Meet the Feebles
Meet the Feebles (also known as Frogs of War in New Zealand as the film's English fake working title) is a 1989 New Zealand musical black comedy film directed by Peter Jackson, and written by Jackson, Fran Walsh, Stephen Sinclair and Danny Mulheron. It features Jim Henson-esque puppets in a perverse comic satire.
|Meet the Feebles|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Peter Jackson|
|Produced by||Jim Booth|
|Music by||Peter Dasent|
|Edited by||Jamie Selkirk|
|Box office||$80,000 (New Zealand)|
Like Henson's Muppets, the Feebles are animal-figured puppets (plus some suited performers) who are members of a stage troupe. However, whereas the Muppets characterize positivity, naïve folly and innocence, the Feebles largely present negativity, vice and other misanthropic characteristics. It is the first Jackson film that was co-written by his future wife Fran Walsh, who has gone on to act as co-writer for all his subsequent films.
Despite being a commercial failure on release (grossing only NZ$80,000), the film went on to win critical praise and a cult following plus won over new viewers following Jackson's success with The Lord of the Rings trilogy. During his acceptance speech at the 2004 Academy Awards, Jackson mentioned Meet the Feebles (along with Bad Taste), joking that it had been "wisely overlooked by the Academy."
The eponymous theatre troupe is rehearsing the title song with hopes of finding success through being picked up for a syndicated television show. Heidi (a hippopotamus), the star of the show, is insulted by pornographic director Trevor (a rat) and complains to her boss and lover, Bletch (a walrus), who is actually in an adulterous relationship with Samantha (a cat). Meanwhile, Robert (a hedgehog), the newest member of the team, arrives at the theatre and immediately falls in love with another newcomer, Lucille (a poodle). Samantha confronts Heidi, insults her, and reveals her relationship with Bletch. Robert confesses his love to Lucille, and the two become engaged. Sid (an elephant) receives a visit from his ex-girlfriend Sandy (a chicken) with his alleged son Seymour (an improbable-looking elephant/chicken hybrid). Sandy informs him she will be preparing a paternity case against him.
At the toilet, the second most important star of the show, Harry (a hare), is suffering from a mystery disease, given only twelve hours to live. Meanwhile, drug-addicted knife thrower Wynyard (a frog) tells Robert his story of Vietnam, and convinces Robert to give him $50 to buy drugs from Trevor. After seeing Trevor's latest porno film, Bletch decides they need a new porn star, and Trevor chooses Lucille; he drugs her and tries to rape her as an audition but is caught by Robert. When he walks in on the scene Robert thinks that Lucille was drinking and throwing herself at Trevor, and tells her he never wants to see her again.
After a good beginning – the Feebles sign with a TV chain to appear in a prime-time television show – Bletch confesses to Heidi that he actually hates her and wants to give the main role to Samantha. After trying unsuccessfully to commit suicide, Heidi goes on a shooting spree with an M60 machine gun and kills many of the cast, including Harry who was told by his doctor that he was indeed going to recover.
The epilogue reveals the fates of only six survivors: Sid gets extensive repair on his kneecaps after being shot by Heidi and works in an orchard as a struggling horticulturist with Seymour. Arthur received an OBE for his lifelong service at the theater and retires to the country. Sebastian recovers from his injuries and became a successful writer who achieved worldwide fame for his best seller The Feeble Variety Massacre: One Man's Act of Heroism! and is negotiating film rights. Robert, now an award-winning fashion photographer for a women's magazine, and Lucille are married with two children. Finally, Heidi, whose killing spree resulted in her imprisonment in a women's penitentiary for ten years (implying that, although released in 1989, the film's events occurred in the 1970s), has been rehabilitated under the community and now works under a new identity on the check-out counter of a large supermarket.
- Mark Hadlow as:
- Robert the Hedgehog
- Heidi the Hippo (voice)
- Barry the Bulldog
- Chorus Girl #3
- Peter Vere-Jones as:
- Bletch the Walrus
- Arthur the Worm
- The Baker
- Newspaper Mouse (Paperboy)
- The Announcer
- Donna Akersten as:
- Lucille the Poodle
- Samantha the Cat
- Dorothy the Sheep
- Female Rabbit #1
- Chorus Girl #2
- Fitness Tape Voice
- Stuart Devenie as:
- Sebastian the Fox
- Dr. Quack the Duck (doing a Paul Lynde impression)
- Daisy the Cow (Madame Bovine)
- Sandy the Chicken
- Cedric the Warthog
- Seymour the Elechicken (mixed elephant and chicken)
- Mr. Big the Whale
- Female Rabbit #2
- Chorus Girl #1
- Brian Sergent as:
- Ross Jolly as:
- Harry the Hare
- Dennis the Aardvark
- Abi the Contortionist
- Vietnamese Gophers
- Mark Wright as:
- Sid the Elephant
- The Masked Masochist
- Louie the Dog
- Guppy the Fish
- Chorus Girl #4
- Fane Flaws as Musician Frog
- Danny Mulheron as Heidi the Hippo (body)
The film was originally conceived as part of a television series, and only belatedly became a feature after Japanese investors proposed expanding it; as such, the script was hastily re-written. The dialogue was recorded before shooting began. Made on an extremely low budget considering the time-consuming process of working with puppets, the film went over budget and schedule. Some scenes, including the Vietnam flashback, were funded by members of the film crew, and filmed secretly under the title Frogs of War. The Vietnam flashback includes a game of Russian roulette as a parody of The Deer Hunter. An initial application for Film Commission money was rejected by executive director Jim Booth, who a short time later became Jackson's producer. The Commission eventually granted the production two-thirds of its $750,000 budget, though relationships between the funders and the production soured and the Film Commission removed its credit from the film. It is often mistakenly stated that there are no human characters in the film; the character Abi is a human. However, there are no real-life human characters in the film. Director Jackson has a cameo as an audience member dressed as an alien from Bad Taste. Every vehicle seen in the film is a variation on the Morris Minor, including a specially constructed limousine. Morris Minors also appear in Jackson's Bad Taste and Braindead. By presumed coincidence, one of the characters, Harry the Hare, shares a name with the title character of James B. Hemesath's short story "Harry the Hare" (himself a Bugs Bunny pastiche), written for Harlan Ellison's anthology Again, Dangerous Visions in 1972.
|Meet the Feebles (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)|
Stage & Screen
The film's music was composed by Peter Dasent. The soundtrack was released in 1991 by Q.D.K. Media.
- Track listing
|1.||"Meet the Feebles"||2:23|
|2.||"One Leg Missing"||1:56|
|4.||"Heidi's Aerobics Tape"||2:57|
|7.||"The Best Goddamn Producer"||1:19|
|10.||"Fly Gets a Scoop"||1:19|
|11.||"Wynyard Gets a Fix"||1:13|
|13.||"Garden of Love"||3:18|
|14.||"The Dirty Rat"||1:57|
|20.||"The Partial Journalist"||1:27|
|21.||"Kiss Me Bletch!"||1:45|
|24.||"Garden of Love" (Reprise)||3:09|
The film was marketed in some countries with the tagline: "From the creators of Bad Taste, comes a film with no taste at all!"
Meet the Feebles was given its public premiere at a fantasy film festival in Hamburg, in April 1990.
From then on, the film was released theatrically in Japan (7 December 1990); Portugal (February 1991); Australia (March 1991); Sweden (April 1991); Germany (May 1991); France (July 1991); United Kingdom (April 1992); and the United States (February 1995 in New York and September 1995 nationwide).
The film was met with generally positive reviews, and holds a 71% rating on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 24 reviews and with a weighted average rating of 6.5/10. The site's consensus reads "Dark and vulgar, Meet the Feebles is a backstage comedy featuring puppets that offers proof of Peter Jackson's taste for sheer outrageousness, even if it often lapses into pure juvenilia."
During a limited theatrical release in North America in 2002, critic James Berardinelli touched on aspects of the film which likely helped ensure it limited release in cinemas. "The stories of these ... characters are told in a disgustingly graphic, obscenely offbeat, and caustically funny manner. Meet the Feebles is for those with a strong stomach and a seriously warped sense of humor. The film is so off the beaten track that it makes Monty Python seem mainstream."
- "MEET THE FEEBLES (18)". British Board of Film Classification. 7 October 1991. Retrieved 11 November 2012.
- Brzeski, Patrick (10 December 2018). "Peter Jackson Returns to His "Naughty Years" With Restoration of Gory Early Films". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 1 February 2019.
- "Meet the Feebles – Background". NZ On Screen. 31 August 2008. Retrieved 6 December 2012.
- MEET THE FEEBLES (Peter Jackson, 1989) on Vimeo
- "2003 (76th) Academy Awards". Academy Awards Acceptance Speech Database. Retrieved 27 June 2016.
- "The Lord of the Rings" winning the Best Picture Oscar®-Oscars on YouTube
- McNeice, Stephen (12 June 2013). "Ireland's first 'banned book' to be republished". Newstalk. Retrieved 3 January 2019.
- "Meet the Feebles". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 22 June 2014.
- "James Berardinelli review at Reelviews". Reelviews.net. Retrieved 6 December 2012.