Imagine a children’s television program that advocates violence, theft, rudeness, gluttony and miscreant behavior. Then imagine this level of anti-social behavior practiced by a giant red octopus and a giant pear. This, in the proverbial nutshell, is the extraordinary world of “Gimme Gimme Octopus,” a live-action Japanese kiddie show from the late 1960s, which is making its U.S. DVD debut.
There is absolutely nothing like “Gimme Gimme Octopus.” Yes, the bizarre costumes and brightly colored sets may recall the psychedelic nature of “The Banana Splits” or “H.R. Pufnstuf,” but “Gimme Gimme Octopus” is so far-out that it makes those classic shows seem as staid and stodgy as “Wall Street Week.” “Gimme Gimme Octopus” seems to have been created and produced during an endless acid trip, with bizarre genetically spliced creatures running about a fauvist cardboard world in a constant state of anger and fury. It is impossible to imagine how any self-respecting (let alone law-abiding) parent would allow their kids to watch this stuff, and it is equally impossible to think of any kid (or kid-inside-an-adult-body) who won’t roll in joy at this.
“Gimme Gimme Octopus” consists of short films no more than five minutes each. But there is more audacious, subversive and surreal humor and style in these five minutes shorts than in the entire combined canons of Quentin Tarantino and David Lynch. The stars of each film are Gimme Gimme Octopus, a bright red and wide-eyed being who lives in a treehouse, and his pear pal Chombo, who is literally a giant pear with arms, legs and a face. This duo has a knack for stirring up trouble and inflicting chaos on everyone who comes in their way.
Gimme Gimme and Chombo have a particular dislike for a trio of cucumber monsters who carry around picnic baskets full of food. In one episode, Gimme Gimme disguises himself as a fellow monster and steals their picnic baskets. The monsters track him down while he is midway through consuming their food and force the octopus to regurgitate what he’s already swallowed!
In another episode, Gimme Gimme sends Chombo out to greet the monsters and then to bang them on the head and steal their baskets. A large green dragon, working as a police officer, is sent out by his police chief superior (a giant badger smoking a cigar) to stop this crime wave. The dragon catches up to Chombo, but both realize they share common ground: they hate their respective bosses. So the pear and the dragon grab clubs and share in banging out their respective revenge: first by clobbering the badger at the police station, and then by visiting Gimme Gimme at his residence and clubbing him wildly on his large red head.
But food is not always the prime cause for crime. In another episode, the cucumber monsters are digging for buried treasure. Gimme Gimme and Chombo decide to claim jump the monsters, so they rush in to the excavation site, pick up rocks, and start throwing them at the monsters’ heads. When the monsters drop their shovels, the bad-boy duo grab the tools and use them to crown the monsters.
Watching “Gimme Gimme Octopus” is both shocking and hilarious. Situations arise which could never possibly get into an American kiddie show. At one point, Gimme Gimme and Chombo steal headstones from a cemetery. When the badger-police chief tries to stop them, he gets a club on his head and then has a tombstone placed over his unconscious body. When the cucumber monsters are knocked out by a falling tree, Gimme Gimme and Chombo give them a headstone topped with a large cross, and then the nasty team cross themselves in a mock-ceremony for the should-be dead.
If this isn’t bad enough, then how about Gimme Gimme as an eye-patch wearing dictator who whips and crucifies those who challenge his reign? A firing squad execution is averted at the last minute by a pink walrus dinosaur (the only female character in the films), who begs Gimme Gimme to marry her and spare the life of his prisoners. But during the wedding ceremony, the walrus dinosaur pulls out a club and bangs Gimme Gimme on his head. This leads to a free-for-all when every character begins to pummel Gimme Gimme and Chombo.
Or even better: imagine all of the male characters (the octopus, pear, badger, dinosaur, a giant grey triangular thing that sprays water from its head, and the three cucumber monsters) engaged in a massive fistfight over who gets to wear a blue hula dress.
Watching episode after episode of “Gimme Gimme Octopus” can give one the impression that these films cannot get crazier, and yet each one brings in a new level of insanity and nihilism. Characters shoot arrows into their own heads, drink and spit up alcohol, smoke cigars, pull guns and knives on each other, begin fights without provocation, wind up with broken limbs wrapped in plaster casts, and still have time to think up new ways to annoy those around them. Each “Gimme Gimme Octopus” episode is matched with an equally bizarre music track, which alternates between smooth cocktail jazz and a militaristic grunt-chant that suggests the cast is preparing to invade Manchuria.
It would be too easy to heap on the adjectives and superlatives here, but perhaps the best advice is the briefest: you must see “Gimme Gimme Octopus” for yourself, because you cannot possible believe anything so weird was ever put on film. I’ve watched this five times and I still cannot believe what I was watching.