WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 8/7/2009

A look at what’s weird in theaters, on hot-off-the-presses DVDs, and on more distant horizons…

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

IN THEATERS (LIMITED RELEASE):

Cold Souls: Described as “a surreal comedy in which souls can be extracted and traded as commodities,” starring indie icon Paul Giamatti. Well-reviewed film from first time director Sophie Barthes. Cold Souls official site.

SCREENINGS (LOS ANGELES): JOE DANTE’S “DANTE’S INFERNO”:

Director Joe Dante (Gremlins) won’t return my calls, and probably wouldn’t even if he had my number; to prove I’m not bitter, I’m going to plug a couple of weird titles from his adventurous “Dante’s Inferno” series now screening at the New Beverly Cinema in Hollywood (check here for the complete schedule).

The Movie Orgy (1968/2009): This is a pastiche of clips from a variety of pre-1968 movies, serials, newsreels, and TV shows, prominently featuring many B-movies such as Attack of the 50-Foot Woman, arranged into what Dante characterizes as “a crazy 16mm cinematic farrago.”  Originally over four hours in length, Dante has added footage to carry the film over the 5 hour mark.  This film is rarely screened, for obvious reasons.  Showing August 8 only, admission is free (!)

The President’s Analyst (1967):  A crazy, underseen paranoid satire—one that could only have come out of the 1960s—about the titular character, who finds himself at the center of a dastardly plot masterminded by an unlikely enemy.  On a double bill with the 1971 tobacco company satire Cold Turkey.  August 11 & 12 only.

ON DEMAND FREE MOVIES (SOME U.S. CABLE SYSTEMS):

Army of Darkness (1992):  The third movie in the Evil Dead trilogy.  In this campy horror/comedy entry, Ash (Bruce Campbell), chainsaw in hand,  finds that the vortex he was sucked into at the end of Evil Dead II leads to a medieval land teeming with yet more evil dead.  Available on Fearnet until August 31.

Dracula (1992): Francis Ford Coppola’s take on the Dracula legend was ruined for many by the terrible decision to cast Keanu Reeves and Wynona Ryder as Jonathan and Mina Harker, but there’s no doubt that it contains some great, hallucinatory visual sequences that make it worth catching.  Available on Fearnet until Spetember 2.

Evil Dead II (1987):  With money and experience under his belt, director Sam Raimi remade his own low-budget hit The Evil Dead (1981) as one of the greatest horror-comedies of all time, full of over-the-top weird touches.  Available on Fearnet until August 31.

Oldboy (2003): The middle entry in Chan-wook Park‘s Vengeance Trilogy, about a man who hunts a unknown enemy after he is imprisoned without explanation for years and just as mysteriously freed.  It’s Park’s most popular film, and probably his best, despite (or because of) it’s violent and stylistic excesses.  Available on the Sundance Channel until September 1st.

NEW ON BLU-RAY:

Big Trouble in Little China (1986): John Carpenter’s Americanized version of a zany Hong Kong action-kung fu-fantasy-comedy doesn’t seem quite as weird and wacky as it did when it flopped in theaters in the 1980s. Word of mouth turned it into a video hit.  Carpenter was ahead of the curve; Westerners would discover the delirious delights of Tsui Hark, Jackie Chan and John Woo on their own within a few years. Buy from Amazon.

AMAZON ARTHOUSE AND INTERNATIONAL SALE:

Through the month of August, Amazon is discounting titles in its international, indie and arthouse catagories, with DVD deals as low as $5.99.  Browse the sale items here: we noticed the 2-disc Criterion collection version of Fellini’s 8 1/2 for $16.49, more than half off list price, among other deals.

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.

CAPSULE: LITTLE ASHES (2008)

DIRECTED BY:  Paul Morrison

FEATURING:  Javier Beltrán,

PLOT:  In Madrid in the 1920s, with Dadaism in full flourish and Surrealism in its infancy,

Still from Little Ashes (2008)

soon-to-be-famous poet Federico García Lorca flirts with soon-to-be-famous painter Salvador Dalí while soon-to-be-famous director Luis Buñuel hangs around.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: It’s subject is Surrealism, but its style is conventional historical romance.

COMMENTS:  A supposed collegiate love affair, supposedly unconsummated, between stuffy poet Lorca and flamboyant painter Dalí is the subject of this pleasantly lensed and generally competent costume affair.  Spanish society in the 1920s is socially repressive (although the three idealists have no clue how much worse it will get in a few years with Franco’s arrival), and the budding geniuses yearn to upset the established order.  Beltrán imbues Lorca with a sense of dignity, although his thick accent is frequently a practical impediment for the viewer.  Pattison makes for a distractingly pretty Dalí; his failure to capture the spirit of the eccentric painter is probably more the failing of the simplistic script.  Buñuel is an underdeveloped third wheel and utility player: a homophobe when the story calls for a homophobe, a foil when it needs a foil, a mediator when it requires a mediator.  We hear bits of Lorca’s poetry, get glimpses of Dalí’s canvases, and see the shocking bits from Un Chien Andalou (1929), but we get no real sense of what motivates these men as artists.  Though Beltrán shows suitable young romantic torment when he’s rejected, it’s hard to credit the suggestion that this awkward fling would have made enough of a impact on either man to influence their future art, much less be a driving force.  Dalí postures and lectures about the need to “go further” and “go beyond” in art; not only do we not see concrete examples of what he means, but there’s irony in the fact that the filmmakers don’t heed his advice.  Other than one mental montage where Lorca mixes up impressions of a bullfight he’s watching with jealous fantasies of Salvador and Luis living it up in Paris, and an odd pseudo-ménage à trois that may make some giggle, the film is extremely conventional and predictable in its approach.  These are fascinating men in a fascinating time, so the decision to put the overwhelming focus of the film on a bit of gossip about who did or didn’t sleep with whom, while humble, is a let down.

I can’t help but be amused by the thought of the few tween Twilight fans, showing up to see vampire heartthrob Pattison in action, getting slapped in the face by the eyeball slitting scene from Un Chien Andalou.   It still makes me squirm, and it must seem incredibly weird, random and shocking—particularly in this context—to anyone who doesn’t know it’s coming.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“The film is an open-hearted tribute to three great iconoclasts, whose response to its piety and sincerity would, most likely, have been ruthless and obscene mockery.”–A.O. Scott, The New York Times

31. FUNKY FOREST: THE FIRST CONTACT [NAISU NO MORI: THE FIRST CONTACT] (2005)

“Only appearing in your dream.  Distorting every sound to create a world like to other.  This is what they live for; jumping from one person’s dream to another.  Once you have been chosen, you will lose all control of your dreams.”–from the script of Funky Forest: the First Contact

Weirdest!

DIRECTED BY: Katsuhito Ishii, Hajime Isimin (AKA Aniki), Shunichiro Miki

FEATURING:  Tadanobu Asa, , Susumu Terashima, and a large ensemble cast

PLOTFunky Forest is a series of absurdist skits—including both computer generated and hand drawn animation segments and musical interludes—sharing some common characters and situations, thrown together in a blender. The movie features the interwoven antics of two squabbling TV comedians, a trio of brothers who are unpopular with women, an English teacher in love with a recently graduated student who sees him as a friend only, and a school where strange bloodsucking creatures are growing, among many other threads. The comic nonsense sketches and dreams are loosely tied together by references to visitations from “alien Piko-Rico.”

Still from Funky Forest: The First Contact (2005)

BACKGROUND:

  • There is little hard information on this production that is available  in English.  Of the three credited co-directors, Katsuhito Ishii, who directed the majority of the sequences, is usually given most of the credit for assembling the collaborative project.
  • Ishii composed the animated sequences for Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill, Vol. 1 (2003) and had a minor arthouse hit with The Taste of Tea (2004).
  • Funky Forest is the first movie directing credit for Shunichiro Miki, whose only previous movie credit was a small acting role in The Taste of Tea.  Miki directs commercials in Japan.  He is responsible for the “monster” segments of the film.
  • Prior to Funky Forest, Hajime Isimin (who is also known as Aniki) had released one direct-to-video comedy in Japan and worked as the musical director on The Taste of Tea.  He is responsible for the “Notti & Takefumi” sequences that contain the film’s major musical and dance numbers.
  • Funky Forest won the “Most Innovative Film Feature” award at the 2006 Toronto After Dark film festival.

INDELIBLE IMAGE:  The still of the Japanese schoolgirl with a tube jammed into her navel hooked up to a strange machine encasing a large orifice while two strangely costumed men look on, from the segment titled “Wanna go for a drink?”, has already become an iconic image on the Internet.  It’s the picture people post or email when they want to illustrate either 1. how weird the movie Funky Forest is, or 2. assuming the picture is from a mainstream Japanese soap opera, how weird they think the Japanese people in general are.

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: As the trailer indicates, Funky Forest‘s weird credentials are unimpeachable; if anything, this is a movie that’s almost too weird to be comprehensible, which is why it’s nice that it’s divided into small bites that can be digested independently. It works like a surrealist version of Altman’s Short Cuts.


Trailer for Funky Forest

COMMENTS: The opening paragraph of every review of Funky Forest is where critics get Continue reading 31. FUNKY FOREST: THE FIRST CONTACT [NAISU NO MORI: THE FIRST CONTACT] (2005)

REVIEW WRITING CONTEST #1: WIN AN “A CLOCKWORK ORANGE” BLU-RAY!

A Clockwor Orange Blu-RayWe’d love to get our readers more involved in the forum and to discover new contributors, so we’re offering an incentive: write a review of a weird movie, win an A Clockwork Orange Blu-Ray!  (This is the slightly used copy of the film used to compose the review on this site).

The rules of the contest are simple:

  1. Write a review of a movie that you think should be on the List of the 366 weirdest movies ever made, but that hasn’t been covered here yet (you can find the titles we have covered here). Including the following sections: DIRECTOR, FEATURING (listing the most important actors), PLOT (a one sentence synopsis), WHY IT DESERVES TO MAKE THE LIST (a one sentence to one paragraph description of why you think the movie is weird), COMMENTS (one to two paragraphs describing the movie in more detail).  If you have a suggestion for a still to represent the movie and/or a quote from a critic on the film, you can include those, but they are not required.
  2. Submit your work on our contact formBy submitting your entry on this form, you agree to allow 366weirdmovies.com to publish your work, either whole or in edited form, on this website. Your work may be selected for publication even if you are not chosen as the winner.
  3. The contest is open to anyone whose work has not previously been published on 366weirdmovies.com.
  4. You may not write a review promoting a film which you were involved in the production of, or in which you have a financial interest.
  5. This site strives to remain “PG” rated; do not use profanity in your review.
  6. The contest will remain open for one month, until September 3, 2009, at which time the editor will select the best entry.  The winner will be chosen on the basis of writing style, insight, and appropriateness of the movie chosen.  The deadline may be extended, depending on the number of entries received.
  7. In order to be eligible to receive the prize, you must supply a valid email address and a valid mailing address.  International addresses are acceptable.  If the winning entrant does not supply a valid mailing address, the Blu-Ray will be given to a randomly selected entry with a mailing address in the United States.  If no entries are from the United States, then the deadline to complete the contest will be extended.

TIPS: Avoid merely summarizing the plot in your comments.  Avoid giving away “spoilers” in your descriptions that might ruin the enjoyment of the film.  Obscure titles are fine—in  fact, they may be worth bonus points—but try to pick a film that is available on DVD, or is at least likely to be released.  If you write on a film no one will be able to view or locate, the movie may be judged as inappropriate.

One final tip: don’t be scared away by thinking you have to write something profoundly insightful.  Simply consider it as a chance to describe and recommend a film to that narrow audience people who are interested in the same kind of weird movies as you are.

Have fun!  The winner, and even the runners-up, may be invited to become regular contributors to the site!

BORDERLINE WEIRD: BAD BOY BUBBY (1993)

Bad Boy Bubby has been upgraded and placed on the List of the 366 Best Weird Movies of All Time. Please read the Bad Boy Bubby Certified Weird Entry and direct any comments about the film to that page. Comments are closed on this review, which is left here for archival purposes.

DIRECTED BY:  Rolf de Heer

FEATURING: Nicholas Hope

PLOT: Raised by his mentally ill mother with no knowledge of the outside world in what is

Still from Bad Boy Bubby (1993)

essentially a fallout shelter, middle-aged Bubby is suddenly released into a modern Australian society he can hardly comprehend, but must learn to fit into somehow.

WHY IT’S ON THE BORDERLINEBad Boy Bubby has a unique tone that’s hard to capture, but the first words I’d choose to characterize it are “relentlessly offbeat,” rather than “weird.”  Sadly, the existence of a Bubby—a child raised in captivity by a crazed parent—is not some weird invention, but is actually torn from today’s headlines.  Although the incidents depicted often strain the bounds of plausibility (only briefly breaking them in the later reels), for the most part de Heer chooses to tell his story using a straightforward, realistic narrative style that makes us believe bizarre Bubby is a real person in a real world.

COMMENTSBad Boy Bubby is a film that moves slowly from deep darkness into light.  It’s often shocking and depressing, particularly in that dingy first third, where Bubby’s unnatural relationship with his deranged mom in their claustrophobic basement hovel is made into a suffocating reality in which we are forced to share.  The saving grace is that the movie always treats Bubby with true affection.  Most of Bubby’s misbehavior, such as his tendency to shake a woman’s breast instead of her hand when he first meets her, comes out of childlike innocence.  But even when Bubby’s truly, purposefully being a “bad boy,” we understand what he’s suffered—even though he doesn’t fully—and we remain firmly on his side.  The script, which could have been ruthless to poor Bubby, rewards him (and the viewer) in the end, and the happy ending feels earned rather than tacked on.

Comic possibilities that were buried with Bubby in the dingy basement apartment emerge when Bubby escapes into the relative light of modern Australian society, but the movie never really threatens to become a comedy.  Bubby’s gift for mimicry raises all sorts of Continue reading BORDERLINE WEIRD: BAD BOY BUBBY (1993)

WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE FOR NEXT WEEK

Tune in tomorrow for a review of Bad Boy Bubby and later in the week for Funky Forest: The First Contact.  Also this week: sharpen your pencils as we announce our first review writing contest (with a prize!).  Tune in Tuesday for details.

In coming weeks, we’ll continue to do at least one reader-suggested review per week, sprinkling in some choices of our own along the way.  For reference, here’s the queue of movies we’ll be reviewing in the upcoming weeks and months:  Dr. Caligari (1989), Nekromantic, Stalker, UHF, Delicatessen, Pi, Angel’s Egg, Institute Benjamenta, Pan’s Labyrinth, Ex Drummer, Waking Life, Survive Style 5+, and The Dark Backward.

Weirdest Google search term used to find 366weirdmovies last week: “Film amanda virgin having sex with crosses snake.”

WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 7/31/09

A look at what’s weird in theaters, on hot-off-the-presses DVDs, and on more distant horizons…

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

IN THEATERS (LIMITED RELEASE):

Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation! (2009):  This documentary on Australian exploitation films of the 1970s and 1980s—the sleaze that was even madder than Mad Max—is unexpectedly getting rave reviews from mainstream critics.  Definitely wacky stuff that probably plays better as a compendium of clips of the “good bits.”  Currently showing in New York and L.A. only, and seems unlikely to move to screens in the center of the country.  Not Quite Hollywood Official Site (trailer is Not Safe For Work!).

Thirst [Bakjwi] (2009):  Chan-wook Park sinking his stylistic fangs into a vampire film?  If you’re not salivating at the possibilities, you may be reading the wrong site.  It tied for the Jury Prize at Cannes (impressive, even though “Jury Prize” translates into “Third Place”).  Thirst Official site.

Clip from Thirst

SCREENINGS (NEW YORK CITY: FILM FORUM)

You, The Living [Du levande] (2007):  Swede Roy Andersson’s episodic 2007 film is universally described as “absurdist,” although it’s also universally described as “brilliant” and “funny.”  New Yorkers are lucky people, to be able to see reputed hidden masterpieces on the big screen, while the rest of us have to wait and wait for a Region 1 DVD release that may never come.  You, the Living Official Site.

NEW ON DVD:

Bad Lieutenant (1992) (Special Edition):  Always over-the-top auteur Abel Ferrara gives us a blast of NC-17 nastiness and overwrought Catholicism that is unexpectedly real and powerful.  Only borderline weird, but a naked, strung-out Harvey Keitel simpering on a deserted cathedral floor as he hallucinates a visit from Jesus Christ is definitely a sight you don’t see everyday (and wouldn’t want to). Is this Special Edition being released now in anticipation of Herzog’s version (see below)?  Buy from Amazon.

Combat Shock (1985) (Special Edition) : A 2-disc (!) special treatment edition of this low-budget flick about a Vietnam veteran suffering from terrible flashbacks is rumored to be one of the most demented exploitation films ever made, often described as a cross between Taxi Driver and Eraserhead.  Distributed by, but not originally produced by, Troma.  Based on the underground buzz from folks I trust, this is a movie that must at least get consideration for inclusion on the List. Buy from Amazon.

Repulsion (1965):  Roman Polanski’s peek inside Catherine Deneuve’s disintegrating mind is a five-star classic has already been certified as one of the 366 weirdest movies of all time (read our full review).  Joy of joys!  Now the Criterion Collection has given the film, previously available in inferior versions, a proper 2-disc release.  Buy from Amazon. Also available on Blu-ray (buy).

Severed Ways: The Norse Discovery of America (2007):  To quote our 3/13/09 notice: “This micro-budget, DIY film about two Vikings stranded in North America in 1007 AD has been savaged by critics who are unimpressed by its ‘independent spirit.’  With a black metal soundtrack, amateur production values, dialogue in Old Norse, rape and defecation, this appears to be a genuine el cheapo oddity of the sort that in years past might have played at the bottom third of a drive-in triple bill.”  Watch at your own risk, but if you do, be sure to tell us what you think.  Buy from Amazon.

NEW ON BLU-RAY:

12 Monkeys (1995):  Terry Gilliam‘s remake of the time-travel classic 1962 short La Jetée is as visionary and disorienting as anything the master fantasist has ever done. With big-time movie stars Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt. Buy from Amazon.

IN PRODUCTION:

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009):  A remake of the inimitable 1992 cult classic?   With the action moved from New York to New Orleans?  Starring Nic Cage as the Bad Lieutenant?  With Val Kilmer as a sidekick?  Directed by Werner Herzog?  With a leaked trailer that makes it look like a standard cop action comedy?  There’s no telling what this is going to be—but there’s an excellent chance that, whatever it is, it’s going to be weird.

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.

REPRINT: STANLEY KUBRICK, CULTURAL OMNIVORE

Fringe Cinema, normally published on Thursdays, will not appear this week. In it’s place is this guest essay is by Alfred Eaker, originally published Mar. 26, 2009, which offers some additional insights on Stanley Kubrick and A Clockwork Orange.

“We must be cultural omnivores and raid all the art forms to enhance our own art”– Pierre Boulez; Modernist French composer.

Although, the meaning of postmodernism is replete with vagaries, one prominent characteristic of the so-called movement is that it abounds in eclecticism. Pierre Boulez’s advice for artists to mantle a mental state of being cultural omnivores seems tailor made for much that is pronounced in postmodernism. In that light, the movement had one of it’s most well-known, brilliantly driven, unofficial spokespersons in the late Stanley Kubrick.kubrick1

Kubrick, of course, patterned his body of film work after a Beethoven aesthetic. Each of Beethoven’s nine symphonies had an individual theme. The Eroica was Beethoven’s initial support, later renounced, bio-portrait of Napoleon. The 4th, according to Robert Schumann, was a Greek maiden between two Norse gods. The immortal fifth was THE anti-war statement. The 6th , a pastorale; the 7th, a series of rhythmic movements; the 8th, more abstract, is a favorite among modernist conductors; and, of course, the mighty Ode to Joy.

Kubrick wanted to create a work in each of the genres and it’s unfortunate he never got to make his western (Marlon Brando foolishly took over directing One Eyed Jacks, after having Kubrick sacked). Regardless of genre, each Kubrick film is filtered through his own unique sensibilities (i.e., the dehumanization of man), thus rendering the idea of applying something as superfluous as a genre akin to hopelessly trivial labeling. When it comes to Kubrick, the genre/subject is almost incidental. Kubrick defiantly stamped his personal vision onto everything he approached (as author Stephen King would discover, to his complete dismay, when Kubrick took on The Shining. Kubrick was no assignment director).

Volumes have been written about Kubrick’s body of work with wildly varying and opposing opinions, but the almost unanimous conclusion that can be drawn is that Kubrick’s films are not designed for casual viewing.

Indeed, upon repeated absorption, Kubrick’s films reveal the degree to which Kubrick was a cultural omnivore.

Kubrick’s rep as being a “supremely controlled” artist is a misnomer. He was just as apt for experimentation, improvisation, and utilizing ideas from actors, etc. Hence, Kubrick’s reason for disallowing the publishing of his scripts (which he often deviated from) and ordering the destruction of all unused footage. In it’s rough cut, Clockwork Orange was originally a four hour film.

One of Kubrick’s most compelling scenes in Clockwork Orange was, by turns, supremely controlled and experimental, yet gives compelling insight into Kubrick’s multi-hued layering and eclectic aesthetics.

Alex and the droogs appear at an ultra modernist home, which welcomes visitors with a lit sign, marked simply “Home.” Kubrick’s customary symbolic red and white design work is as heavy laden here as it is throughout the rest of the film.

Husband Patrick Magee types away at his typewrite when the doorbell rings. The doorbell sounds of the overly familiar first four notes of Beethoven’s Fifth: Fate knocking at the door. However, those four notes sound deceptively innocuous here, almost tinkling.

The camera pans across the room revealing Magee’s redhead wife, Adrienne Corri, dressed in red pajamas, sitting comfortably in a white, plastic chair in the next room. Husband and wife are detached from one another, echoing the barrenness of the house. Corri answers the door to hear Alex proclaim “there has been an accident outside” and his request to use the telephone. Corri is reluctant, but Magee instructs her to let the visitors in. With the unlocking of door, Fate enters in like a Beethovenian storm.

The “Singing in the Rain” beating/dance was not scripted and was improvised, worked, and re-worked until Kubrick was satisfied with the flowing tone. Adding this element was a brilliant instinct on Kubrick’s part. Without it, the breaking-in would have felt more like a tempest than a storm.

After Magee is tied up and beaten, Alex and the droogs turn to Corri. They take her in front of painting on the wall and begin to rape her. The visuals in this vignette reveal a homage narrative, akin to developing patterns in an unfolding puzzle. The design of the painting on the wall has a pronounced familiarity. In it’s colors and forms, it is a homage to Gustav Klimt and bears striking resemblance to Klimt works like “Farmhouse with Birch Trees”. Corri appears as a Klimt model personified. She is Klimt’s mysterious red head, pale and thin (i.e., “Hope 1”). She and the scene call to mind imagery from Klimt’s “The Beethoven Frieze” (especially in the sections, “The Longing for Happiness Finds Repose in Poetryand “Hostile Powers”). In essence, Kubrick is paying homage to Klimt paying homage to Beethoven.

Continue reading REPRINT: STANLEY KUBRICK, CULTURAL OMNIVORE

30. A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971)

“The story functions, of course, on several levels, political, sociological, philosophical and, what’s most important, on a dreamlike psychological-symbolic level.”–Stanley Kubrick

Must See

DIRECTED BY: Stanley Kubrick

FEATURING: Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee

PLOT:  Alex is the leader of a small gang of violent, thrill-seeking youths in England sometime in the indefinite near future.  After a home invasion goes bad, his “droogs” betray him and his victim dies, and he is sent to prison.  The government selects him to undergo experimental Pavlovian conditioning that makes him violently ill when he becomes aggressive, then releases him onto the streets as a “reformed” criminal, only to find he is helpless to defend himself when he encounters his vengeful former victims.

Still from A Clockwork Orange (1971)

BACKGROUND:

  • A Clockwork Orange is an adaptation of the critically acclaimed 1962 novel by Anthony Burgess.  Burgess was ultimately unhappy with this treatment of his novel, because in his intended ending for the story, Alex voluntarily reformed.  This final chapter of redemption had been excluded from American prints of the novel—the version Kubrick worked worked from—at the request of the American publisher.  Kubrick’s version ends with evil triumphant.  Although Kubrick had not read the final chapter of the novel before beginning the film, he later stated in interviews that he would not have included the happy ending anyway because he thought it rang false.
  • The title—which is not explained in the movie, only glimpsed briefly as a line of text on a typewritten page—comes from an expression Burgess overheard in a bar, “as queer as a clockwork orange.”
  • Burgess created the elaborate fictional jargon Alex uses by mixing elements of Russian and Slavic languages with Cockney slang.  Much of his original dialogue found its way into the movie.
  • A Clockwork Orange was Stanley Kubrick’s next project after his previous weird masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).  It was also young star Malcolm McDowell’s first feature role after starring in a 1968 weird film, Lindsay Anderson’s If…
  • A Clockwork Orange was the first movie to use Dolby sound.
  • The movie was released in the United States with an “X” rating, and was later cut slightly and re-released in 1973 with an “R” rating.
  • The film was blamed for several copycat crimes in Britain and Europe, notably, a gang rape in which the rapists sang “Singin’ in the Rain” during the assualt.  Kubrick, an American who lived in the United Kingdom, was also reportedly stalked by some deranged fans of the film.  For these reasons, Kubrick withdrew A Clockwork Orange from distribution in Britain, both from live screenings and on video.  The self-imposed ban lasted until Kubrick’s death.

INDELIBLE IMAGEA Clockwork Orange filled with as many iconic images as any film of the last fifty years.  Scenes like the one where Alex and his costumed droogs walk cockily through a deserted city in slow motion have consciously or unconsciously been copied many times (compare the similar slo-mo shot of the uniformed gangsters emerging from their breakfast meeting in Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs).  Probably the most instantly recognizable image is the opening closeup of Alex’s sneering face, wearing a huge false eyelash one one eye only.  I selected another memorable Malcolm McDowell closeup, the one of Alex as he’s undergoing the Ludovico technique, with wires and transistors attached to his head and metal clamps forcibly holding his eyes open so he cannot look away from the violent images on the screen, because it works as a perfect ironic metaphor for a film we cannot tear our eyes away from.

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD:  Although the plot is simple, and realistic in its own speculative

Original trailer for A Clockwork Orange

way, Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange is so hyper-stylized with its bizarre poetic language, sets, costumes, music, broadly exaggerated performances, and the improbable karmic symmetry of the plot that it seems to take place in a dream world or a subconscious realm.  The action, which takes the form of an ambiguous moral fable, occurs in an urban landscape that’s familiar, but fabulously twisted just beyond our expectations.

COMMENTSA Clockwork Orange did not have to be weird.  The story could have been Continue reading 30. A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971)

CAPSULE: CREATURE FROM THE HAUNTED SEA (1961)

Beware

DIRECTED BY: Roger Corman

FEATURING: Robert Towne (as Edward Wain), Antony Carbone, Betsy Jones-Moreland

PLOT:  Opposed by incompetent spy Sparks Moran, a shady American expatriate and his

Still from Creature from the Haunted Sea (1961)

gang of crooks try to cheat General Tostada and his crew out of gold they are smuggling out of post-revolutionary Cuba by pretending a sea monster is on the loose.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LISTCreature from the Haunted Sea is a strange little comedy indeed, one that feels improvised, even experimental at times.  Unfortunately, although there’s nothing else quite like it, after watching it for a few minutes you will understand why there’s nothing else like it.  It’s not funny, or meaningfully entertaining on any level; the only draw is to be awestruck by how utterly a movie can fail.  The movie has a few lukewarm fans, but basically, this is among the worst of the worst, something you should only watch on a dare.

COMMENTS:  Anyone renting Creature from the Haunted Sea thinking that it’s going to be a terrible monster flick may be surprised to find themselves watching what appears to be a terrible spy movie, until it dawns on them that they’re actually watching a terrible comedy.  Creature features a senseless, slow moving, confusing plot; confusing, because every time the action lags, the script introduces us to another “wacky” character to take up the slack.  We get General Tostada (groan); the henchman who speaks in dubbed-in animal noises (monkey cackles or elephant trumpets, as the mood strikes him); his dream girl, a hefty matron with a similar mode of communication; Roger Corman in sunglasses grinning like an idiot for no reason; an unexplained man in a suit on a desert island who feels the need to step in every tide pool along the beach; Carmelita, the senorita love-interest who arrives from out of nowhere; and Mango, the island girl who takes up with “weird strangers” as a “come-on for tourists” so her mom can sell them “coconut hats.”  Gags include Sparks being forced to eat a transmitter disguised as a sandwich and the slightly amusing theme song (a torch song that throws in the improbable non sequitur “…and the creature from the haunted sea.”) Humor is subjective, so you very well might find the silly absurdity of it reasonably entertaining; you’ll just be in a very small minority if you do.  The highlight, and the main thing most viewers remember, is the utterly ridiculous sea monster with the ping-pong ball eyes, who only appears on screen for a few seconds at a time.  Some feature movies would have worked better as shorts; this one would have worked better as a still.

The abject failure of Creature to amuse is all the more shocking since it came from the pen of Charles B. Griffith, the Corman collaborator responsible for several smartly scripted minor classics: A Bucket of Blood (1959), The Little Shop of Horrors (1960), and Death Race 2000 (1975).  In true Corman cheapie fashion, this script is a recycled comic treatment of an earlier Corman production, Beast from the Haunted Cave, and was written in three days and filmed in five.  It was shot together with two other forgettable movies made in Puerto Rico for tax reasons.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…the script is an unfocused mess; it’s poorly paced and structured, suffers badly from its low budget, and often ends up being just weird rather than funny.”–Dave Sindelar, Fantastic Movie Musings & Ramblings

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