WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 10/12/12

Our weekly 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 DEVELOPMENT:

I Am Divine (est. 2013): A documentary on the world’s favorite 300-pound copraphagiac transvestite, Harris Glenn Milstead, AKA Divine. With the support of  and $25,000 of the requested $40,000 already pledged on Kickstarter, we suspect that this will get made, but if you’re concerned you may want to kick in a few bucks yourself. I Am Divine Kickstarter page.

Rocks in My Pockets (est. 2013): A feature length animated movie advertised as “a funny film about depression” from protege Signe Baumane. The first trailer is out; apparently animation is complete and the film is going into post-production. Rocks in My Pockets official site.

NEW ON DVD:

Basket Case 3 (1992): In the third installment of the Basket Case series, mutated conjoined twin Belial procreates with another freak and goes on a splatter rampage when his monstrous brood is seized by the local sheriff. 1982’s Basket Case had a subtle black comedy strain but was horror at heart; the sequels became increasingly spoofy, gory, and focused around designing outrageously deformed puppets. Buy Basket Case 3: The Progeny.

Magical Mystery Tour (1967): The Beatles third movie was a one-hour television special that pioneered the idea of surreal music videos, and of taking psychedelic trips in buses. It’s a big year for fans of the Beatles’ weird years, since Yellow Submarine also saw its DVD release in 2012. Buy Magical Mystery Tour.

Prometheus (2012): Read our review. Ridley Scott’s grandiose Alien prequel reaches for the stars. Buy Prometheus.

“Tokyo Vengeance”: Tokyo Shock brings together three splatterpunk “classics”: The Machine Girl (2007), Tokyo Gore Police (2009), and Death Kappa (2010). WARNING: the Amazon page currently says this set takes 4-6 weeks to ship (!) Buy “Tokyo Vengeance”.

NEW ON BLU-RAY:

Magical Mystery Tour (1967): See description in DVD above. Buy Magical Mystery Tour [Blu-ray].

FREE (LEGITIMATE RELEASE) MOVIES ON YOUTUBE:

Superstarlet A.D. (2000): In a post-apocalyptic world where sexy girl gangs are segregated according to hair color, one starlet searches for her grandmother’s lost stag film. Thanks distribution by , this is probably John Michael McCarthy’s best known work; his unique, self-aware sexplotiation movies are like a mix of Russ Meyer, and David Lynch. Watch Superstarlet A.D. free on YouTube.

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.

JACQUES TOURNEUR’S CAT PEOPLE (1942)

RKO Studios, grumbling over their great misfortune with and Citizen Kane (1941), hired  to produce nine low budget horror films. The executives handed Lewton a list of idiotic titles and told him to make some “horror pitchers” that could make money. The RKO execs were looking and hoping for a cheap hack in Lewton. What they got instead was an erudite artist. Numerous directors have imprinted their body of work with their own personality. Few producers have. Val Lewton, did and he began with a film which highlighted two of his own phobias: cats and the fear of being touched.

Cat People (1941) is the first and probably best of Lewton’s nine RKO films. It was directed by. Tourneur’s entries undeniably stand out among the Lewton series, much like Terence Fisher‘s films did with Hammer Films. For the starring role of Irena, Lewton and Tourneur chose the diminutive beauty and temperamental imported French actress . Simon found Hollywood distasteful, and she remained a perennial outsider.

Simon was the perfect choice for Irena. Much Freudian babble has been written about the film, usually focusing on the fear of sex. Undoubtedly, that is an element in Cat People (one that was vapidly intensified in ‘s 1982 glossy MTV-styled remake). However, Irena’s brooding complexity, amidst a world of two-dimensional bores, is the driving impetus. Predictably, the dullards demonize Irena.

Still from Cat People (1942)Her husband, Oliver (Kent Smith) is the worst of the lot: banal, hopelessly bourgeois, unimaginative, and attached to hyper-realism: the impotence is on his part, not Irena’s. Oliver can only wither in the company of such fiery intricacy.

Irena’s psychiatrist, Dr. Judd (Tom Conway) tries to convince her that her world is a hopeless fantasy and that she merely needs a real man to show her the light. Irena’s response is to dim her countenance, brandish her claws, and catapult the condescending idiot into oblivion. Good for her.

If only she could have dispatched Oliver in a similar fashion. Marrying the vacuous, phony puritan Continue reading JACQUES TOURNEUR’S CAT PEOPLE (1942)

127. INSTITUTE BENJAMENTA, OR THIS DREAM PEOPLE CALL HUMAN LIFE (1995)

AKA Institute Benjamenta, or This Dream One Calls Human Life

Recommended

“We wanted to give both the banal side of being a student and the magical side of passing through a blackboard. So you have extremes from the banality to the imaginary, and that was part of the voyage that we created in this film.”–The Quay brothers on Institute Benjamenta

DIRECTED BY: Stephen Quay, Timothy Quay

FEATURING: Marc Rylance, ,

PLOT: Having no ambition in life, Jakob applies to a school that trains men to be servants, run by a brother and sister with the surname Benjamenta. Although Jakob fails to fit in well at the institute, pleading for his own room and quarreling with another student, both headmaster Herr Benjamenta and Lisa, the instructor, take a personal interest in him. Eventually Jakob develops an ambiguously sexual relationship with Lisa, and his presence changes the Institute in ways imperceptible to outsiders.

Still from Institute Benjamenta (1995)

BACKGROUND:

  • The Quay brothers, identical twins, began their filmmaking career as successful surrealist stop motion animators, following in the footsteps of their confessed idol Jan Svankmajer. Institute Benjamenta was both their first feature length film and their first movie to use live actors.
  • The Quays were born in the United States but after studying at the Royal College of Art and developing a working relationship with Channel Four, who commissioned their seminal early short films, they are now based in London.
  • The story was loosely based on the 1919 novella Jakob von Gunten by Swiss writer Robert Walser. Three of the Quay’s previous shorts were also based on Walser stories.
  • The Quays asked composer Lech Jankowski to create the score for the movie first, then shot the scenes of the film to fit the existing music.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: A bullet’s slow-motion journey through a forest, clipping the bark off an oak and passing through a pine cone, alternated with shots of Alice Krige’s stockinged feet.

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Come, let the servant monkey enroll you in the school of abnegation. Make your way to the hidden chamber and discover the goldfish at its heart. The Institute’s secret lessons are unlearnable by those trapped outside of its dream walls.


Original trailer for Institute Benjamenta

COMMENTS: Institute Benjamenta begins with a German woman intoning a series of Continue reading 127. INSTITUTE BENJAMENTA, OR THIS DREAM PEOPLE CALL HUMAN LIFE (1995)

CAPSULE: THE TEMPEST (1979)

Recommended

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: Heathcote Williams, Toyah Willcox, Jack Birkett

PLOT: Prospero, a magician and the rightful Duke of Milan, conjures up a tempest to shipwreck

Still from The Tempest (1979)

his usurper on the remote island where his lives with his virgin daughter and the magical creatures he’s enslaved.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Shaking up Shakespeare with a storm of weirdness, Derek Jarman’s The Tempest is an interpretation of the Bard’s final play featuring bizarre costumes, ample nudity, and an out-of-place, out-of-time closing song and dance number. The main argument against it making the List, however, is that this isn’t the weirdest—or even the nudest—adaptation of “The Tempest.”

COMMENTS: “This is as strange a thing as ever I looked on,” says seaman Alonso when he first discovers Caliban. Although Derek Jarman’s wild interpretation of The Tempest may not be quite the strangest thing you’ve ever seen, if you went into it expecting to see a dry Masterpiece Theater-style rendition of Shakespeare’s most fanciful play, you’d likely be shocked. Jarman keeps Shakespeare’s text intact (although it’s truncated for running time), but slowly teases out the hallucinatory elements in the magical story. The movie is set almost entirely in a dusty, abandoned English manner illuminated by candlelight. The early reels court a Gothic horror feel, with the spirit Ariel’s first appearance presaged by poltergeists rattling chandeliers and dramatic flashes of lighting. The makeup and costuming, beginning with Toyah Willcox’ unruly braids cut to uneven lengths and decorated with hanging beads, starts strange and gets ever stranger as the film approaches its baroque climax. The frequent nudity, although always tasteful and rendered with a classical sense of composition, is continually surprising. It’s difficult to imagine in 2012 how shocking the male full-frontals must have seemed in 1979, but the flashback to the obese witch Sycorax breastfeeding her adult son Caliban still delivers a jolt today. More weirdness results from the late appearance of bizarrely costumed carnival dwarfs (some in drag) as fairy spirits of the magical isle, as the movie builds towards its extravagant wedding climax. In this notorious ceremony, a dozen sailors in starched white suits appear from nowhere to perform a style production number, and jazz singer Elisabeth Welch appears in a downpour of flower petals wearing a glittery showgirl headdress to croon the blues number “Stormy Weather.” Although the song title reflects the play title, this mournful tune about lost love is not the ditty most brides want to hear at their wedding reception. The performances in The Tempest are merely adequate. Pop singer Willcox makes for a endearingly sexy Miranda. Jack Birkett’s bald, raw-egg eating Caliban has been criticized as overly grotesque—indeed, at times he comes off like he’s playing Igor in a Frankenstein film—but compared to Heathcote Williams’ bland (and too young) Prospero, he’s a delight. This is not an actor-centered production, and none of the performers threaten to upstage the lush production design and Jarman’s florid imagination. The Tempest may not be as kinky and outlandish as Tromeo and Juliet, but if conventional Shakespeare doesn’t have enough kick for you, this bizarre variation might just be the answer to your Bard blues.

Many critics reflexively describe The Tempest as “homoerotic” because of Jarman’s openly gay lifestyle and past films, but the nudity here is non-sexual, there are as many females as males disrobed in the film, and there are no textual or subtextual homosexual relationships (unless you really stretch things looking for an unrequited Ariel-Prospero passion). This is, demonstrably, Shakespeare’s “strangest” play: the word “strange” appears in The Tempest at least nineteen times, more than in any of his other works.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

 “…a most bizarre version of Shakespeare–one that’s not for all tastes…”–Dennis Schwartz, Ozus’ World Movie Reviews (Blu-ray)

MANTUA (2012)

DIRECTED BY: Jorge Delarosa, Wyl Price, Jim Johnson

FEATURING: Mike Akers, Hank Fiorini, Susan Martin, Lauren Ashley Carter

PLOT: FBI agent Stephanie Bellman—a man, by the way, and a sex addict—investigates some

Still from Mantua (2012)

very strange goings on in the sleepy burg of Mantua, Ohio, all of which seem to involve “The Organic Ones,” a murderous cult who are “harvesting” the earth’s “weeds,” i.e. the undesirable people polluting the planet.

COMMENTS: Mantua is the brainchild of the artist collective The Slow Mutants, based in NE Ohio. Comprised of 3 short films Black,” “Green,” and “Red,” with connective tissue added, the movie is fitfully entertaining in spots but the execution is just too amateurish to fully recommend. Which is too bad, because there’s just enough here to prove that there is some talent involved. The story suggests a variation on “Twin Peaks,” but even more tweaked and off-center. It’s not boring, and that’s the film’s biggest strength. What tries one’s patience, however, is the level of the performances and the backyard quality of the production which sandbag the ambitiousness of the project.

It’s not without merit—there’s no ineptness on display here. In my opinion, it’s more a matter of the filmmakers having bitten off more than they could chew at the time. As their craft improves, the final results will too—hopefully. In fact, I’d like to see them reboot this after they get a few more projects under their belts. Until that time, if you can sit through a comedic “Twin Peaks” variation with public access TV production values, give Mantua a try. But first, you might want to take a look at their upcoming punk rock documentary Gangrene, for some perspective.

Copies may be ordered via e-mail from the Slow Mutants Home Page.

WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE

Less than three months to go in the year, and we’re already focused on getting 2012 releases out of the way by year’s end. That doesn’t mean we’ll only be covering new movies, though, as the past year has brought us a wonderful bounty of important re-releases, Blu-ray upgrades and special editions to look at. We’ll start out next week with Mantua (2012) a 366 Underground entry that you just know is weird because it comes from a group that calls themselves The Slow Mutants. We’ll also consider Derek Jarman’s recently Blu-rayed adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest (1979)—it’s got a torch singer crooning a jazz standard while a gang of sailors on leave perform a dance number, and yet it may not be the weirdest version of the Bard’s final fantasy on film. On Wednesday comes another re-release, which also happens to be a long-time resident of our reader-review queue—the Quay brothers beautifully black and white first feature Insititute Benjamenta (1995), a surreal melodrama set in a school for servants with a pronounced Guy Maddin feel. And although it’s not a new release, Alfred gets into the Halloween spirit by kicking off his October coverage of the “quiet horrors” of producer Val Lewton with the classic tale of sexual repression, Cat People (1942).

You like weird search terms? We’ve get the weirdest search terms! After all, where else but 366 Weird Movies would someone go looking for information on “chinese movie dog nuts”? From the “so you think Google actually reads your search terms personally, do you?” files comes the bizarre search for “pirates.movie.is this movie a porn movie,if so than may u snd me some pictures please.” Speaking of movies that may be porn movies (though don’t snd us any pictures please), we couldn’t pass on mentioning the quaintly twisted “midget teen got the cane.” That weird fetishistic search leads us directly to our official Weirdest Search Term of the Week: “teen weired unwiered tubes.” We can understand people looking for teen weired tubes, but it’s the concomitant and apparently contradictory search for teen unwiered tubes that catapults this one to our Weirdest Search Term of the Week.

Here’s how the ridiculously-long reader-suggested review queue stands: Institute Benjamenta, or This Dream People Call Human Life (next week!); The Hour-glass Sanatorium [Saanatorium pod klepsidra]; Liquid Sky (re-review); Society; Final Programme; “Foutaises”; Bloodsucking Freaks; Continue reading WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE

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