PLOT: All the women (and the men dressed as women) want hunky Joe Dallesandro, but he’s impotent from shooting too much junk; he lives with a woman who furnishes their hovel with castoff items she finds left on Manhattan curbs for trash pickup, and the two dream of getting on welfare someday.
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Though Trash is about weird people and has its “off” moments, it’s not quite weird enough for the List. Trash was cutting-edge in style, concept and subject matter when it came out in 1970. But in the forty years since its debut, the sad lives of lowlife junkies and social outcasts have been tapped many times, and Trash‘s casual, near-documentary approach (accurately) makes a drug addict’s life seem painfully banal most of the time. Paul Morrissey and Andy Warhol have collaborated on weirder projects.
COMMENTS: Told in a pseudo-documentary style with partially improvised dialogue, on one level Trash is a gritty and realistic slice-of-life drama about deadbeat druggies on Manhattan’s lower east side. It glides from meaningless episode to meaningless episode; Joe Dallesandro searches for his next fix and can’t get an erection no matter how many ladies try to seduce him; Holly Woodlawn keeps searching through the neighbors’ trash for stuff she can use, but she never finds any hidden treasure. Their dreams are pathetically small but still far beyond their grasp, and by the end the conjoined losers end up exactly where they started. Fortunately for us, plenty of weirdos drift into their lives in the meantime—a go-go dancer, a rich girl looking for an acid connection, an out-of-his-depth high school student, Holly’s pregnant sister, a welfare bureaucrat. A few of these encounters are completely naturalistic, but most have an absurd edge to them. Trying to turn Joe on, the go-go dancer breaks into a song and dance number, backed by swinging strands of Christmas lights on the stripper’s stage she has in her living room. The welfare functionary can’t approve a junkie for the public dole, but he’s willing to strike a fairly Continue reading CASPULE: TRASH [ANDY WARHOL’S TRASH] (1970)→
PLOT: An oddball genius constructs a one man flying device in the basement of the Houston Astrodome, assisted by a sexy but murderous guardian angel.
WHY IT SHOULD MAKE THE LIST: Robert Altman’s showman’s understanding and appreciation of the circus influenced the presentation of this surreal satire with its unconventional plot, eccentric characters, and eye-catching production design. Watching this colorful odyssey is like exploring a side road on the cinematic highway to Oz.
COMMENTS: Five out of five stars all the way for this gorgeous, pensive work of art. In this strange black comedy, Brewster McCloud (Cort -“Harold” from Harold and Maude) is a likable misfit who lives in the fallout shelter of the old Houston Astrodome. He endeavors to build a mechanical flying suit which will enable his escape from an incomprehensible world to some unknown imaginative utopia. An eccentric angel adeptly played by the quirky Sally Kellerman strangles anyone who opposes Brewster.
Brewster McCloud has a humorously heavy ornithological thesis with a narrative lecture provided by an off kilter science professor. The instructor’s recitation of facts about the social and mating habits of birds provides a funny comparative commentary on human nature. Avian themes glue the plot points together and furnish continuity between a sequence of strange events as Brewster struggles to achieve his goal.
There are three subplots: a coming of age story centered around McCloud, a social commentary stemming from the exposition of similarities and differences between humans and birds, and a murder investigation. While the police attempt to determine why the strangulation victims are found plastered with bird droppings, Brewster tries to beat the clock and perfect his flying machine before the authorities close in. He must stay Continue reading RECOMMENDED AS WEIRD: BREWSTER MCCLOUD (1970)→
The “Reader Recommendation” category includes films nominated by our readers as deserving of consideration for the List of the 366 Best Weird Movies of all time.
by Trevor Moses, film archivist at the National Film, Video and Sound Archives (South Africa)
DIRECTED BY: Jans Rautenbach
FEATURING: Cobus Rossouw, Jill Kirkland, Hermien Dommisse, Phillip Swanepoel, Katinka Heyns, Don Leonard, Lourens Schultz, Patrick Mynhardt, Betty Botha, Sandra Kotze, George Pearce, Jacques Loots.
PLOT: A catatonic mathematics professor with an Oedipus complex (as if the poor man didn’t have enough hassles already) is committed to an asylum which is a microcosm of South African society, circa 1970. The inmates band together to attempt to restore him to life once more and when one of their number commits suicide because of him, they then attempt something more on his behalf: murder.
WHY IT DESERVES TO MAKE THE LIST: Jannie Totsiens is rather like Milos Forman’s One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, only far, far more weird, disturbing and funny than that Oscar winning film. Jans Rautenbach’s film is a microcosmic view of South Africa circa 1970 and an indictment of the blinkered Afrikaner Nationalist enforced attitudes and very dubious morals of the time.
COMMENTS: Allegedly autobiographical in tone, this was South Africa’s first film in the avant-garde genre, one of its very few horror films, and also its first black comedy. It is now known to be an allegory about the South African situation in 1970 – showing said situation and the country’s inhabitants in the milieu of a home for the insane whose inmates’ lives are flipped by the arrival of a catatonic, mute mathematics professor, the “angel of discord”, as he is referred to by one of the loonies. Among this merry little band, we find a jilted bride (Hermien Dommisse) whose wedding portrait depicts her holding the hand of a faceless man who locked her up in this house until she went insane, a knife wielding nymphomaniac with Bible thumping parents (Katinka Heyns), an ex Ossewabrandwag soldier with an uncanny resemblance to John Vorster (Don Leonard), a judge (Jacques Loots) who went mad (and consequently hangs up the plants in the asylum’s hothouse in a makeshift gallows) after his daughter’s killer was let off scot free, and a psychotic, lovesick woman (Jill Kirkland) who continuously writes unsent letters to her dead daughter. Other characters include the sane, disabled artist Frans (Phillip Swanepoel) whose parents locked him up in the asylum because they were ashamed of him, and the Director of the asylum (Lourens Schultz), a weak-willed, gambling, drinking good-for-nothing, almost as mad as those he cares for, whose only purpose in life is to give injections and make his inmates swallow pills. The seemingly mad and mother-fixated Jannie Pienaar was supposedly based both on director Jans Rautenbach’s treatment by the critics and some of the more sensitive sections of the South African community, and Rautenbach’s experiences as a clinical psychologist. He finds himself restored to life because of two major factors: a love triangle which involves him and two of the inmates and the horrific finale when, on the suicide of one of those inmates, Jannie is condemned to death by hanging. For real. Not by his neck, but by his feet.
One would have to go very far back or far forward into the future of the South African film industry’s history to find a film as horrific, comic (yes, it is very funny in parts) and perfect as this, with brooding photography (courtesy David Dunn Yarker and Koos Roets, ACS ), an eerie credits puppet show in which the spectre of death intrudes and is frightened away, haunting music by Sam Sklair and oppressive, claustrophobic set and art design. To unsuspecting first time viewers, this film’s impact is still felt months and years later. Judging by its’ initial reception in 1970, it is clear that the movie going public in South Africa did not know that they were actually looking into a mirror with themselves as the subjects, notwithstanding the fact that each viewer of this film feels like they have just been dinged on the head with a very large, heavy board when the film ends.
Bruce Lee says in Enter The Dragon, “Boards….. don’t hit back.” This one does.
This film is available solely in the Afrikaans language and can be purchased from kalahari.net.
PLOT: El Topo, a figure dressed in black and carrying his nude son on horseback behind him, uses his supernatural shooting ability to free a town from the rule of a sadistic Colonel. He then abandons his son for the Colonel’s Woman, who convinces him to ride deep into the desert to face off against four mystical gunfighters. All of the gunfighters die, but El Topo is betrayed, shot, and dragged into a cave by a society of deformed people, who ask the outlaw turned pacifist to help them build a tunnel so they can escape to a dusty western town run by degenerate religious fascists.
El Topo is considered to be the first “midnight movie,” the first movie to be screened in theaters almost exclusively after 12 AM. Although the heyday of the midnight movie has past, it was a clever marketing gimmick that stressed the unusual nature of the film and positioned El Topo as an event rather than just another flick.
El Topo was famously championed and promoted by John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
Due to an acrimonious dispute over ownership rights between Jodorowsky and Allen Klein, the film was withdrawn from circulation for 30 years, during which time it could only be seen on bootlegged VHS copies. The scarcity of screenings vaulted El Topo‘s already powerful reputation into a legendary one. Jodorowsky and Klein reconciled in 2004 and the film had a legal DVD release in 2005.
INDELIBLE IMAGE: El Topo is a continuous stream of unforgettable images; any frame chosen at random inflames the imagination. My personal favorite is the lonsghot after El Topo kills third master gunfighter, where his body lies bleeding in his own watering hole while the rest of the landscape is littered with rabbit corpses. The iconic image, however, is El Topo riding off on horseback with a naked child sitting behind him, holding a black umbrella over his head. This image is particularly representative because it shows not only Jodorowsky’s gift for composition, but his penchant for shamelessly borrowing from other sources of inspiration: the concept is pinched from the most surreal moment of Sergio Leone’s classic Spaghetti Western, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: In the first scene, a man clad in black carrying an umbrella rides through an endless desert waste. Behind him in the saddle is a male child, naked except for a cowboy hat. The man stops his horse by a lonely hitching post in the sand, ties the umbrella to the post, and hands the boy a teddy bear and a locket and a photograph. The man says, “Today you are seven years old. You are a man. Bury your first toy and your mother’s picture.” He pulls out a flute and plays while the naked child follows his instructions. What makes El Topo weird is that this is the most normal and comprehensible thing that happens the film.