Monday, April 20, 2015

Muppet Monday

Garrett Gilchrist has been out doing tremendous restoration work again.

You might remember from several years back that Garrett Gilchrist was the man who worked tirelessly to put together a new cut of Richard Williams' thwarted masterpiece The Thief and the Cobbler. Working from many sources, including the fabled workprint, Gilchrist was able to put together a damn incredible edit that was much closer to Williams' intent than the ruined version released in theaters two decades ago. His "Recobbled Cut" is one of the best things I've ever seen, and Gilchrist's work in restoring Williams' work and making it more available was the work of a dedicated fan.

It would have been enough of a gift to the arts if Gilchrist had stopped with Williams, but he kept going. Now he's been attempting to restore and unearth rare bits of Jim Henson work, for which I will be forever grateful. There is so much Henson stuff that hasn't seen the light of day yet, and I can't wait to consume all of it.

This video has around forty minutes of Sam and Friends. I've featured some of these on this blog before, but certainly not all. It's sad to think that, from a daily show that Jim Henson performed live, sometimes twice a day, from 1955 to 1961, this forty minutes is merely a drop in the bucket, and nearly all that survives. I'm just glad we have anything at all, but that's six years of Muppet history that just fell victim to the time period. Who knew that people sixty years later would want to watch?

On this video compilation you'll see the bits "Huntley and Brinkley," "Powder-Burn," "A Horse Named Bill," "C'est Si Bon," "I've Got You Under My Skin," "Poison to Poison," "Where Hunger Is From" (my favorite of these), "Visual Thinking" (my second favorite), ""The Westerners," "That Old Black Magic," and "Singin' in the Rain." There are also some Muppet commercials for the show's sponsor, Esskay Meats.

If you're only going to watch one, and I'll make the huge assumption you've seen all the ones I've featured previously, skip ahead to around 30 minutes in and watch "That Old Black Magic." It's really wonderful. First, it's the only one that survives that features the show's nominal star, Sam! He and Kermit sing (lipsynch) the old Louis Prima-Keeley Smith song, which is a favorite of mine. Jim Henson is performing Sam, and that dance he does is fantastic! Jane performs Kermit in this one. Also, the device of Harry the Hipster and Yorick watching them on television is pretty impressive, considering this is all being done live. Professor Madcliffe and Omar also appear. It's great stuff.

At the end of this video is the first part of a meeting film done for Wilson's Meats and featuring spokesmuppets Scoop and Skip and a guest appearance by Rowlf the Dog. This is from 1965 and promises a look behind the scenes of how Henson Associates makes commercials. If you'd like to see that material, it's on this YouTube video (via the Jim Henson Company) and is marvelously deadpan. Plus, you get to see Jim, Frank Oz, Jerry Juhl, and Don Sahlin working behind the scenes a decade before The Muppet Show.

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