Judy & Punch, an Australian film, fascinated me with its bold, in-your-face, outrageous, devilish story involving a 17th Century British puppet show. Thanks to director/writer Mirrah Foulkes for this entertaining gift of dark humor combined with female revenge. This is actress Foulkes’ first full-length feature behind the camera, so I am looking forward to future offerings from such a talented filmmaker.
Various disturbing themes pop up in Judy & Punch, including mob violence, alcoholism, injustice, stoning, hanging, and domestic abuse. Not the sort of things we expect in a film about a puppet show. Therefore, Judy & Punch is definitely not for children! But adults who enjoy period movies with action galore -- plus a brave heroine to cheer for -- should put this one on their must-see list.
The film takes place in an unruly town called Seaside, even though there’s no sea to be beside. Judy, played by Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Alice in Wonderland) and Professor Punch, portrayed by Damon Herriman (Charles Manson in Mindhunter), are married puppeteers -- with a darling baby -- trying to revive their “Punch & Judy” puppet show. The professor’s ambition knows no bounds, and because of Judy’s excellent marionette skills, the show has a chance to be noticed, which would bring him the fame he desires in London.
One major problem stands in the way. Professor Punch can’t stay away from booze. Unfortunately, one day while under the influence, his violent behavior toward Judy results in a heinous crime – one he blames on two innocent people.
Professor Punch, a puppeteer,
makes viewers laugh and yell and cheer.
“Punch & Judy” pleases the crowd.
Judy gets punched more. Is that allowed?
When Punch is home he can be wild.
He beats his wife, and she gets riled.
She’s the one with a better wit.
How can Judy make hubby quit?
This film changes a few fables.
“Judy & Punch” turns the tables.
It’s fun to watch and scary too.
Get past the gore. She couldn’t sue!
First-rate performances by the leads and supporting cast as well as a splendid “sense of place” cinematography by Stefan Duscio (The Invisible Man), and realistic period costumes enhance the quality of this unique motion picture. WARNING: some sequences end up being almost too suspenseful, especially one showing a baby crawling to something warm and shiny-looking. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
…“Punch” is one of those extravagant reliefs from the realities of life which would lose its hold upon the people if it were made moral and instructive. I regard it as quite harmless…and as an outrageous joke which no one in existence would think of…as a model for any kind of conduct. – Charles Dickens
(Released by Samuel Goldwyn Films. Not rated by MPAA.)