Book Talk: Absurdist Jim Henson film that wasn't

Thu Jan 19, 2012 5:01am EST
 
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By Nick Zieminski

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Although he was best-known as a creator of children's puppets like Kermit the Frog, Jim Henson had a parallel career as an experimental filmmaker before "Sesame Street" and "The Muppet Show" made him a household name.

He was even nominated for an Academy Award for an early short film, "Time Piece."

In 1968, Henson and collaborator Jerry Juhl wrote the screenplay for a live-action western, "Tale of Sand," but the movie never got off the ground despite Henson's efforts. It is a darkly comic story of a man pursued across a desert by swordsmen, a lion, a football team, and a mysterious villain with an eye-patch.

"Tale of Sand" is now a graphic novel. Frantic, nearly wordless, and full of absurdist touches such as a light switch that turns day into night, it shows a side of Henson, who died in 1990, that may be unfamiliar to many fans.

The Jim Henson Company's archives director, Karen Falk, who has spent nearly 20 years poring over Henson artifacts and who unearthed the script, spoke to Reuters about the storyteller.

Q: Many of the reviewers who praised the recent Muppets movie cited its warmth and the gentility of the Muppets' world. Is that a part of Henson's legacy?

A: "Jim and (collaborator) Jerry Juhl wanted to present their characters in a positive light and have an optimistic view of the world. That was Jim's mindset, that you should tolerate others' differences. It's not trite. It's a valid way of looking at the world."

Q: Yet 'Tale of Sand' is essentially a black comedy. Was it a case of a younger man trying to find his voice?   Continued...