WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 9/13/2019

Our weekly look at what’s weird in theaters, on hot-off-the-presses DVDs and Blu-rays (and hot off the server VODs), and on more distant horizons…

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

IN THEATERS (LIMITED RELEASE):

Chained for Life (2018): Read Giles Edwards’ review. At the time of this writing, this comedy about “freaks” making their own movie during off-hours on another movie set currently holds an impressive 100% positive rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Ridiculous trivia: Freaks (see below) and Chained for Life both share names with movies starring conjoined twins the Hilton Sisters. Chained for Life official site.

Freaks (2018): Read Giles Edwards’ review. As promised in our (possibly spoilery) interview, the festival hit about a 10-year-old girl whose father keeps her locked inside and warns her never to leave the house receives a Friday the 13th release. Freaks official site.

Monos (2019): Enigmatic Colombian film about a purposeless group of soldiers camped in a fog-shrouded jungle. It’s receiving excellent reviews (with optimistic comparisons to Apocalypse Now). Monos official site.

NEW ON HOME VIDEO:

Bloodsucker’s Planet (2019): A spaceship crew responding to a planetary distress signal encounter talking alien cockroaches, a gynobot with romantic delusions, and space vampires. An ultra-low budget 60s retro space opera, and a prequel to a 2012 movie (Bloodsucker’s Handbook) we never heard of, but looks weird. Blu-ray, DVD or VOD. Buy Bloodsucker’s Planet.

The Dead Don’t Die (2019): Residents of a small town endure a plague of zombies caused when polar fracking knocks the earth off its axis in this self-aware zombie parody. Features clunky satire and inconsistently deployed self-referential humor, but it is fun to see the amazing cast (led by a weary ) get picked off by the undead. On Blu-ray, DVD and VOD. Buy The Dead Don’t Die.

“Undone” (2019): A new Amazon Prime series about a young woman whose dead father teaches her to time-travel. If that’s not enough oddity for you, we’ll add that it’s rotoscoped and from the makers of “Bojack Horseman.” The season debuts 9/13. “Undone” on Amazon Prime.

STREAMING SERVICES:

Spamflix: Questionable name, interesting service. Founded by a couple of international film festival programmers, spamflix specializes in rare films they describe as “absurd, fantastical and bizarre” and promises a platform “where genre enthusiasts can become ensorcelled with cinematic oddities from around the world.” The catalogue differs by country. The available-in-U.S. roster is currently small, but impressive, headlined (in our estimation) by the canonically weird Der Samurai (2014) (which is available on other platforms) and ‘s abstract Symbol (which is not). Other interesting, underseen films include Gandu, Liza the Fox Fairy, and the UFO musical The Legend of Kaspar Hauser. Spamflix.com.

CERTIFIED WEIRD (AND OTHER) REPERTORY SCREENINGS:

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). We won’t list all the screenings of this audience-participation classic separately. You can use this page to find a screening near you.

FREE (LEGITIMATE RELEASE) MOVIES ON YOUTUBE:

K-12 (2019): Pop singer Melanie Martinez released a movie (a real musical, not just a “visual album”) in conjunction with her latest release, and put it up on YouTube for free. It’s a fantasy about a girl who is sent to a strict and surreal boarding school, and rebels; the aesthetic is almost oppressively pink. No word on how long it will remain up, so we assume indefinitely. Watch K-12 free on YouTube.

WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE: Last week was weird sex week; next week, we’ll go back to our regular format of just throwing whatever we feel like up on the page. Therefore, you can expect another eclectic slate of weird movie writing, starting off with G. Smalley‘s report on ‘s 15-hour classic, Berlin Alexanderplatz; Giles Edwards on Netflix’s Dark Crystal prequel  “The Age of Resistance”; and Pete Trbovich getting philosophical with his essay “Questions Are Beautiful.” Onward and weirdward!

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.

3*. SINGAPORE SLING (1990)

Singapore sling: O anthropos pou agapise ena ptoma

AKA Singapore Sling: The Man Who Loved a Corpse

“You know the feeling of something half remembered,
Of something that never happened, yet you recall it well;
You know the feeling of recognizing someone
That you’ve never met as far as you could tell…”–Johnny Mercer, “Laura”

Recommended (with caution)

DIRECTED BY: Nikos Nikolaidis

FEATURING: Meredyth Herold, Panos Thanassoulis,

PLOT: A detective is searching for a missing girl, Laura, a supposed murder victim with whom he was in love and who he believes is still alive. Suffering from an unexplained bullet wound, he follows the trail to a villa where a psychotic “Daughter” and an equally insane “Mother” live in a sick relationship, hiring servants whom they later kill. When the enfeebled detective stumbles to their door, the two women capture him, dub him “Singapore Sling” after a cocktail recipe they find in his pocket, and use him in their sadomasochistic sex games.

Still from Singapore Sling (1990)

BACKGROUND:

  • Much of the plot references ‘s classic thriller/film noir, Laura, including prominent use of the famous theme song.
  • Director Nikos Nikolaidis is well-known in Greece and is sometimes considered the godfather of the “Greek Weird Wave” films (best known in the work of ). Singapore Sling is his only work that is widely available outside of Greece.
  • Singapore Sling was one of the top three vote getters in 366 Weird Movies first Apocryphally Weird movie poll, making it one of the most popular weird movies left off the 366 Weird Movies canon.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: Warning: there are a lot of images in Singapore Sling which you would probably like to forget, but will be unable to. Among the least objectionable (believe it or not) is Daughter’s memory (?) of losing her virginity to “Father”: he appears as a bandage-swathed mummy.

TWO WEIRD THINGS: Earrings on organs; mummy incest

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Imagine a cross between Laura and Salo, as directed by a young dabbling in pornography, and you’ll have some idea of what you’re in for—but it’s slightly weirder than that.


Short clip from Singapore Sling (1990) (in Greek)

COMMENTS: Singapore Sling blatantly references Otto Preminger’s Continue reading 3*. SINGAPORE SLING (1990)

CAPSULE: LET MY PUPPETS COME (1976)

DIRECTED BY: Gerard Damiano

FEATURING:  Al Goldstein, , Viju Krem, Gerard Damiano

PLOT: A board room full of executives get into deep debt to a mobster named “Mr. Big,” so they decide to create a porno to earn the dough.

Still from Let My Puppets Come (1976)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: After the shock of “puppet porn,” this movie runs out of steam really, really fast. It leaps off the platform of its premise and tumbles down the pit of mediocrity before it ever reaches for the trapeze swing to True Weirdness.

COMMENTS: A puppet porno, all mine to review? I cackled and sharpened my barbs. I prepared all my smart-ass observations: “When a puppet gets pregnant, why doesn’t the fetus fall out?” and “Technically, doesn’t all puppet sex count as a hand job?” and “How do you stay lubricated when you’re covered in felt?” Then I never got to use them, because this movie was just tragically unlucky. I don’t want to mock it, I want to treat it to an ice cream cone and pat it on the head and tell it “There there, it just wasn’t your time.” I rank “Making Puppets Edgy” right up there with “Perpetual Motion” and “Squaring The Circle” in the category of “Things That Never Work But People Never Stop Trying.” Between Meet the Feebles and The Happytime Murders, the puppetry tag on this site alone goes on for three pages, which is two and a half pages longer than anybody needed. So of course you expect Let My Puppets Come to be a Feebles rip-off, until you find out that Puppets was, hot damn, the very first adult puppet movie! No really, wiki and weep. It even predated The Muppet Show, which debuted in September of that year. When you consider all this and view the movie in the context of 1976—Patty Hearst was on trial, Apple Computer was just founded, was still alive—Let My Puppets Come gets 100x bigger balls. Neutered ones, sadly.

The plot is a loose framework wherein three (puppet) business executives doing business things receive a telegram delivering bad business news: they owe a half million bucks to a mobster, “Mr. Big,” with no way to scare up the funds. The telegram delivery boy has a swell idea: make a groovy porn flick! The group speculates on what kinds of stories they want to do, with swirly transitions to fantasies. That’s the first thing to know about this movie: it’s a loosely connected series of sketches, even down to parodies of popular TV commercials of the time (a bit like Kentucky Fried Movie, released the very next year). The structure makes it sleepy, despite the very first sex scene being between a puppet woman and her puppet dog, who seals the deal by reassuring her “I have all my shots.” (Hey, you bought a ticket to a puppet porn, it’s a little late to pretend you have standards now.) We swim along through more sketches, like a massage parlor and the canonical nurse-on-patient fantasy, all the porn standards. The gents frolic off to make their movie, recruiting from an adult toy shop clerk just so we can gawk at all the kinky novelties. There’s a Diana Ross stand-in, a Pinocchio stand-in, and a rip-off of the puppet character Madame.

All these scenes amount to exactly one lame joke each. A couple of them are funny, more of them are a groan, and the rest just die before they hit the floor. There’s random songs tossed in and multiple parodies of contemporary pop culture. The puppet sex is mostly puppet blowjobs, which take the form of clumsy duels between inflexible clam-shell lips and wobbly foam willies. I lost count after the third time the “William Tell Overture” was played over a sex scene to make it “funny.” There’s also original songs, all pleasant enough, but none of them show-stoppers. You get so used to looking at foam actors that when a real live go-go stripper shimmies onto the screen, it takes you a while to work out what’s wrong with her before it dawns on you that she’s made out of meat. In making a movie about characters making a porn movie, director Gerard Damiano gets in some good therapeutic role-playing to recover from the scandals around his infamous Deep Throat (1972). This extends right to the puppet directors being thrown into puppet jail for obscenity charges.  Damiano tastefully cuts his pillow-sobbing short to allow the movie an ending, which brings out Luis de Jesus as “Mr. Big,” and then wastes him.

Let My Puppets Come is not without its tacky, corny charm, but it’s a shaggy dog story that goes on too long. I am a proud supporter of pansexual freedom, and a dirty old pervert too, so I wanted to like this movie more. The puppetry is on-point, at least. Good puppetry takes time to film, which makes it all the sadder to see it go to waste. This movie is left without an audience. It’s too silly for Vanillas to consider sexy, and doesn’t get nearly freaky enough to arouse the kinky, despite the puppet-on-human spanking scene. It isn’t funny enough to work as a comedy, doesn’t have enough songs to qualify as a musical, and isn’t even campy enough to get a cult following when the opportunity is practically handed to it. The poor thing is so ambitious that it sabotages its own mission. Had Let My Puppets Come just relaxed and been happy with what it is, it could have been a cult classic.

For the record: There’s various cuts of the film with time-spans ranging from 40-75 minutes. The full, uncut version is now available on a Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray, which means you’ll no longer have to resort to the low-res pirated version on PornHub (which is how I originally saw it). I love my career.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“There’s nothing that can prepare you for [Damiano’s] 1976 feature film Let My Puppets Come, an XXX film where the main characters are puppets…. truly one of XXX cinema’s most unique films.”–Cliff Wood, 10K Bullets (Blu-ray)

REPORT: MIDSOMMAR DIRECTOR’S CUT (2019)

First, the bottom line: if you saw Midsommar (review) in its original summer run, there’s no pressing need to revisit it so soon. In all likelihood you’ll barely even notice the new director’s cut material. If you missed it the first time around and a theater near you is showing it, however, this is a nice opportunity to catch the summer’s sunniest folk horror on the big screen. (Apparently, the only other way to see the extended cut will be via Apple TV beginning on September 24, where it will screen exclusively—for the time being, at least.)

Midsommar (2019) Promotional imageAs far as what’s new: twenty five minutes of restored material is not a lot, but it pushes the overall runtime to a taxing 2 hours 50 minutes. The additions change nothing significant, and maybe in one case blunt the film’s impact. Some of the early scenes, such as the trip from Stockholm to the Hårga commune, are extended for character development purposes. Christian, Josh and Mark all come off worse.  There are also a few additional scenes of pagan rites.

The most noteworthy departure occurs when the commune stages another pageant, but this time set during the few hours of midsummer darkness. The ritual itself is effective, playing with our expectations, but will only surprise those who didn’t see the theatrical cut. It’s followed by an explosive argument between Christian and Dani, which I think was too on-the-nose, and likely a minor mistake. The movie works better when we glimpse the rift between them as just a hairline for as long as possible, making the final crack more devastating. I appreciate the appearance of a nighttime scene, which dramatically breaks the film’s sunshine motif, almost exactly at the film’s midpoint; but the payoff doesn’t justify such a dramatic formal departure.

Overall, I think the extended version proves that the cuts the studio requested of writer/director were wisely chosen. Given the choice, I’d save twenty-five minutes and watch the shorter theatrical cut.

The bigger question, I think, is why did A24 bother to re-release Midsommar to theaters at all? They aren’t going to squeeze enough juice out of this specialty berry to pass Avengers: Endgame in the all-time receipts race. I think it signals one of two things: either Aster’s two hits for the studio have given him enough pull to dictate programming strategy (maybe he made the extended theatrical release a condition for accepting the requested cuts); or, A24 thinks that they have a long-shot awards season contender on their hands (Florence Pugh), and want to keep Midsommar fresh in the minds of critics. I’m going with the second explanation.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“Most of the additional footage serves to reiterate or unpick points that landed better as hints and asides.”–Ryan Gibley, The Guardian

“…the newly released Extended Cut expounds on the misery felt by both members of the couple and allows a deeper glimpse into the alien culture they are drawn into.”–Brad Gullickson, Film School Rejects

APOCRYPHA CANDIDATE: 9 LIVES OF A WET PUSSY (1976)

Nothing Sacred

DIRECTED BY: Abel Ferrara (as “Jimmy Boy L”)

FEATURING: Dominique Santos, Pauline LaMonde, Joy Silver,  Abel Ferrara (as Jimmy Laine)

PLOT: Gypsy reminisces about her relationship with Pauline while working out how to keep her wild lover faithful to her alone.

WHY IT SHOULD MAKE THE LIST: 9 Lives is a porno, but Abel Ferrara’s artistic direction coupled with the epistolary and dreamy nature of the narrative make this an odd porno.

COMMENTS: A piece of trivia: the review for Blue Movie has gotten about fifteen hits a day since it was first posted. That’s not because it’s particularly insightful,1)Although I say so myself. but because 366 gets a bit of overseas traffic for “blue movies“—and few I’ve seen come “bluer” than Abel Ferrara’s 9 Lives of a Wet Pussy. Any systematic discussion of movies (weird or otherwise) would be remiss not to include cinema’s less respected peer, pornography. Since mankind could sculpt, then paint, then photograph, there has been a healthy inclusion of carnality in art. Film is no exception, and so it was without trepidation that I dove headfirst into 9 Lives.

The tone is set immediately, with the opening credits intercut with a graphic scene that flirts with abstraction via novel camera focus and expressionistic lighting. The story proper begins with a narration playing over a steamy encounter with “the French stable boy”, which we quickly learn is being read from a letter to Gypsy (Dominique Santos) from her on-again, off-again lover, Pauline (Pauline LaMonde, Ferrara’s girlfriend at the time). Through Gypsy’s emotional lens, we witness Pauline’s insatiable sexual appetite, her transcendent approach to pleasure, and her unbridled freedom. Various segments illustrate Pauline’s character: an encounter with a gas station attendant while her husband waits in the car; her upbringing—and its Lot-ian results—under a strict, Catholic father; and a long-term affair with her Nigerian lover, Nacala (Joy Silver). All the while, we return to Gypsy talking directly to us as she maneuvers to retrieve Pauline and keep her to herself.

What could have been a mindless framework for an anthology of loosely related set-pieces becomes something considerably more under Abel Ferrara’s oversight. Gypsy’s mysticism appears throughout; her name indicates her archetype. Ferrara himself plays another archetype—the religious, domineering father—in one of the episodes, breaking the incest taboo in his very first film. 9 Lives‘ rape scene, however, suggests Ferrara’s future. Ms. 45, Bad Lieutenant, and even New Rose Hotel all explore sexual violence and guilt. We expect that from gritty dramas; much less-so from dirty movies. The movie climaxes with a nebulous scene that underlines the film’s contrast between dreaminess and physicality while mirroring the opening: Pauline with Nacala, together, intercut with shots of Gypsy wandering with aimless purpose through a forest.

It works well enough as a story (I was interested in the development of Gypsy’s and Pauline’s relationship), and Abel Ferrara gets the job done, as it were, as a straight-up pornographer. However, I highly recommend watching the Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray with Samm Deighan’s commentary. She provides the film’s context and a thorough sketch of the director as a young man (he was 25 at the time). Beginning as he did in hardcore film, I’m not surprised that Ferrara remained on cinema’s fringes throughout his career; the passion that robbed him of mainstream success, however, is the key to his oeuvre’s staying power.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…an opium-stoned hostess introduces several sexual vignettes, and though slightly classier than the usual cum pageants, it’s impossible to achieve a Lady Chatterley-like decadence when you’re saddled with an Al Adamson-like cast… a must-see embarrassment!” –Steven Puchalski, Shock Cinema

References   [ + ]

1. Although I say so myself.

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