15*. CASINO ROYALE (1967)

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DIRECTED BY: , , , , , (uncredited)

FEATURING: , David Niven, Ursula Andress, , , , Joanna Pettet, Deborah Kerr

PLOT: The “real” James Bond is recalled from retirement to fight agents of SMERSH. To help his cover, MI6 decides to re-name all their agents “James Bond.” The story loosely follows the maneuvers and misadventures of these various Bonds.

Still from Casino Royale (1967)

BACKGROUND:

  • This movie is based on author Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel of the same title. The rights were originally sold to producer Gregory Ratoff, then resold to agent/producer Charles K. Feldman upon Ratoff’s passing.
  • Eon Productions was the chief source of the James Bond franchise, but deals between Eon and Feldman to adapt Casino Royale fell through. After several false starts at producing a straight version of the Bond story (with both Cary Grant and Sean Connery considered for the starring role), Feldman struck a deal with Columbia Pictures, opting to make his Bond movie a spoof of the genre instead.
  • Amid an already-troubled production, Peter Sellers and Orson Welles famously quarreled, resulting in the former storming off the set, which required some re-shoots using body doubles.
  • It is alleged that Peter Sellers was eager to play James Bond for real and was disappointed to find out this was a spoof.
  • Dusty Springfield’s rendition of “The Look of Love” got an Oscar nomination. Later versions of the song made the Billboard Hot 100 at #22 in November of 1967, and cover versions have since appeared in everything from Catch Me If You Can (2002) to Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997) (which was partly inspired by Casino Royale).
  • Despite this movie’s reputation as a flop, it still made $41.7 million back on a $12 million budget.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: Eenie meenie miney moe: we’ll pick the scene where Jimmy Bond (Woody Allen) has taken Vesper Lynd (Ursula Andress) hostage, Bond-villain style. As Andress is restrained naked under barely-concealing metal bands, Allen menaces her in his groovy ’60s dungeon by playing a piano, socking a punching bag with the “real” James Bond’s face on it, and riding on a mechanical bull.

TWO WEIRD THINGS: Duck decoy missiles; bagpipe machine gun

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: In the same vein as Skidoo (1968) and North (1994), Casino Royale is a star-studded parable teaching us that shoveling big-name talent and money into a movie won’t necessarily make it any better. Before you even approach the jaw-dropping cast, you already have too many cooks (six directors and a veritable army of writers) spoiling the stew. The 131 minute run-time is overstuffed with everything the producers could cram in, whether it works or not. Saturated with weirdness, viewers will be burned out from the endless blathering nonsense long before this silly excess ends.

Original trailer for Casino Royale (1967)

COMMENTS: “What were they thinking?” That’s a query repeated Continue reading 15*. CASINO ROYALE (1967)

PLANNING JULY’S NETFLIX PARTY

From here on out, we’ll be changing the way we schedule Netflix and Amazon Prime watch parties. We’re going to take suggestions and votes in the comments and not using the public poll anymore (since to many people are casually voting and not showing up, diluting the votes of actual attendees). How this will work in practice remains to be seen, but we’ll muddle through it. If you’d like to attend our watch party, then the important thing is to RSVP in the comments, where you can make a screening suggestion or just say you plan to be there.

As always, we’re looking for five likely attendees before officially scheduling.

The first order of business is scheduling. Following our normal rotation, our next watch party would fall on July 3. Some people may have plans for July 4, however, so we suggest rescheduling for July 10 instead.

Also, we’re open to changing our regularly scheduled time. We’ve been doing Saturday nights starting around 10:15 PM ET, but if another time would be more convenient we’re open to suggestions.

The Canonically Weird movies on Netflix that we haven’t yet screened yet are A Clockwork Orange (1971), Neon Genesis Evangelion: The End of Evangelion (1997), Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010). Feel free to nominate any of these, or ignore them in favor of other selections. Since we’ve rolled over into a new year, we could technically decide to watch something we’ve seen before (if it’s still on Netflix). For reference, the movies we’ve already screened are The Platform, April and the Extraordinary World, The Bad Batch, Skins [Pieles], Under the Skin, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Enemy, A Ghost Story, Escape from the ‘Liberty’ Cinema, Between Worlds, Buster’s Mal Heart, The Aerial [La Antena], The Endless, The Wicker Man (1973)Murder Party (2007), I Lost My Body (2019), I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2020), We Have Always Lived in the Castle (2018), Cadaver (2020), Being John Malkovich (1999), Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil (2017), My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea (2016), Freaks (2018), Five Elements Ninjas (1982), Await Further Instructions (2018), and Come to Daddy (2019) .

To participate, you’ll need a U.S. Netflix account, a Chrome-based browser, and the TeleParty (formerly “Netflix Party”) extension.

Okay, now join us in discussion in the comments.

WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 6/18/2021

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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.

FILM FESTIVALS – NORTH BEND FILM FESTIVAL (North Bend, WA & online, July 15-18):

Set in the Washington town where many of ““’s exteriors were filmed, the North Bend Film Fest is a ian destination, with a slate of films to match. The dreamlike fantasy The Blazing World and the online gaming nightmare/satire We’re All Going to the World’s Fair are two movies we’ve been awaiting since they were unveiled at Sundance, and the July 17 screening of Donnie Darko with in attendance should be a big ticket event. Here’s one more release we’ll keep an eye on:

  • Cryptozoo – Animated cryptozoology comedy (?) involving strange creatures and government conspiracies, from . Live screening only, July 17.Cryptozoo (2021)

This year’s festival will be a hybrid of in-person and online screenings (it remains to be seen if this format is the festival model of the future, or just a post-pandemic hangover). Virtual screenings are restricted to residents of the Pacific Northwest: Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.

North Bend Film Festival official site.

IN THEATERS (LIMITED RELEASE):

Finding Ophelia: An advertising executive dreams of a mysterious woman. Roger Moore called it both “trippy” and “one of the more visually-arresting misfires you’ll encounter on the big screen.” Finding Ophelia official site.

Siberia: (and faithful collaborator ) continues his late-period navel-gazing with this tale of a man traveling through “dreams, memory and imagination” by dogsled.  Siberia was the movie that Ferrara’s alter-ego was seen working on storyboards for in TommasoSiberia official site.

IN DEVELOPMENT (crowdfunding):

Fat Fleshy Fingers (202?): A planned anthology film composed of segments centered around a sexual parasite, produced by alumni directors of the Sick ‘n’ Wrong Film Festival. They are hoping to make “the most brain-smashingly weird piece of movie art you’ve ever seen”; a lofty, but worthy goal. Currently almost halfway funded, with a little under two weeks left in the campaign. Fat Fleshy Fingers Kickstarter page.

IN DEVELOPMENT (in production):

Unicorn Wars (202?): (Birdboy) is hard at work on his next feature film, an expansion of his short “Unicorn Blood,” about a bloody fantasy war between unicorns and religious fanatic teddy bears. In production for three years now, he shared some of the work at the Annecy Animation Festival last week. “Bioluminescent hallucinogenic worms” are now confirmed. Variety has an extensive report, with frames.

NEW ON HOME VIDEO:

Son of the White Mare [Fehérlófia] (1981): Read the Apocrypha Candidate review! After an agonizingly long wait (exacerbated by a global pandemic that wrecked plans for a theatrical release), ‘ classic psychedelic fairy tale animation is finally here on Blu-ray, courtesy of Arbelos films. Buy Son of the White Mare.

CANONICALLY WEIRD (AND OTHER) REPERTORY SCREENINGS:

This section will no longer be updated regularly. Instead, we direct you to our new “Repertory Cinemas Near You” page. We added many new venues to that page this week: the Balboa in San Francisco, the Film Lab in Detroit (screening The Lure this weekend), the Guild Cinema in Albuquerque  (screening Hedwig and the Angry Inch this weekend), the Screening Room in Buffalo (screening Eraserhead this very evening), Manhattan’s Film Forum (screening 8 1/2 this week), and the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens (screening 2001: A Space Odyssey this Sunday, with accompanying exhibit.) We will still continue to mention exceptional screenings in this space, like this one:

FREE WEIRD MOVIES ON TUBI.TV:

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1990): Read the Canonically Weird review! Two minor characters from “Hamlet” pass the time with intellectual games while awaiting their big moment. They may be dead, but they’re also “leaving soon” (from Tubi’s listings). Watch Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead free on Tubi.tv.

WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE: Amazon Prime subscribers can join us tomorrow night at 10:15 PM for a screening and group chat of the nearly-seasonally-appropriate relationship horror Midsommar (2019). The link to join will appear here, on Facebook, or on Twitter around 10 PM ET.

In reviews next week, Pete Trbovich will take a second look at the 1967 Casino Royale (that’s the psychedelic version, not the Daniel Craig version). And

What are you looking forward to? If you have any weird movie leads that we have overlooked, feel free to leave them in the COMMENTS section.

CAPSULE: DAY OF THE BEAST (1995)

El día de la bestia

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Recommended

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: , Santiago Segura, Armando De Razza

PLOT: A priest decides he must become a great sinner as part of a scheme to summon the Devil and stop the Apocalypse; he enlists a death metal fan and a TV occultist to help him.

Still from Day of the Beast (1995)

COMMENTS: Cult favorite Day of the Beast builds its story around a trinity of characters, who become sort of the three anti-wise men at the nativity of the Antichrist. Having discovered the place and date of the Antichrist’s birth (typical of copycat Satan, it’s to be on Christmas Day), priest Angel enacts a plan to draw the devil’s attention by committing as many sins as possible. His apprentice crimes involve him stealing a beggar’s alms and assaulting a helpless mime (an act that shows how poor his grasp of the idea of “evil” really is). Angel knows he needs help to get that real, gnarly aura of wickedness, so he seeks out death metal records to play backwards; impressed with his musical taste, dimwitted and instinctually sinful record clerk Jose Maria agrees to tag along on the apostate’s adventures. Now, the duo need only recruit occultist television charlatan Cavan to teach them the necessary rituals to summon Old Scratch.

Of course, that requires them to convince a reluctant Cavan to join them… and to acquire the blood of a virgin and other items necessary for the ritual. Around the halfway mark, things get truly wild; de la Iglesia picks up the pace, sending his trio through an obstacle course that sees them fending off a matron with a shotgun and hanging off a neon billboard atop a skyscraper. Along the way there are a few genuinely weird scenes: a naked LSD-scarfing grandpa, and a trip to a convenience store where the staff has been dispatched by an anarchist murder cult. But mostly, the film is a series of black comedy hijinks and effective Satanic horror imagery (the devil is depicted both by a real goat and by a man in a goat costume). It’s quite a ride: subversive, but with comic characters you actually like and root for.

This was de la Iglesia’s sophomore feature and is typical of his output: genre pictures with strong characterizations, brutal violence, transgressive imagery, dark humor, and complex, fast-paced plots. They all have a / energy to them that might be best described more as “wild” than “weird.” Perhaps we should consider de la Iglesia’s work “weird-adjacent.” Whatever you call it, it’s well worth checking out.

El día de la bestia  was a big success in Spain, even notching a Best Director Goya (and five other awards, too, although not Best Picture). Unfortunately, other than a successful international film festival run, it did not screen much outside of its native land, and was poorly distributed on home video, not even scoring a region 1 DVD release. Severin rectified this absence in 2021 with a Blu-ray edition of Day of the Beast (along with another rarely-seen de la Iglesia movie, 1997’s Perdita Durango). Along with a newly restored print, the deluxe release contains a feature-length “making of” documentary, interviews with de la Iglesia and select cast and crew, and most substantially, de la Iglesia’s 1990 short film “Mirandas Asesinas,” an antique-looking B&W horror comedy featuring Álex Angulo as a literal-minded psychopath.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“… appealingly unrefined, this serving of satanic excess and good-naturedly dumb humor should please young audiences with a taste for off-the-wall cult fare.”–David Rooney, Variety (contemporaneous)

BOOK REVIEW: DAY OF THE LIVING ME: ADVENTURES OF A CULT FILMMAKER FROM THE GOLDEN AGE (2020)

Memoirs from filmmakers tend to be a mixed bag. The best ones balance useful and entertaining trivia pertinent to the field along with mildly salacious insider stories (AKA “gossip”). It’s an added bonus when they actually illuminate the career of people whose work you found interesting, but whom you didn’t really know much about.

Jeff Lieberman is one of those “interesting” filmmakers. His work may not consistently qualify as “weird,” but he has a cult following. He makes movies that are twisted and satirical, as anyone who has seen Blue Sunshine (1977), Squirm (1976), Just Before Dawn (1981), Remote Control (1988), or Satan’s Little Helper (2004) can attest. “Day of the Living Me” collects his reminisces of the making of those films; although not in extreme detail, there’s enough to satisfy the casual reader or fan of the films.

The most interesting anecdotes concern Lieberman’s life and career outside of these films. He started as an editing assistant at (pre-Golan-Globus) Cannon Films, then took a stint in advertising,  which inspired his award winning short satire “The Ringer.” He also worked at Janus Films (before their partnership with the Criterion Collection), repurposing their titles into new product. The insider bits include entertaining tales of working with Rod Serling and Sidney Poitier narrating documentaries; early encounters with Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman; coming up with the concept of the ad campaign for Ken Russell‘s Tommy (1975); and how providing help on selling Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978) led to a night out with George Burns. There’s plenty more, but those anecdotes should be left for the reader to discover.

Lieberman is an excellent raconteur. Even at 192 pages, the book feels like a solid read; it’s like spending an informal evening with someone who you already suspected was interesting, only to find out they’re even more fascinating than you imagined.

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