I’ve been trawling the Internet Archive looking for stock and reference footage for an upcoming project and while browsing their site I stumbled across the wonderful film treasure that is Santa Claus’ Punch and Judy.
A black and white film from the 1940s, there’s lots of politically incorrect puppet mayhem in this – Punch beats up his wife, Punch beats up his cat, Punch beats up what appears to be a monkey, Punch is beaten up by what appears to be a monkey…there’s even a short segment with two blackface puppets and a smoke-spewing skunk thrown in for good measure.
Political incorrectness aside, the puppetry in this movie is great. I have no idea who the puppeteer they used was, but the film was produced by Castle Films, better remembered for the classic 1950s Atom scare film Duck and Cover.
My hats off to archivist Skip Elsheimer, who digitally scanned this film along with hundreds more like it for the benefit of the Internet Archive. For more of Skip’s AV Geek madness check out his web site at www.avgeeks.com.
4/3/05 Update: Thanks to Dusty Teague, I learned that this Punch and Judy routine was performed by George Prentice, an American Punch “Professor” mentioned in Bill Baird’s classic book The Art of the Puppet. The film is available from Puppetstuff as part of a VHS holiday compilation called The Night Before Christmas that includes another classic Christmas puppet film, The First Christmas.
21/3/13 Update: I’ve embedded an excerpt from the film above and fixed some broken links in this post.