CAPSULE: CAFE FLESH (1982)

“Go play in the fallout.”

Recommended

DIRECTED BY: Stephen Sayadian (as Rinse Dream)

FEATURING: Michelle Bauer (as Pia Snow), Andy Nichols, Paul McGibboney, Marie Sharp, Tantala Ray, Dennis Edwards, Kevin Jay

PLOT: “Able to exist, to sense… to feel everything, but pleasure. In a world destroyed, a mutant universe, survivors break down to those who can and those who can’t. 99% are Sex Negatives. Call them erotic casualties. They want to make love, but the mere touch of another makes them violently ill. The rest, the lucky one percent, are Sex Positives, those whose libidos escaped unscathed. After the Nuclear Kiss, the Positives remain to love, to perform… and the others, well, we Negatives can only watch… can only come…to … Cafe Flesh…”

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Cafe Flesh is a post-apocalyptic adult film about people who become violently ill from human touch. Generally speaking, adult films are pro-sex, so it is definitely a unique entry in the world of adult cinema. Cafe Flesh was not the only post apocalyptic adult film—it was a popular sub-genre in the 1980s—but I do think it might have been the first. The copious cutaways to the gawking, impotent patrons during sex shows were peculiar, but completely relevant to the plot. As odd as they were they fit in the context of the film. The first couple of performance-art sex scenes were definitely wacky. A lonely housewife is seduced by a milkman in a rat mask while three grown men dressed like babies look on from their high chairs. A guy in a huge pencil headpiece bangs one of the broads in the office while the naked receptionist looks on typing and repeatedly asking “Do you want me to type a memo?” Cafe Flesh definitely teeters on the edge of weirdness, but forced at gunpoint to answer “weird or not weird,” I would have to go with “not weird.”

COMMENTS: I was a huge fan of Stephen Sayadian’s Dr. Caligari and couldn’t wait to check out some of his other work. Turned out, his other features were all adult films. My exposure to hardcore films at that time was pretty slim. After checking out Night Dreams and Cafe Flesh, however, I was inspired to check out several other adult titles from the 1970s and 1980s. Sadly, very few were as entertaining or as unusual as Stephen Sayadian’s.

The plot verbiage above is taken directly from the film’s introduction. The primary focus is on two of the club’s regulars, Nicky and Lana, “The Dagwood and Blondie of Cafe Flesh,” so dubbed by the club’s delightfully sarcastic emcee Max Melodramatic. I gathered from the film’s opening statement that the 99% of the population do not only become physically sick by human touch, but are also impotent and couldn’t get the job done anyway— although it really doesn’t go into much detail on the subject. The post-apocalyptic victims gather together at Cafe Flesh to gawk at art noveau hardcore sex shows. The performers are not volunteers, by any means. Enforcers are out there to flush out sex-positives who are not performing. Angel, a doe-eyed virginal lass from Wyoming, is taken away to do her part in entertaining the 99%.

If you were impotent and human touch made you vomit, would you really want to go to a sex club? They mock the torture of the audience numerous times, the majority of the abuse coming from the aforementioned emcee. Andrew Nichols gives a genuinely standout performance. He delivers his wordy dialog with complete ease; I did not question for a second that he was the emcee of a seedy post-apocalyptic sex club. Also stepping up to the plate and knocking it out of the park is beautiful Michelle Bauer (billed here as Pia Snow, the name under which she made a few adult films at the start of her career). Bauer should be a familiar face to those of us who enjoy 1980s horror cinema. She appeared in a ton of horror flicks: The Tomb, Terror Night, Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, Nightmare Sisters, and Deathrow Diner, to name a few. I found her character here to be so very likable, I really wanted her to have a happy ending, and indeed she does.

Obviously, considering the plot, the sex is limited strictly to the shows the sex negatives watch. Dripping with 1980s flare and fashion, these stage shows are creative and well-costumed. Stephen Sayadian’s films embrace everything that was fabulous and flattering from that decade: sharp angular silhouettes, bold solids, wide black and white stripes. It was all about geometry then—at least, the cool stuff was. I have been suitably impressed with the sets and costumes for all three of the Sayadian films I have seen. The superb synth soundtrack from Mitchell Froom hits every right note; absolutely perfect musical accompaniment. I love this soundtrack so much that I own it. Black and white striped teddies, angular phone booths, sunglass-bespectacled studs, naked ladies in cases—there is just so much to say about the aesthetics here.

Cafe Flesh is a visual treat that oozes the 1980s with good performances and a badass soundtrack. A highly entertaining, tongue-in-cheek, apocalyptic adult adventure.

Fun fact; if you do a Google search for an adult film title, its IMDB listing is usually the first or second hit that will come up. If, however, you are on the IMDB website and search that title, it will not come up at all, unless you use the advanced search feature and toggle the button to “include” adult titles every time.

GoreGirls’ Dr. Caligari review (NSFW)

GoreGirls’ Night Dreams review (NSFW)

GoreGirls’ Cafe Flesh photo gallery (NSFW)

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…in terms of sci-fi pornography set in a post-apocalyptic netherworld, you can’t anymore cerebral than this… Sex Negatives force the Sex Positives (the 1% left unaffected by the fallout) to perform bizarre, surrealistic sex acts for their amusement.”–Yum Yum, House of Self-Indulgence (DVD)

CAPSULE: KALEIDOSCOPE (2016)

DIRECTED BY: Rupert Jones

FEATURING: , Sinead Matthews, Anne Reid

PLOT: A lonely ex-con tries to muddle through life and find romance, but it seems his mother is determined to reassert her domination over him.

Still from Kaleidoscope (2016)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LISTKaleidoscope toys around with perception and time in a… kaleidoscopic kind of way, but everything gets wrapped up pretty nicely (a little too nicely for the likes of us). It must be said, though, that the protagonist’s mother cranks up the creepy factor to within throwing distance of serious consideration.

COMMENTS: Maintaining a constant sense of unease while being both sweet and unsettling is a tough balancing act for a movie, and such films often pass by unnoticed. And as there are just so many movies to watch, even if your job is to watch them, it can be hard both to find the time to watch the right movies and to find the right movies to fill your time. Kaleidoscope is as understated as its melancholy protagonist, and it’s easy to miss: it’s foreign, low budget, and its biggest star is a niche (albeit incredibly talented) character actor. I would never have watched this if I weren’t a “366” reviewer; having done so, I suspect it will be right up the alley of many “366” followers.

Carl (Toby Jones) is a lonely fellow living quietly in a clapped-out council estate. Tonight, though, is special, as he’s arranged a date with an outgoing young woman named Abby (Sinead Matthews), making the rendezvous at the appropriately named bar “Lust.” Returning to his flat afterwards, they chat, share drinks (he’s a teetotaler, though), and even dance together (that’s right: you get to see Toby Jones dancing to Dubstep in a shirt as loud as the music). Then things start to go badly: Carl gets an unwanted phone message from his mother, his drink gets spiked, and Abby may only have gone on the date in order to case the joint. The next morning, Carl awakens to find himself on his couch not remembering much. Details slowly coalesce, suggesting he may have murdered—again. Panicking, the last thing he needs is a surprise visit from his hated mother (Anne Reid). Of course, she arrives.

The ickiness of Carl’s mother is hard to overstate. Anne Reid’s performance is about as knockout as a low-key psychodrama will allow. She’s excessively sweet (she cooks for her son, cleans his apartment, and even offers him a £90,000 check by way of apology… for something) while being surreptitiously domineering (Carl is obliged at one point to bandage her injured leg after cleaning it up). And she has a history of—probably—taking advantage of him sexually. This leaves the viewer finding her by turns unpleasant and staggeringly creepy. There was one scene in particular that started out merely as uncomfortable before going so far as to force me to shout at the television, “Oh God, No!” (That, dear reader, is quite an achievement considering the dozens of disturbing movies I’ve watched over the years.)

While other reviewers have had the recent misfortune of reviewing forgotten movies that deserve that fate, I’ve typically lucked out with watching ones that merely fell below the radar and stuck there. Kaleidoscope is nothing earth shattering, but it doesn’t need to be. In the same “Mother-as-Monster” genre as ‘s Psycho, it tells the tale of a child being broken by the very person who should have been his protector. As his hallucinated dead father assures him (“I don’t blame you. She filled your mind with poison”), Carl is hardly responsible for the collapse of his life. Kaleidoscope, with its subdued shatter-view, nicely toys with the audience in a far more congenial way than Carl’s mother toyed with him.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“The eponymous optical instrument gets a full symbolic workout in ‘Kaleidoscope,’ an intricately crafted, infinitely wrongfooting psychological thriller in which conflicting realities coalesce, diverge and regroup like so many shifting formations of jewel-colored glass.”–Guy Lodge, Variety (contemporaneous)

PRE-CODE HEAVEN: DIPLOMANIACS (1933) AND THE BITTER TEA OF GENERAL YEN (1933)

, , the , the Three Stooges (well, the ones with Curly, although I prefer Shemp), , , and Mae West are among the few comedians of yesteryear who have withstood the test of time. There are far more who haven’t. Examples of this are Martin and Lewis (who never made a  good film), (who perhaps made two good, but not great films) and … Wheeler and Woolsey. Who? See what I mean? Briefly, they were the hottest pair since peanut butter and jelly. For the most part, they deserve to be forgotten… with few exceptions, one being the comedy Diplomaniacs (1933, directed by William A. Seiter), which is one of the most jaw-dropping films of the 1930s. Possibly the most racist movie since D.W Griffith set the world on fire, it’s also about as straight as a flaming bunny and, in spite of itself, funny and weird as hell. Apart from one element, it could also serve as a banner film for MAGA fans.

Although Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey made a few films apart, it was only their work together (21 films in 8 years) that was successful. The teaming only ended with Woolsey’s premature death in 1938 from kidney failure. Their last film was 1937’s High Flyers, but with their risqué humor, the spot-on consensus is that their pre-code films are superior. Unlike other comedy teams, their films were not revived on television, which undoubtedly has contributed to their being largely forgotten. Still, it’s easy to see why their appeal hasn’t lasted. Their routines are stage-bound, both having come from vaudeville. Physically, Woolsey reminds one of George Burns. Wheeler is the skinny curly-haired boy.

Still from Diplomaniacs (1933)Diplomaniacs came out the same year as Duck Soup and bears a similar, surreal anti-war message. The difference is in the latent homosexuality of their characters, which is a far cry from the raging hetero libidos of the Marx boys (that’s the one element MAGA boys have to get past, but they should, because there is plenty here for them).

Wheeler and Woolsey are barbers on the Adoop reservation, which doesn’t make for good business since red man can’t grow beard. Yup, every blatant stereotype about “Injuns” is intact. Naturally, the Native Americans are WASPS in face paint. The college educated chief can help the boys out financially with a commission to represent his tribe in the Geneva Peace conference.

Time for a song: “The red man was the big man and then came the great big white man and the white man is the right man. The whites Continue reading PRE-CODE HEAVEN: DIPLOMANIACS (1933) AND THE BITTER TEA OF GENERAL YEN (1933)

WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE

Only 28 more movies left to Certify Weird, and only four more days to participate in our latest DVD/Blu-ray giveaway contest. How time flies!

Alfred Eaker starts us out next week with another installment of his series, examining the politically incorrect (by today’s standards) comedy Diplomaniacs, and the early drama The Bitter Tea of General Yen. Then, Giles Edwards reviews the recent psychological thriller Kaleidoscope (starring Toby Jones as an ex-con with mommy issues and a new corpse to deal with). Then it’s into the reader-suggested review queue as Terri McSorley looks at the post-apocalyptic, avant-garde film adult Cafe Flesh, while G. Smalley takes on Waltz with Bashir, ‘s Academy Award nominated semi-documentary animation about his experiences as an Israeli soldier in the Lebanon War.

The end may be near (for our Weirdest Search Term of the Week contest, that is). Due to privacy settings, only 33 of over 1,200 search terms used to locate the site thsis week are now visible to us. Based on past experience from the glory days of non-encrypted Googling, we’re sure there are some astonishingly weird requests hiding inside those 1100+ invisible queries. But we’ll let you know what we do see, at least until those 33 visible inquiries slip to 3. We’ll point out the ambitious search for “800 weird movie,” which is more than double what we’re offering (and certainly many readers hope we’ll eventually go that high). And then there’s the slightly weird “70s movie piece of the moon turns into a monster.” But, for the first week since we started this survey, the competition was too slim to justify giving out an official Weirdest Search Term of the Week. Maybe it’s time to move to a Weirdest Search Term of the Month contest?

Time for another disclaimer: with only 28 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. Consider the rest of them reader-suggested honorable mentions. With that out of the way, here’s how the ridiculously-long reader-suggested review queue now stands: Cafe Flesh (next week!); Waltz with Bashir (next week!); Genius Party; The Idiots; “Premium” (depending on availability); Spermula; Killer Condom; Sir Henry at Rawlinson End; Moebius (1996); The Continue reading WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE

RIP HARLAN ELLISON (1934-2018): THE LAST DISH OF ANGRY CANDY

died on June 27th, 2018, and the reaction around the Internet has been… strangely more subdued than I expected. Perhaps it’s because the man was so ill-suited to our politically correct times. Perhaps it’s because he alienated the Internet and computing technology in general to the point that the Internet collectively snubs him in self-defense. Most likely, it’s because for all the amazing volume of work he put out, he could have put out ten times more, but preferred to become a professional litigant first and a creator second. Sci-fi forums and geek blogs are taking a bit more notice, but even there he’s best remembered as a lovably grumpy bastard.

Harlan EllisonBut me, I’m a train wreck today. All writers, whether they know it or not, have lost a brother. True, Ellison was a walking human pile of road rage, but he devoted half his life to activism that we’re better off for. The price he paid was becoming an insufferable bastard to everyone he met. Sometimes the universe needs an angry man. Just be glad it didn’t pick you.

In Ellison’s spirit of gonzo honesty in writing, let me spill some of my ugliest guts for you: Growing up, I was as good as raised by wolves, a functional orphan. I was only born because two hippies met on a blanket at Woodstock and the acid going around didn’t turn them off; hippies grow up to be bums with psychosis in Southern California and, thank Ronald Reagan, California is a rotten place to get help for being crazy. I ran away from home every chance I got, and damned if I wasn’t better off on the streets. Reading was the only thing I could always afford to do. So authors became my surrogate family, and Harlan Ellison was in there second or third place as one of the authors who shaped what I have become today.

I shouldn’t say that so literally, lest you think I’d been through five divorces and a scandal for groping women on stage. I’ve been married 25 years (the lady is still sane, miracles never cease), and I know not to make a huge ass of myself in public, at least not without reason. Ellison swore off having kids early; I enjoyed the adventure of raising a family. But the professional side of me, the creator’s side, owes a lot to him. I don’t know how much exactly. My brain is its own little animal living up there in my skull. I don’t inquire into its affairs and it doesn’t bother with me.

But Harlan, even the smart-ass, referred to his writing as an addiction, and God can I ever identify. People in real life (the meat space outside the Interwebs, where today there’s an extreme heat advisory) ask me why I picked freelance writing of all careers. And I always answer that it didn’t; it chose me. I have piss-poor patience with coworkers, a tissue-thin boredom threshold, and a word machine in my head that WILL. NOT. SHUT. UP. I dream a new novel every night. I blather to myself on autopilot while I fumble with coffee in the morning. Left to my own devices, I will wander around the house practicing dad jokes and alliteration headlines and catchy shower thoughts on everybody until they hide in the closets. If I haven’t worked in awhile, I start yelling at the TV because soap opera writers can’t plot for sour beans, and I run around making up homemade labels with more imaginative brand names for the peanut butter, and I rip up the newspaper and chew the crossword puzzle in my foaming mouth.

There’s no pill for hypergraphia and hyperlexia. Writing is merely my handle for mental illness. It just so happens to be a paying skill too, but if it wasn’t, I’d be on a desert island scrawling rants in crab blood on coconut fronds and sending them out in corked bottles.

We are all hideous hobgoblins of disease and insanity, that’s what Harlan taught us.

His only work commemorated here, A Boy And His Dog, is but a thread of his work. Over in Star Trek forums he’s known only for the episode “The City on the Edge of Forever,” and little else. Video game forums are remembering him for the game I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream, adapted from his short story, and little else. Practical joker culture remembers him for mailing a dead gopher to a publisher he was having one of his endless quarrels with—and little else. But saddest of all, the crooks of this world breathe a little easier today, because he was way more trouble to them than he was to anybody else. Funny thing about Harlan Ellison: He had the work ethic of a monk melded with the attention span of a gerbil, so he dabbled in every medium, culture, franchise, fandom, and genre he could find, but always produced a landmark work in whatever he set his hand to do. Of course he was weird and original and feisty and controversial, he contained the soul of a rabid Balrog with PMS.

As , another tortured genius who ran all his life from hellbent demons, would have put it, Harlan Ellison was too weird to live and too rare to die. Like a comet striking the Earth, there will be an impact crater where he was for a long time.

WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 6/29/2018

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 – Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic, June 29-July7):

Though in it’s 53rd year, Karlovy Vary is overshadowed by other, bigger summer European film festivals, and isn’t one we usually pay attention to. With some strange revivals we can’t ignore alongside equally strange new films (including Guy Maddin and ‘s new Vertigo tribute, The Green Fog, Jan Svankmajer‘s Insects, ‘s much-buzzed-about sophomore effort Mandy, and ‘s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote), that changes this year.

  • Accumulator 1 (1994) – Rare Czech movie about characters in TV programs who drain energy from their real-life doubles. Restored and screening July 6.
  • Billy the Kid and the Green Baize Vampire (1987) – Surreal British rock opera about snooker players (there are no actual desperadoes or vampires). June 30 and July 4.
  • Diamonds in the Night (1964)- Stream-of-consciousness (A Report on the Party and Guests) film about two young Jewish refugees fleeing Nazis. Jun 30 and July 5.
  • Pity – The story of a man addicted to sadness, notable because it was scripted by ‘ wiriting collaborator, Efthimis Filippou. June 29, July 1 and 4.
  • Reflections in the Dust – The story of a schizophrenic clown and his blind daughter, told through alternating documentary interviews and a fictional post-apocalyptic story. Screening 6/20, 7/2, and 7/4.
  • Volcano – An interpreter becomes lost in rural Ukraine and has a series of strange encounters. July 1-2, 4.
  • Zama – A Spanish official posted to a remote South American colony longs for reassignment in a “subtly surreal and bizarre” film programmers say “often feels like it was made to purposefully confound the viewer.” June 29, July 2 or 6.

Karlovy Vary International Film Festival home page.

FILM FESTIVALS – New York Asian Film Festival (New York City, June 29-July 14):

The long-running NYAFF usually finds a number of high quality pan-Asian movies overlooked by other festivals. The weird ones are scarcer this season than previous fests (we hope this doesn’t represent a growing trend in Asian normality), but here are some titles of interest:

  • Dukun (2006) – This “bizarre” blend of horror and courtroom drama is about a shaman on trial for allegedly killing a politician in an immortality ritual; shelved in its native Malaysia for its controversial nature and making its international premiere July 13.
  • Premika – A karaoke-loving ghost forces victims to sing for their lives in this Thai horror comedy. Also screening July 13.
  • Tears of the Black Tiger (2000) – This Thai take on a Spaghetti Western is set on psychedelic expressionist sets that are more stylized than picture; weirdophiles will not find their time wasted on this “gloriously weird cult classic.” Catch the screening on July 5.

New York Asian Film Festival home page.

IN DEVELOPMENT (post-production):

Zan (2018): Tetsuo: The Iron Man‘s turns his lens on a period piece, setting his latest in 19th century Japan and focusing on the adventures of a ronin and a peasant girl. The scanty description doesn’t sound weird, but if it isn’t at least a little twisted, it will be one of very few straightforward features Tsukamoto has made. Notice found at Variety.

NEW ON HOME VIDEO:

The Addiction (1995): Read Alice Stoehr’s review. ‘s philosophical vampire movie has still never been released on DVD in the U.S., but thanks to Arrow Video it skips straight to Blu-ray (complete with Ferrara commentary and documentary featurettes). Buy The Addiction.

The Endless (2017): Read our review. This Justin Benson/Aaron Moorehead mindbender proudly quotes the Hollywood Reporter’s declaration that it’s a “rich banquet of mind-bending weirdness.” DVD, Blu-ray and VOD. Buy The Endless.

Female Trouble (1974): Read the Certified Weird entry! The middle entry of ‘ taste-free “Trash Trilogy” is now in the Criterion Collection on DVD and Blu-ray, with all new interviews and supplements. It’s better than cha-cha heels on Christmas! Buy Female Trouble.

German Angst (2015): Read our review. Transgressive Teutonic trio of grisly horrors involving castration, fascist hooligans, and sexual depravity. Now on Blu-ray, for higher definition grue. This may be a giveaway item from us down the line. Buy German Angst.

Terminal (2018): Neo-noir set in a neon nowhere featuring assassins and an Alice-in-Wonderland themed strip club. This Margot Robbie vehicle managed to avoid a wide theatrical release and arrived on home video to complaints that it was “confusing” and “just weird.” Don’t know how we missed it? On DVD, Blu-ray and VOD. Buy Terminal.

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.

338. FREAKS (1932)

Recommended

“BELIEVE IT OR NOT – – – – STRANGE AS IT SEEMS. In ancient times, anything that deviated from the normal was considered an omen of ill luck or representative of evil.”–prologue to Freaks

Freaks is one of the strangest movies ever made by an American studio.”–David Skal

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: , , Wallace Ford, Leila Hyams, Henry Victor, Daisy Earles

PLOT: At a circus, an evil performer intends to marry a sideshow midget to exploit him for his wealth. Eventually her plans extend to attempted murder. The midget’s fellow sideshow denizens have his back, exacting a primitive form of carnival justice.

BACKGROUND:

  • Freaks was based on Tod Robbins’ short story “Spurs.”
  •  Director Tod Browning started out as a contortionist performing in the circus himself, an inspiration from which he drew for this movie.
  • Browning leveraged his clout from helming the previous year’s hit Dracula to get Freaks made. The controversial film nearly ended his career, however; he would direct only four more projects (working uncredited on two of them) before retiring in 1939.
  • MGM stars Myrna Loy, Victor McLaglen, and Jean Harlow all turned down parts in the film due to the subject matter.
  • Freaks was often banned by state censors in its original form when it first came out. It was not allowed to be exhibited in the United Kingdom until the late 1963. It’s since been cut from a reported 90-minute running time, leaving us with the modern edit that runs just over an hour. The original full length may forever be lost. The cut version was a dud at the box office.
  • Although Freaks bombed on its original release and was pulled from theaters, it survived when (Maniac) bought the rights and took the film on tour (often using alternate titles like Forbidden Love and Nature’s Mistakes) in the late 1940s. Freaks was screened at Cannes in 1962 and received positive reappraisals, sparking its second life as a cult film.
  • “Entertainment Weekly” ranked Freaks third in their 2003 list of the Top 50  Cult Movies.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: Sing it along with us, Internet: “We accept her! We accept her! One of us! One of us! Gooble-gobble, gooble-gobble!” The Wedding Feast (it gets its own title card) is an omnipresent meme for very good reasons. Fast forward to it if you must, because this is the true beginning of Freaks.

THREE WEIRD THINGS: Sensually connected twins; “Gooble-gobble!”; half-boy with Luger

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Life is not always fair; sometimes you’re born with no legs. But sometimes your movie comes along at the precise pinpoint in history where it could get made. We will always have exactly one Freaks, because even substituting CGI for actually disabled people, nobody in a modern day Hollywood studio would have the balls to remake this.


The opening scenes of Freaks

COMMENTS: We all know examples of movies where their hype far Continue reading 338. FREAKS (1932)

CONTEST: WIN A DVD/BLU-RAY PACKAGE OF “FAGS IN THE FAST LANE” AND “FRANK AND EVA”

THE CONTEST IS OVER! You may still comment on the topic if you like, however.

We have a surplus of promotional DVDs and Blu-rays we need to move, so it’s time for another giveaway! This time, the contest centers around the “movie of the day” concept that underlies the site’s mission statement, but which we rarely refer to.

To enter, we ask you to, in the comments, pick the day that’s most appropriate to view a particular Certified Weird movie. An obvious example would be viewing Santa Claus (or Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny) on December 25, Christmas Day. But what movie would you pick for Arbor Day? January 20? June 19? What’s the perfect day of the year to watch, for example, 2001: A Space Odyssey? (You might check Wikipedia for some ideas of celebrations and events associated with particular days of the year, or this site for some more whimsical choices.)

To enter, add your idea in the comments to this post. We are going to select the winner randomly using random.org, so you don’t have to provide the best suggestion to enter. (One entry per person, please, though you can mention as many films as you like). In fact, although we want to hear your thoughts, you don’t even have to have a suggestion to enter: you can simply mention in the comments that you love the site and you’d like to enter the contest. (You can even say you hate the site and still enter the contest; you will make us sad, but it won’t affect your chances of winning.)

The usual eligibility rules apply: to receive the DVD/Blu-ray, you must supply us with a mailing address in the United States. (Don’t publish your address in your comment! We’ll contact the winner through email). You also must be over the age of 18, given the extra-sexy nature of this prize pack. 366 contributors are not eligible for the prize. If you don’t meet those qualifications you can still comment for fun, but let us know you’re not in it for the swag. We’ll stop accepting entries Wednesday, July 4, at midnight EST, after the fireworks are over. If the winner does not respond to our request for a mailing address within 24 hours we’ll email a runner-up, and so forth, until the prize is given away.

Fags in the Fast Lane DVD cover

And now, for our prizes. First up is the campy, crazy Australian homo-comedy Fags in the Fast Lane. This special DVD presentation comes with a sticker and a large reversible poster plus the usual DVD extras like a commentary track, music video, cartoon and trailers.  Our review states that “we fully expect to see it on our 10 Weirdest Movies of 2018 list… It goes without saying that neither homophobes nor the easily grossed-out will want to encounter Fags, but if you’re made of sterner stuff, you should find it fast-paced fluff that satisfies your guilty desire for absurd sleaze served with a twist of retro pop-culture surrealism.” Check out their home page for more info.

Frank & Eva Blu-ray coverAnd just to please everyone, our second sexy feature is a softcore drama aimed at the heterosexual crowd: Cult Epics‘ new release of Frank & Eva, the debut film for Sylvia “Emmanuelle” Kristel. The DVD/Blu-ray combo includes a commentary track from director , the mini-doc “Up Front & Naked: Sex in Dutch Films,” and photo galleries. From the back cover: “Frank (Blue Movie’s Hugo Metsers) and Eva (The Lift’s Willeke van Ammelrooy) cannot live with or without each other. In the liberal 1970s, Frank sleeps with every woman he can get. Eva, meanwhile, is looking for more security and wants to start a family. Frank’s behavior frustrates her so much that she starts an affair with their mutual friend. This social drama offers a view on relationships not much different than today. For Sylvia Kristel (her debut prior to Emmanuelle), a special role was written after she said to Pim de la Parra, ‘Why won’t you discover me? I’m the best.'” Check out the Cult Epics Frank & Eva page for more info.

All right, get to it!

CAPSULE: ZEN DOG (2016)

DIRECTED BY: Rick Darge

FEATURING: , Adam Hershman, Celia Diane

PLOT: A young virtual reality entrepreneur explores strange herbs and lucid dreaming in an attempt to shake himself out of his rut.

Still from Zen Dog (2016)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Zen Dog is an earnest, low budget curiosity that dreams big, but doesn’t dial up the weird as much as it might—for fear of drowning out its message.

COMMENTS: I read Allan Watts’ classic “The Way of Zen” when I was eighteen, then promptly forgot about him. That’s not a knock on Watts, but a testament to how good a communicator he was: read one book, listen to one of his lectures, and you feel enlightened, as if you know everything there is to know about Buddhism.

Zen Dog is structured around one of Watts’ thought experiment/parables, which begins “I wonder what you would do, if you had the power to dream at night any dream you wanted to dream…” Kyle Gallner’s “Mud” (!) is a twentysomething virtual-reality entrepreneur pushing headsets that will allow users to tour Hawaii or Paris without ever leaving their living rooms. He’s also having a recurring nightmare about slaving in a corporate office building where one of his co-workers commits suicide. Cue dorky cousin Dwayne, a professional student who arrives on spring break to crash on Mud’s couch and introduce him to the idea of lucid dreaming (aided by an exotic Chinese herb/drug nicknamed “maya”) as a way to resolve his psychological issues. Though purportedly a harmless natural sleep aid, the maya sure acts like a powerful hallucinogen—plus, it’s addictive. But it does enable Mud to enter his lucid dreamspace, where he begins to live the life he’s secretly always wanted—one where he’s a vagabond wandering around America in a VW bug borrowed from Ken Kesey and a jacket on loan from ‘s “Captain America,” meeting and romancing a (literal!) manic pixie dream girl while listening to a Allan Watts lectures on casette tape.

The scenario sounds like a groovy neo-hippie fantasia, and without Watts’ calm, authoritative voice to guide us, it probably would play out as a naive goof. But Watts’ ruminations, though simplified and popularized, are legitimately profound nuggets of ancient wisdom: the idea that our entire ego-structure—our understanding of ourselves as a person with a name and a job and a desire for advancement—is an elaborate facade built up over the years, which (by design) inhibits our ability to be in the here and now, as a simple expression of reality. We must unlearn what we’ve been taught to know what we are. Compressed into several nights of dreaming, Mud travels through stages of enlightenment, from flirtations with simple hedonism to romantic attachment to elaborate mindblowing cosmic journeys—but ends up with the wisdom that, although his ego is a real and vital part of him, he does not have to allow its demands to make him miserable.

Despite its low budget, the acting and technical aspects of the film are serviceable to good. Zen Dog puts today’s democratizing computer technology to excellent use, achieving psychedelic effects—double images, pinpoint editing, rainbow saturation—with ease and facility. This is how would do it today, if he were still making acid movies aimed at the tune-in drop-out crowd. Scenes shot in San Francisco, Reno, Chicago, and the flat prairies of middle America add additional production value. Allan Watts’ son Mark served as an executive producer and licensed his father’s extensive audio archives for the film, and Zen Dog works best as an introduction to Watts’ philosophy—a noble purpose for a budget effort. It’s not every movie in which the characters drop acid while inside a lucid dream itself induced by a hallucinogenic herb—and where that far-out, Inceptiony scenario actually makes sense as part of a sophisticated theme positing that life itself is a dream which we can take control of, if we only realize we’re dreaming. Zen Dog isn’t ashamed to let its freak flag fly, and, like a guileless puppy, it’s enthusiasm can lighten a stern heart.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“It’s all too easy to write off films like this as hippy fluff, and all too often they suffer from being made by people who are not entirely sober – a stranger’s trip usually being about as interesting as a stranger’s role-playing character – but Zen Dog is something different. There’s real craftsmanship on display here, tight editing and a laudably balanced approach that invites us to wonder without drowning us in excess.”–Jennie Kermode, Eye on Film (contemporaneous)

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