Category Archives: Top 10 Lists

TOP 10 MOVIES OF 2012 – THE MAINSTREAM EDITION

Sure, this site focuses on weird films, but that’s not all we watch. We love movies. How will we understand what lies at the extremes if we don’t keep a finger on the pulse of “normal” cinema? Great craftsmanship is great craftsmanship, and if every movie was made to push boundaries, things would get boring pretty fast. With that in mind, we hereby release our list of the best movies of 2012, regardless of genre and irrespective of conventionality. You may notice that three of these films also made our Weirdest Movies of 2012 list, but in a different order than they appear here; that’s because this list is based strictly on the quality of filmmaking without regard to any consideration of weirdness. With that prologue out of the way, let’s dive right into it, starting with #10:

10. Seven Psychopaths – Playwright-turned-director ‘s second feature film (after In Bruges) sports a hip, manly cast (, , Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson, ) and brisk violence, mixed with an intricate script that sometimes threatens to go into meta-movie territory (Farrel’s character is working on a screenplay entitled Seven Psychopaths). This quirky caper comedy involving dognapping and serial killers is reminiescent of classic Quentin Tarantino and will be remembered for a couple of exchanges that became immediate classics, including a bit where an unimpressed Walken is held up at gunpoint that caps off an impressive highlight reel for the beloved character actor.

9. The Dark Knight Rises – It’s not the revelation that The Dark Knight was, but it’s a fitting end to a trilogy that brought arthouse sensibilities to comic book characters without sacrificing action. may be the only director capable of making superhero movies for adults, complete with complicated plots and character development. His Dark Knight will be missed.

8. Lincoln  – The title implies that this will be a biopic covering the life of the 16th president, but the movie actually focuses very narrowly on a single political subject: Lincoln’s efforts to get the 13th Amendment banning slavery passed. The “Honest Abe” depicted here walks an ethical tightrope as he tries to swing reluctant Democrats to support the controversial legislation, resorting to bribery, misdirection and political threats. Stephen Spielberg manages to keep the dry subject matter engaging, helped along greatly by an able (hee hee) performance from Daniel Day-Lewis as the Great Emancipator, supported by Sally Fields as Mary Todd and Tommy Lee Jones as obnoxiously idealistic Radial Republican Thaddeus Stevens. It’s pure Oscar bait, but it’s good Oscar bait. It’s got gravitas out the butt.

7. Argo – Solid thriller from director Ben Affleck detailing the real-life tale of six U.S. diplomats who, aided by a CIA operative, escaped Ayatollah Khomeini’s Iran during the 1979 hostage crisis by pretending to be a movie crew scouting locations for a fake sci-fi extravaganza. John Goodman and Alan Arkin supply welcome comic relief as a pair of Hollywood insiders who help agent Affleck implement the crazy scheme. After sitting through the tense final half hour, you’ll never complain you had a tough time going through airport security again.

6. Doggiewoggiez! Poochiewoochiez! – We weren’t kidding about naming this loose remake of the surrealist epic The Holy Mountain composed entirely out of dog footage clipped from Hollywood movies, instructional DVDs and public access programs our Weirdest Movie of 2012, and we’re not kidding when we say it should be counted among the best movies of any sort released this year. It’s cutting edge, utterly original and, if nothing else, it’s the year’s funniest comedy, with triple the laughs per minute of a big budget misfire like 21 Jump Street (a movie made for people whose sense of humor peaked in high school). It’s not “mainstream,” but it stands up on its own four paws against the best fluff the mainstream film Continue reading TOP 10 MOVIES OF 2012 – THE MAINSTREAM EDITION

TOP 10 WEIRD MOVIES OF 2012

Last year, I began my “Top 10 Weirdest Movies of 2011” column by bemoaning the fact that, The Tree of Life aside, 2011 didn’t live up to the high standard of weirdness set in 2010. We won’t make that complaint again: 2012 was a good (if not a banner) year for cinematic surrealism.  Although Hollywood was predictably silent on the weird movie front, tiny France stepped up to the plate with a duo of strange ones, the indie scene brought us a plethora of odd experiments, and a wellspring of weirdness bubbled up from deep underground to take the title of Weirdest Movie of the Year. In random order—the weirdest of orders—here’s our survey of the strangest of the strange from the past year.

2. Holy Motors: “Mr. Oscar” () drives around Paris in a limo taking on nine “assignments” which require him to take on the parts of, among other roles, an accordion player, a hitman, and a fashion model-abducting leprechaun. Lavant is excellent in multiple roles (he reprises the great “Merde” from Tokyo!), and the cool cast also includes French weird movie vets Edith Scob and alongside Eva Mendes and Kylie Minogue. It also has chimps. It’s surreal in that postmodern, meta-movie way that makes “Cahiers du Cinema” critics (like its director, ) all weak-kneed, but it’s perplexingly brilliant enough to power through its own pretensions. Review forthcoming on Wednesday.

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5. Chicken with Plums [Poulet aux Prunes]: A beautiful movie about death, this live-action graphic novel adaptation from the makers of Persepolis is visually sumptuous, and all over the place stylistically. It’s a movie made up mostly of deathbed hallucinations that includes visits with Socrates, the Angel of Death, and a giant version of Sophia Loren; that’s enough to get it on the weird map.

7. The Devil’s Carnival: The team behind Repo! The Genetic Opera brings us another horror-musical, this one based on the idea that Hell is a circus where sinners are eternally punished by being forced to watch off-Broadway dancers perform ironic cabaret numbers based on Aesop’s fables. The sets and costumes are amazing; the musical compositions less so. The best thing that I can say about this is that it makes me want to go back and re-evaluate Repo!; I actually think director might be onto something with this concept. A sequel, part of an intended series, is promised.

6. The Sound of Noise: Musical terrorists compose an avant-garde symphony by using the city of Malmö, Sweden as a giant percussion instrument, while a tone-deaf cop tries to stop them. “If David Lynch directed the Swedish cast of STOMP in an action-comedy, I think it might go a little something like this…” (We realize this was released in Sweden way back in 2010, but it didn’t hit the Western Hemisphere until this year).

3. Beyond the Black Rainbow: Panos Cosmatos’ debut, about a mysterious silent woman trying to escape from a nameless white institution, is considered a throwback/tribute to the golden age of midnight movies (circa 1982). informs us that Rainbow “has weirdness in spades. At times it is overly self-satisfied in its ambiguity, but overall it’s a strong psychological thriller that revels in the bizarre.”

1. Doggiewoggiez! Poochiewoochiez! Our Weirdest Movie of 2012 won’t be showing up on very many year end top 10 lists. In fact, this collection of cute, stupid and absurd footage of dogs, collated together into thematic montages loosely based on the plot of The Holy Mountain (!), stretches the definition of what a “movie” can be. But we’re not awarding this Fair Use poster boy effort the laurel of Weirdest Movie of the Year just to be, um, weird. It may be legitimately the most WTF fun you’ll have watching TV all year. As we wrote in our initial assessment, “There’s no deep meaning to the cross-breeding of Mexican surrealists with preposterous puppy clips, other than that Everything is Terrible! (correctly) thinks Continue reading TOP 10 WEIRD MOVIES OF 2012

366WEIRDMOVIES TOP 10 WEIRD MOVIE LIST(S): THE SECOND PASS

We’ve now certified over 100 of an eventual 366 movies here, and it’s time to step back, take stock, and make a provisional list of the “Best of the Weird”—and a list of the “Weirdest of the Weird.”  We first took a stab at this list about two years ago, and my how things have changed since then (at least, at the bottom).  We’ve added new movies, and reshuffled our ratings for some of the others, and—well, you can read for yourself.

Recognizing that “weirdest” and “best” aren’t always the same thing, we’ve actually created two top ten lists here: one for the best movies that fall into the weird genre (these are the ones to start your timid friends off with), and one for the absolute weirdest movies we’ve seen (these are the ones to put on at a party when you want to clear the room).  Because we’re giving you two top ten lists for the price of one, you’re actually getting 20 recommended weird movies.  Well, actually 19, since one movie appears on both lists, but who’s counting?  Oh, wait, we are, that’s the entire point…

Feel free to agree with my choices, disagree, or hurl hurtful epithets at me in the comments.  But do remember that this list only covers movies we’ve already reviewed.  Your favorite movie we omitted may be coming down the line, and may make this list the next time we formulate it (in another two years or so).

With that said, let’s get to it!

# 10 Best Weird Movie: Kwaidan (1964). “Although on the surface it’s just a collection of bare-bones ghost stories, in telling these tales director Kobayashi wisely jettisons reality in favor of a stylized, expressionistic, visually poetic aesthetic that gently detaches the viewer from everyday life and floats him into an ancient spirit world that seems simultaneously to have never and always existed.”

#10 Weirdest Movie: House [Hausu] (1977). “Rife with images of flying heads, murderous painos, laughing watermelons, an invisible wind machine, and a truly demonic kitty, the film’s surrealist atmosphere and ever-shifting styles are as hilarious as they are inscrutable.  There is no way to get a handle on Hausu—the viewer is completely at the mercy of Obayashi’s bizarre whims.”

#9 Best Weird Movie: The Wicker Man (1973): “Hardy and Shaffer create an atmosphere like no other; it’s an encounter of civilized man with strange, primeval beliefs…. The viewer himself undergoes a dread confrontation with Old Gods who are at the same time familiar and terrifyingly strange.”

Continue reading 366WEIRDMOVIES TOP 10 WEIRD MOVIE LIST(S): THE SECOND PASS

TOP 10 WEIRD MOVIES OF 2011

We’re such whiners.  Last year at this time, we were complaining that 2010 was “two or three weird movies shy of being a great year.”  We didn’t know how good we had it back then, frankly.  Movies like Black Swan, Inception and even Scott Pilgrim vs. the World all got major theatrical releases, while of this year’s nominees only The Tree of Life can claim the same level of exposure. Perhaps the great weird films of 2011 are still lurking in the shadows—we’ve found a few of them, but we expect more revelations as these unseen gems crawl their way out of the festival circuit and start getting belated DVD releases.  (Of course, that process can take a while: we’ve been waiting a year already for Jan Svankmajer‘s Surviving Life).

The truly deranged stuff just doesn’t make it into theaters, and 2011 continued the trend of re-releases and delayed DVD releases blowing away the theatrical releases in terms of weirdness.  We finally saw Bill Plympton’s worth-waiting for angelic black comedy Idiots and Angels (2008), Otto Preminger’s amazing psychedelic flop Skidoo (1968) surfaced after almost four decades, and the Criterion Collection resurrected ‘s two major forays into weirdness—Zazie dans le Metro (1960) and Black Moon (1975)—along with new editions of cult classics Shock Corridor and Solaris.  In terms of vintage oddities, 2011 was another banner year.

Though weirdness wasn’t omnipresent this year, the cinematically surreal did get a serious prestige boost from our top weird movie of the year.

  1. The Tree of Life: The year’s best weird movie is also the year’s best movie, period.Still from 2011's Best Weird Movie, TheTree of Life  Stunning cinematography, sacred music, the birth of the universe, graceful dinosaurs, childhood hallucinations and a glimpse of the afterlife all mixed together in the most ambitious movie of the past decade.  We dare the Academy to nominate this for Best Picture.
  2. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives: Technically a 2010 movie (it won the Continue reading TOP 10 WEIRD MOVIES OF 2011

TOP 10 MOVIES OF 2011 – THE “MAINSTREAM” EDITION

Tomorrow we will present our official Top 10 Weird Movies of the Year List.  This list covers all movies released in 2011, weird or not.

This year, for the first time, I will be voting for the Online Film Critics Society Awards.  Taking this commission seriously, I have watched perhaps a hundred of the most highly acclaimed 2011 movies, with a few nominees still left to see before my vote is due.  From the perspective of a weird movie specialist, this process has provided me two benefits.  First, it’s given me that baseline of movie normality that I need to be able to recognize the stuff that’s really out there to the average viewer.  Watching only the strangest of the strange week in and week out skews your perspectives.  Hopefully, I will never again fall into the trap of thinking The Tree of Life is too conventional, as I did in my initial review of the movie.

Secondly, gathering that “baseline of normality” has made me appreciate the weird all the more.  Conventional award-winning movies are all alike; but every weird movie is weird in its own way.  You can tick off the list of qualities that great movies should have: moving performances, arresting cinematography, sparkling dialogue.  A weird movie may have these qualities too, but it also has a spark of divine madness or folly that sets it apart from the herd.

You may notice that six of my top ten choices could be pigeonholed as children’s movies.  That’s not by design (last year my list would have contained only one, Toy Story 3).  But I did not feel the need to bump the children’s movies off the list to make room for more “adult” fare.  The truth is that children’s films are the most lucrative segment of the movie market right now, and studios are taking more time and care (not just more money) in making them.  They’re writing clever, multi-layered scripts to appeal to adults as well as kids; spending more time on storytelling basics and character development; and crafting more exciting and spectacular set-pieces.  If movies made for grown-ups are to increase their share of next year’s list, well, then, they’ll just have to make better movies.

We’ll start off this list with 10 Honorable Mentions.  I would have been comfortable including any of the films below on my year-end list, but by the narrowest of margins each came up a little short.

50/50; The Artist; Bridesmaids; Cave of Forgotten Dreams; Martha Marcy May Marlene; Melancholia; Tinker Tailor Solider Spy; Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives; Weekend; We Need to Talk About Kevin

And on to my Top 10 Movies of 2011:

10. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2: I’ll be honest—although it’s a good film, Continue reading TOP 10 MOVIES OF 2011 – THE “MAINSTREAM” EDITION

WHERE’S THE WEIRDNESS?: TOP 10 WEIRD MOVIES NOT (YET) AVAILABLE ON DVD (IN THE US)

We frequently get requests to review certain movies that are unavailable on DVD in the United States.  In this digital age when even cigarettes are electronic, it seems every movie ever made should be legally available to watch, somewhere. Surprisingly, that’s not the case.  Sometimes movies are hung up in rights disputes; often, the ones we’re most interested in are so weird and specialized they fall through the cracks.

But truly strange stuff is showing up on DVD and Blu-ray all the time.  Last Year at Marienbad (1961) is a surrealist classic and a film school favorite, but it didn’t debut on DVD until 2009.  The bizarre haunted house horror Hausu (1977) was ignored and forgotten on release, but was rescued from obscurity more than thirty years later by no lesser entity than the Criterion Collection.  Even something as odd, ignored, and seemingly uncommercial as 1977’s Death Bed: The Bed that Eats—a movie that critics are still unable to confidently classify as incompetent exploitation or self-aware joke—recently showed up in the DVD ranks.  Many fans of cinematic marginalia grew up assuming that Skidoo, Otto Preminger’s 1968 counterculture satire bomb featuring Groucho Marx as God, among other oddities, would exist forevermore only as a brief plot synopsis in dog-eared movie guides, with a turkey symbol eternally etched next to it.  Skidoo was buried, maybe out of deference to the embarrassed stars (besides Marx, it also featured Jackie Gleason, Carol Channing, Frankie Avalon, singer-songwriter Harry Nillson and a host of distinguished character actors); but in 2008, Skiddoo showed up on TV, and this July it will make its first appearance on DVD.

The point is, we’ll never give up on anything appearing anymore, so long as someone, somewhere thinks there’s a buck to be made off of it.  There are a number of movies we’re going to hold off on reviewing immediately because they may get a release in the future.  We’ve listed some of the rarest and most important ones below.  In keeping with the venerable Top 10 tradition, we’ve limited ourselves to a decemvirate of titles, but believe us, there are a lot more missing movies out there. We skipped over some high-interest titles which are still available on Region 1 DVD but are extremely rare, such as Institute Benjamenta and Survive Style 5+.

10. Arrebato [Rapture] (1980).  Made in the years after the demise of Franco and film censorship, Arrebato, a drug movie about a filmmaker who believes his camera has a mind of its own, has an enraptured cult following in Spain.  The ideas here are sometimes said to anticipate David Cronenberg‘s Videodrome.  Neil Young (the film critic, not the Canadian songwriter) is one of few English speakers who’s seen and reported on it; he was less than unimpressed, calling it “a mind-blowingly pretentious exploration of creativity, madness and the addictive world of cinema.”  We’d still like the opportunity to judge for ourselves, since mind-blowing pretension is frequently a virtue in the weird movie realm.  In November 2010 Arrebato was released in Region 2 edition by the respected German company Bildstörung, with English subtitles.  Whether there will ever be enough interest to get it released on these shores is another question.


Clip from Arrebato

9. Goke, Body Snatcher from Hell (1968).  Japanese sci-fi with a plane crash, UFOs, and alien blobs that turn their victims into vampires.  The visuals are unreal and stylized but very striking, almost expressionistic; Quentin Tarantino paid homage to Goke with the airplane flying through the blood red/orange sky in Kill Bill.  This film occasionally shows up on Turner Classic Movies late at night; if TCM can get the television rights, they likely can clear the video rights too.  Don’t sit on this masterpiece of classically odd Japanese camp, Ted Turner!


Japanese trailer for Goke, Body Snatcher from Hell

8. Throw Away Your Books, Rally in the Streets [Sho o suteyo machi e deyou] (1971).  A Continue reading WHERE’S THE WEIRDNESS?: TOP 10 WEIRD MOVIES NOT (YET) AVAILABLE ON DVD (IN THE US)

TOP 10 WEIRD MOVIES OF 2010

Happy New Year!  Looking back on 2010, we have to say that it was about two or three weird movies shy of being a great year; a lot of films that may end up being 2010 standouts haven’t made it out of the festival circuit yet.  But we did see a bonanza of great weird Region 1 DVD debuts from years past, including Antichrist (2009), Bronson (2008), Dillinger is Dead (1969), Hausu (1977), Taxidermia (2006) and You, the Living (2007), not to mention a restored version of Metropolis (1927), with footage that had been missing for almost 100 years!  So, it would be hard to say 2010 was a total waste.  Here’s our New Year’s Eve rundown of the weirdest movies of 2010 (so far):

  1. Enter the Void, the Weirdest Movie of 2010?Enter the Void: We had to cheat a little to qualify Gaspar Noé‘s neon psychedelic death-trip about a hallucinating expat ghost in Tokyo who sees his sister and best friend making love with glowing genitalia by reclassifying the film from 2009 (copyright date) to 2010 (date the editing was completed and the final version released to theaters), but it was worth it to get the most extravagant Buddhism-on-LSD movie of the last 35 years the top spot.
  2. Surviving Life (Theory and Practice) [Prezít svuj zivot (teorie a praxe)]: We’re cheating even more by nominating Jan Svankmajer‘s latest (about a man who impregnates his own anima while undergoing psychoanalysis) because we haven’t even seen it yet.  But based on what we know about the crazy Czech, and what we see in the trailer below, we don’t think we’ll be eating any crow over this choice (unless it’s for not giving Surviving Life the top spot).
  3. Black Swan: Darren Aronofsky makes Natalie Portman go crazy for her art in a dance fable mixing backstage melodrama, sexual repression, and body horror.  Portman growing feathers onstage as she dances her little heart out for the audience rates as the most beautifully weird moment of the year. Continue reading TOP 10 WEIRD MOVIES OF 2010

TOP 10 LIST EXTRAVAGANZA: TOP 10 WEIRD MOVIES OF THE YEAR, DECADE, AND MORE

Here’s my personal picks for top ten weird movies of the decade (setting aside the fact that it may be more reasonable to consider the decade as ending in 2010, rather than 2009).  This list only covers movies we’ve actually reviewed, so if you read on you’ll also find the top 10 movies we didn’t get to, the top 10 weird movies of 2009, and my top 10 picks for 2009 (regardless of weirdness).

TOP 10 WEIRD MOVIES OF THE DECADE (2000-2009)

10. Elevator Movie (2004) – A loser is trapped inside an elevator with a former slut turned Jesus freak, for months on end, in a compelling low-budget surrealist drama mixing No Exit and The Exterminating Angel with a touch of Eraserhead.

9. Funky Forest: The First Contact (2005) – A jumbled up series of surreal short movies and music videos, linked by common characters and themes, but refusing to make sense; no one forgets the scene where the schoolgirl inserts a tube in her navel to give birth to a miniature sushi chef.

8. I Can See You (2008) -A neurotic, romantically frustrated loner goes on a camping trip with his advertising company buddies, and loses complete contact with reality.  Features a wonderfully bizarre musical sequence; an oily, omnipotent ad pitchman who talks to the protagonist inside his head; and a 20 minute psychedelic freakout at the climax.

7. Tideland (2005) – Terry Gilliam’s dark and controversial riff on Alice in Wonderland tells a bleak and frightening story of a young girl abandoned to the world of her imagination. There’s nothing explicit shown, but the nuanced and challenging scenes implying child abuse and molestation were too intense and downbeat for mainstream viewers.

6. Ink (2009) – Visually impressive low-budget fantasy about a mysterious figure who snatches a sleeping girl into a world of dreams. The nightmarish incubuses, with their smiley-faced facades displayed on malfunctioning LCD screens attached to their heads, are unforgettable, and the payoff is emotionally satisfying.
Continue reading TOP 10 LIST EXTRAVAGANZA: TOP 10 WEIRD MOVIES OF THE YEAR, DECADE, AND MORE

366WEIRDMOVIES TOP 10 WEIRD MOVIE LISTS – THE FIRST PASS

After officially inducting Time Bandits as the 37th entry on the List of the 366 Best Weird Movies of all time, it occurred to me—the project is now just over 10% of the way complete.  What better time to announce my personal (provisional) top 10 picks in two categories: the best weird movies ever made, and the weirdest movies ever made (without regard to quality).  Using only movies that have already been reviewed on these pages, this is what I came up with:

TOP 10 BEST WEIRD MOVIES

These are essential movies that should be viewed by any movie lover.  Even if they hate “weird” movies, watching these ten strong arguments for immortalizing weirdness on celluloid  will at least help them formulate the reason why.

10. El Topo (1970)Alejandro Jodorowsky‘s surreal spaghetti western, in which he casts himself as a Jesus figure, is undoubtedly one of the most narcissistic movies ever made; but it’s fascinating precisely because it’s full of passionate personal symbolism and mystical obsessions.

9. Adaptation (2002)Charlie Kaufman successfully translates metafiction into the film world with this satirical story of a depressed screenwriter writing the script of the film as we are watching it.

8. Oldboy (2003) – The cold hand of fate hangs over Chan-Wook Park‘s improbable, operatic and extreme fable of vengeance destroying the avenger.

7. Donnie Darko (2001) – The embodiment of teenage angst comes in the figure of Donnie, a teen suffering tormenting visions sent to him by a six foot tall demonic bunny rabbit; a lovable jumbled mess of a movie with a convoluted plot that packs an emotional wallop.

6. Carnival of Souls (1962) – The amateurism of the production paradoxically lends an aura of extreme creepiness to this story of a haunted church organist at odds with reality.

TOP 10 WEIRDEST MOVIES

These are damn weird movies that you can put on at a party if you want to clear the room of squares.

10. Archangel (1990) – Amnesiac, nearly silent parable set in a eternally dark Russian city that keeps fighting World War I not knowing the conflict is over; features a coward strangling a Bolshevik with his own intestines.

9. Begotten (1991) – Visually inventive mystical parable that features God disemboweling himself; a parade of metaphorical, metaphysical tortures that is not soon forgotten.

8. Gummo (1997) – A fractured white trash nightmare about the lost denizens of an Ohio town; who can forget Solomon, the weirdest looking kid in the world, eating spaghetti in his filthy bathtub?

7. Dr. Caligari (1989) – A neon pink midnight movie made by an avant-garde porn director; look for the rack inspired by Salvador Dali.

6. Naked Lunch (1991)David Cronenberg wisely chose not to attempt to literally translate William S. Burroughs’ hallucinogenic novel to the screen; instead, he made a movie about Burroughs writing the novel, high on bug powder and taking dictation from typewriter that talks out of its anus.

Place your bets now on the top 5 entries in each category before continuing…

Continue reading 366WEIRDMOVIES TOP 10 WEIRD MOVIE LISTS – THE FIRST PASS

JAMES MANNAN’S TOP TEN WEIRD FILMS

In this occasional feature where we ask established directors and critics to list what they feel are their top 10 “weird” movies.  There are no constraints on what the author can pick. This list comes from James Mannan, owner of Liberty or Death productions.  James has directed and produced Wannabe, To Haunt You and Hallow’s Dance with partner R. Panet.

  1. Un Chien Andalou (France 1929; dir. Luis Buñuel):  The keystone of surrealist cinema. In its short 18 minutes this film turned the cinematic conventions of its day on their ear. The disturbing, subversive aesthetics continue to challenge today’s audiences and filmmakers.
  2. Die Nackte und der Satan aka The Head (West Germany, 1959; dir. Victor Trivas): The ultimate summation of the mad scientist/transplant sub-genre, this is far more artistic and conceptually challenging than the better known knock-off The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (which was made in the US 3 years later).  Expressionist production design was by Hermann Warm (Cabinet of Dr. Caligari) and atmospheric cinematography by George Kraus (Kubrick’s Paths of Glory).  The most amazing (and later copied) image is, of course, the living severed head of Michel Simon as Dr Abel, but seemingly all of the characters are touched in some way by mad science, including the villainous Dr. Ood.
  3. Manos, the Hands of Fate (USA 1966; dir. Harold P. Warren):  This is a favorite of the “Mystery Science Theatre” crowd, but Manos needs no running commentary to point out its delicious oddities–chief among which is the performance of John Reynolds as the servant “Torgo.” Every element of this below-grade-Z production is sublimely dreadful in a way neither Ed Wood or Al Adamson could have achieved.
  4. Satánico Pandemonium (Mexico 1975; dir. Gilberto Martínez Solares):  A Mexican Nun is possessed by the devil and is soon corrupting the innocence of her fellow nuns and the nearby villagers. And you thought Linda Blair masturbating with a crucifix was shocking…
  5. Lemora: A Child’s Tale of the Supernatural (USA 1973; dir. Richard Blackburn):  Blackburn was fresh out of film school when he directed this gothic coming-of-age tale, inspired in parts by both H P Lovecraft and The Night of the Hunter.  Extraordinarily ambitious, considering the low budget, the film has a unique atmosphere of weird dread.  Lemora benefits enormously from the performance of Cheryl “Rainbeaux” Smith as the “singing angel” Lila Lee.  Smith marvelously projects the adolescent girl’s wariness at each new threat to her innocence, in what amounts to a kind of a demented version of “Alice in Wonderland.” Continue reading JAMES MANNAN’S TOP TEN WEIRD FILMS