WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE

Only 30 movies left to Certify Weird

Having finished with his Batman TV miniseries, Alfred Eaker turns his attention to the latest offbeat iteration of the Caped Crusader: the 2018 superhero/anime crossover Batman Ninja. Sticking with recent releases, G. Smalley will discuss the new-on-video-on-demand psychological horror Inheritance, while Ryan Aarset surveys the incendiary Heredity. Then, Giles Edwards re-works entry on the stop-motion nightmare “Street of Crocodiles” (regular readers can probably guess why).

Now is the time when we highlight the weirdest search terms that brought visitors to this site (with our usual disclaimer that this survey is a shadow of what it once was thanks to privacy filters blocking search terms). First, we have to mention the search for “billy cook saddles.” These are real things, but they have absolutely no relevance to us whatsoever—what’s weird about it is the thought that some searcher looking for horsewear passed over all the relevant Google results on the first page, and decided to visit a weird movie site instead. More typical of the type of searches we see nowadays is “i’m looking for a horror movie that was made in the 80s it have indians in it and have an alien having sex with a woman”. A bizarre request by normal people’s standards, sure, but we’ve gotten used to seeing weirder. Since we have nothing better to spotlight, we’ll go with the moderately amusing “movie with bad guy getting punched in the face with a puppet” as our Weirdest Search Term of the Week. But try to do better in the future, Googlers!

Before reprinting the ridiculously-long -and-still-growing reader-suggested review queue, let’s point out something that may seem obvious in retrospect: with only 30 movies left to Certify Weird, all of the hundreds of suggestions listed below can’t possibly make it, or even receive a fair hearing. These movies are currently listed in order of submission, but at this point we are ignoring that order and reaching deeper into the queue for the few films we feel, for one reason or another, merit coverage. So, Genius Party has been sitting in the first position for quite a while; but as it’s an anthology film that’s not easily accessible in the U.S., we keep passing it over—and will probably continue to. In other words, you can’t trust this queue for insights into what will be reviewed in the immediate future. That’s bad if you are rooting for something near the front of the queue to see its day in 366 court, but good if you’re a fan of a film buried deeper in the list.

With that out of the way, here’s how the ridiculously-long -and-still-growing reader-suggested review queue now stands: Genius Party; The Idiots; “Premium” (depending on availability); Spermula; Killer Continue reading WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE

WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 6/15/2018

Our weekly look at what’s weird in theaters, on hot-off-the-presses DVDs and Blu-rays (and hot off the server VODs), and on more distant horizons…

Trailers of new release movies are generally available at the official site links.

NEW ON HOME VIDEO:

“Akio Jissoji: The Buddhist Trilogy”: Three rare films of the late Japanese New Wave: This Transient Life (1970) involves brother/sister incest, Mandara (1971) concerns a pro-rape cult, and Poem (1972) stars a young boy caught up in a plot to sell his ancestral home. Arrow Academy promises that these little-seen films are all stylized, experimental, erotic and spiritual. Blu-ray set only. Buy “Akio Jissoji: The Buddhist Trilogy”.

Curse of the Cat People (1944): Read Alfred Eaker’s review. A strange childhood fantasy film with little relation to its Cat People ancestor; a few people prefer it to the horrific original, though. Out on Blu-ray for the first time from Shout! Factory. Buy Curse of the Cat People.

Edward II (1991): ‘s experimental, queered-up version of Christopher Marlowe’s play. It’s in our reader-suggested queue, and now out on DVD, VOD and Blu-ray (for the first time) from Film Movement. Buy Edward II.

Inheritance (2017): A carpenter inherits a northern California villa from the biological father he never knew; the place is haunted by family secrets. Not to be confused with Hereditary; review (of both?) coming next week. VOD only. Buy or rent Inheritance.

King of Hearts (1966): In World War I, a private is mistaken for a bomb expert and sent to a French town deserted by the locals, but now occupied by the escaped inmates from a local mental asylum. This British anti-war cult favorite has long been hard to see in the U.S.; the Cohen Film Collection releases it on DVD, Blu-ray and VOD. Buy King of Hearts.

Vidar the Vampire (2017): A Norwegian farmer is vampirized by a bloodsucker claiming to be Jesus Christ. Debuts in the U.S. on various streaming and on-demand outlets; check the official site for details.

CERTIFIED WEIRD (AND OTHER) REPERTORY SCREENINGS:

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). We won’t list all the screenings of this audience-participation classic separately. You can use this page to find a screening near you.

What are you looking forward to? If you have any weird movie leads that I have overlooked, feel free to leave them in the COMMENTS section.

336. HELLZAPOPPIN’ (1941)

“The expanse of humour in American life has historically shown the health of the democratic system in its ability to absorb criticism and analysis, even in their most pointed, satiric, sardonic, or absurdist forms, or when cast solely as entertainment.”–Russel Carmony, “The rise of American fascism — and what humour can do to stop it”

Recommended

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: Ole Olsen, Chic Johnson, Martha Raye, Hugh Herbert, Mischa Auer, Jane Frazee, Robert Paige, Lewis Howard, Shemp Howard, Richard Lane, Elisha Cook Jr.

PLOT: The film begins with the projectionist (who will play an active role in the story) loading a reel of film: a musical number set in Hell. That scene ends with the arrival of “our prize guests,” Olsen and Johnson, who are in turn interrupted by the director who objects to their series of gags and demands that they have a story “because every picture has one.” The director presents them with a script for “a picture about a picture about ‘Hellzapoppin”, which loosely revolves a love triangle among socialites who are also staging a play (with disastrous results).

Still from Hellzapoppin' (1941)

BACKGROUND:

  • Hellzapoppin’ was the film version of Ole Olsen and Chic Johnson’s stage variety show, which opened on Broadway in 1938. The show had no running plot, but consisted of a collection of comedy sketches, musical numbers, and audience participation routines that played off current events and would change from performance to performance. Olsen and Johnson often improvised their routines. With 1,404 performances, it was the longest-running show on Broadway up until that time.
  • The original show closed on December 18, 1941; the film debuted on December 26, 1941. Olsen and Johnson revived the show many times, and it went on road tours (with rotating casts, often without Olsen and Johnson) throughout the 1940s.
  • One of the few bits that was recycled from the play for the movie is the man who wanders through the scenes carrying a potted tree, which grows bigger as the production progresses.
  • Hellzapoppin’ received an Oscar nomination for “Best Original Song” for “Pig Foot Pete.” The song “Pig Foot Pete,” however, doesn’t appear in Hellzapoppin’.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: The rapid pace of the visual gags makes this one almost impossible to pick. The opening seven minutes in Hell alone could probably yield half a dozen respectable candidates. We’ll go with the moment that Olsen (I think) blows on his diminutive taxi driver, transforming him in a flash of smoke into a jockey on a horse (with, for some reason, a tic-tac-toe game stenciled on its side). The fella is immediately launched from his saddle on a trip into Hell’s sulfurous stratosphere—but that’s already another image altogether.

THREE WEIRD THINGS: Canned guys and gals; Frankenstein’s monster hurls ballerina; invisible comedian hemispheres

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: A staircase collapses, dumping socialites into Hell where devils with pitchforks do somersaults off trampolines and juggle flaming torches. Women are roasted on spits. Farm animals tumble out of a taxicab like it was a clown car. The projectionist runs the film back and plays a scene again, to a different conclusion. And that’s just the first five minutes! “This is Hellzapoppin’!”


Fan-made trailer for Hellzapoppin’

COMMENTS: I can’t tell which one is Olsen and which one is Johnson. This may seem like a small point of confusion in a movie in which Continue reading 336. HELLZAPOPPIN’ (1941)

CAPSULE: THE PERSECUTION AND ASSASSINATION OF JEAN-PAUL MARAT AS PERFORMED BY THE INMATES OF THE ASYLUM OF CHARENTON UNDER THE DIRECTION OF THE MARQUIS DE SADE (1967)

Recommended

AKA Marat/Sade

DIRECTED BY: Peter Brook

FEATURING: , , Glenda Jackson, Michael Williams

PLOT: The director of the Charenton asylum permits the prisoners to put on a play about the murder of one of the architects of the French Revolution; the machinations of the play’s notorious author, combined with the unique insanities of the cast, consistently threaten to derail the production.

Still from Marat/Sade (1967)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Marat/Sade is easy to admire but difficult to love, purposely distancing itself from its audience with a presentational style, a remote historical setting, and characters who are all but impossible to empathize with. By putting the great debates over the efficacy and morality of revolutionary fervor into the mouths of the sick and deranged, the movie declares its allegiance to a stranger flag. But while it is confrontational and occasionally repellent, Marat/Sade is still a thoughtful, methodical, and ultimately a sober work.

COMMENTS: Every once in a while, a play shows up on Broadway that is so alive with the enthusiasm and commitment of its cast, so daring in its subject matter, so determined to break away from the complacency and redundancy of its contemporaries, that it becomes a smash on the scale of the more attention-getting musicals. Recent years have seen plays such as “Angels in America,” “August: Osage County,” and “Take Me Out” demand the spotlight; in 1966, it was “Marat/Sade” that was all the buzz in the theater world. After the Royal Shakespeare Company’s adaptation of Peter Weiss’ original German-language play essentially launched the British fringe, it traveled across the Atlantic to dazzle America, becoming not only a hit but also shorthand for subversive, challenging theater.

So a movie version has a lot to live up to, and it’s a tribute to director Peter Brook’s vision that he manages to find the cinematic elements in the staging of a play. For Marat/Sade is working at multiple levels: a film of a play screening before an audience in which a play is being performed for an audience. It’s easy to lose track of which one you should be following. Consider the choices de Sade makes in casting his production. His Marat is portrayed by a paranoiac, Corday is a narcoleptic, Duperret a sex criminal. How much importance we should ascribe to these choices? Is this de Sade jesting with the historical figures? Is it Weiss assigning another layer of meaning to characters already laden with subtext? Is the whole thing a joke, designed to set up situations like Corday’s frequent mid-play naps? If theater is an author’s medium and film is a director’s medium, but one of the protagonists is a writer and director of the very work we’re watching, just who the hell is responsible?

Brook takes great pains to remind us that we are watching a play. The character of the Herald is constantly there to remind the actors of their lines. A chorus frequently chimes in with musical numbers that sound like lesser Newley/Bricusse tunes. And we get shots of the audience watching from the other side of the prison bars. But we get just as many hints that this is an impossible play. The script seems all too prepared to address the objections of the asylum director in dialogue. Our Marat seems not an actor at all, but the very man back from the dead, and de Sade engages him in debate as if he were the genuine article. And how the heck did this collection of crazies learn all these elaborate speeches, anyway? Whenever you think you’ve got your footing, Marat/Sade is there to give you a good shove.

Possibly the finest compliment you can give Marat/Sade is that you finish it thrilled and exhausted, but also unsure if you understood any of it. In trying to figure it out, I find it helpful to go back to that monstrously long (possibly even Guinness record-worthy) title, which is usually trimmed down to highlight the ostensible antagonists of the piece. In doing so, possibly the most important word to understanding the work as a whole is lost: “asylum.” In assessing the French Revolution, a particularly bloody uprising that overthrew a monarchy and then blundered through violence until another dictator arrived to grab control, it seems as though no one involved had the wisdom or foresight to anticipate the bloodshed that would result. By putting the subject in the hands of the insane, it specifically labels the enlightened masters of the uprising as insane themselves, and by placing the play under the auspices of a politician who represents the new dictatorship, it goes for broke and says everyone is crazy. Revolution is bloody, violent, destructive. To think otherwise, or to think that it won’t reach you, is dangerous folly, and Marat/Sade wants you to know that even if—especially if—you think you’re in control, then you’re next.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“The typical dish or cable viewer, then, might utter ‘What the hell is this?’ and gaze upon the weirdness only momentarily, without even having put down the remote… Strange scenes can be felt but not always understood, and perhaps its impossible to do so.” – Brian Koller, Films Graded (DVD)

(This movie was nominated for review by Caleb Moss, who called it “pretty strange, to say the least.” Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)

CAPSULE: ZACHARIAH (1971)

DIRECTED BY: George Englund

FEATURING: John Rubinstein, , , Country Joe and the Fish

PLOT: The title character is a young gun on a quest to become a gunslinger in the old west, championing his way through the stock trials of a western shoot-em-up, complete with a sidekick; several rock bands come along along for the ride.

Still from Zachariah (1971)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: It’s a pity, but after you get past it being a comedy-western with great rock bands of the era in it, this movie ends up being a standard period piece of hippie tomfoolery, made to accompany a six-pack of brewskies and a well-packed bong… but a long ways from being weird, despite being connected to half the movies on this site.

COMMENTS: It’s hard not to get your hopes up when you check out the credits of Zachariah. First, there’s Don Johnson and the band Country Joe (McDonald) and the Fish—famous for the Woodstock “Fish Cheer.” Other bands include James Gang, White Lightnin’, and the Julliard-trained New York Rock Ensemble. Then you find out it was written by Joe Massot and the members of the legendary Firesign Theater, and that at some point even George Harrison discussed producing this movie on ’ Apple label. On top of that, it’s adapted from Herman “Steppenwolf” Hesse’s seminal Zen novel “Siddhartha,” and is also an acid western that’s not named El Topo (another Beatles-entwined production). Did we mention it has an early song from Michael Kamen, who would go on to contribute to soundtracks for movies such as Brazil? This movie has a lot of promise to live up to as “The First Electric Western.” Does it deliver? Well… yeah, kinda/sorta, but it turns out a lot closer to a three-years-earlier Blazing Saddles than a one-year-later El Topo.

And speaking of deliveries, that’s how our protagonist, Zachariah (John Rubinstein), gets his gun, in a mail-order package eagerly ripped open in the dirt while a nearby band in the middle of the desert plays our opening number. While practicing his butterfingered quick-draw skills, he encounters a “wanted” poster for an outlaw gang called “the Crackers,” and just like that, he has his first quest. But his first stop is to his blacksmith friend Matthew (Don Johnson) to order some custom-made bullets. No sooner are they fooling around with the gun than they chance upon the Crackers (Country Joe and the Fish), a singing band of robbers. Zachariah gets into his first duel with a gruff bar patron, bolstering his nerve enough to join the Crackers, who handle music better than outlawing. They’re best put to use distracting a town with a concert while Zachariah and Matthew make away from the bank with big canvas sacks with dollar signs on them. Soon the two young guns will part ways with the Crackers, and other gangs, eventually splitting apart themselves, only to meet again for a showdown when Zachariah is out to pasture and Matthew is now top gun of the west.

The movie doesn’t take itself too seriously, and yet it could have taken itself even less seriously and been a whole lot more fun. The Firesign Theater distanced themselves from this project later, and you can almost see the gaping holes where their best jokes must have been cut out by some killjoy. You may find yourself thinking of funnier westerns as you watch this, wishing for somebody to punch a horse or take themselves hostage. The closest we get to weird is the corny cardboard set of Belle Starr’s cabaret, where a whole band serenades live in the bedroom while our hero gets his spurs polished. Fortunately, the tepid pace of the film doesn’t detract too much from the musical showcase, giving us moments that say “Holy crap, that’s Elvin Jones, the legendary jazz drummer!” and “Wait, was that Joe Walsh?” Zachariah has Heavy Metal syndrome: watch the movie once, but play the soundtrack until it wears out your iPod.

That being said, this film is to be accorded respect as the cultural museum piece it is. When Zachariah was in theaters, the musicals “Hair” and “Jesus Christ Superstar” were all the rage, the Vietnam War had yet to play out, and you could still get hassled for being a male with long hair in the wrong neighborhood. Musically, it captures the moment when country-and-western calved away from mainstream rock, doing so with such perfect timing that it’s a wonder the Flying Burrito Brothers or at least the Byrds didn’t manage to sneak onto the set somewhere. It’s often called the last gasp of the ’60s, on the cusp of ceding the old guard of comedy to the new ’70s era of Mel Brooks, Steve Martin, and Carol Burnett. There’s an attempt at symbolic meanings when the story gets serious; ponder that “Zachariah” is one of the final minor prophets of the Old Testament, while “Matthew” is the first New Testament disciple, and you catch a film seemingly aware of the turning page of history. It even hints at homosexual love amongst cowboys a long time before Brokeback Mountain raised the subject. Perhaps time has not been kind to this film; but then, The Monkees’ Head is three years older, and hasn’t lost a twinkle of its shine.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“An oddity then, certainly, but an enjoyable one.”– Anthony Nield, “The Digital Fix” (DVD)

KAPOW! ZLOPP! TOUCHE! THE BEST OF BATMAN (1966-1968), PART THREE

Begin your Bat-journey with Part 1.

Before resuming Season Two of “Batman”, we’ll cave into the crave of batmania with one of the biggest chunks of studio-backed cinematic cheese ever conceived: 1966’s Batman, the Movie. For years, this was the only Batman vehicle available on home video. Batmaniacs have reason to rejoice, because this gloriously dated, souped-up big screen treatment of the series is an “it has to be seen to believed” extravaganza. The hopelessly dippy plot and dialogue may throw off angsty fanboys, but it’s all about our merry villains: Lee Meriwether in her sole performance as Catwoman, as the Riddler, as the Penguin, Cesar Romero as the Joker,  and the most color-saturated array of (inflatable) henchmen in cinema. After the sexiest psychedelic credits you’ll probably ever see comes Batman infamously fending off a rubber shark with his “Bat-repellent Shark Spray.” That gag’s almost topped later with the “some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb” routine. It only gets loopier from there.

Among the toys on display is the Batcopter, Batboat, and Penguin submarine (with flippers!). Even cooler are the fight scenes. Here’s where the multi-hued henchman get to show their mettle, withstanding the dynamic duo while an arsenal of “Kapow, Zlopp, and Touche!”s fills the screen. Each of the four primary villains is at their maniacal best, and all take turns stealing their scenes. Watching Romero’s Joker today, his influence on is blatantly obvious. Of course, Gorshin (a tad underused) twitches with caffeine; there’s a reason he was the sole actor from the series nominated for an Emmy. Meredith’s Penguin is delightfully obnoxious, and Meriwether’s Catwoman is a walking pheromone . Meriwether is criminally underrated, but they’re all so damned animated that you don’t care one bit that their goal is to turn the United Nations into colored sand.

Still from Batman: The Movie (1966)If we weren’t so close to completing the List, I’d plead with the admin here to at least include Batman as a List Candidate. It’s a rarity in being both weird and absurdly entertaining. Like the series, it’s bound to be considered as blasphemy to modern-day Bat toddlers, who erroneously believe the darker version of the Caped Crusader is truer to the comics. Yes, it is: to the later comics from the likes of Neal Adams, Frank Miller, and Alan Moore. But Batman didn’t start that way. The comics of the 40s and 50s were pure camp. Originally, “Batman” series producer William Dozier planned to create something more serious, akin to “The Adventures of Superman,” but after reading the comics he went high camp instead. That is what the series, and movie bring to life in a way that has never been replicated with such energy and dated Continue reading KAPOW! ZLOPP! TOUCHE! THE BEST OF BATMAN (1966-1968), PART THREE

WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE

Only 31 movies left to Certify Weird

Alfred Eaker starts us off next week by finishing up his miniseries on TV’s “Batman” (start with part one here). Then, after Shane Wilson types out the full title of The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade [AKA Marat/Sade], we’ll see if there’s any room left for an analysis of this 1967 film adaptation of the 1963 play. Pete Trbovich chooses to go a different direction with the briskly-titled Zachariah, the 1971 counterculture Western written by the Firesign Theater. That leaves G. Smalley crawling through this site’s early archives, coming up with a fresh appreciation of the anarchic 1941 musical comedy Hellzapoppin!

Here we go again with our weekly survey of the weirdest search terms that brought visitors to the site. Despite the inhibiting effect of anonymizing privacy settings, we still managed to find a few strange queries this week, starting with a search for a movie-we’d-like-to-see: “horror movie mansion carpet eats woman.” Even odder is the “film where a house is chaced by another.” Still, for our official Weirdest Search Term of the Week, we’ll go with “kids playing violin abandoned house turns into birds in the”. With the kids playing violins in an abandoned house, it was already developing weirdly before the searcher was either interrupted or just lost interest in typing the rest of it, leaving us in suspense about whether the kids turned into birds, or the house turned into birds, or just what the hell actually happened with the birds.

Here’s how the ridiculously-long-and-obviously-impossible-to-complete reader-suggested review queue stands: Marat/Sade (next week!); Zachariah (next week!); Genius Party; The Idiots; “Premium” Continue reading WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE

WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 6/8/2018

Our weekly look at what’s weird in theaters, on hot-off-the-presses DVDs and Blu-rays (and hot off the server VODs), and on more distant horizons…

Trailers of new release movies are generally available at the official site links.

FILM FESTIVALS – Annecy International Animated Film Festival (Annecy, France, June 11-16):

Anncey is a big deal for world animation (including television animation), although it does tend to favor Western-style works. The big boys from the major Hollywood studios will be there again this year, with previews (usually not the complete films) of Incredibles 2, Hotel Transylvania 3, and Wreck-it Ralph 2. But there’s plenty of room for small, independent, and weird works here, too, as you can see from the highlights below:

    • Insect – Legendary Surrealist animator Jan Svankmajer‘s latest (and, he insists, last) film features the actors metamorphosing into insects. A very rare (and presumably packed) screening on June 13 only.
    • Seder-Masochism mixes her musical retelling of “Exodus” with Goddess mythology; we’ve featured a preview scene from this one on these pages. In development for alomost ten years and frankly, we were a little worried it might never be completed, so to see it show up now is a thrill. Catch it in competition June 11-15.
    • The Wolf House [La Casa Lobo] – A woman escapes from a religious cult and finds herself in a nightmarish house.  Screens in competition from Jun 11-15.

Annecy International Animated Film Festival home page.

NEW ON HOME VIDEO:

As the Gods Will (2014): Read our festival review with Miike Q&A. Aliens stage bizarre elimination contests to kill teenagers in this violent (but not ultraviolent) sci-fi effort. In a DVD/Blu-ray/digital combo pack. Buy As the Gods Will.

Greaser’s Palace (1972): Read the Certified Weird review! ‘s blasphemous, absurdist, satirical retelling of the story of Christ set in the wild west. A new release from Doppelganger Releasing (a new arm of Music Box films), there are no special features advertised, but it does mark the film’s debut on the popular Blu-ray format. Buy Greaser’s Palace.

Satellite Girl and Milk Cow (2014): A satellite transforms into a cyborg and romances a brokenhearted man who has metamorphosed into a cow; the animation style resembles with a more surreal bent. On DVD, Blu-ray and VOD from GKIDS. Buy Satellite Girl and Milk Cow.

CERTIFIED WEIRD (AND OTHER) REPERTORY SCREENINGS:

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). We won’t list all the screenings of this audience-participation classic separately. You can use this page to find a screening near you.

FREE (LEGITIMATE RELEASE) MOVIES ON TUBI.TV:

Beyond Re-Animator (2003): Read our review. Dr. Herbert West continues his experiments in re-animating the dead, now from inside a prison, with typically over-the-top black comedy results. Listed as “leaving soon.” Adults only. Watch Beyond Re-Animator free on Tubi.tv.

What are you looking forward to? If you have any weird movie leads that I have overlooked, feel free to leave them in the COMMENTS section.

Celebrating the cinematically surreal, bizarre, cult, oddball, fantastique, strange, psychedelic, and the just plain WEIRD!