Sunday, July 26, 2015

Wooden Acting? What Do You Mean - Wooden Acting?

Not unlike "Canadian Corner" hosers Bob & Doug McKenzie, we seem stuck for a topic today.

Since a recent post closed with a spoof of Gerry Anderson's "Supermarionation" by the stalwart comedy team of Peter Cook & Dudley Moore, let's talk marionettes, starting with gonzo glam-rockers Mott The Hoople. . . of course, performing "Marionette".

But seriously folks, today's topic de jour is the Supermarionation of Gerry & Sylvia Anderson, as well as a host of their puppetry predecessors and descendants. Andrew T. Smith's Filmed In Supermarionation documentary is a great place to start.

The studio led by Gerry & Sylvia Anderson brought puppet animation into the swingin' 60's with flair. The high flying high-tech hardware, the color (beginning with Stingray), not to mention the pacing, action hero protagonists Troy Tempest, Mike Mercury, etc. and hairdos, along with the great soundtracks by Barry Gray. This blogger finds the shows immensely entertaining and even better when seen with an enthusiastic audience.

Thunderbirds could be considered the studio's greatest hit and eventually spawned two popular feature films.

Unfortunately, it does say something about Your Correspondent that he yearned, just once, to see one of the intrepid pilots in the series drinking Thunderbird, unquestionably a First Ballot selection for the Bargain Basement Alchoholic Beverage Hall Of Shame.

One fascinating thing of many about Gerry Anderson's TV shows and movies is how the later live-action series, especially UFO, look SO MUCH like the Supermarionation shows.

Never mind that Space 1999 show - or was it the movie - in which Barbara Bain was chased around a spaceship by something resembling a giant dessert, reminiscent of the tennis-playing blancmange from Monty Python's Flying Circus.

Of course, puppet films go back to the very beginnings of cinema and such innovative artists as Emile Cohl, Ladislaw Starewicz, Willis O' Brien and (later) Charley Bowers. Some of the more amazing examples of early puppet animation are on the Stop-Motion Marvels DVD. O'Brien and Starewicz were by no means alone in the field.

Today's post begins to, thankfully, wind down by stepping ahead 7+ decades, outside this blog's stated 20th Century Pop Culture theme and into 21st century "take no prisoners" humor. This example of more recent Psychotronic Cinema comes from the guys responsible for both the Broadway show The Book Of Mormon, the long running TV series South Park and a host of lesser-known "bad taste" or "that's not funny, that's sick" projects (Cannibal The Musical) - nose-thumbing animators Matt Stone and Trey Parker.

With their film Team America: World Police, the duo paid a perverse homage to Supermarionation 35 years after the last animated Gerry Anderson show went off the air.

It's a vicious and hilarious take on many elements of 20th century pop culture (and in this writer's opinion, ESPECIALLY various movies starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone). The sendup has the Gerry Anderson shows - which I'd wager Parker and Stone are fans of - in the crosshairs but also delivers one brutal skewering of Hollywood movies: bad action flicks, any and all genre movie cliches, plus such "low hanging fruit" as movie fan dictator Kim Jung Il.

The production values allow Stone and Parker's ultra-macho actioner to be both funny and grotesque - the puppets actually have brains, blood, bones and bodily fluids. In that respect, it recalls the "Grand Guignol meets Moe, Larry, Curly AND Shemp" dynamic of Sam Raimi's Evil Dead horror flicks. That said, Team America: World Police also could be described as Thunderbirds Are Go meets Celebrity Death Match.

With that, we doff our Troy Tempest hats to Supermarionators Gerry & Sylvia Anderson, as well as Steve Stanchfield of Thunderbean Animation, and ALL those who created "Stop-Motion Marvels" - and finish this post at long last with the 1966 hit song by James and Bobby Purify. . . I'm Your Puppet.

1 comment:

rnigma said...

I think "Marionette" was the first Mott the Hoople song I ever heard, even before "All the Young Dudes." The group's name came from the title of a 1966 novel by Willard Manus, about a young man named Norman Mott who identified with Major Hoople, of the comic strip "Our Boarding House."