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I haven't seen the show since (I think) 1958 when I watched it as a preschool-age four year old, and it had a terribly profound effect on me.
Before I go on, I have to say that I was a tremendous fan of Gerry Anderson's work all through my childhood. Four Feather Falls was GREAT. Supercar, Fireball XL5, Stingray... I watched every episode of every one of them and couldn't get enough. I kinda grew out of it before Joe 90 and I only discovered Captain Scarlet retrospectively - and thoroughly enjoyed it. I've seen occasional reruns of many of these titles and still enjoy them, even though I pretend I'm babysitting my daughter and watching for HER benefit.
I first saw it because we had relatives over, and their kid, about the same age as me, wanted to watch it - so we did, together. It is the first time in my life I have ever been embarrassed by a children's television programme. I remember it as clearly as if it were yesterday. I was appalled at the utter stupidity of what I was watching and actually felt insulted that this was being fed to me. I didn't say anything because I was waiting for something good to happen, but it never did. I felt cheated - a totally new experience for me.
I watched the next episode, by myself, in case the horrible taste stopped and it turned out O.K - after all, I enjoyed ALL cartoons and puppet shows, I was a kid. It was my job to enjoy cartoons and puppet shows.
It didn't work. I cringed through the show and didn't watch it again.
I have NO idea why this happened. At the time I loved the Watch With Mother stuff, was enchanted by the gross Andy Pandy's cute Teddy, could have watched Rag Tag & Bobtail for hours and wouldn't dream of turning away from any cartoon being shown, but Torchy just embarrassed me for its patronising childish stupidity. The only show that ever did.
As this was a unique experience and reaction, I am quite keen to see an episode again to see if I can analyse this, and I am only writing this cathartic "revue" because of the strength of the show's impact on me, making a negative impression which has stayed with me for nearly fifty years.
Oh well, back to watching The Clangers.
I must get out more.
It's now more than six years after I wrote my original (rather unpopular, I see :-) ) review. The DVDs are out and at least one other person remembers seeing the show. I got hold of the DVD and watched about half of the first disc.
O.K. the overall concept now looks like it was a fairly good idea hampered by production values, syrupy sentimentality and the thing that I wasn't aware of as a kid, the creepiest looking marionettes that have ever appeared on the televisual receivification apparatus.
It's like this Doctor; I always found dolls a bit icky. Not scary, like clowns, just... yuk, like watching someone drool, or vomit, or eat worms. I wouldn't freak if locked in a room with a load of dolls but I'd be more comfortable with soft toys... or books, or live explosives. Dolls are just slightly unpleasant.
The dolls in Torchy are not just slightly unpleasant - they're bloody horrific. They are the sort of thing that crawl out from under a four year old's bed and stand round the terrified kid in the dark, making threats and gnashing their teeth, mumbling and shuffling but always kept at bay by the blankets over your head and the teddy bear holding you tight and keeping you safe
Tim Burton does the whole creepy thing wonderfully. He can bring bad-trip weirdness t life and it's entertaining and edgy. The crystal clear rendering gives everything a delirious, hallucinatory reality that is not threatening, just constantly odd. Of course it's completely deliberate. I'd call Burton a genuine surrealist, in the art-movement sense though purist art historians may disagree. He definitely evokes a reality that is rather out of phase with comfortable normality. Other-worldly, dream-like - no, it's more like watching a nightmare but not being caught up in it. The Corpse Bride in synopsis sounds horrible. In the viewing, it's great fun.
Torchy's blurry alternative reality should be more obviously "it's all made up" rather than real - after all one can see the strings and the marionetting is, in comparison to modern work, quite clumsy. The process is always very obvious. despite this, it's as creepy as a plate of earwigs.
In Torchy, I don't think the creepiness is deliberate; I think it's a product of trying to be "cute" and appealing to pre-schoolers and somehow completely missing the mark, mainly through the design of the dolls which are horrific because the inept modeling makes them look hideously deformed rather than caricaturish. Trumpeters' cheeks and staring vacant eyes. Furthermore, the strange adults-squeakily-playing-children voice characterization gives it that patronizing quality I hated as a kid. I never had any problems with Roberta's excellent Space Patrol which wasn't much later as I recall, or, as I stated originally, Anderson's "solo" work. Torchy, however, still puts the weirds up me.
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