Let My Puppets Come

Director: Gerard Damiano

Those who think that Peter Jackson's Meet The Feebles was the first puppet movie aimed at a more adult audience (though using a lot of juvenile humor) may be surprised to learn that thirteen years earlier Let My Puppets Come was made. They also might be surprised to find out that though Meet The Feebles might get by with a hard R rating, Let My Puppets Come was, during its creation, aimed exclusively for adult audiences. Those who recognize the name of the director won't be surprised at that news, since he was the director of two of the most famous porno movies of all time, Deep Throat and The Devil In Miss Jones.

Of course, this being a puppet movie, don't expect to find anything really erotic. In fact, by today's standards, the movie as a whole is almost tame enough to be accepted by your local Blockbuster video store. (At least I think so - I boycott Blockbuster, and so should you.) The level of the humor - and it being done with an art form previously aimed at primarily children - may have been taboo and shocking when the movie first came out. But after 24 years, this kind of thing no longer seems so novel, especially considering just how much wild humor has come out since then. So not only isn't it erotic, it isn't that amusing.

Aside from some brief appearances from some human actors, all of the characters in the movie are puppets, including the three chief executives of Creative Concepts Systems & Procedures Brothers Unlimited Inc. "The Muppets are just as kinky as us - they also have hands up their butts!" of New York. When the movie opens, they are in a panic, because their latest business venture has been a huge failure, and their investor, "Mr. Big", wants his $500,000 back in 24 hours - or else. Jimmy, a messenger who overhears their predicament as he drops them a telegram suggests a guaranteed way for them to get such a huge amount of money in such a short time - make a porno movie. "With some technical assistance, you can put together a dynamite f**k film," he encourages them.

The executives quickly warm to the idea, and the four men bounce around a couple of ideas for an opening, both of which we get to see. The first consists of a beautiful blonde (for a puppet) dateless and lonely, staying home in her apartment with her dog. She's shocked and reluctant to act when her dog gets "frisky", but soon falls under his charms when he tells her he's had all his shots and he's a real "cocker". I won't say what happens next, except nothing is left to our imagination. The second proposed opening is a variation of the tired clichéd porno setting of a sick patient in a hospital who gets a friendly nurse to give him care of a more personal nature. Again, I won't mention what happens, except to say that the production team must have "blown" a big part of the budget to supply a bottle of Ivory liquid soap for the scene's "climax".

Eventually, the movie gets back to the plot, where production on the porno film starts and a number of new characters are introduced, including a S&M director, a Nelson Eddy/Jeanette MacDonald couple who propose singing, "When I'm Balling You", and the inevitable addition of a puppet with the name of Pornocchio. "Don't you think it's weird how these B movie web sites censor sexual content, yet show violence?" If all of these characters sound like they are brought in more for some cheap and easy gags instead of seeming to grow more out of the plot, you're right. Though the movie does make a few gestures towards highlighting the chaotic race against time to put the movie in the can, the rest of the movie feels more or less like a random collection of raunchy gags involving puppets. This becomes really evident in a couple of scenes, one where one of the weary executives leaves the set and goes to a (human) topless bar, and another where the puppets realize that they don't have enough footage to make their movie feature length, and decide to add some commercial parodies (which, of course, we get to see.)

Without a real plot, the movie becomes boring really fast, and it was a big relief when the movie ended, despite the movie's running length only being 45 minutes. Though Meet The Feebles was more of a collection of subplots than one real plot, all of these subplots did manage to keep me interested, and for a much longer time. Another comparison with this movie can be made to further illustrate why Let My Puppets Come fails, this one with the characters. The Meet The Feebles characters did commit a number of raunchy acts like their Let My Puppets Come brethren, but they did a number of different kinds, so they didn't seem so one-note. Also, they were characters; they had pasts, different personalities, and different weaknesses. We could, in a way, identify with a number of them, even some who were more crude. In Let My Puppets Come, not one of the puppet characters manages to really stand out from the rest; they all more or less act (and even sound) alike. The human appearances aren't much better. Though the movie trumpets appearances by Al Goldstein (from Screw magazine) and Damiano, both only appear on camera for a matter of seconds.

And Damiano doesn't do much better in the directing department than with his acting (though he gave himself one of the movie's funnier moments in his appearance.) Yes, these kind of movies have low, low, low budgets, but imagination can frequently overcome the lowest of funds. There's no imagination in the cheap sets or A nurse checks on someone unfortunate enough to have watched LET MY PUPPETS COME settings. If Damiano had dubbed in some low chatter, turned the spotlights to point in strategic directions, and carefully used the camera, we might have been convinced the topless bar the executive visits was not filmed in someone's basement. Here and elsewhere in the movie, Damiano is just content to shoot the characters in extreme close-up. Also, despite all the attempts at humor, there is a curiously hostile mood to the movie; it's as if Damiano and the puppeteers were making this movie while feeling angry. There's no sense of fun, just a feeling that everyone was going through the motions and fed up of doing it.

At least the puppets themselves aren't bad, considering that they almost surely were constructed by amateurs who had very little money. Constructed primarily with what seems to be a mixture of foam rubber and paper mache, it's clear that the muppets from Sesame Street had some influence on the designers. In fact, two of the puppets have a striking resemblance to Statler and Waldorf from The Muppet Show, which was first aired the same year! (It makes you wonder if maybe that well known pervert Jim Henson was influenced by this movie....) One moment has the puppetry getting more sophisticated, imitating the well know Famous Players puppetry style, dressing the puppeteer in black and standing him in front of a black backdrop as he works the puppet from behind. And I will admit that here and there are some moments that are amusing, the funniest being the opening scene, done with hilarious nonchalance. Otherwise, Let My Puppets Come isn't worth more than being a curious footnote in the X-rated genre. You can watch just five minutes of it, and qualify then to claim you've seen the entire thing.

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Also: The Beauties And The Beast, Dr. Caligari, For Your Height Only