The subtle trick Showtime's "Penny Dreadful is that it is far less about the blood, gore and the specter of gruesome death than the sharp pain and exhilarating pleasure of living, and the terror of feeling alone even in close company. Read our review in the May Picks section.
one of the coolest obscure finds of children's 80s videos
Truth be told, I only sought this out on first glance of this being listed, between the likes of Prizzi's Honor and Witches of Eastwick, as one of Jack Nicholson's projects in the 1980s here on IMDb. Don't ask me why he was involved, or why he did such an unusual trip into doing a narration of a children's story (by the great Rudyard Kipling, sure, but still). It's not even listed in Five Easy Decades, his most recent and comprehensive autobiography! But for what it's worth, Nicholson is Nicholson here, and then some - it allows for him to spread out as an actor into all shapes and sizes of characters (a snake, a crocodile, a monkey, a bird, and of course the baby elephant), and he pulls it off better than anyone else could.
The style of this video reminded me- and brought me back nostalgically to- these videos that used to be released from Jim Henson productions called the Muppet Baby Video Storybook. Those, like Elephant's Child, had a narrator over a story being told (in those cases Kermit the Frog) over a lot of animated stills that were shot with some swooping and careening camera movements and some nifty child-friendly music. For Elephant's Child, this is pretty much the same deal, as we are taken into the story of a little elephant baby who keeps getting spanked for his "insatiable curiosity", as it were, and soon comes of age by getting his nose caught by a crocodile. It's a very charming story, and with the kind of dialog and wording that one wouldn't usually find in other children's stories (the snake, for example, sounds like a poet laureate compared to Kaa from the Jungle Book).
It's amazing to see that the story even has some darker issues, like child abuse, and revenge (however in the most playful and innocent ways it would appear), but all told in such a sunny and fun way that it's good for the entire family (yeah, that recommendation, but it's true, if only for the shock for parents that it really is Nicholson, in character(s), doing this narration). It's also a treat having the "Don't Worry Be Happy" guy doing the music, as it adds just a nice touch of rhythm without getting in the way. If you can somehow find this, it's actually not too bad for the patient little guy or girl, whomever that might be, and for Nicholson die-hards it's the curiosity of a lifetime, even more captivating, in a way, than his obscure B-movies from the 60s.
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