Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Let My Puppets Come (1976)

Directed by Gerard Damiano
Starring a bunch of puppets
Rated X

"Anything I can do to make you feel uncomfortable?"

Let My Puppets Come was directed by Gerard Damiano (RIP), best known as the director of 1972 porn blockbuster Deep Throat. All of Damiano's movies have some element of weirdness to them - just think about the actual plot to Deep Throat for a second - but this may be his strangest fuck-flick of all. For one thing, it has no sex in it, unless you count puppet sex. And if you do, woe unto you. Amazingly, even without humans and their grubby genitalia mucking up the screen, Puppets still retains that green-gilled 42nd Street griminess that permeated much of 70's east coast porn, that dead-body-in-the-hallway whiff of disease and desperation. That's pretty remarkable, considering it's a fuckin' puppet show. It should also be mentioned that, smut-minded script aside, the puppetry and character design here is inspired, and with a few tweaks, this could easily have been re-shot as a (very) demented kid's film.

I do not have much information on Let My Puppets Come, and that's probably good. It should probably remain sort of a mystery. I can tell you that it shares three cast members (Viju Krem, Lynette Sheldon, and Luis De Jesus, who played 'Mr Big', and who is also dead) with Joel Reed's notorious splatter-comedy Bloodsucking Freaks. It also features, in a dumb cameo, Al Goldstein of Screw magazine. Annie Sprinkle worked on production design, and the chief puppeteer, Paddy Blackwood, worked on the New Howdy Doody Show in the late 70's.

Gustavo Motta (also RIP - not too many people survived this one) did the music, which was actually pretty good, especially the proto-punk glam-slammer "American Dream Girl". Gustavo was a big musical theater guy in New York, and in 1971, he did a show called Kumquats, The World's First Erotic Puppet Show, which was performed by Wayland Flowers and Madame. Let My Puppets Come actually includes three of the songs, including American Dream Girl, from that show. So, really, Kumquats is the nucleus of this movie. Apparently, there are several different cuts of Puppets floating around on different VHS editions, ranging in running time from 20 minutes to 45. The version reviewed here was 80 minutes, which I'm assuming is the full cut that played in theaters.

So, the set-up. The three chief executives of Creative Concepts Systems & Procedures Brothers Unlimited Inc. of New York have unwisely invested a bunch of mob money in professional bocce ball league. The league went belly up, and now they owe their benefactor, Mr Big, half a million dollars. If they don't come up with the money in a week, he is going to pay them a visit and the shoot them all in the head.

A quick-witted courier named Jimmy - seen in the opening segment sharing a hot dog with director Damiano - suggests to the desperate men that they should shoot a "fuck flick" to make quick cash. They think it's a great idea, but what will it be about?

Jimmy dreams up a scenario, which we cut to. A scantily-dressed blonde puppet sits home alone. Her dog saunters up to her and asks her if she wants to have sex with him.
"'re a dog!" She says.
"So what?" He asks. "I've had all my shots."
That seems like a reasonable answer to her. So she has sex with the dog.
"Believe me," says Jimmy, when they cut back to the office, "Every guy will relate to that dog."

The fellas think that scenario will get them in hot water with the humane society, so it's back to the drawing board. Gramps - no explanation who he is or why he's there - has an idea.

It involves him in a four-way with some girls from the local massage parlor. Unfortunately, the brothers think the scenario is too unbelievable, even though Gramps assures them that it happened to him twice just last week. One of the brothers has the bright idea to have a hospital room scene, where a guys lies on his death bed, fading fast. He asks the nurse to help ease his pain, so she blows him, and he shoots puppet juice everywhere. And then he dies.

Everybody thinks that one is pretty funny.

Another one of the brothers comes up with the idea of a horny blowfish who sucks off unsuspecting swimmers. Weirdo.
"Haha", he chortles. "We'll call it 'Deep Trout'. "

Their secretary, Miss Bliss, tells them she wants to be in the movie. They tell her this would be impossible without an audition, so they attempt to gang-bang her on the conference table. Unfortunately, Miss Bliss has a nasty secret, so the deal is called off pretty quickly.
"Either one of you guys left your cock in there, or Miss Bliss is a boy!" yells Jimmy.
Miss Bliss just shrugs. "Nobody's perfect."

Jimmy heads down to the sex shop The Pleasure Chest to see his old friend Lash. They worked on Army training films together. Jimmy wants Lash to be the cameraman on their movie He is at first reluctant, but when Jimmy tells him they'll be ample opportunity to whip the actors, the mustachioed superfreak signs on.

And then Geppetto shows up. He's an old friend of Gramps. Gepetto helps out by constructing more porn actors from scratch. Creepiness hits new heights when Geppetto's unfinished fuck-puppet comes to life too early and starts hitting on him.

Lash arrives on set, and they start shooting. The first scene involves a Canadian mountie and a blonde in a frilly dress. Don't they all? They sing a song together. I think it's called "Let's Run Amuck." And then they take a quick break so Lash get a violent blowjob from one of the fluffers. Things go from bad to worse, however, when the lead actress gets her period.

Gepetto is disgusted with the whole affair and threatens to quit, but than a black chick with a Pam Grier 'fro shows up and sings a sunshine-y pop song about smiles to Geppetto. This is intercut with scenes of dogs and children frolicking at the beach. It's a very strange juxtaposition for a puppet porn flick.

Then Fred, the cameraman/producer, takes off to get drunk and get away from crazy naked people for five minutes. Unfortunately, the bar he goes to has a naked dancing bartender. He tries to avoid a scene, but then some drunk masher hits on the stripper/bartender and the cameraman gets konked in the head in the ensuing melee.

Somehow he ends up in bed with the bartender. They have weird fetish-y sex. He wears her underwear on his head while she pelts him with grapes.

Somehow or another, the brothers end up with a rough cut of their film. The only problem is, it's too short. To pad the running time, the fellas decide to shoot some porn-y ad parodies and stick 'em in the movie. One of them is for a feminine deodorant spray called "Sweet Fish". Another one features a women who goes to see her gynecologist.

After an elbow-deep struggle, he pulls a still-ticking "Climax" watch out her vagina, where she lost it some time ago.

Another one has Screw's own Al Goldstein getting blown by the fluffer puppet. He's advertising "Lusterine" mouthwash. You know, stuff like that.

It looks like they're actually going to finish their movie on time, but while they're editing it, Mr Big (who is actually a midget) shows up looking for his half a million dollars. They boys, of course, don't have it yet. They tell him he'll get paid as soon as they release the movie, but that's not good enough for Mr Big.
"Ernie," he says to his super-sized bodyguard, "Hock all this equipment. And then give the money to the widows."

I'm not sure where the chauffeur and the Madame-esque puppet came from, but they show up in the nick of time to help the brothers out. First, though, Madame sings a song. And then Pinocchio (did I mention Geppetto cast his wooden-dicked son in the movie?) turns into a real boy after having seven orgasms. He celebrates by performing the aforementioned "American Dream Girl", a weird/awesome glam rock number about a tranny. I think the cocaine started getting to the filmmakers at this point.

So, then a cop shows up and throws everybody in jail for shooting porn. But they get sprung pretty quickly when, as the cop tells them, "Some faggot judge decided your film had socially redeeming value".

And then their movie wins an Oscar, and everybody ends up rich. The end.

In summation: Let My Puppets Come is another one of those once in a lifetime experiences. Well, it would be if Peter Jackson didn't besmirch it with Meet the Feebles, his painfully unfunny Muppets-on-acid movie from the late 80's. This one is a lot less cynical than Feebles and, to me, represents just how loose and weird and cool and experimental the 70's really were. Imagine this movie playing at an actual movie theater. Who would be the audience for this? There is no audience for this. It's the work of lunatics. And if that's what you'd like to see - demented 70's cinema that mashes kid-show puppetry with Borsht-belt comedy and a fuck-everybody low-budget porn vibe, then you are very much in luck.

Then again, maybe it's the worst movie ever made. My judgment for these sorts of things is very wobbly at this point.

Let My Puppets Come is available on DVD.

Clip: Jimmy saves the day. "Make a doity movie!"

- Ken McIntyre


  1. Man, I can't believe you beat me to this review! I saw this a couple of months ago, and was gearing up to review it - thanks for stealing my thunder.

    To reassure you, I think this movie is great - witty and weird in that very "Damiano" way. I love it. And puppet sex *should* count as sex. Or, rather, the fact that it doesn't raises interesting questions...

    On a different note, did you watch the cut version? If you saw it on dvd, then yes - I think they cut 30mins out of the original vhs copy.

  2. Hey Triple G.
    I watched the 80 minute version.
    If there's a longer one, god help us all.

  3. Hmmm. My copy doesn't have a run-time. I would kill for a longer cut.

    Btw, if you like this (and I sense that you like it deep-down in a self-denying, Catholic way), you should watch the Midnight Blue tv series, which is available on dvd. You seem to appreciate the seedier things in life, and this tv show is like 70s porn Blind Date. It's freakin awesome, and has Mr. Goldstein in it.

  4. Hahaha, where can I get this? It looks too absurd!

  5. I also prefer this to Meet the Feebles, which was just joyless and cruel. Having said that, Let My Puppets Come works better as a bizarre curio than an actual film. The puppets were pretty good, given the time frame and budget though. I liked the Waldorf and Statler lookalike.


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