MESA OF LOST WOMEN (1952) AND THE WILD WORLD OF BATWOMAN (1966)

I think “jaw-dropping” is the only apt description for movies like and Herbert Tevos’ Mesa of Lost Women (1952) or ‘s The Wild World of Batwoman (1966): categories like camp, cult, et. al. simply cannot do them justice. 366 readers are, of course, familiar with Ormond and Warren as two z-grade (cough) filmmakers; that category fits for virtually everything the two produced.

While Mesa of Lost Women may lack the feverish WTF element of Ormond’s later , it is, as per the norm with this filmmaker, mind-numbingly godawful. How godawful is it? It’s so godawful that the first time I saw it, I immediately wondered whether those endlessly annoying Medved boys ever saw it. How could little Ed‘s sweet little opus, Plan 9 From Outer Space, even compete with Ormond’s Mesa for title of worst film of all time? Of course, as the Medveds fancy themselves Christian critics, they might have been biased in not granting the title of “worst director of all time” to fellow fanatic Ormond; giving that award to our favorite transvestite director, to be frank, turned out to be an unintentional blessing for St. Edward D. Wood, Jr. (and to us).

Still, every weird movie lover owes it to himself or herself to see these masterstrokes of trash. While only Mesa is considered  “horror” per se, both are possessed with the zany queerness of the season and should perfectly serve any Halloween gathering.

Still from Mesa of Lost Women (1966)Mesa of Lost Women stars , somewhere between the golden locks of ‘s Kid and the chrome dome of Uncle Fester. Herbert Tevos’ script is narrated by , and the opening is priceless: “Strange is the monstrous assurance of this race of puny bipeds with overblown egos; the creature who calls himself ‘Man.’ He believes he owns the earth and every living thing on it exists only for his benefit. Yet, how foolish he is. In the continuing war for survival between man and the hexapods, only an utter fool would bet against the insect.” Talbot’s narration is utterly pointless, except for that fact that occasionally, and weirdly, he seems to be speaking directly to the actors—who then strain to hear what he is saying.

There is no actual mesa of lost women, only Tarantella (Tandra Quinn) and Coogan as stock mad scientist Dr. Aranya (that’s Spanish for spider, someone tells us) seeking to create a “super female spider with a thinking and reasoning brain; a creature that may someday control the world—subject to my will.” Yes, Dr. Aranya is creating spider women, spider dwarves, and spider puppets. Naturally, Bland Hero objects (“It’s monstrous!”) Apparently, the production ran out Continue reading MESA OF LOST WOMEN (1952) AND THE WILD WORLD OF BATWOMAN (1966)

WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE

Only 14 movies left to Certify Weird!

As far as next week’s reviews go: we’re expecting a Halloween surprise (trick, or treat?) from Alfred Eaker. Then, it’s on to a couple of low-budget new releases featuring young female protagonists, as Giles Edwards looks at the convent-based horror The Book of Birdie while G. Smalley tackles the post-apocalyptic Molly. We’ll wrap up our reviews by revisiting ‘s theoretical Teorema.

Good news and bad news on the weird search term front. The good news is that, for unknown reasons, we saw a huge increase in the number of search terms visible to us (about 100 to pick from). The bad news is that about 50 or more of the searches were some variation of “free incest movie.” (We get the feeling these guys are going to be seriously disappointed by Fire Walk with Me and Society.) Probably the weirdest of that category was the search for “ok ru incest movies.” (C’mon, you may be a disgusting pervert, but set your sights higher than just “ok”!) In non-incest related perversion, the wrongest weirdest we saw was “School girlss xxx rape rageing forest movi.Com” (which, except for the “xxx,” might be a search for this one with a senseless “.Com” stuck on at the end). The upshot is, this is another week where we will not be awarding an official Weirdest Search Term of the Week; but there is hope that, if these numbers of visible searches keep up, we’ll be back on target soon.

Time for our weekly cut n’ paste disclaimer regarding the reader-suggested review queue below: since we will definitely not be getting to all of these (although we will pick out the occasional title), you can consider this a list of “honorable mentions” for your own perusal and amusement. That out of the way, here’s how the ridiculously-long reader-suggested review queue now stands: 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

WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 10/5/2018

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.

IN THEATERS (LIMITED RELEASE):

Longing (2017): A middle-aged bachelor receives a phone call telling him he has unknowingly been a father since college, and he searches for information about his son. Basically an Israeli arthouse drama, but reviewers describe a couple of dream sequences that may make it worth a look for weirdophiles. Longing Cineuropa entry.

FILM FESTIVALS – New York Film Festival (New York City, NY, Sep.28 – Oct 14):

We’re a little late in reporting on the NYFF. There are not a lot of debuts here, and a number of films overlap with Sitges (covered in a bit more detail below). Notable weird-ish U.S. premieres include ‘ period piece, The Favourite, and s The Image Book. 

New York Film Festival home page.

FILM FESTIVALS – Sitges Film Festival (Sitges, Spain, Oct. 4 – 14):

Although Sitges always offers an excellent slate of fantastic films, they’re more into quantity than exclusivity. We’ve seen many of the choicest offerings— France’s All the Gods in the Sky; s An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn; ‘s Keep an Eye Out; the documentary Blue Velvet Revisited; Cam, Gaspar Noé‘s LSD orgy Climax; the surreal soccer flick Diamantino and Italian arthouse weirdness Happy as Lazzaro (both also at the New York Film Festival this week); the anthology The Field Guide to Evil; ‘s amneisac FugueGuy Maddin and Vertigo tribute, The Green Fog; s fashion horror In Fabric; the Czech stop-motion Laika; the black metal doc Lords of Chaos; Luz; Mandy; the telepathy horror Murder Me, Monster; ‘s Night is Short, Walk on Girl; ‘s sacrilegious animation Seder-MasochismTop Knot Detective, the 2017 mockumentary about a fake Japanese TV show; Under the Silver Lake; and the Suspiria remake—debuting at other film festivals (and some have even already had theatrical releases). This makes Sitges a kind of “best of” 2018 festival. Among the many revivals are screenings of the restored versions of 2001: A Space Odyssey on Oct. 13th and Hour of the Wolf  on Oct. 6. Skipping those, here are a couple of notable films and long shots we noticed:

  • 10 Years Thailand – Four Thai directors, including , imagine the future in this omnibus film screening on 10/8.
  • Luciferina – A novice nun learns the secret behind her psychic powers. Oct. 10.

Sitges Film Festival home page.

IN DEVELOPMENT:

“Pan’s Labyrinth: The Labyrinth of the Faun” (Jul 2019): Not a movie but a novelization of the Certified Weird classic, co-authored by  and fantasy author Cornelia Funke and illustrated by Allen Williams. Del Toro’s active participation ensures it will be canonical. Announced at the Bookseller.

BOOKS:

“True Indie: Life and Death in Filmmaking”: Three-time Certified Weird director reflects on his 30+ years as an independent filmmaker. Coscarelli is touring heavily to promote the book, often in conjunction with screenings of his cult films Phantasm or Bubba Ho-Tep, so be on the lookout for a book signing in your town (and check our repertory screenings list below). Buy “True Indie: Life and Death in Filmmaking.”

NEW ON HOME VIDEO:

Housewife (2017): A housewife with a disturbed past gets sucked into a cult called “the Umbrella of Love & Mind.” The sophomore film from Turkish horror upstart , folks are using the “w word” to describe it. DVD or VOD. Buy Housewife.

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 MOVIES ON TUBITV:

Giorgio Moroder presents Metropolis (1927/1984): Read our review. A divisive, restored and re-tinted version of ‘s seminal urban dystopia, with a cheesy New Wave pop score from then-popular acts like Loverboy, Billy Squier and Pat Benetar. Once the best-looking version of the film available, it’s now a curiosity of cinema history.  Watch Giorgio Moroder presents Metropolis 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.

352. SEVEN SERVANTS (1996)

“Whether you take the doughnut hole as a blank space or as an entity unto itself is a purely metaphysical question and does not affect the taste of the doughnut one bit.”–Haruki Murakami

DIRECTED BY: Daryush Shokof, Stefan Jonas

FEATURING: , Sonja Kirchberger

PLOT: Wealthy, elderly Archie is visited in his villa by a mysterious woman who sings an aria to him. Realizing that his death is near, he places an ad requesting young male servants. When the first of these arrives, he tells him he will earn ten thousand dollars if he inserts a finger in his ear and leave it there for ten days; he then hires three other men to plug up his other ear and each of his nostrils.

Still from Seven Servants (1996)

BACKGROUND:

  • Born in Iran but living in the U.S. and Europe, Daryush Shokof is a painter and experimental video artist. He co-wrote Seven Servants‘ script with his wife from a dream he had. This was his first feature film.
  • Shokof considered cinematographer Stephan Jonas’ contribution so important that the opening credits announce it is a film by “Daryush Shokof & Stefan Jonas.”
  • Anthony Quinn said that the finished project was ahead of its time, “a work for the 21st century,” and that release should be delayed. Although it played at two film festivals in 1996, Quinn, who was also an executive producer, decided to delay release after a timid reception. Soon after, the production company went bankrupt, so Seven Servants wasn’t screened again until 2009, and received a DVD release from Pathfinder Entertainment in the same year. Quinn died in 2001, which is why the film’s dedication speaks of him in the past tense.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: Nothing less than cinema icon Anthony Quinn surrounded by four shirtless young men of different ethnicities, each with a finger stuck in his ear or nostril, with the whole assembly undulating like a dancing octopus as fruit floats over their heads.

THREE WEIRD THINGS: Death sings an aria; Quinn’s plugged orifices; floating fruit

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: One of my favorite species of weird movies is the experiment in taking an absurd premise to its logical conclusion. Seven Servants starts in earnest when a man sticks his finger in Anthony Quinn’s ear and doesn’t let up until every last one of his apertures is closed. It’s end-of-life porn, a smooth jazz fantasy of death as an epicurean celebration of life.


Original trailer for Seven Servants

COMMENTS: So, what do you do if you’re an obscure Iranian expatriate artist and you have a dream about a dying man who hires Continue reading 352. SEVEN SERVANTS (1996)

CAPSULE: ALL YOU CAN EAT BUDDHA (2017)

DIRECTED BY: Ian Lagarde

FEATURING: Ludovic Berthillot, Sylvio Arriola, Yaité Ruiz

PLOT: A vacationing gourmand stays on indefinitely at an all-inclusive resort, performs ambiguous miracles, and is treated as a messiah.

Stil lfrom All You Can Eat Buddha (2017)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: It’s one of those indie experiments that’s content to hang out in its own strange little surreal corner of the film world, but lacks the sense of purpose or urgency necessary to break into big time weird.

COMMENTS: Director Ian Lagarde is better known as a cinematographer (Vic + Flo Saw a Bear). That background shows in his eye for composition in his debut feature, which contrasts bright tropical travelogue footage of a Cuban resort with moody images from the surrounding ocean, with the film’s color palette growing increasingly shadowy as it progresses. He also finds a surprisingly charismatic lead in chubby Ludovic Berthillot, who, as Mike, looks like a melancholic Quebecois Curly Howard, yet somehow becomes believable as a mystical guru and sex god.

Unfortunately, that’s about all that can be said on a positive note for All You Can Eat Buddha, a surreal slog that’s ultimately less eventful than a day spent dozing and sunbathing at the beach. The credits play over a mini-symphony of crashing waves, whale calls, and discordant strings while a dark sea undulates with a ghostly negative image of Mike’s Buddhistically serene visage superimposed over it. This prologue promises a deep, somber, hypnotic energy, but the subsequent film is more somnolent than dreamy. The frumpy, solitary, and mysterious Mike arrives at the El Palacio, wanders around the beach speaking to no one, dines at the all-you-can-eat buffet, and decides to stay on. The film takes nearly twenty minutes to hit its first real plot point, although it’s a good ‘un: Mike rescues a grateful octopus caught in a net and the eight-legged sea beast grants him enlightenment. He then performs an ambiguous miracle or two, sleeps with a couple of lonely middle-aged women, and grows a small group of followers as he becomes a sort of anti-Buddha, renewing earthly desires rather than renouncing them. But then, like the viewer, the script loses interest in this plot line, and instead focuses on a “change of administration” in the hotel management (a political allegory?) that leads to the place deteriorating, as Mike’s body simultaneously falls apart. A sort-of subplot about a hotel maid and her son has no real resolution, and the movie limps to an ambiguous non-ending that’s neither a satisfactory convergence of themes nor a mystery that lingers; the film simply messes around for a while, then ends. A hard-eating hero, a telepathic octopus, beaches, a reference to Buddhism, adulation, and maybe some politics: it’s a puzzle movie, but one where the pieces all seem to come from different boxes.

All You Can Eat Buddha debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival in late 2017, then shuffled off to video-on-demand and a freebie stint on Amazon Prime without ever stopping on physical media—an unfortunate trend that will prevent smaller films from having any sort of extended shelf life.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“The film’s steep turn downward is eventually triggered by its shift from merely bizarre to flat-out abstract, as Lagarde’s script takes a turn akin to 2016’s disastrous High-Rise and becomes an unwatchable portrait of civilization coming undone.”–David Nusair, Reel Film Reviews (festival screening)

CAPSULE: FELIDAE (1994)

Recommended

DIRECTED BY: Michael Schaack

FEATURING: Voices of Ulrich Tukur, Mario Adorf, Wolfgang Hess, Helge Schneider, Mona Seefried, Klaus Maria Brandauer

PLOT: Francis, a housecat who has relocated to a new neighborhood with his human, stumbles into a mystery involving a strange cult, nefarious characters, and a feline serial killer. Still from Felidae (1994)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Although a neo-noir/serial killer story where most, if not all, of the main characters are cats might qualify as “weird”—and, I admit, it’s a mighty thin line—the events and behavior involved aren’t surreal. They are just seen from a different perspective than we’re used to, to force us to consider our own behavior.

COMMENTS: “What I was watching wasn’t exactly a scene out of ‘The Aristocats’.”

Coming after feline members of a cult electrocute themselves in spiritual thrall, that line’s a definite understatement—and a cheekily self-aware one at that. Although the animation style is reminiscent of Don Bluth’s films, Felidae‘s approach to the material is more closely modeled on the adaptations of the Richard Adams novels Watership Down and The Plague Dogs. Perhaps not that surprising, since this story is also based on a literary allegory: in this instance, a book by Akif Pirinçci.

Felidae is a very good pastiche of film noir detective tropes: the dogged investigator, his reluctant friend/sidekick, moronic thugs, the ‘Good Girl’ who becomes a victim and the driving force for the investigator to pursue the case to the end, the ‘Bad Girl’ who appears to be a distraction but ends up being an integral piece of the puzzle, colorful characters adding flavor, and a nemesis who thoroughly pays off on the buildup. It also deals in the dark subject matter of noir: the violence and cruelty of life, religion and how it ends up being a tool of control, grisly farce, and sex… lots of sex. Placing those events in the world of cats, domesticated and feral, just strengthens the critique of human society, and adds another subject to the mixture: animal testing and its cruelty.

When it comes to quality animation intended for an adult audience, you have to look overseas and be prepared to do some digging.  Aside from Japanese anime, a piece in this genre won’t get much exposure to a North American audience except at a few film festivals, if it’s lucky. Felidae would’ve been a tough sell in America; in addition to a serial killer mystery with eugenics being the main key, there’s lots of violence, a sex scene, a couple of standout nightmare set pieces, and graphic depictions of animal experimentation—all with the look of a nice animated film with cats.

Felidae never got a release in North America. Although an English dub was prepared, it was only released in Australia, with the voice cast not credited (the IMDB list for the English voices is highly suspect). There was a R2 DVD release which had both the German and English language tracks, plus extras like a commentary and a “Behind the Scenes” featurette (in German only), but that is now OOP and going for high prices on the secondary market. YouTube searches turn up copies in German with English subs, or the English dubbed version. It would be great if Felidae gets rediscovered and issued on home video like Watership Down and The Plague Dogs were recently.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…an imaginative, disturbing and ex-tremely adult thriller… Francis’ violent nightmares provide the most outrageously surreal images since the golden age of Bakshi.”–Stephen Puchalski, Shock Cinema (DVD)

OTHER LINKS OF INTEREST:

Felidae was scored by Anne Dudley (Art of Noise) and featured a theme song co-written & sung by George O’ Dowd (AKA Boy George), which did get an OST release.

There are eight books in the Felidae series, though only three of the books have been translated to English. The author, Akif Pirinçci, has recently been mired in controversy, which led to both his German & American publishers cancelling his contracts and no longer selling his books. Still from Felidae (1994)

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