That might indeed seem like a bold statement, but I truly do believe that the Emmet Otter outtakes below will make your day better. Think about it. The Jim Henson company has created thousands of hours of entertainment. New generations are daily getting their first encounters with the magic that the Henson company has created. Movies as well as of course television specials. For my money, one of the greatest of the latter is Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas from 1977.
By the way, the special was shot and indeed released to Canadian television in 1977. It wasn’t seen by American audiences however until HBO picked it up for ’78 and ’79. In fact it was in 1980 when I first saw the special for myself, when it aired on ABC.
Every single one of the Henson Company productions show a lot of heart. However I think that Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas has an extra helping of it. The special was based on the 1971 book by Russell and Lillian Hoban. But one of the reasons I believe the show stands out so much is the beautiful music by Paul Williams.
Jim Henson was well known for believing in hard work. But he felt that very work could certainly be filled with smiles and laughter as well. Perhaps one of the ways the puppeteer was able to accomplish this feat was to surround himself with like-minded performers. In the case of these Emmet Otter outtakes that includes the late and great Jerry Nelson as Emmet and Dave Golez as Wendel. In addition to Eren Ozker as Hetty Muskrat and of course Frank Oz as Alice Otter.
I didn’t get the pleasure of seeing Bugsy Malone when it first hit the silver screen in 1976, my first introduction to this film was during summer break in the early 80’s at one of the weekday matinee shows my local Malco theater put on for kids. Bugsy Malone is a movie where the entire cast were kids and better yet it was all about the days of prohibition in New York in 1929. I was hooked from the first few moments
Directed by Alan Parker (Midnight Express, Fame, Angel Heart, Mississippi Burning, and the Commitments to name a few.) this film was the introduction of Scott Baio. Jodie Foster at the age of 13 was already a ‘veteran’ and was quite upset to learn during the red carpet premiere that her singing parts had been dubbed by an adult. Thanks to Wikipedia I learned that the brilliant songwriter of the film, Paul Williams, had this to say about the experience: “I’m really proud of the work and the only thing I’ve ever doubted is the choice of using adult voices. Perhaps I should have given the kids a chance to sing the songs.” Alan Parker also commented: “Watching the film after all these years, this is one aspect that I find the most bizarre. Adult voices coming out of these kids’ mouths? I had told Paul that I didn’t want squeaky kids voices and he interpreted this in his own way. Anyway, as the tapes arrived, scarcely weeks away from filming, we had no choice but to go along with it!”
Like many of the influential movies in my youth I wasn’t old enough to catch the Phantom of the Paradise in it’s original theatrical run, which was 1974. I did however catch it with a back to back showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show just a couple of years later at my local Drive-In. I immediately fell in love with this campy Brian De Palma directed masterpiece. This is one of those movies, much like last week’s Poseidon Adventure, that I can just pop into VCR (Unfortunately I have been unable to get my hands on a DVD version) and just let the smile spread on my face as I get into the music and very enjoyable performances by Paul Williams, William Finley, and Jessica Harper. If you’ve not had the pleasure of watching the Phantom of the Paradise then make sure to add it to your Netflix queue and prepare for a cheesy but incredibly enjoyable film. Hey, as a bonus the film has an uncredited vocal introduction by none other than Rod Serling!
A quick side story, for much of my youth I had desperately wanted to pick up the music for this film, and in early 2004 I was able to pick up the CD when the music store I was working for got in a bulk shipment of .99 CD’s.
I have always been fascinated by Paul William’s career. I remember seeing his picture in teen heart throb magazine next to more traditionally hunky guys and thinking, that guys has gotta be really talented. Then I saw him as Little Enos in Smokey and the Bandit and I re-commenced scratching my head. Here is Paul singing Old Fashioned Love Song on The Muppet Show.