Meet the Feebles

Peter Jackson’s (the LOTR guy) second film recently got a release on region 1 (that’s the US) DVD that’s very bare-bones. It’s a beautifully demented movie about a gaggle of third-rate dysfunctional muppets and their, er, shennanigans of sex, drugs, and violence.

His earlier films just aren’t getting the attention they deserve, which is a grave injustice. His debut “Bad Taste” did get a two-disc edition (albeit a strangely sparse two disc edition), but “Brain Dead/Dead Alive” (the standard for deliberately-absurd over-the-top zombie gore flick) hasn’t been released in the original foreign cut yet that I know of, and that’s a shame.

It’s actually pretty interesting to compare his first films with LOTR. I’ve heard people utterly puzzled: “How in the world did he go from that to Lord Etc.?” Me, I’m not puzzled. For what the Bad Taste through Dead Alive “trilogy” (theme-wise they’re sort of all of a piece–twisted deliberate B-films) of films are, they show a talented director who, simultaneous with his talent, simply doesn’t suffer from the “I’m a Great Director” syndrome–exactly the right kind of mix to handle LOTR. If that latter had landed in some Serious Great Director’s hands, it probably would have been turned into unbearably pretentious crap.

But I digress. “Meet the Feebles” is now on DVD for those who haven’t had the…pleasure (insert sinister snicker here)…of viewing it. You owe it to yourselves to go rent a copy and see it.

I have Dead Alive on DVD and Braindead on VHS. The VHS is coied from a laserdisc and is the uncut version. I haven’t compared the DVD to the VHS, so I can’t say if the DVD has the uncut version or the American release.

I liked Meet the Feebles. I have it on DVD. On the one hand, it’s extremely funny as a “Muppets on acid” type of thing. On the other hand, some of the characters are just annoying. One thing I hated was the fly’s voice. British filmmakers used that effect in the 1970s, and I hated it. Just give us voices we can understand! (And I’m not talking about accents.)

Much of the film used very crude humour, which is okay in context; but I found myself getting tired of it after a while. But then there are real gems: The warthog golfing. The fox’s musical number Sodomy. The payoff at the end with the hippo.

The bad: Voice effects, crudely filmed, repetitive humour.

The good: Great concept, nice payoff, some good bits.

On a scale of one to five, I’ll give this film a three.

I like the movie, and I also have the DVD. Describing the DVD as “bare bones” does an injustice to the term “bare bones”; the menus aren’t done properly, for one thing, and the video quality is, well, feeble. It’s like they did the mastering from a timeworn videotape.

As for how Jackson made the jump from movies like Meet The Feebles and Bad Taste to the enormous and expensive Lord of the Rings project, I reckon there are three main reasons:

  1. He’s a very talented director. Even in his early movies, that’s evident.
  2. He’s a native of New Zealand, the shooting site of LOTR.
  3. In all his movies, from Bad Taste to Meet The Feebles to Dead Alive to The Frighteners, Jackson’s shown that he likes to, and is good at, working in effects-heavy films.

I was waiting for a Peter Jackson appreciation thread. I love all his movies, although I haven’t seen his mocumentary on the fake silent film star. It’s early work, but it’s supposed to be very good.

As for Meet the Feebles, I remember watching it my freshman year in college. We were hanging out at my friend’s dorm, a very lax and open place where 90% of the residents kept their doors open all the time. This girl who was visiting a friend down the hall came to hang out with us because apparently they were just playing video games. After about ten minutes or so, she stood up and said:

“You guys seem cool and all, but…muppets having sex, I just can’t handle that.”

One of my favorite college memories. I also recorded the unedited version of Dead Alive off of the Independant Film Channel, and as far as zombie movies go, that’s one of my favorites. And I’m a BIG zombie fan. Best line:

“I kick ass for the Lord.”