Color, 1989, 92 mins.

Directed by Peter Jackson

Produced by Jim Booth & Peter Jackson / Written by Peter Jackson, Danny Mulheron, Stephen Sinclair & Frances Waslh / Music by Peter Dasent / Cinematography by Murray Milne

Format: DVD - Substance (Canada)

In the wake of his upcoming monster-budget version of Lord of the Rings, some folks are forgetting how New Zealand's most famous cult director, Peter Jackson, got his start. After helming the hysterical, zero budget alien gorefest Bad Taste, Jackson turned his satirical eye to cozy family puppet variety shows with Meet the Feebles, a shocking and often uproarious film performed entirely by puppets. And just in time for the release of Muppets in Space, Jackson's twisted little opus made its DVD premiere as a Canadian import.

Heidi, the star of the Feebles Variety Hour, has problems: she's overweight, and her bloated walrus husband, Bletch, is a drug-dealing porno producer who's cheating on her with a Siamese cat ingenue. Meanwhile a newcomer to the show, Robert (or "Wobert") the hedgehog, falls in love with Lucy, a poodle who's drugged and seduced by a rat porno director known for filming underground S&M videos with a cow and a cockroach. And let's not forget the panty-sniffing elephant who has a love child with a chicken, the VD-infested bunny, a gay fox director, and a muckraking fly reporter who hangs out in toilets. And that's just for starters! Sporting outrageous musical numbers from the quirky Peter Dasent and some eye-popping production design and puppet characters, this is truly a film unlike any ever made. A lot of viewers will have problems sticking with it, but for those willing to look underneath the layers of bodily fluids and gore, there's a pretty devious and clever mind at work here.

While no one could seriously expect the Feebles DVD to rise up to the level of, say, Universal's The Frighteners special edition, some folks are bound to be disappointed by the bare bones presentation here. However, it's the film itself that counts, and for under $20 from most retailers, you can't really go wrong. The transfer is culled from the same materials used for the U.S. VHS release, definitely an improvement from the overly dark Japanese laserdisc. Like Bad Taste, this was never really a glossy-looking film to begin with, so some inherent softness and murkiness will likely be inherent within the film unless someone does a multimillion dollar overhaul on it someday. The gaudy color design shines through just fine, and the daylight scenes are crystal clear. The "enhanced audio" (as the packaging claims) sounds about the same as it always has: fine, but limited by its budget. Frankly it's a miracle this ever surfaced on DVD at all, so Jackson fans and strange movie addicts would be well advised to pounce on it while they can.

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