Are you excited about March Madness yet? No? Well, how about March Mad Movie Madness, our first weird movie elimination tournament, which we’ll be debuting next week? Ah, now your ears are perking up! We’ll add to that exciting, interactive space-filler with reviews of Modus Operandi, the only surrealist exploitation-throwback movie about a search for CIA briefcases made in Milwaukee in 2009, and Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001), our favorite film about punk rock singers who survive botched sex change operations. In honor of the recent Blu-ray release of Plan 9 from Outer Space, we’ll also throw in a survey of the career of everyone’s favorite alcoholic transvestite director, Ed Wood Jr. It’s transvestites, transsexuals, tournaments and the cinema of Milwaukee all next week at 366 Weird Movies!
If you weren’t yet convinced that 366 readers love boobs, this series of entries in our Weirdest Search Term of the Week contest might swing your opinion: “walker texas ranger alex gets her boob licked movie,” “a movie which narrates about boobs theft,” and “a boy rubbered a girls boob in movie.” And while we can understand that obsession, certain search terms continue to confuse the hell out of us—our next entry, “turky raped sexy rice,” is a prime example. Still, it’s the following unsolicited Google confession that wins our Weirdest Search Term of the Week contest: “i dreamed about 8 unknown couples and 15 unknown school children sleeping eating drinking by boader residing at grans house.” Maybe that’s not that bizarre a subject to search the Internet for, but what makes it weird is that we had exactly the same dream last night. Is this some kind of The Rapture end-of-the-world kind of thing?
Here’s how the massive-and-ever-growing reader-suggested review queue is looking these days: Hedwig and the Angry Inch (next week!); Even Dwarves Started Small; “My Wrongs 8245-8249 and 117″; Freaked; Strings; Dellamorte Dellamore [AKA Cemetery Man]; The Hour-glass Continue reading WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE→
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):
Attenberg (2010): An awkward and alienated young woman who studies humanity through mammal documentaries learns about sex from her only friend. Part of the New Weird Greek cinema, it’s in our reader-suggested review queue; we will be all over this one when it comes out on DVD, if not before. Attenberg official site.
The Ballad Of Genesis And Lady Jaye (2011): Documentary on artist-musician Genesis P-Orridge (of Throbbing Gristle) and the series of cosmetic surgeries he and his lover Lady Jaye undertook to look like each other. A weird guy and a weird subject, for sure. Opening at Chelsea Cinemas in Long Island, new York, future screenings doubtful. The Ballad Of Genesis And Lady Jaye official site.
Dissolution (2010): Set in Israel, based on “Crime and Punishment,” and described in the press release as an “almost surreal fairy-tale.” Why “almost” surreal? That almost scares us off. Dissolution official Facebook page.
Sound of Noise (2010): A music hating cop tries to silence a band of avant-garde percussionists who are planning to stage a performance art symphony in the public spaces of Stockholm in this quirky Swedish satire. It’s won a few awards on the festival circuit and is often described as “absurd.” Sound of Noise official Facebook page.
FILM FESTIVALS: SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST (SXSW) (Austin, TX, Mar. 9-17)
If you can’t get your indie film into Sundance, the massive SXSW festival in Austin, Texas has become your next best bet. Like just about every other major festival, they’ve recently added a “Midnight Movie” category to the lineup. Here’s some of the weirder stuff playing there (some are debuts, some have been seen before):
Beast – A man’s obsessive love for his pretty but unfaithful wife causes him to physically transform and develop cannibalistic urges in this surreal-sounding Danish drama/horror. Screening Mar. 11-12, 14, 17.
Citadel – An agoraphobic widower is attacked by feral children seeking to take his baby daughter; to stop them he must enter a deserted tenement building nicknamed “The Citadel” with the help of a vigilante priest. In the “Midnighters” category, playing Mar. 11-13 and again on the 15th.
Girls Against Boys – Psychological thriller about two female bartenders who embark on a killing spree. A midnight feature screening Mar 9-10, 13-14.
Her Master’s Voice – This strikes us as an odd documentary subject: a British ventriloquist takes the dummy of her dead mentor to “Venthaven,” a “graveyard for puppets of dead ventriloquists” in Kentucky. Mar 11-12, 14.
Iron Sky – Nazis who fled to the moon are planning an invasion of Earth in 2018. This steampunk spoof has some actual buzz around it. Mar 10-11, 14.
John Dies in the End – Cult director Don Coscarelli adapts a popular webseries about two losers saving the world from a psychedelic drug being used by aliens to take over the planet. A “midnigter” for sure and one of our more anticipated 2012 releases. Mar 12 & 15.
Keyhole – The latest Guy Maddin film (it’s a talkie this time) stars Jason Patric as Ulysses, a gangster on the run, journeying through his labyrinthine house trying to find his wife (Isabella Rossellini). The U.S. premier of this long-awaited (by us) feature. Debuting March 11 with more screenings Mar 14 & 17.
Nature Calls – A scoutmaster convinces his millionaire brother’s adopted kid to sneak off on a camping trip, prompting dad to go on a woodsy expedition to find him. There’s no reviews or even a trailer for this debuting film from Todd Rohal, but the presence of Patton Oswalt and Johnny Knoxville as the headliners leads us to believe this is a move towards the mainstream from the director who has heretofore specialized in singularly odd comedies. Mar. 11 & 16.
Pavilion – A 15-year old boy moves to Arizona to live with his father; it’s self-described as “ethereal” and promises an obscure, impressionistic experience of troubled youth. Mar 10, 12, 14.
V/H/S – A horror anthology wherein burglars are hired to break in to a home to steal a rare VHS tape, but find that every cassette they watch is stranger and more disturbing than the last one. Mar. 11, 13 & 16.
Wildness – Another one which we can’t quite figure out from the description: it’s about a weekly party at a bar, avant-garde performance artists, transgendered immigrants, and promises a touch of magic realism. Mar. 9, 11, 14 & 15.
“Classic Monsters Spotlight Collection”: This 4-disc collection of classic Universal horrors (Dracula, Frankenstein, The Bride of Frankenstein, and Creature from the Black Lagoon) was released with little fanfare and no reports on extra features. Bride is our fave (and the weirdest) of this essential set. Buy “Classic Monsters Spotlight Collection”.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975): This Arthurian spoof with the knights who say “Ni!” and an unexpectedly fragile Black Knight is the masterpiece of pop-absurdist comedy and the holy grail of Monty Python features. This package contains a plethora of extra features, some of which appeared on previous releases and some which are unique to this Blu. Buy Monty Python and the Holy Grail [Blu-ray].
Plan 9 from Outer Space (1957): Dubbed “The Worst Movie Ever Made” by Michael Medved (although it’s nowhere close to the worst), Ed Wood‘s deliriously and hilariously inept tale of aliens reanimating the dead is absolutely essential viewing for anyone who’s seriously interested in cinema, not just weird movie buffs. Like Little Shop above, however, we’re skeptical that it will benefit from Blu-ray treatment. This release contains the colorized version (why, oh why?), some Ed Wood home movies and commercial demos, and snarky Mike Nelson commentary (the same features are on Legend’s DVD version). Buy Plan 9 From Outer Space [Blu-ray].
The Skin I Live In (2011): Pedro Almodovar’s first venture into horror is the elegantly perverse tale of a deranged plastic surgeon (Antonio Banderas) who invents a synthetic skin, and finds an unexpectedly appropriate subject to test it on. The film is ironic and disturbing but stops just short of “weird”; it’s still a recommended offbeat outing for fans of moral horror. Buy The Skin I Live In (Blu-ray/DVD Combo).
FREE (LEGITIMATE RELEASE) MOVIES ON YOUTUBE:
The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Crazy Mixed-Up Zombies (1964): A layabout greaser (played by director Ray Dennis Steckler under the pseudonym “Cash Flagg”) gets sucked into an incredibly strange plot involving a carnival fortune teller using hypnotism to create zombies. It’s also a musical, of sorts. Our all-time favorite movie title, it gets bonus points for its crazy, pre-psychedelia dream sequence. Future hall of fame cinematographers Laszlo Kovacs (Five Easy Pieces) and Vilmos Zsigmund (Close Encounters of the Third Kind) both worked as assistant cameramen on Creatures. It’s a terribly made movie, and a terribly mad one.
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.
* This is the fifth installment in the series “Karloff’s Bizarre and Final Six Pack.”
Snake People (AKA Isle Of The Snake People) feels like pure Jack Hill; that is, Jack Hill the exploitation guru to whom Quentin Tarantino has built an altar. The opening narration is a duller variant of Criswell’s repetitive but puerile Plan 9From Outer Space (1959) monologue: “During Many centuries in Various parts of the world, Various diabolical rites and ceremonies have been practiced in homage to Various sinister gods who are believed to have Many supernatural powers. These rites are generally known as voodoo!”
Cue nightly voodoo ceremony. Boris Karloff, dressed as the priest Damballah (dark goggles, black mask, top hat and cee-gar) carries a skull walking stick. Since voodoo god “Baron Samedi” shares a name with a minor Bond villain, you almost expect Live and Let Die‘s Geoffrey Holder to make an appearance. Captain Labesch (Rafael Bertrand), who does appear, is no Roger Moore. He’s what the narrator describes as an “unscrupulous adventurer taking advantage of the superstition to put a docile native girl under his power, transforming her into a zombie so she will submit to her primitive instinct.” Well, maybe he is Roger Moore in his uncanny ability to make his amorous traits look sluggish. Mexican dwarf character actor Santanon carries a squirming rooster. He laughs maniacally. He inexplicably cries. PETA runs for cover as he decapitates the fowl. He squirts the chick’s blood over a grave site. Rise of the dead docile native girl! Captain Labesch hops into her coffin and, well, all you need to know is that he’s a necrophiliac. Now comes the 70ish pop credits with stylish jazzy font, voodoo drum music, Karloff as a demonic Col. Sanders, and the revelation that this film guest stars Tongolele (i.e., Mexican exotic dancer Yolanda Montes)!
The ubiquitous Julissa, as Anabella, is on hand as niece to Uncle Boris. She’s a bit of a missionary, wanting to rid the world of the evils of alcohol. Lt. Wilhelm (Carlos East) wants to rid the island of voodoo. Such high faultin’ proselytizing is, naturally, due for comeuppance. Tongolele is just the one to give it, too. As a buxom Elsa Lanchester, she belly dances with big snakes, spikes banana milk with venom, and intones “offer your dreams to Damballah!” as she puts the voodoo hex on Anabella. In a freakish dream sequence Anabella sucks on a snake’s head, but Lt. Wilhelm has it worse. He’s hounded by visions of serpents and his men are cannibalized by island babes.
Tongolele takes her voodoo seriously enough to cut off Captain Labesch’s supply of zombie tail, and he foolishly retaliates by playing informant. More cannibalism, more human sacrifices, and Annabella kidnapped by the voodoo snake cult!
Snake People is pure trash cinema that is helped little by Karloff’s presence. Unfortunately, his considerable health issues took even a deeper dive in this film. According to his biographers, the actor spent most of his set time reaching for the oxygen. His performance is rendered numb and he is clearly lost as he struggles to react to his co-stars. His voice is horribly dubbed in the final voodoo rite ceremony, and the film limps towards a non-finale.
Many reviewers have commented that the film is dull and incoherent. With this disparate mix of wacky plot ingredients, it would be difficult to produce an entirely dull affair, but the producers come very close to doing just that. It is minimally aided by its plot’s capricious writhing, Tongolele’s garish, cartoonish personification, and by the morbid fascination of witnessing a horror icon lethargically breathing his last. But these are mere random images, and the opening credits do a better job of conveying that.
PLOT: This documentary examines the “No Wave” and “Cinema of Transgression” film
movements and their connections to performance art and punk rock in New York City circa 1977-1985.
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: It’s purely a supplemental feature for your weird movie education, giving background information on a significant underground DIY film movement.
COMMENTS: “It felt like our lives were movies,” says Debbie Harry early on in Blank City. “It was very cinematic.” Perhaps this explains Celine Danhier’s choice, which earned her criticism in some quarters, to place the focus more on the filmmakers than the films in this documentary. Based on the No Wave film clips which illustrate the story, this was the correct angle to take on the material. Most of the “greatest hits” Super-8 highlights consist of grungy hipsters smoking cigarettes in grainy black and white, or walking around dirty East Village streets in washed-out, home-movie color. By contrast, the Bohemian lifestyle the filmmakers fondly recall—sharing $50 apartments in burnt out tenements with cockroaches, shooting on the street on the spur of the moment whenever they could assemble a crew, sneaking into locations to film without permission or permits, and heading off to CBGB’s after a hard day of scraping together footage to drink and dance the night away while a pre-fame Blondie or Television played on stage—is a lot more interesting. The No Wave scene flourished during New York City’s downbeat phase, when the burg was deep in debt, full of abandoned buildings, and riddled by crime and heroin abuse (basically, the New York of Midnight Cowboy and Taxi Driver). The city in the late Seventies was nasty and dangerous, but for nouveau-beatnik types it offered cheap rent, cheaper Super-8 film stock, and the company of like-minded free spirits. Although it grew out of the ashes of the previous New York avant-garde exemplified by Andy Warhol and Jack (Flaming Creatures) Smith, movement godfather Amos Poe explains that this wave rebelled against the Continue reading CAPSULE: BLANK CITY (2010)→
PLOT: A young married couple end up in a town that’s actually a giant television network; Janet is groomed as a celebrity, while Brad becomes a mental patient in a hospital show.
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Shock Treatment is a cult film even among the tiny subset of cult film enthusiasts. This “sequel” was rejected as a confounding disappointment by most fans of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but is still vehemently defended by a segment of that fan base. It’s a peculiar exercise in wacky musical satire, for sure, but it lacks the kind of résumé necessary to place it among the most significantly weird movies of all time.
COMMENTS: What would you get if you took The Rocky Horror Picture Show and stripped out Tim Curry‘s domineering performance as the mad scientist transvestite dominatrix, leaving behind only the theater-rock musical numbers and campy supporting players? (On the off-chance you don’t see where I’m going yet, the answer is Shock Treatment). Whereas Rocky Horror was a theatrical flop that organically grew into a cult movie, Shock Treatment was pitched as a deliberate cult movie, but became an instant flop. This delayed follow-up is full of amped-up ideas and energy, but it comes off as cocksure; it’s so convinced its madness is entrancing that it forgets to ground us in its quirky universe. The (confusingly executed) idea is that the entire town of Denton, U.S.A. is a TV studio, with the audience as regular citizens, the stars and staff as sorts of metro officials, and the sponsors as big-money villains manipulating studio politics behind the scenes. The movie throws so many colorful eccentrics at us that every character turns into a minor character, even the leads. Janet (not necessarily the Janet Susan Sarandon played in the previous movie) and Brad (again, a character with the same name but little connection to the original) enter the town’s audience, for unclear reasons, and wind up on a marriage counseling show run by a blind Austrian in an orange thrift-store tuxedo. He hands Brad off to a brother/sister pair of psychiatrists (writer Richard O’Brien, wearing uncomfortable- Continue reading CAPSULE: SHOCK TREATMENT (1981)→
FEATURING: Tak Sakaguchi, Shingo Tsurumi, Mei Kurokawa, Jun Murakami
PLOT: One-man army Shozo is called back from mercenary work in South America after the
death of his father, a powerful yakuza boss. He sets out to reclaim control of his gang, eventually joining an experimental government program that implants robotic weapons into his body.
WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE LIST: Combining elements of splatterpunk, gangster intrigue, and science-fiction, Yakuza Weapon is too insane to not at least consider for the List. In some ways, it’s only weird in that peculiarly “Japanese” way of other action films of its ilk, but at times it moves into its own truly bizarre territory that seems without precedent.
COMMENTS: With the belief that if he’s not afraid of death nothing can kill him, Shozo is a seemingly immortal killer who gave up his yakuza family in favor of mercenary work in South America (or something). He returns after hearing of his father’s death and seeks to wrest control of his territory back from Kurawaki, a sleazy business executive planning to unite all the gangs under his control. After various crazy battles and the kidnapping of his fiancee Nayoko (a strong fighter herself), Shozo is finally bested by a rocket launcher and helicopter minigun. He is re-built as a weaponized cyborg by secret government agents, who use him to take down Kurawaki and his army of drugged-out henchmen. Eventually he has to fight his long-lost blood brother, Testu, who has some unique robotic firearms of his own.
Replete with gravity-defying fight scenes, intense bouts of yelling, a host of kooky characters, and plenty of unreal splatterpunk action, Yakuza Weapon is entertaining through and through, in large part because of its weirdness. Everyone is operating at high volume and high energy levels, especially co-director/co-writer/stuntperson/star Tak Sakaguchi, who literally broke his back for this movie during a particularly impressive one-take group fight scene. The low-budget and rushed shooting time are sometimes apparent (though the CGI for the yakuza weapon-bits looks pretty good), but the filmmakers’ stunt experience leads to an array of fantastic and often hilarious action scenes.
The story is stock stuff for this genre, with revenge and gang rivalries and robotic appendages and ridiculous drama not surprising anyone. But, the script is definitely strong, producing interesting characters and tight pacing that elevates Yakuza Weapon above many other competitively crazy splatterpunk-type films. There are some truly oddball characters—notably Kurawaki’s giggly brother and Shozo’s adorably clueless sidekicks—and a couple of completely unexpected moments. Nayoko throws a boat, Shozo collapses an entire building because he doesn’t want to walk up stairs, and Tetsu battles using the weaponized (and naked) corpse of his dead sister while he’s hyped up on some neon blue wonder-drug. That last part is definitely the weirdest thing in the entire movie.
Whether or not it turns out to be Certifiably weird, this film is a helluva lot of fun, and definitely memorable. The filmmakers’ obvious enthusiasm for the project shines through, making the audience smile widely as grown men shout nonsense and digitally-added blood splatters against the walls. It’s a beautiful thing.