by Marty Demarest

One of the great -- and largely unknown -- movies to be released during the 1970s was a Swedish adaptation of Astrid Lindgren's classic book Pippi Longstocking. Three sequels followed in this story of a rebellious little girl who is part superhero and part nutso best friend. The films were dubbed into English, making them feel like a martial arts film starring children from Sweden, and they've finally made their way onto DVD - albeit in a slightly different form.

Pippi Longstocking, in case you haven't had the fortune of making her acquaintance, is a remarkable girl with fire-red braids sticking straight out from her head, mismatched socks, and pointy boots too large for an adult. She lives alone in a gaudily painted house with her pet monkey and horse, but naturally, after she moves into town, she befriends two local squares -- young Tommy and Annika (named Anna in this new translation). Then she revolutionizes their lives.

Pippi is played by Inger Nilsson, a marvelous Swedish child actress who has, unfortunately, been forever defined by the work that she did here. But her unabashed toothy grin, long gawky legs, and uncommonly confident attitude in any situation make her iconic in the role.

This new DVD gives American audiences more of Nilsson's Pippi than they've seen before, in the form of six episodes of the television series that were cut up and used to make the films. The colors have been boosted to even greater psychedelic heights, and the surreal visuals combined with the score of oompah-lounge music are potently hilarious.

Of course, Pippi is much more than a quirky girl with unconventional manners. She knows how to have fun in any situation, and her freewheeling outlook gives Tommy and Anna a series of escapades that would certainly not be approved of by their parents. But Pippi is a good friend, and doesn't hesitate to stop her fun and lend her super-strength when things get out of hand. Adults, however, are rarely adequate witnesses to the virtues of children, and so Pippi's deeds go unrewarded. Fortunately, they also go unromanticized. Pippi is no hero in the traditional sense, righting wrongs and meting out justice. She doesn't hurt others, refuses to tolerate injustice, and never behaves as anyone other than herself. Perhaps it's time for a new self-help movement: We should all awaken our inner Pippis.

Publication date: 03/25/04

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