I saw The Great Muppet Caper for the first time last year when Fathom Events was showing this film in honor of its 40th anniversary. ‘Caper’ was also my first introduction to the late Dame Diana Rigg who passed away almost two years ago in September of 2020. I had heard of her and knew that she was famous for her role as Emma Peel in The Avengers, but I’ve never seen the show. I also did not know that she was a Bond girl until I signed up for this blogathon. For the record, Rigg appears opposite one-time Bond and as far as I can tell, the least popular Bond, in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969). I know at the end of her life, Rigg was appearing in Game of Thrones. I am not a Game of Thrones fan, so I missed her appearance here as well.
Which leads me into discussing what is most likely Rigg’s greatest feature film, The Great Muppet Caper.
In The Great Muppet Caper, identical twins Kermit the Frog and Fozzie Bear work as investigative reporters for The Daily Chronicle newspaper in New York City. While Kermit the Frog and Fozzie Bear don’t look like identical twins on the surface, when Fozzie puts on his hat, they look like mirror images of each other. Gonzo the Great works as their photographer. One day, the trio is fired after failing to report on a major jewel robbery. To get their jobs back, Kermit appeals to his editor to let the gang travel to London to interview the victim, Lady Holiday (Rigg).
(KERMIT is sitting on a bench as a girl and her dad walk by)
GIRL: Look dad, there’s a bear.
DAD: No Christine, that’s a frog. Bears wear hats.
Kermit, Fozzie, and Gonzo manage to scrape up $12 for their flight to London from New York. They aren’t even able to procure a seat in coach and are placed in the cargo hold with the baggage. The plane even won’t land for them and they’re thrown out of the plane above London. The trio manage to find free lodging at the Happiness Hotel where they meet Dr Teeth and his band–The Electric Mayhem, Scooter, The Swedish Chef, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and his assistant Beaker, Rowlf the Dog, Sam the Eagle, and many other recognizable Muppet faces.
The next morning, we meet Lady Holiday. She is awaiting the arrival of her new receptionist, who turns out to be Miss Piggy. Kermit shows up and mistakes Miss Piggy for Miss Holiday. Of course, Miss Piggy becomes infatuated with Kermit. Later, Kermit takes “Miss Holiday” (aka Miss Piggy) out for dinner. To keep up the ruse, Miss Piggy gives Kermit the address (17 Highbrow Street) of a fancy pants townhouse in an affluent area of town. She breaks into the home before Kermit gets there so that she can answer the door. When Kermit arrives, Miss Piggy tries to give him the grand tour without the residents knowing. The residents are an older couple, Neville (played by John Cleese) and Dorcas. They live in the large estate alone, as their children are grown, the pets are dead, and the butler has been fired. After leaving the townhouse, Miss Piggy and Kermit go to the fancy nightclub, the Dubonnet Club.
(Lady Holiday explains the entire backstory to “The Great Muppet Caper”)
MISS PIGGY: Why are you telling me all this?
LADY HOLIDAY: It’s plot exposition. It has to go somewhere.MISS PIGGY as “Miss Piggy” and Dame Diana Rigg as “Lady Holiday” in The Great Muppet Caper (1981)
While at the club, the real Lady Holiday is present. Then her necklace is stolen by her jealous brother, Nicky (Charles Grodin), and three of Lady Holidays models: Carla, Darla, and Marla. After the robbery, Miss Piggy’s jig is up and Kermit discovers her real identity. At the same time, Nicky falls madly in love with Miss Piggy. During this scene it is also revealed that Nicky, Carla, Darla, and Marla were also responsible for stealing Lady Holiday’s jewels during the first robbery as well. Despite his attraction to Miss Piggy, Nicky frames Miss Piggy for the necklace theft and she is arrested.
MISS PIGGY to NICKY: You! It was you! Kermit was right! You’re a phony. You’re a phony! Yes you are! And you know what, you can’t even sing! Your voice was dubbed!MISS PIGGY as “Miss Piggy” and Charles Grodin as “Nicky” in The Great Muppet Caper (1981)
Nicky comes up with his next heist to steal Lady Holiday’s Fabulous Baseball Diamond during her next fashion show. Unbeknownst to Nicky, Gonzo overheard the entire plot. He reveals it to Kermit and Fozzie who in turn recruit all their friends from the Happiness Hotel to thwart Nicky’s plot. Kermit explains the plot to Miss Piggy in prison while disguised as her lawyer. With all the wheels in motion, Kermit, Fozzie, Gonzo and co. put their plan into action to hilarious results.
KERMIT THE FROG: But…Nicky why are you doing this?
NICKY: Why am I doing this? Because I’m a villain. It’s Pure and simple.KERMIT THE FROG as “Kermit the Frog” and CHARLES GRODIN as “Nicky” in The Great Muppet Caper (1981)
While Diana Rigg isn’t the “star” of this film, she is the “good” human character in this film. She is absolutely gorgeous and always dressed to the nines in the most sophisticated haute couture fashion. She is hilarious, like when she blames her models for not making the dresses she designed, look good. The Great Muppet Caper is insane. Between the muppets’ hijinks and Charles Grodin being bonkers and infatuated Miss Piggy, Lady Diana Rigg is there as the straight-man. She remains stoic through the entire film and she keeps the film grounded. If her character was as crazy as everyone else in this film, I think it would have gone completely off the rails. However, despite her character being rather serious most of the time (in comparison with everyone else), she still manages to be funny with her one-liners and quips.
LADY HOLIDAY: And Marla. Too many frills and furbelows, I don’t think we should strive for the fan-tailed pigeon look, do you? And Darla, that outfit’s the pits. Loose where it should be tight and tight where it should be loose, like folds on a turkey’s neck. Why would I design such atrocious looking clothes?DAME DIANA RIGG as “Lady Holiday” in The Great Muppet Caper (1981)
Aside from the wonderful Dame Diana Rigg, my favorite part of The Great Muppet Caper is the Esther Williams-esque Miss Piggy musical number, “Piggy’s Fantasy.” In this musical number, Miss Piggy, while modeling a bathing suit, imagines herself as the star of a water ballet. We also see Nicky (in a bubble) singing about how much he loves Miss Piggy. Kermit shows up at the end of the number (also in a bubble) singing about Miss Piggy. What’s remarkable about this number is that they really shot it underwater. One thing I love about the Muppet films is how flawlessly they’re able to animate the muppets without any wires, strings, etc. being visible. Some of the scenes they’re able to pull off, such as Kermit riding a bicycle in the first film, The Muppet Movie (1979), is fascinating.
But my absolute favorite part of The Great Muppet Caper is this photo that is shown at the beginning of the film. It is a photo of identical twins Fozzie and Kermit’s father.
This picture is hilarious and it makes me laugh every time I see it. Kudos to whoever at Jim Henson Studios designed this photo. It is hysterical. It does make me wonder what Kermit and Fozzie’s mom looks like.
TRUCK DRIVER: What are you doing here?
OSCAR THE GROUCH: A very brief cameo.
TRUCK DRIVER: Me tooPeter Ustinov as “Truck Driver” and Oscar the Grouch as himself in “The Great Muppet Caper”