Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Retro: The Vampire Hat from LIDSVILLE

In a retro mood today..This is a sketch of Bela "The Vampire Hat" from the Sid and Marty Krofft TV series "LIDSVILLE" (1971-1972).
This may sound strange, but this is a character that really stuck in my mind when I was a kid. Even amongst the bizarre puppet/costumes the Kroffts used in their series, this one always stood out.
For any of you who may be too young to remember, LIDSVILLE was a fantasy TV series about a young teen named Mark (Butch Patrick, AKA Eddie Munster),who,entrigued by a magician's act, breaks into the magician's dressing room. He begins to inspect the magician's hat when suddenly the thing grows to enormous size. Mark, made even more curious by the sight, climbs up upon the now enormous hat and promptly falls right in,and finds himself landing smack into the world called LIDSVILLE, the land of living hats.
The plots basically revolve around Mark trying to get back home, in the meantime, coping with his new "Talking hat" friends, and dodging the machinations of the evil magician Horatio J. HooDoo, (The late Charles Nelson Reilly) Who regulary does "Zapping" attacks on the populace, as well as trying to retrive his former slave
Weenie the Genie, who now serves Mark (and is controlled by the magic ring on mark's finger.)
Basically, LIDSVILLE is a reworking of the earlier Krofft Show HR PUFNSTUF, with Mark in place of Jimmy, Weenie instead of Freddy the Flute, and HooDoo instead of Witchiepoo. The real difference in the shows however was that although Living Island was a happy place, LIDSVILLE Tended to be on the darker and bleaker side. You can tell that unlike Jimmy, who rather enjoyed his life on living island (despite the Witch) You can tell that Mark is less than enthusiastic about hanging around a town made of headgear, and unlike PUFNSTUF'S Witchiepoo, who had a touch of Wile.E. Coyote pathos about her, making her more of an annonyance than an outright threat, LIDSVILLE'S HooDoo was a VERY present danger. Magically powerful,short tempered, HIGHLY abusive, and tolerant of no jokes at HIS expense, When Hoodoo wasn't blasting the LIDSVILLE citizens during strafing flights on his flying "HATAMARAN", he was constantly either yelling at or clobbering any one of his own flunkies. (most notably Raunchy Rabbit) The main reason why Weenie the Genie was such a nervous bumbler was due to the way HooDoo mistreated him while under his service. HooDoo evem managed to come out on top in a couple of episodes, UNHEARD of for the standards of a Saturday morning children's series!
As for the good guys (Good Hats) They're not really much to care about or sympathsize with, and are bacisically steroypical (The caring nurse Hat, the "How! Ugh!" Indian headress, the dumb jock football helmet, etc. )and insipid. When push came to shove though, they could be as vicious as HooDoo in their retaliation schemes. Both sides REALLY had it in for each other!
BELA, seen here, was one of HooDoo's "Bad Hat" gang, his motley quartet of enforcers which included MR.BIG, a short gangster fedora, CAPTAIN HOOKNOSE, a bearded Pirate hat with a hook for a nose (and a ridiculous pet parrot that always stayed perched on his shoulder no matter WHAT happened) and BORIS,an axe-welding executioner's hood that rather looked like a egg with eyes.
Bela was supposedly a vampire, and even spoke with a classic Bela Lugosi type accent, but other than that was never SEEN actually doing anything vampiric in the entire series. Oh, there were references. For example, once he apologized for being late to a meeting because "The lid on my coffin got stuck" Tex the cowboy hat reffered to him as "That flying bloodmobile" (In which Bela spat back: "I'll get you, Cowboy! All ten gallons of you!") He was never even shown turning into a bat, though he warned HooDoo that he spotted an army of good hats "From the sky" (to which HooDoo replied: "Has somebody spiked your plasma?") Maybe things like that were too much for the Krofft's special effects budget, or the TV network standards and practices wouldn't allow such things. I'm sure the Kroffts would know..
Basically, though, in the ENTIRE cast of LIDSVILLE there was not ONE sympathetic or lovable character. Not ONE. It's the ANTI-PUFNSTUF. It's like this was made as an attack on other children's shows, with their cutsie contumes and goody-two shoes heroes. It's like one big, sick, joke.
And I LOVE It.
If you can, you should get the DVD collection of the entire series, and watch it when you're in a cynical mood. Not to mention Charles Nelson's Reilly's over-the top villiany as HooDoo is fun to watch.
Made an inpression on MY youth, I'll tell ya!

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