Color, 1976, 75 mins. 37 secs.
Directed by Gerard Damiano
Vinegar Syndrome (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9), Caballero (DVD) (US R0 NTSC)

The Let My Puppets Comemost bizarre entry in the career of Deep Throat porn Let My Puppets Comepioneer Gerard Damiano, Let My Puppets Come earned its place in the history books as the only movie musical puppet smut film. If that sounds like an odd combination, it definitely is and requires more than a little awareness of the era to make fully appreciate. The idea of mounting a dirty musical was nothing new at the time thanks to the likes of Oh, Calcutta! and the most obvious inspirations, Let My People Come and the 1971 Wayland Flowers and Madame show, Kumquats. Meanwhile The Muppet Show was kicking off in 1976 after spinning off from Sesame Street, so why not combine the two? Though it features a bit of human nudity, the end result is only pornographic in theory since it really depicts occasional interactions with genitalia-shaped felt-- something odd and naughty for sure, but not as transgressive as the unrated version of Team America: World Police. Since then the film has become something of an odd footnote bound to satisfy curiosity more than sexual urges, as well as a forerunner of sorts for the X-rated puppet mayhem of Peter Jackson's Meet the Feebles and a companion to the ditty-packed dirty romps of Alice in Wonderland and The First Nudie Musical.

More of an extended batch of skits than a traditional narrative, this parade of puppet perversions boasts synthetic stars with names like "Robert Redfoot," "Clark Gobble," "Anthony Let My Puppets ComeQuimm," "Clitoris Leachman," "Agnes More-head," and "Connie Lingus." The framing device revolves around plans by desperate Ned, Fred and Red to Let My Puppets Comemount a porno movie to pay off their mob debt. From there it's a string of scenarios both real and imagined involving sexy nurses, (literal) doggie sex, a variation on Pinocchio, and commercial spoofs including Screw's Al Goldstein plugging "Lusterine." Damiano himself even pops up at the beginning interacting with a puppet hot dog vendor and seems to be having fun, right around the same time he was developing this film's intended co-feature, The Story of Joanna, as a full-fledged kinky feature of its own. On top of that you get a pretty blatant homage to Madame, an appearance by Luis "Ralphus" de Jesus the same year as Bloodsucking Freaks, and the screen debut of Jonathan Freeman, future voice of Jafar in Aladdin and a regular Disney voice performer, who pops up as a chauffeur in one extended musical comedy bit.

A pretty tough sell to the raincoat or midnight crowds, Let My Puppets Come has flown under the radar on home video for the most part with only a sorry, heavily edited DVD from Caballero offering much relief to curiosity seekers. Fortunately Vinegar Syndrome salvaged it with a dual-format Blu-ray and DVD edition that doesn't Let My Puppets Comespecify the film element source but looks much, much, much better, even with some bumpy reel change points and little bits of damage here and there. The DTS-HD MA English mono track is also much clearer and does what it can with the songs, which are pretty basic and won't give your sound system much of a workout. Let My Puppets ComeEnglish SDH subtitles are also included. On the commentary side, Heather Drain and Samm Deighan return to Damiano territory after Skin Flicks and dive right in for a breakdown of the director's whimsical side, the background behind the puppetry, the various celebrity send ups, speculation about the possible inspirations for the some of the character designs, and the occasional human actors like the hilarious Penny Nicholls. Another audio option is a phone conversation between puppeteer and puppet designer James Racioppi and Casey Scott who have fun casually chatting about Damiano, Kumquats (which sort of spawned this film in an indirect way), his professional background, his brushes with other landmark puppeteers, and tons more. Between the two tracks it's a massive, very welcome scholarly record of a film that could have easily be consigned to oblivion. If that weren't enough, you also get coverage about Kumquats itself courtesy of a separate audio conversation by Scott with Nicolas Coppola (41m58s) about his own role directing the production and the history of its participants and performance evolution (about which he has very mixed thoughts); that's followed by audio of a production of Kumquats itself (9m31s), which pretty sounds like a bawdy drag show in this context. The theatrical trailer is also included and should find its way into party highlight reels for years to come.

Reviewed on September 7, 2019.