Oddball Films and guest curator Kat Shuchter present I’m Your Puppet: A Puppet Film Retrospective. With Muppets fever in the air, Oddball Films brings you a salute to all things puppet, from the lyrical to the absurd, from hand puppets to marionettes to ventriloquist dummies from the 1930s through the 1980s, you’ll wish you had someone’s hand up your back. The program includes marvelous puppet animation from two of the all-time masters; George Pal’s early Puppetoon Cavalcade of Music (1934) and Jiří Trnka’s last masterpiece The Hand (1966). Mel Brooks and Marlo Thomas voice baby puppets in the classic Free To Be You and Me sketch Boy Meets Girl (1974). Debbie Reynolds sings to giant marionettes of her famous pals from A Date With Debbie (1960). Puppets teach us things too, like how to be less belligerent in Feelings: Don’t Stay Mad (1972) and why not to take drugs in Deciso 3003 (1982), with puppets by Julie Taymor. And just when you thought it was safe to bring your kids, we’ve got 1930’s puppet burlesque with Doll Dance and man on puppet porn with Beaver Boy (1968). We’ve even found original Muppets trailers and a heaping handfull of puppet commercials to pull all of your strings!
Strike Up The Band
Date: Saturday, December 10th, 2011 at 8:00pm
Venue: Oddball Films, 275 Capp Street San Francisco (map)
Admission: $10.00 - Limited Seating RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org or (415) 558-8117
Cavalcade of Music (1934, B&W)
Creative force behind some of the most creative monsters in Fantasy film , Hungarian exile George Pal began his career pioneering a method of stop-motion used in his series of Puppetoons, earning him seven consecutive Oscar nominations. In one of his earliest Puppetoons, Cavalcade of Music, Pal creates an epic spectacle of music and dance all with carved wooden puppets. From the chic Art Deco bandstand, to an entire puppet jazz orchestra, to a puppet can-can, this film overwhelms with its imagination and scope.
Don’t let anyone pull your strings
A Date With Debbie (1960, B&W)
America’s sweetheart Debbie Reynolds got her very first television special in 1960, A Date With Debbie, written by comic legend Carl Reiner. The musical darling sings, dances and even attempts to make you laugh, interspersed with long form commercials from Revlon. In this segment Debbie sings to her pals, well, to giant caricature marionettes of her famous friends like Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra. I guess Revlon couldn’t afford all the appearance fees.
The Hand (1966, Color)
Czech animator Jiří Trnka, known as the “Walt Disney of Eastern Europe” said about puppet films, “Puppet films are truly unlimited in their possibilities: they can express themselves with the greatest force precisely when the realistic expression of the cinematographic image often faces insurmountable obstacles.” He spent most of his career animating adaptations of literature and fairy tales, but in his last film, and often considered his greatest, The Hand, he creates an overtly pessimistic allegory of the oppression of personal freedom and censorship. Banned in Czechoslovakia for two decades.
Boy Meets Girl (1974, Color)
Teens: In Space
From the people that told us it was alright to cry and for boys to have dolls, Free To Be You And Me was the quintessential hippy parenting guide. In this classic sketch from the 1974 television broadcast. Mel Brooks and Marlo Thomas take a light-hearted approach to the discussion of gender roles, as two babies postulating on their own sexes. The magic of FTBYAM was its effortless way of making heavy ideas of feminism, consumerism and understanding palatable and entertaining for children and adult-children alike.
Deciso 3003 (1982, Color)
Peter Wallach, Eli Wallach’s brother directed this bizarre anti-drug PSA, in the height of the “Just Say No” ‘80s. Two couples of double-headed alien teens set out on what they think is just going to be any other intergalactic trip to the Drive-In (to see Vincent
Price in The Fly) but when one of them thinks it’ll be cool to take some meteor pills and get handsy with his date, we all learn that being a teenager isn’t easy for anyone in the galaxy. The puppets were made by Julie Taymor, director of Across the Universe and Titus, and Eli Wallach narrates, though neither is credited on the internet movie database. Perhaps, like the teen alien flying home alone, they too feel the shame.
Controlling Your Anger Through Better Puppetry
Feelings: Don’t Stay Mad (1972, Color)
This bizarre and head-scratching PSA attempts to teach children to deal with their anger. Herky and Goonie are two of the ugliest puppets you may ever see, and they seem to be locked in some sort of domestic abuse situation, although it would seem they are only supposed to be 9 year-old children. Goonie is a belligerent, baseball bat wielding maniac, that none of the kids want to play with, but maybe there is hope if he can learn to not stay mad (and put down the baseball bat). There are also some marvelous scenes of precious little girls screaming and beating their pillows mercilessly.
Double-Talk Girl (1942), A Universal Pictures “Popular Person Oddity” with Shirley Dinsdale and her right-hand gal, Judy Splinters. Doll Dance, a 1930s Burlesque tit for tat dance number with Arlene and Rene. Both ladies are lovely, only Arlene has someone pulling her strings. Decades before the rise of “furry” culture, Beaver Boy (1968) is the touching story of a young man, reading quietly by himself, who is propositioned by a fox puppet, a proposition too good to pass up. With special appearances by Lambchop and Hush Puppy, Butch Bear and the Yakimo gang, The Muppets, HR Pufnstuf, puppet commercials and more!
Kat Shuchter is a graduate of UC Berkeley in Film Studies. She is a filmmaker, artist and esoteric film hoarder. She has helped program shows at the PFA, The Nuart and Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theater and was crowned “Found Footage Queen” of Los Angeles, 2009.