft, blurry video, washed-out colors, poorly-mixed and distorted sound) do not appear to be correctable transfer issues but likely just an acceptable aspect of their rock-bottom budgets. TV quality standards in the 1970s were far from today's. Though plenty of live-action shows from this era look pretty good on DVD, most have got at least somewhat of a soft, garish look to them, just not nearly as bad as these shows, which must be poorly preserved to boot. There isn't much sense fussing about it. Even though it seems it wouldn't take much, I don't know that any technology will be able to make most of these shows look better than they do in their unpresentable state here. One thing the DVD can assume fault for is the lack of both closed captions and subtitles.

Concept art for Living Island is one of 25 stills comprising the 50 Years of Krofft Art gallery. The Wonderbug gang hits us while Bigfoot and Wildboy approach on the DVD's appropriately sunny/trippy main menu.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

The only bonus feature is a "photo gallery" the case calls "50 Years of Krofft Art." It contains 25 pieces of character and location concept art for many of the disc's featured series.

The fitting main menu randomly cycles through theme songs while stills come at us against a swirling animated backdrop.

There are no inserts inside the standard black Eco-Box keepcase and the case itself fails to provide episode titles or synopses. I guess that's where I come in.

BAYABAA! You know Bigfoot (Ray Young) means business when the camera tilts for his slow-motion, crotch-centering Six Million Dollar Man run in "Bigfoot and Wildboy." The early Sid & Marty Krofft TV shows ended with this colorful production logo.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Saturday Morning Hits is an easy and inexpensive way to revisit a bunch of the Krofft brothers' TV series without going the costly complete season route. If you only care for one or two of these shows, this may not be for you, and new Krofft series sets could be coming from Vivendi ("H.R. Pufnstuf" has been scheduled for next January). I can't really recommend the collection on any grounds but nostalgia and even that could work against it, because if you have treasured childhood memories of these shows, watching them now could spoil them. However, if you don't have such memories, seeing these now for the first time will only provide camp entertainment and plenty of it.

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Reviewed November 2, 2010.



Text copyright 2010 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1969-1977 Sid & Marty Krofft Television Productions/Krofft Entertainment and 2010 Vivendi Entertainment.
Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.