|Written by||Ellis Weiner|
The Great Muppet Caper!: The Making of the Masterpiece is a behind-the-scenes book that reveals the not-quite-true story of the filming of The Great Muppet Caper.
The book ecstatically describes the movie -- which it refers to throughout as The Great Muppet Caper!, with the exclamation point -- as "the only movie in history to justify movies, history, even life itself... It's not only great art -- great arty art, the kind that makes you swoon and gasp and fall down -- it's great entertainment -- greaty-great movieish movie fun, a lark, an eagle, a goose."
In the fictionalized account of the movie's genesis, the producer, Raving Stork, is inspired by a story in a 1951 back issue of pulp magazine Pardon My Guts! while waiting to get his hair cut. The story, "On the Trail of the Baseball Diamond", sounds like a good idea for a film, so Stork recruits legendary screenwriter Salton Pepper, whose previous scripts include Commerce Is My Business and Operation Appendectomy.
To direct the film, Stork taps Stevens Peeledbird, the man behind Store Wares and Clothing Counter's on the Third Floor. Peeledbird had previously worked with the Muppets in his student film, Salmon Friends, which had starred Scooter as a fish canner, and Janice as the woman who convinces him to join the Quaker church.
For the leads, Stork and Peeledbird cast Kermit the Frog, who had previously starred with Jane Fonda in A Caring Woman with Dignity, and Miss Piggy, who was known for It Happened Again One Night and Caught in a Wild Embrace During an Improbable Summer Snowstorm Somewhere Off the Coast of Peru Quoting Trotsky.
The shooting in London is plagued by a series of mishaps. Fozzie Bear catches cold on location. Miss Piggy insists on keeping all the costumes. The composer, Jack Relaxo, needs an interpreter to talk to The Electric Mayhem. The Muppets are homesick, and find cricket "too weird".
The section on editing reveals that there were rumors around Hollywood that the "best" parts of the movie had been left on the cutting room floor: "the scene in which Fozzie parts the Red Sea; the panic-in-the-square sequence, in which the Electric Mayhem band is squeezed into a baby carriage and goes careening down a long, broad sweep of steps while playing their rock-Dixieland version of 'Midnight in Moscow'; and the (already infamous) 'shower scene', in which Lew Zealand is seen taking a shower."
The film opens to rave reviews from Cineeast, The Brand-New Republic and The Village Vice, although it's panned by The New York Dreary News.
The book is enlivened throughout by mock-ups of fake news articles, telegrams, production documents and lyrics written on a stained napkin, as well as dozens of photographs from the film.