Heroes, Villains, and Puppets

Aptly, the final film in the “From Muppets to Metal” series is Jim Henson’s Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas, which, despite its homespun title, satisfies both ends of the spectrum. If you saw the original in 1977, you already know about The Nightmare, a band of miscreant animals from the deep woods who play hard rock like Deep Purple. Their self-referential, vitriolic tune “River Bottom Nightmare Band” knocks our hero out of the holiday talent contest, along with his loving Ma. But you can hardly blame the judges in the face of lyrical genius like, “We don’t brush our teeth/‘Cause our toothache can help us stay mean/We don’t wish to learn/But we hate what we don’t understand.” Emmet Otter was something of a test run before the first feature-length Muppet movie (also with composer Paul Williams), and it is one of the most lovingly detailed projects Henson had done to date. Hand puppets, marionettes, and early radio-controlled characters bring real life to Frogtown Hollow (the soundstage had a winding river 55 feet long). But, technical prowess aside, it is the heart that marks Henson’s work: The final song, performed in a frozen landscape by the Otters after their defeat, rivals Dylan Thomas and The Wind in the Willows for seasonal poignancy. This uncut version features Kermit.
Sun., Dec. 18, 2 p.m., 2011

 
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