The Pippi Longstocking movies were something I would stumble upon in the late 1970s while channel surfing on lazy Saturday afternoons (not TOO lazy... in those days, channel surfing meant standing right next to the screen and turning the clunky tuner knob).
She appeared in a series of four films from 1969-1970: Pippi Longstocking, Pippi In the South Seas, Pippi Goes On Board, and Pippi On the Run, all of which were really just cobbled-together episodes from an earlier Swedish television series (which in turn was based on the children's book series by Astrid Lindgren).
Poorly dubbed in English for American audiences (which is no small part of their charm), the films followed the adventures of wild child Pippi (Inger Nilsson), who immediately endeared herself to me by flaunting all the rules children are expected to follow.
She lives in a good-sized house, completely unsupervised (her mother has passed on, and her ship's captain father is always away at sea) and subsidized by a chest of gold doubloons her father has left behind. She never attends school, only visiting on occasion, and then only to cause trouble.
She has a pet horse (named "Old Man"), a monkey (called "Mr. Nilsson") and a mouse, all of which roam freely in the house.
Her best friends Annika and Tommy (Maria Persson and Par Sundberg) enjoy the freedom that Pippi's house provides, free from the prying eyes of killjoy adults.
Even chores became fun at Pippi's house. When she decides its time to scrub the floor, she just dumps a tub of water and proceeds to skate around on brushes attached to her feet.
No stranger to danger, she even plays with real and loaded firearms!
But what really set Pippi apart is her unexplained superhuman power. She's unnaturally strong, and can lift up cars...
...take on a whole gang of bullies...
...leap off cliffs and land without a scratch...
...and has even been known to eat a nail or two.
This was all dangerous and exciting stuff to my grade school mind, and would earn disapproving glowers from my mother while we watched together.
We get to see how Pippi celebrates Christmas in Pippi Goes on Board (an erroneous title, as the film revolves around Pippi's adventures at home when she decides NOT to go on board a sailing ship with her father).
It starts with her boast to build the biggest snowman ever. This massive snowball is merely its nose!
But when a pair of comical burglars (recurring characters in the series) make the mistake of flaunting their recent theft of Pippi's treasure chest...
...the giant snowball, under Pippi's supernatural strength, becomes a weapon.
The burglars neutralized, Pippi begins making Christmas cookies by rolling the dough out across her floor.
She doesn't settle for ordinary gingerbread men though, instead cutting them in the shapes of her various pets.
When Annika and Tommy invite her to go ice-skating, she must first fashion some skates, by bending a pair of andirons with her bare hands.
Later, Pippi decorates her front-yard lemon tree with gifts for all the town's children.
As for her menagerie, they each receive presents as well. The mouse gets a tiny Christmas tree...
...the horse an oversized scarf...
...and Mr. Nilsson, a stockpile of bananas.
As evening falls, Pippi, having no family on hand to share the holiday with, begins to feel lonely.
But right at that moment, Annika and Tommy arrive, leading a parade of neighborhood children, and bearing a gift.
Pippi opens her new trumpet and proceeds to play the films' theme song.
Meanwhile the children scramble up the lemon tree to retrieve presents.
The Pippi Longstocking series is available on DVD either individually or as a boxed set.
5 weeks ago