People often joke the Kroffts must have been high when they came up with their television ideas. They would probably say they were merely high on life. Well, I’ve eaten that cereal too and it’s never caused me to hallucinate anything like Sigmund and the Sea Monsters.
How many times can one kid go to the dentist over the course of one television season? A lot, as it ends up.
Poor Sigmund. He’s a sea monster who simply doesn’t have it in him to scare humans. When he’s kicked out, he runs into two brothers, Johnny (Johnny Whitaker, Family Affair) and Scott (Scott Kolden, Lie to Me), who take him home. They struggle to keep his presence from their housekeeper Zelda. They also work to foil the many kidnapping plots by Sigmund’s family. Sigmund’s rich Uncle Siggy demands Sigmund return home or else he’ll cut the family out of his will. The first season’s episodes are spread out over three discs:
* “The Monster Who Came to Dinner” (commentary by Sid Krofft)
* “Puppy Love”
* “Frankenstein Drops In”
* “Is There a Doctor in the House?”
* “Happy Birthdaze”
* “The Nasty Nephew”
* “Monster Rock Festival”
* “Ghoul School Daze”
* “The Curfew Shall Ring Tonight”
* “Sweet Mama Redecorates”
* “Make Room for Big Daddy” (commentary by Johnny Whitaker & Scott Kolden)
* “It’s Your Move”
* “Trigger Treat”
* “Uncle Siggy Swings”
* “The Dinosaur Show”
* “The Wild Weekend”
* “Boy for a Day” (commentary by Johnny Whitaker & Scott Kolden)
You simply can’t talk about Sigmund and the Sea Monsters without talking about Sid & Marty Krofft.
The legendary producers hit their stride in 1969, starting a string of memorable series. Before Sigmund and the Sea Monsters there was H.R. Pufnstuf, Lidsville, and The Bugaloos.
In 1973, it seemed like they’d finally hit upon a formula that worked. Out of the Kroffts’ successes Sigmund and the Sea Monsters was their first series to go more than one season. And yet they are best remembered for Land of the Lost or even H.R. Pufnstuf.
As far as the acting goes, Whitaker and Kolden had played brothers before (Walt Disney’s The Mystery of Dracula’s Castle) and had proven chemistry. So, when the Kroffts asked Whitaker who he wanted to play opposite him he chose Kolden. At the time Whitaker was already a big star from his many seasons of Family Affair so he had more say in the way the show went than today’s young celebrities.
Mary Wickes’ Zelda is basically a slightly watered-down precursor to her role as Sister Mary Lazarus in the Sister Act movies but she’s wonderful to watch, chewing the scenery just right. And special mention must go to Billy Barty (Willow) who was stuck inside Sigmund’s costume and provided the physical portion of the performance. His distinct way of moving due to his limp gave Sigmund his trademark “hop” of sorts.
Sigmund and the Sea Monsters was a fairly simple show with episodes which typically had two storylines, one in Human Land and one in the cave where Sigmund’s family lived. And the two plots would mirror each other, with things turning out well for Sigmund and poorly for his family. The show never tried to teach morals or deliver a “Very Special Episode.” Instead it was just about having fun.
Sadly, Sigmund and the Sea Monsters just doesn’t hold up. Even if you ignore the convoluted premise, the sea monsters’ mouths often don’t sync up with the audio track and every other episode ends with Whitaker bursting out in song. This is like watching a staged production of some weird alternate The Little Mermaid universe and I just don’t think today’s kids would glom onto it.
This is a terrible transfer. If it didn’t come straight off the broadcast reel I’d be surprised. I wanted to hit the tracking button, except of course that remote button went out of style a long time ago. There’s multi-colored haloing around the characters at times and the whole palette has a lot of orange. The audio is woefully inconsistent with a fabricated laugh track that seems to sit on its own channel.
The special features include an interview, a folder of mp3s of Johnny singing, and a disposable look at a Pufnstuf event. Sid Krofft’s commentary (a holdover from the 2005 release) is laborious to get through; the tidbits are interesting but not outstanding. The commentaries featuring Whitaker and Kolden (also from 2005) are actually very warm. They may or not be friends in real life, but it’s clear they have enough residual affection for one another, making it worth listening to. They reminisce and make snarky comments, giving the episode a nice Mystery Science Theater 3000 vibe.
Sigmund and the Sea Monsters is pure nostalgia. It won’t capture someone’s attention anew, but it may well recapture yours.