Meet the Feebles (1989)

Rating: B+

Dir: Peter Jackson
Star (voice): Mark Hadlow, Peter Vere-Jones, Donna Atkinson, Stuart Devine

The strangest film ever made by an Oscar-winning director? While certainly a candidate, it may prove Jackson’s vision + imagination more than any other pre-LotR movie. Certainly, with a budget of only around $450K, it relies more on guile than all-out spectacle. There’s a plot synopsis below, in our original review, so I won’t rehash that. What’s remarkable viewing it now, is how I kept waiting for the single joke – puppets behaving badly – to wear off, but it didn’t. The tone is consistent throughout, yet there’s enough variety in execution to keep it fresh right until the final massacre.

Weirdly, the puppets eventually cease to be relevant, and the whole thing would probably work almost as nicely with real people. [Contrary to other reviews, there is one human character in the show, an Indian contortionist – he’s still a puppet] It’s hard to tell whether the drab look and flaky sound is intentional, or just a bad video transfer; it doesn’t matter much, though the story is jerky, with scenes not flowing into each other very well. Still, it’s up there with the best of John Waters for tastelessness, and the voice acting (Hadlow does both heroine Heidi and hero Robert!) is fine, and often reminiscent of more famous people: Peter Lorre, Christopher Lloyd, etc. But if you’d predicted Jackson’s career trajectory from this, you’re a better man than I.

[What we said then] [7] Loosely based on The Muppets, with a troupe of puppets struggling to put on a variety show. But there, the similarity ends, as Jackson gleefully slaughters every taboo within reach in a plot that would take several pages to summarise. You’ve got walruses having sex with pussycats, a junkie crocodile who’s a ‘Nam vet to boot (lovely flashback sequence), a shit-eating fly gutter journalist, a rat who makes porno movies (while selling smack to the croc on the side), a rabbit who thinks he has AIDS, an elephant fighting a paternity suit brought by a chicken and a psycho hippo. Despite occasional weak points, it’s astonishingly inventive, wonderfully stupid and unbelievably gross. Another cult classic in the making. [part of a report on Shock Around the Clock]