In the beginning, there was Pufnstuf. And it was weird. (All images courtesy Rhino Home Video)

 

 


Ed. Note: Rhino Home Video recently issued the complete run of H.R. Pufnstuf on DVD, sparking renewed attention to the show's creators. But it seems rather amazing that there isn't even a cable network out there willing to finance some new Krofft-style madness that would no doubt attract both kids and wistful adults. Perhaps Japanese video game characters and comics superheroes are just safer bets. Nevertheless, the Kroffts did launch their own line of nifty action figure toys and were even awarded their own E! True Hollywood Story. Now if only VH1 would give the Bugaloos their rightful episode of Behind the Music.

* * *

The sky is solid blue, dotted by perfectly puffy white clouds that look painted on the horizon. The ground is oddly flat and soil-free, though there are hills in the distance sprouting two-dimensional trees. Near your feet are clumps of an unidentifiable organic material (loam? moss?) and huge soft flowers of blue and orange. It’s all so strangely serene…

"Golly–Freddie sure is enjoying our picnic!" declares the giant dragon sitting beside you. His body appears to be mostly head–a gargantuan orange head with glassy eyes that bobble atop dark green bags. He’s naked except for his white cowboy boots and some sort of sash with a medal. And his voice kind of sounds like a mellow Jim Nabors. What’s going on here? you wonder.

Suddenly, a high-pitched cackle can be heard overhead, and a green-skinned witch comes buzzing down from the sky atop her jet-equipped broom. "She’s gonna zap us!" cries the rotund dragon as he scrambles to his feet. Terror erupts as everybody–including the two mute English bobbies who don’t appear to have noses–runs for cover.

"Hide me, Jimmy!" begs a squeaky little voice. "Hide me!" You look down into the picnic basket and–my God!–there’s a golden flute in there with a mouth and eyes! And it’s crying for your help! It’s Freddie, Freddie the magical flute…you’re beginning to remember now…Jimmy’s some kid lost on this weird island…

"DON’T ANYONE TOUCH THE EVIL MUSHROOMS!" commands Pufnstuf–H.R. Pufnstuf–before scuttling away, leaving you alone with that malevolently tittering witch. Witchiepoo is her name. And those two deformed officers were Kling and Klang. But where’s Dr. Blinky and Waxy? Ohhh, the head begins to spin, and…

And you realize that this wasn’t all simply a long-forgotten dream, but rather a Saturday morning TV show you grew up watching way back in the ’70s. Filed deep within the recesses of memory, the show’s characters have remained as barely-remembered figments of the imagination for most of your adult life. But now, suddenly, there they are on your TV set once again: the curious inhabitants of the psychedelic wonderland called Living Island, a.k.a. H.R. Pufnstuf. Through airings on cable’s TV Land and on VHS from Rhino Home Video, these strange creations have returned, greeted by a cultish fanbase of wistful adults and curious kids.

 

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