DEADLY WEAPONS (1973)/DOUBLE AGENT 73 (1974)

‘s Deadly Weapons (1973) and Double Agent 73 (1974), both starring 73FF(!)-32-36 Chesty Morgan, makes for a bizarre double feature, and a bizarre Something Weird Blu-ray release. This set (entitled “Chesty Morgan’s Bosom Buddies”) also includes a third feature The Immoral Three (1975), which does not include Morgan (who had, remarkably, taken the star bit between her teeth and was promptly sacked by Wishman). We focus on the first two features starring Chesty.

 had the incomparable Divine. Wishman had the incomparable Chesty Morgan. The big difference is that Divine could actually act. Morgan, an exploitation freak of nature, was the energizer bunny rabbit to Wishman’s directorial enthusiasm.

Wishman’s influence on John Waters cannot be underestimated. Her films are a visual smorgasbord of bad taste with attentive detail. Wishman’s nonsensical lens focus is so mercurial it brings to mind ‘s frozen camera in Three’s A Crowd (1927). Repeated, dumbfounded concentration on queer inanimate objects disrupts the narrative flow and coats Wishman’s films in loving disjointedness. Cut-away shots of hedges, a repellently hued yellow-ochre telephone, the most beautifully ghastly wallpaper ever captured on celluloid, and nonsensical extreme close-ups of Morgan’s 73-inch fleshbags creates a visually surreal train wreck of a movie.

Morgan’s voice is dubbed in both films. Apparently, her polish accent was so thick as to be indecipherable. Unfortunately, her acting range is nowhere near as mammoth as her breasts. Morgan begins with leathery boredom and ends with celluloid sleep walking. Now, dress this big breasted zombie up in bad wigs and garish clothing to enact a zany plot!

Well, yes, there is a plot of sorts to Deadly Weapons. It has something to do with Morgan as an office manager (!) wearing 8-inch platform heels and a blouse at least two sizes too small. She has a Continue reading DEADLY WEAPONS (1973)/DOUBLE AGENT 73 (1974)

121. 8 1/2 (1963)

AKA Otto e Mezzo; Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2

CLAUDIA: Let’s leave this place. It makes me uneasy. It doesn’t seem real.

GUIDO: I really like it. Isn’t that odd?

Must See

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: , , Sandra Milo, Claudia Cardinale, , Edra Gale

PLOT: Full of doubts and very near to suffering a breakdown from stress, a director is planning to make his next movie, never making much progress. The story is continuously interrupted by flashbacks to his boyhood and dream sequences, including one where he imagines all the women in his life living together in a harem. The production is complicated further by the arrival of his wife on the set, who is humiliated to find that his mistress is also there.

Still from 8 1/2 (1963)

BACKGROUND:

  • By Fellini’s count, this was the 8 1/2th film he directed (counting shorts and co-directing gigs as 1/2 of a movie each).
  • This was Fellini’s first feature after the incredible international success of La Dolce Vita (1960). In the movie, Fellini’s alter ego Guido has just come off of a great success, and everyone around him is expecting him to produce another masterpiece.
  • After making La Dolce Vita and before 8 1/2, Fellini became involved in Jungian psychoanalysis and started keeping a dream diary.
  • 8 1/2 won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 1964. It played out of competition at Cannes, because the Italians split up their two 1963 prestige pictures, 8 1/2 and Luchino Visconti’s The Leopard, between Cannes and the Moscow Film Festival (a successful strategy, as Visconti took Cannes and Fellini Moscow). 8 1/2 has since far surpassed its companion and become a staple of “best movies of all time” lists. It ranked #9 on the 2002 version of Sight & Sound’s critic’s poll of the greatest movies ever made, and #3 on the director’s poll.
  • The “dance” ending was originally intended as a promotional trailer, but Fellini decided he liked the optimistic tone of this sequence better than the dark ending he had originally planned.
  • Unaccountably, this intellectual meditation on artistic doubt was adapted as a Broadway musical (!) called “Nine,” which was then made into a mediocre Hollywood musical.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: It is with great reluctance that I select the image of Marcello Mastroianni flown like a kite above the beach as 8 1/2‘s representative image; not because it isn’t a fascinating and beautiful invention, but because I have to pass on so many other worthy candidates. In particular, I would have loved to pick a shot of Guido with a whip trying in vain to tame the women in the harem of his mind; but that ten minute sequence flows so beautifully and seamlessly from polygamous bliss to infantilism to feminist rebellion that it unfortunately can’t be summed up in a single still.

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Watching 8 1/2 is like being dropped inside Federico Fellini’s brain and wandering around inside its convoluted folds. As self-centered stream-of-consciousness filmmaking, this wonderfully masturbatory masterpiece has never been equaled. The film flows smoothly from anxiety-ridden nightmares to wish-fulfillment daydreams to some state we could safely call “reality” (although some new magic is always creeping up on even the most mundane moments of Guido’s confused existence).


Opening scene from 8 1/2

 

COMMENTS: Expressing my disappointment with the middelbrow conventionality of 2009’s Continue reading 121. 8 1/2 (1963)

RECOMMENDED AS WEIRD: ENTER NOWHERE (2011)

DIRECTED BY: Jack Heller

FEATURING: Scott Eastwood, Katherine Waterston, Shaun Sipos, Christopher Denham, Leigh Lezark, Jesse Perez

PLOT:  In an isolated cabin, four strangers’ fates depend upon whether or not they can solve a

Still from Enter Nowhere (2011)

bizarre conundrum.

WHY IT SHOULD MAKE THE LIST: Enter Nowhere is not a bizarre movie; it is conventionally filmed and professionally shot within its adequate budget. Solid acting and appropriate camera work combined with good production values keep it out of the homemade and campy categories. It’s Enter Nowhere‘s plot that makes for a weird viewing experience. It is a genuine puzzler. The movie’s imaginative and unusual, logic-defying story as well as its constant, unexpected twists and turns keep the viewer off balance and disoriented, while riveted to the screen through the very end.

COMMENTS: Once again, Lion’s Gate has saved the day by picking up a high quality, independent effort for mainstream distribution. This time, it’s a small budget film shot on Long Island with Sarah Paxton, Scott Eastwood, and Katherine Waterston. The solid performances and clever plot fully warrant Lion’s Gate’s backing.

When three strangers with wildly varying backgrounds find themselves stranded at a shanty in the woods, they assume the others’ presence is coincidental.  But as a series of disturbing evens unfolds, it gradually becomes apparent that there is some sort of morbid, horrifying design to the situation. Worse, the travelers can’t seem to leave or even agree on basic facts. Journeying in circles, unable to find geographic landmarks twice in a row, and enduring extremes in weather and temperature, the trio is running out of food, water, time, and ideas for extracting themselves from their predicament. Until a fourth participant discovers the cabin, that is; and he has an agenda that is, at best, unsavory.

A psychological thriller taking place in one location and focusing on dialogue over action, Enter Nowhere is tense and engrossing. The cabin and the surrounding woods are creepy, ala The Evil Dead, and the plot steadily mounts a foreboding aura of dread and inevitable doom. The fun of puzzlers such as Enter Nowhere is trying to figure out what’s happening, and we do so in real time, along with central characters who don’t know anything more than we do about the situation.

I know what you’re thinking. Enter Nowhere is another Saw, or maybe one of endless variations on “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” like Jacob’s Ladder or Dead And Buried. Wrong! Every time you think you’ve figured out the riddle and solution, Enter Nowhere contorts and twists again, heading off in an unexpected direction. The story is fresh and completely unpredictable.

Enter Nowhere was shot on a small budget, but is professionally filmed and edited, with solid acting.  It is a modest budget production, but not a low budget movie. Enter Nowhere is one of the most cleverly constructed puzzlers I’ve seen yet, and it not only held my attention, but had me tearing the threads out of my seat cushion in nervousness and consternation.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

 “Playing like a combination of Back to the Future, Jacob’s Ladder, and Dean Koontz’s Strangers, but not actually resembling any of those titles, Enter Nowhere offers just enough originality to make it worth recommending.”–Mike Long, DVD Sleuth

CAPSULE: TWO TONS OF TURQUOISE TO TAOS TONIGHT (1975)

AKA Moment to Moment; Two Tons of Turquoise to Taos; Jive

BewareWeirdest!

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: Elsie Downey

PLOT: None, although certain strands (such as the idea that someone has been hired to convey

Still from Two Tons of Turquoise to Taos Tonight (1975)

two tons of turquoise to Taos tonight) recur throughout this series of brief sketches.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: It’s actually too far out, man; it’s almost an hour of nonsense, but too randomly assembled to be any fun. The individual sketches aren’t carefully composed beforehand and they aren’t allowed to play out to their full potential, resulting in comedy that’s juvenile and ridiculous rather than cleverly absurd.

COMMENTS: If Robert Downey Sr. were James Joyce, then Two Tons of Turquoise to Taos Tonight would be his Finnegan’s Wake; the point where he took what had been fertile boundary-pushing experimentation beyond the limits of the audience’s tolerance, and ended up producing something so obscure and esoteric that it was of interest only to the author himself. It’s clear enough what he intended to do: make a movie with no beginning or end, one that existed only “moment to moment” (the film’s original title). The problem is that the individual moments aren’t very good and don’t link up to anything universal; there are too many sections of the film that are just montages of Elsie Downey wearing different outfits, or Downey family home movies that have been spliced into the film at random points. As for the individual bits, there are far too many moments when the actors look like they’re improvising while high as a kite, working without a plan and assuming everything they’re doing is hilarious. An example is the frankfurter scene, where a man and woman are sleeping on a park bench and the fella asks her to fetch him a frankfurter. He repeats the request over and over until she finally leaves the bench, then a couple of youngsters walk over—one of whom can’t say anything but “ri-ight…”—and strike up a nonsense conversation with the bum. The woman comes back sans hot dog and the man asks where his food is; the woman answers, “you’re lucky I got up at all.” Hilarious, right? Well, if you don’t like that one, at least there will be another gag in thirty seconds; the problem is it’s not likely to be any more amusing or interesting than the last bit. There are a few brief moments that shine through the general avant-garde dreck: a game of baseball played by men on horseback, a woman who donates her panties to a hungry man, and conventionally funny exchanges like the man who proclaims “I have a brain tumor,” to which his companion responds “It’s all in your head.” But, after watching a scene where a woman with an eyepatch and a cowboy snort cocaine and giggle inanely at each other’s babbling monologues, you might assume that large parts of this mess are just too autobiographical for comfort. Downey Sr.’s best work came when he had a clearly stated central theme (advertising in Putney Swope, religion in Greaser’s Palace) which he could play off of with his improvisatory absurdist riffs. Set him loose without any sort of structure and he’s like a bebop musician who just assumes that if he ignores the melody he can play the greatest, most out-there free jazz you ever heard. The result may be beautiful to his ears, but most folks will only hear a noise that sounds like a cat with a kazoo taped over his mouth and his tail caught in a blender.

Some of the dozens of investors who put up money to fund Downey’s mad vision and may have later regretted it included Hal Ashby, Norman Lear and Jack Nicholson. Taos was, essentially, Downey’s last experimental film venture; in the 1980s and 90s he would sell out, only to direct some horrible Hollywood flops (like the Mad magazine financed fiasco Up the Academy). Despite the fact that his wife Elsie Downey is featured in almost every scene, and the film basically plays like a love letter to her, the couple divorced the year this was released. Taos was screened at underground venues but understandably never got any real distribution; Downey has continued to tinker with the editing through the years. The version offered on Eclipse’s “Up All Night with Robert Downey Sr.” disc is a recent re-edit that cuts 20 minutes off the running time (it’s still too long).

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…taps the same welcomed vein of indulgent weirdo gags found in Soderbergh’s ‘Schizopolis’ or Rafelson’s ‘Head’…”–Aaron Hillis, IFC (DVD)

WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE

First off, if you haven’t already, go vote in the Reader’s Choice Poll to place two movies on the List of 366. Currently, in Group A (recent movies) The American Astronaut leads two-time runner-up Adaptation 15 votes to 10; at the time of this writing Group B is a neck and neck contest between Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels and David Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers. In the “rescue” category the sci-fi classic La Jetée is leaving the competition in the dust (I guess readers found this admittedly excellent mind-bender far weirder than we did). It’s always fun and useful for us to see where reader’s tastes lie, so let your vote be heard! The polls stay open for more than a week, so there’s still plenty of time to influence the results.

As far as what’s coming next week, you can look forward to us finishing up our coverage of Eclipse’s “Up All Night with ” box set with a review of Two Tons of Turquoise to Taos Tonight, maybe the underground auteur/megastar sire’s weirdest (which is not to say his best) work. We’ll also give you our recommendation on the indie mindbender Enter Nowhere, dig into the reader-suggested review queue for a look at an obscure little movie by called 8 1/2, and bring you even more sleaze from the nearly-erotic world of . From the ridiculous to the sublime and back again, it’s all in a week’s work here at 366 Weird Movies.

This week, our Weirdest Search Term contest has a definite theme, and a moral: you should be more careful composing your Google searches, because you never know who’s out there watching, waiting to mock your accidentally bizarre wording. We begin with “french movie taking thong off billiard,” which conjures an odd mental picture. It’s not as weird, however, as the search for “porno movie lesbo women undergoing clothing”: we never realized that getting dressed was such an ordeal for lesbians. And we have to wonder if “a man dresses as woman and kills film” was actually a too-clever method of searching for this guy. But, for our official Weirdest Search Term of the Week we turn to “film where midgets eating humans,” simply because it implies the searcher believes that midgets are not human.

Here’s how the ridiculously-long-and-ever-growing reader-suggested review queue stands: 8 1/2 (next week!); The Hour-glass Sanatorium [Saanatorium pod klepsidra] (out of print in Region 1, but we’ll keep looking); Liquid Sky (re-review); “Twin Peaks” (TV series); Society; May; Little Continue reading WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE

WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 7/27/2012

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 THEATERS (LIMITED RELEASE):

Convento: Documentary about a family of bohemian artists living in an abandoned Portuguese monastery, focusing on the son who builds robots with animal skull heads. The Dallas Morning News called it “lightly surrealist.” Convento official (?) blog.

Iron Sky: Nazis from the moon invade Earth. The early buzz was sky-high thanks to the nutty premise and an effective trailer, but after some early sightings of the space-fascists, people lost interest as the invasion grew nearer. Iron Sky official site.

IN DEVELOPMENT:

Old Boy (est. 2013): We immediately started grimacing when we heard that dark and strange cult classic about a man inexplicably imprisoned for years, then just as inexplicably released to seek vengeance on his unknown captor, was getting an American remake. Spike Lee is a curious choice for director, but they could have done worse, to be sure: at one point Stephen Spielberg was rumored to be a candidate, with Will Smith (!) set to star. It appears Josh Brolin will take the lead now, with Elisabeth Olsen as the love interest and Sharlto Copley as the villain. Speaking of Copley, his recent interview suggests, as expected, that they will be taking the movie in the wrong direction: he says the impetus is to make “such an unbelievable story accessible to maybe more people than it was originally.” Oldboy + accessible = disaster in the making; hopefully he’s just speaking off-the-cuff without thinking it through. Here’s the brief Sharlto Copley interview with MTV.

NEW ON DVD:

La Ardilla Roja (The Red Squirrel) (1993): A suicidal man finds a purpose in life when he pretends to be the boyfriend of a beautiful woman with amnesia in this enigmatic erotic drama. Director Julio Medem went on to make the scandalous metanarrative feature Sex and Lucia with the delicious Paz Vega. Buy La Ardilla Roja (The Red Squirrel).

Bathory: Countess of Blood (2008): This fictionalized biopic of the notorious Countess, who was rumored to bathe in virgins’ blood to preserve her youth, was adapted into a long feature from a Slovakian miniseries. It apparently has some dream sequences and features Anna Friel naked. Bathory, who was possibly one of the greatest serial killers in history and was possibly an innocent victim of a politically motivated frame-up, is an eternally fascinating figure and the primeval source of the lesbian vampire archetype. Buy Bathory: Countess of Blood.

The Corridor (2010): Partying teens encounter a corridor of light in the woods that turns them into maniacs. The boxcover suggests a mixture of Stephen King and Donnie Darko, and some internet reviewers suggest the plot is confusing to the point of indecipherability. Buy The Corridor.

Institute Benjamenta, or This Dream People Call Human Life (1995): The first live-action feature by stop-motion animators the Quay brothers is a strange parable about a school for servants where the students repeat the same lesson over and over. This was one of the first films ever mentioned in our “suggest a weird movie” thread, but we passed on it because it wasn’t available on DVD in North America at that time. We always knew it’s Region 1 day would come! Buy Institute Benjamenta, or This Dream People Call Human Life.

The Last of England (1988): From Derek Jarman comes this experimental feature mixing archival footage and home movies to suggest Britain’s decline during the Thatcher era. The film features a small early appearance by Tilda Swinton, who features prominently on the cover of the remastered Lorber edition. Buy The Last of England.

Meeting Evil (2012): Samuel L. Jackson plays a serial killer who sucks an average white male suburbanite into a “surreal, nightmarish murder spree.” Directed by … now where have we heard that name before… oh no, that isn’t promising. Buy Meeting Evil.

The Monitor (2011): Psychological horror about a paranoid, abused woman who picks up what she believes is the sound of a child being murdered on a baby monitor. This dark Norwegian thriller may be receiving extra attention Stateside because it stars Noomi Rapace (the original Girl With the Dragon Tattoo). Buy The Monitor.

Mourning Wood (2010): A pubic shampoo turns the residents of Slutton into “humping zombies.” From an Amazon reviewer (who gave it one star): “What a STRANGE TRIP… Totally bizarre comedy premise… These jokers are hoping you are drunk when renting films or high.” I seriously doubt it can live up to that praise, but we’ll see. Buy Mourning Wood.

NEW ON BLU-RAY:

Dracula vs. Frankenstein (1971): From the “you’re kidding, right”? file comes this “remastered” release of Al Adamson’s incompetent monster mash, starring John Bloom with wads of toilet paper stuck to his face as Frankenstein and “Zandor Vorkov,” sporting a bigger afro than Blacula, as the screen’s least frightening Dracula. Bride of Frankenstein isn’t on Blu-ray, but this is??? Buy Dracula Vs. Frankenstein [Blu-ray].

The Last of England (1988): See description in DVD above. Buy The Last of England [Blu-ray].

FREE (LEGITIMATE RELEASE) MOVIES ON YOUTUBE:

Kung Fu Hustle (2004): Read the Certified Weird entry. The craziest, most crowd-pleasing kung fu comedy ever made, featuring Looney Tunes sequences, harp assassins, martial arts masters in curlers, and an evil Axe gang that performs dance routines. Watch Kung Fu Hustle 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.

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