Here’s a (long-awaited?) update on a list we first published in 2011, back when DVD was the king of vintage movie viewing. (At the time we published it, it was our most commented-on post, and actually contributed to this site’s growth). Now, in the Netflix binge age, changes in the movie market have made DVDs, and even their HD successor, the Blu-ray, less significant—although we don’t think they’ve yet fallen in status to “quaint.” Any movie most people can think of—Captain America: Civil War, Pulp Fiction, Casablanca—-can be bought on DVD; unavailability, or even restricted availability, in that format is a clear indicator of obscurity.
We prefer promote films that are readily available either on physical media, or at least on legitimate streaming platforms, to the List, and hold off on those that don’t have a release. There are a couple of exceptions where we’ve added films that are still to this day only available on used VHS copies (Toto the Hero and Marquis being prominent examples). In the early days of the site, there were a couple of times (The Reflecting Skin comes to mind) when we wrote a movie up, only to find a lavish physical disc released a few months or years later. Although there are some advantages to being an early champion of an unavailable film—like the satisfaction of receiving a pat on the back when it finally gets released (again, The Reflecting Skin) —we’d still rather spend a List spot on a movie people can easily find and own. It’s easier to review and select a List entry from the vast pool of movies we can actually buy, rent or stream. And holding off allowed us to add surprises like Belladonna of Sadness, the nearly-lost 1973 psychedelic Japanese rape-revenge witchcraft anime, to the List the minute they become available.
For that reason, we held off on a reviewing and/or approving a handful of movies that almost certainly could have ranked alongside their listed brethren, had they had a release. It’s not a 100% thing, but being able to be purchased is definitely an advantage for a weird film, in our minds. When you’re dealing with the very last items on a large list, and you’ve already selected the can’t-miss titles, that small advantage can make a difference to a movie making our final cut or not.
Yeah, we know: today, everything is available on the Internet. You can probably find all of these “unavailable” titles in digital format with the help of Google and the willingness to accept the risk of downloading a virus from a shady pirate website. Our preference for legitimate releases is legitimately old-fashioned, but we’re not ashamed of it. We like prints that have been restored to reflect the director’s original vision, extra features that expand our understanding of the film, permanent ownership of a real physical object we can actually touch, and the idea of money going into the pockets of the people who made the film and/or assembled the product. Sue us.
Just to show that all hope is not lost, five titles—Arrebato (1980), Goke, Body Snatcher from Hell (1968), Eden and After (1970), Death Laid an Egg [La morte ha fatto l’uovo] (1968), and Kin-Dza-Dza (1986)—showed up either on DVD or on streaming platforms since we wrote the first list way back in 2011. Four of those went straight to Certified Weird (the other one we have yet to see). We have tracked down five new obscuro titles to take their place.
These ten movies are all “honorable mentions” of a particular kind. Any of them could have made the List, but for the vicissitudes of distribution. And who knows: maybe the Criterion Collection will add them all to their catalog in the next two years. (Well, not all of them, but there are at least six decent candidates on this list). So enjoy our updated look at the oddest, most overlooked of the weird movies. Here’s hoping they can find their way onto your television screen in the next decade.
10. Even Hitler Had a Girlfriend (1992). Sporting one of the greatest titles in all of movie history, Even Hitler was a passion project by punk musician and sometime underground filmmaker Ronnie Cramer. The film tells the story of a pathetic, overweight schlub of a security guard who blows his entire life savings on call girls in two weeks. He also sees his dead father appear on TV to harangue him, so weird it indeed is (it’s also bleak, grimy, and nasty). Joe Bob Briggs was a big booster of this oddity, naming it the best drive-in movie of 1992 even though it never played at a drive-in. This one is a bit of a cheat; you can order DVD-R’s directly from the director at his personal site. Cramer even compiled a sequel of sort, The Hitler Tapes, from outtakes and new material. But chances are you’ve never seen, or even heard of, Even Hitler.
Still from Even Hitler Had a Girlfriend
9. She’s Allergic to Cats (2016). This is pretty much our own discovery, although the reviews dropped on lettrboxd after its 2016 Fantasia Festival screenings—one of the very few times the movie has been seen by the general public—were mostly positive, and very appreciative of its weirdness. As ‘s initial excited review explained, Cats is “an absurd, shame-based comic nightmare set in the seedy side of L.A.” about “sad sack dog groomer Mike Pinkney (played by Mike Pinkney), an aspiring video artist planning an all-cat remake of Carrie” full of “glitchy experimental video montages, with overlapping images full of recurring symbols like cats, rats, rotting bananas, and naked women.” And if all that’s not enough, ‘s granddaughter plays the romantic lead. The rights were picked up by a company called 79th & Broadway, but… a couple years later, not even a hint of a release beyond the film festival circuit. Every year, hundreds of independent movies get lost in distributor hell; and the odds of a truly weird, microbugeted movie finding its way onto your screen grow longer with each passing month.
Trailer for She’s Allergic to Cats
8. The Annunciation [Angyali üdvözlet](1984). An adaptation of the Hungarian play “The Tragedy of Man,” the story follows Adam as he is tempted by Lucifer, then shown the future in five different eras. The kicker? All the roles are played by child actors, who frequently perform nude (that last part being the main reason The Annunciation is unlikely to receive a release from any but the boldest distributors). To top it all off, in terms of preservation, Hungarian movies are in even worse shape than Czech movies; who knows if there are any extant prints, or if anyone is seriously looking for them? Few have seen it, but Zev Toledano mentions that “for some reason, the actors are all children who perform like a bizarre avant-garde theatrical group complete with nudity and posing theatrics. A messy art film that gets lost in its overly avant-garde pretensions.” You may be able to find it on VHS.
Still from The Annunciation
7. Teenage Tupelo (1995). One of the tag lines was “wanna see naked pictures of my mother?” The first original film distributed by Something Weird video, though they quickly dropped it from their catalog, Tupelo was a love letter to drive-in and grindhouse films long before Rodriguez started the throwback tribute trend that so quickly turned cliche. Tupelo tells the story of “D’Lana Fargo,” who’s courted by a man-hating girl gang, knocked up by a rockabilly singer with a two-note range, and chased by a maniac with a chainsaw. There’s also a sexploitation star in edible panties wandering around in there. All of this vintage madness was the brainchild of John Michael McCarthy, a Memphis-based punk-rockabilly singer who went on to make two more similar films: The Sore Losers (which may be seeing a limited run Blu-ray re-release soon) and Superstarlet A.D.(featuring more girl gangs, this time segregated by hair color, and a character from Tupelo—and this one, though not as shockingly insane as Tupelo, is actually available on Amazon Prime). McCarthy put Teenage Tupelo up on YouTube, but it was taken down (my guess is someone complained about the explicit birth-of-a-baby footage, an old road show trick). It seems to be back up, for the time being, should you wish to search for it, but an actual non-YouTube release seems unlikely.and
Promotional still for Teenage Tupelo
6. Feherlofia [AKA Son of the White Mare] (1981). A trippy animated version of an Eastern European legend about a mythical horse; audiovisually exceptional, Feherlofia is often mentioned as among the greatest feats of animation of all time. Writing in the Huffington Post, Kristen Bialik remarks “Without knowing you at all, I can say that Fehérlófia is unlike any other movie you’ve seen.” This one does get revived, rarely, at festivals and rep theaters, so there’s both interest in it, and prints for striking. So why is it not widely available in this country? (We think it might have something to do with its Hungarian provenance and the rights belonging to a Communist government that hasn’t existed for over twenty years). Europeans can find a Hungarian DVD with no subtitles; not the treatment we were hoping for.
Festival trailer for Feherlofia
5. Throw Away Your Books, Rally in the Streets [Sho o suteyo machi e deyou] (1971). A psychedelic montage about a dysfunctional Japanese family (before dysfunction was “in”). It tells the story of an angsty teen caught between a peeping Tom dad, a sister with an unhealthy attachment to her pet bunny, and other unsavory, bizarre kin. Strictly Film School’s Acquarello calls it “offbeat, garish, unclassifiable, and audacious.” Almost none of Shûji Terayama’s experimental features are available on DVD or streaming; they seem like Criterion candidates.
Still from Throw Away Your Books, Rally in the Streets (1971)
4. Happy End (1967). Czech comedy that begins with a man’s head being detached from his body by a guillotine; the film then literally runs backwards until it arrives at a happy “ending.” A gimmick, sure, but a gimmick we should have a chance to see for ourselves. Even after a bunch of Czech New Wave films were exhumed recently, this was not among them; the original print may well have been lost. Chances of this ever being released seem pretty slim.
Clip from Happy End (1967)
3. Celine and Julie Go Boating [Céline et Julie vont en bateau] (1974). This three-hour long, whimsical and dreamlike French New Wave comedy seems like the kind of thing that should have the acquisition execs at the Criterion Collection salivating. We’re not sure what the holdup is on this one getting a Region 1 DVD release, but this one has a great reputation with the Caheirs du Cinema crowd and looks far more likely to see the light of day than any of the other titles on this list. It is easily available to Europeans; why Americans don’t get the same respect is unknown. An outfit called New Yorker Video announced an upcoming DVD that never materialized, and a” was even released in 2018. It’s a mystery.
Still from Celine and Julie Go Boating (1974)
2. Angel’s Egg [Tenshi no Tamago] (1985). This nearly silent anime by reviewed it, while still holding out for an official release). Due to the popularity of anime in general, you would think there would be an outcry to get one of the legendary early works by a respected practitioner of the form out on DVD. In 2002 a planned edition by Anchor Bay fell through due to unspecified rights issues, and there’s been no news on a release since then. The market is definitely there, and every now and then someone on the Internet mentions it as a possible Criterion Collection acquisition (although that’s probably wishful thinking). Since the original publication of this list, we’ve honored Oshii by Certifying 1984’s Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer weird, so he won’t be forgotten.about a young girl protecting a mysterious egg is one of our most requested titles (we even gave in and
Trailer for Angel’s Egg
1. Cremaster cycle (1994-2002). Conceptual artist Matthew Barney made a series of five surrealist films over a period of eight years that together comprise the Cremaster cycle (the titular “cremaster” is the muscle that raises and lowers the testes). A famous scene features a bee flying out of a boy’s penis. Altogether, the Cremaster films run six and a half hours, with the third installment accounting for three hours of the total running time. Barney himself is insistent that the Cremaster series will never be released on mass market DVD, although the films tour periodically (or at least, they used to) and may be seen at special screenings. “The Order,” a thirty minute segment of Cremaster 3, was released to video in 1999. The cycle’s rarity has made it legendary, but it’s not universally beloved by those critics who have caught it; the dependable J. Hoberman said that Cremaster 5, in particular, “gives the ridiculous a bad name.” On the other hand, Variety called Cremaster 3 “a masterpiece” full of “intoxicating visual beauty.” Barney made a later film called River of Fundament that finds itself in a similar likely-to-never-be-released-in-our-lifetime predicament. Honestly, you’ll probably catch a matinee of The Day the Clown Cried before you see either of these. We hope that Barney will relent from enforcing the scarcity of these films (we have a feeling that if he doesn’t, his estate just might). The Cremasters might not even be movies, the way we typically think of “movies”; perhaps they’re better understood as art installations, a la ‘s split-screened Chelsea Girls. At any rate, Cremaster deserves at least a footnote here; if you track it down somehow and catch a glimpse, tell us what you think.
More information about the series may be gleaned at the Cremaster website (then again, it may not; the site relies on Flash and is not functional on newer browsers).