I am not a fan of modern film. Nor am I a fan of normal film. The laughable standard of 'star quality' currently dribbling from the hackneyed Hollywood lowest-common-denominator drip, the infuriating passivity and homogenized din of unconvincing action dominant in the post-internet era mindrot, the co-opting of the art cinema fare by the dullest romantic devices of the mainstream, and the inevitable extinction of the independent grindhouse, ALL leave me utterly DRY.
On the other hand, I have always been thrilled by the anachronistic, the deviant, the absurd, the outsider, the rockin', and the raw. And that is what makes the recent passing of SOMETHING WEIRD VIDEO's Mike Vraney such a personal heartbreak for me. This from a fan who never met the man, but was brought hours and hours of mind boggling, titillating and hilarious joy through his labours. For years, even decades.
SWV revelled in pre-porn smut, rock and roll delinquent potboilers, Z-grade sc-ifi & monster flicks, and all other realms exploitative or odd. They not only helped to shape my aesthetic-- my leanings toward the flavors of the bizarre and forgotten-- but they also validated that such tastes were part of an older, ever present, ever evolving, mindset- whose delirious ranks I had unwittingly joined.
In memoriam, and celebration, I humbly offer my TOP TEN Favorite SWV mind-melters. Cheers, Mr. Vraney, and Thank you for EVERYTHING.
Long Live SOMETHING WEIRD VIDEO!
1. MANTIS IN LACE aka LILA
Lovely exotic dancer LILA OD's on LSD and becomes prone to mid-coital flashbacks, which bring her to the point of homicidal psychedelic fury. Cinematographer LASZLO KOVACS (!) helped supply some of the violently hallucinatory imagery, and one of the victims is STUART LANCASTER from RUSS MEYER's FASTER PUSSYCAT, KILL! KILL!- but there are too many whack performances to list, really. Although SWV dvds are noted for their amazing extras (all time creepiest School Scare film LSD: TRIP OR TRAP? is included), I recommend seeking this out on VHS. It is a far superior cut, although it is a badly damaged print. Still easy to enjoy under the influence, I can attest. More on this classic later. For now, here is the unforgettable theme song:
2. BLOOD FREAK
Muscleman biker STEVE HAWKES takes a new job eating turkey injected with experimental drugs to help support his addiction to marijuana, which is also tainted. The combination transforms him into a bloodthirsty, rampaging, uhh, turkey beak guy, who terrorizes the neighborhood. Plenty of hippie hotties, drug parties, and crimson drenched gore. And praying. Oh, see, this is actually a jesus film! Turkeyman is saved through the efforts of his christian girlfriend, and he eventually drops to his knees to ask the almighty for aid. Incredible.
3. STREET OF A THOUSAND PLEASURES
An unforgettable artifact of a lost time, STREET OF A THOUSAND PLEASURES is a nudie flick on the very threshold of the hardcore era. The thin plot involves an American being shown around an arab slave girl market, but what soon becomes apparent is that the filmmakers have stacked the production with EVERY single nude model or exotic dancer they could find who was willing to participate. So DOZENS of familiar faces (over 70!) from this period appear, including the well known USCHI DIGARD, JOYCE GIBSON and MICHELLE ANGELO. The POV camerawork is equally, and uniquely, exciting too. Many films have bragged the tagline "There's something in it for EVERYONE!", but for once, they weren't kidding. Not willing to post a link to the amazing trailer at some dubious porn site, you'll have to find it yourself. Or better yet, go buy that SOMETHING WEIRD SAMPLER dvd. Lotsa great clips & coming attractions.
4. WIZARD OF GORE
I vacillated between including HERSCHELL GORDON LEWIS' well known classic BLOOD FEAST or this less familiar freakout from further along in his career. Finally went with the latter because the confusing, fourth-wall shattering last reel has always reminded me of the climax to ALEJANDRO JODOROWSKY's later film HOLY MOUNTAIN. Montag the Magician performs blood drenched illusions onstage, but later the hypnotised participants unexpectedly succumb to their (imagined?) tortures. LEWIS' final reel, leaping into the existential void, is one of his wilder accomplishments.
5. THE CURIOUS DR. HUMPP
Where to begin. It's Argentinian. It's a softcore porno, with orgies, lesbians and masturbators. It's a mad scientist film, with an evil antagonist taking orders from a brain in a jar and commanding an army of deformed (alien?) henchmen. It's a demented spoof of the prevalent sexual studies which were coming into vogue, via Masters & Johnson's HUMAN SEXUAL RESPONSE & others. And it's a rather well shot detective story, with earnest do gooders hot on the trail to solve the mystery before it is too late. It would almost seem like a movie pieced together from disparate sources (see SATAN'S BED below), but somehow this most schizophrenic of all the SWV offerings manages to hang together. You'll never be the same.
The Curious Dr. Humpp from El Baron Lagourde on Vimeo.
6. BASKET CASE
Aside from HGL's BLOOD FEAST, perhaps the most widely known of SWV's releases. A likable recent arrival to Times Square (during its seediest heyday) works at exacting revenge against the physicians who performed the surgical removal of his deformed siamese twin as a boy. His astounding companion BELIAL, the basket's denizen, becomes one of cinema's most unlikely underdog antiheroes, and the film bulges with other surprising merits-- numerous likable amateur performances, an impossible to fake aura of NYC scuzziness, some imaginative splatter effects (enhanced by a brief stop-motion sequence!), and a level of irresistably black humor throughout. A low budget masterpiece from FRANK HENENLOTTER.
7. SATAN'S BED
A disorienting hodgepodge from MICHAEL FINDLAY, who would soon find infamy as a trailblazer in the field of violent pre-porn nudies known as 'roughies.' This film seems to be two works unconvincingly spliced together. One is rather standard FINDLAY fare as a co-ed gang of hooligans terrorize a succession of unfortunate females (including pretty brunette JUDY ADLER, who rarely appears in a movie without being manhandled). The other, however, is a brutal big city fable in which YOKO ONO makes an early, startling, starring appearance. I'm not kidding. No, she doesn't have a nude scene.
SATAN'S BED TRAILER
8. BLOODY PIT OF HORROR
Chiseled and oily MICKEY HARGITAY (that's Mr. JAYNE MANSFIELD to you, and yes, father of Law & Order: SVU's MARISKA HARGITAY) stars as The Crimson Executioner, a reincarnation of the MARQUIS DE SADE. His quiet solitude is shattered when a group of photographers and models descends upon his seemingly abandoned castle. Upon eyeballing the beauties, the compulsions take over and he eventually starts bringing the guests down to the torture dungeon... Oddly enough, I think this is supposed to kind of a comedy, but nobody seems to have told HARGITAY, who gives his maniacal all. Not that any of this explains the room with the spider the size of a large pizza and the web made of rope.
9. NIGHT OF THE BLOODY APES
A glaring exception to the 'remakes are never as good as the originals' rule. Of course, it helps that RENE CARDOZA was remaking his own previous Female Wrestler vs. twisted monster effort: DOCTOR OF DOOM. A doctor transplants an ape's heart into his son's body, but this causes a hideous mutation, and the creature breaks loose. Of course, being shot in the early seventies instead of the early sixties means a lot of gratuitous nudity and gruesome violence- including, perhaps most appallingly, footage of actual open heart surgery. The law is powerless to stop the attacks, but thankfully they are dating a Girl Lucha Libre team, who are considerably more proactive. From SANTOS on down, the Mexican Wrestling Movie genre is a mystifying realm.
10. LOVE CAMP 7
Not JUST the precursor to an entire rash of women-in-prison movies in the 70s, LOVE CAMP 7 also kicked off the Nazi sexploitation film craze, which plumbed to the depths of depravity with ILSA: SHE WOLF OF THE SS-- but also found a kind of general acceptance in the artier SALON KITTY and THE NIGHT PORTER. It seems rather difficult to comprehend in retrospect, for if there is any genre more difficult to explain away than this brief burst of Hitler porno chic, I'd certainly be hard pressed to name it. And certainly LOVE CAMP 7, where a group of allied agents goes undercover in a Nazi brothel, and is met with predictably harsh treatment, is true to form. It documents a time, years before actual pornography was legalized, when filmakers would go to ANY length to make their smut deviantly stand out from the crowd. So much of the vintage celluloid could almost seem quaint, if not for the brutal concepts and content-- all so strangely alluring in these PC days.
Well guys, there you have it. It's been a blast! Feel free to leave a comment below and tell me your faves.
And I'm certain there is still plenty of fun to come. For the awesome power and dominating influence of SOMETHING WEIRD VIDEO is ominously all-pervasive....
Here's a link to the fabulous SOMETHING WEIRD VIDEO website! There is also a link to their FB page this way. ORDER something NOW!!
SOMETHING WEIRD VIDEO
And here's a link to MIKE VRANEY's Memorial FB page. A TON of great pictures and remembrances.
MIKE VRANEY MEMORIAL TRIBUTE
SOMETHING WEIRD VIDEO gif via MONSTERMAN! Check out his tumblr!
If anybody needs a credit for anything, please let me know, and I will make adjustments. Thank you.