Weird Movie of the Week

Weird Movie of the Week: Smoking Causes Coughing

Last time on Weird Movie of the Week, we met Brian and Charles. This time we learn that Smoking Causes Coughing:

After a devastating battle against a diabolical turtle, a team of five avengers – known as the “Tobacco Force” – is sent on a mandatory retreat to strengthen their decaying group cohesion. Their sojourn goes wonderfully well until Lézardin, Emperor of Evil, decides to annihilate planet Earth.

Alright, referencing a Quentin Dupieux movie for weird movie of the week is almost like cheating. After all, this is the guy who brought us the touching tale of a homicidal tire and a talking deerskin jacket, amongst other oddities. As these things go, a Power Rangers-style parody featuring anti-smoking vigilantes named Benzene, Methanol, Mercury, Ammonia, and Nicotine, along with a green rat mentor, is perhaps not as uniquely weird as the rest of Dupieux’s filmography, but it’s pretty damn weird for everyone else. Who’d have thunk that Smoking Causes Coughing?

Weird Movie of the Week: Brian and Charles

Last time on Weird Movie of the Week, Jesus showed us the way to the highway (whatever that means). This time around, we meet Brian and Charles:

Brian and Charles

Brian is a lonely inventor in rural Wales who spends his days building quirky, unconventional contraptions that seldom work. Undeterred by his lack of success, he soon attempts his biggest project yet. Using a washing machine and various spare parts, he invents Charles, an artificial intelligence robot that learns English from a dictionary and has an obsession with cabbages.

This was an audience favorite at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, and apparently represents something of a modern (seemingly more comedic) retelling of Frankenstein. It’s certainly a shoe-in for a Kaedrin Movie Award nomination for Best High Concept film, once I get around to actually watching the thing (it’s just hitting streaming now, but is still in the premium/purchase phase of release.) And who knows, maybe even the Hugo Awards would recognize it, if voters take a chance on indie stuff.

Weird Movie of the Week: Jesus Shows You the Way to the Highway

Last time on Weird Movie of the Week, we engaged in a private-eye-led Witch Hunt. This time, um, well, I guess we’ll just say that Jesus Shows You the Way to the Highway:

CIA agents Palmer and Gagano are tasked with the perilous mission of destroying “The Soviet Union!” As they enter the system using a VR simulation, their mission quickly turns into a delirious trap, far more complex than expected, as the fabric of reality starts unraveling around them.

Longtime readers know that this series of posts is somewhat inconsistent in that I don’t always watch the weird movie in question (usually due to availability), but this one was on Amazon Prime Streaming, so while the description above sounds a little funky, this was how I summed it up:

Imagine Adult Swim commissioning Alejandro Jodorowsky to make a Too Many Cooks style pastiche of a late-era Philip K. Dick fever dream inflected novel. I’m still not sure if that’s good or bad, but it’s certainly not boring.

Ah yes, that gets to the weirdness.

Stop motion characters from Jesus Shows You the Way to the Highway

I’m just going to quickly list a few things that are in this movie, just to give you more of an idea:

  • A good portion of the film is stop-motion animation where our heroes run around wearing paper masks of famous people in a virtual reality world
  • There’s a cocain snorting black Batman who is referred to as “Batfro”. I think he’s the mayor or something?
  • Stalin is portrayed as Scottish?
  • There are 3 ninjas called Spaghetti, Ravioli and Baltazar
  • At one point a pair of fly monsters show up. One of them shoots laser beams from its eyes and accidentally immolates itself. The other fly creature pulls his hand off and candy comes pouring out like he’s some sort of piñata.
  • I know my description involves Philip K. Dick and a lot of people throw that out as a descriptor, but it’s very clearly an influence here – one of the characters is even named Palmer Eldrich.

And there’s lots more where that came from. As you might intuit from all of this, the film is a bit of a mess. It’s certainly not beginners fare, though I suspect there’s a very specific type of person who will get a lot out of this. Who those people are, I have no idea. I found it interesting from an almost anthropological observational standpoint, but that sort of detached reserve is obviously not what’s driving this whole thing. Anyway, if you’re a veteran of weird movies, this one might due the trick.

Weird Movie of the Week: Witch Hunt

Last time on Weird Movie of the Week, we noshed on Champagne and Bullets. This time, we engage in a private-eye-led Witch Hunt:

Detective Philip Lovecraft lives in Los Angeles in the 1950s when an ambitious Senator is holding hearings, on Magic. Magic is the new influence in Tinsel Town. Lovecraft is unique in that he is the only one who refuses to use magic in his work. Shortly after he is hired, he finds his client, Kim Hudson, accused of the murder of her husband, a film executive. Philip uses the talents of a local witch, Kropotkin, to explain what is happening only to see her accused of the murder and sentenced to be burnt at the stake. Reminiscent of Roger Rabbit, without the toons.

It’s a made-for-HBO movie from 1994 (i.e. before they kicked off the whole prestige cable drama thing) that is directed by Paul Schrader, stars Dennis Hopper as Detective Lovecraft, and Penelope Ann Miller as the femme fatale. With music by Angelo Badalamenti. It’s a sorta sequel to Cast a Deadly Spell (directed by Martin Campbell and starring Fred Ward as the detective), which was actually a pretty fantastic mashup of 40s gumshoe noir and Lovecraftian horror.

Witch Hunt

By all accounts this sequel is not as good, but the frustrating thing about it is that it doesn’t appear to be available to watch anywhere (there’s a VHS on Amazon for $54). I know that movie productions are complicated legal constructs and that rights can get messy, but it was made specifically for HBO, how is it not on HBO Max? Well, you can watch Cast a Deadly Spell on HBO Max, so there is that (and I’d recommend it if you’re in the mood for this sort of thing).

Weird Movie of the Week: Champagne and Bullets

Last time on Weird Movie of the Week, we covered the touching tale of a black devil doll from hell. This time, we’ve got a tasty meal of Champagne and Bullets. As per usual, the plot descriptions vary:

Two cops are fired after being setup by their corrupt boss, who gets appointed as judge, but secretly heads a satanic cult. After his wife is killed by the cult, one of the cops is determined to bring the cult down.

Alright, I can see some weirdness emerging there, let’s look at a different plot descripton:

The Corruption of The System is given a swift lopsided kick by Vigilante Justice as a Disgraced Former Cop emerges from exile, automatic weapons blazing and mediocre martial arts akimbo, to bring down a murderous satanic cult headed by his former partner. His only allies? A boatload of swagger and one leggy blonde.

Ah yes, now we’re getting weirder. Let’s explore some Letterboxd reviews:

truly no words, defies a rating, i’ve never winced more, the loser vanity project to end all loser vanity projects. alternates between john de hart giving himself very long and cringe softcore scenes with the female lead while his own terrible songs play in the background to scenes of wings hauser having a psychotic break.

That’s the stuff. The whole “loser vanity project” bit does remind me a bit of The Astrologer, which might be promising since that’s an almost accidental masterpiece. That being said, all accounts are that Champagne and Bullets (aka Get Even, aka Road to Revenge) is just plain bad. Unfortunately, it’s one of those movies that’s difficult to track down. Vinegar Syndrome did a quick run a while back, but it’s out of stock and selling on secondary for upwards of $100. I enjoy watching bad movies and all, but not that much.

Let’s look at some images:

Action Star
Nothing says action star like a mustache…
More action star
It’s a very menacing mustache…
Marriage attire
Typical marriage attire
Wings Hauser going full ham
Wings Hauser going full ham
Villainy also has a mustache
Villainy also has a mustache (at least, I’m assuming that’s also a villain)

So yes, I definitely want to catch up with this at some point. I’m sure I’ll be able to find a copy somewhere, through… methods. But I’d rather, you know, support artists and companies like Vinegar Syndrome.

Weird Movie of the Week: Black Devil Doll from Hell

Last time on Weird Movie of the Week, we found a tale of forbidden love between people named Obama and Osama. Alas, that turned out to be a bit of a dud. This time, we’ve got a Black Devil Doll from Hell:

A woman buys a doll at a magic shop. Unbeknownst to her, the doll is possessed by an evil spirit, and it proceeds to take her over.

I know, that doesn’t sound all that weird. Par for the killer dummy/doll genre course. It turns out that the basic description leaves out some things. A review from Tony the Terror on Letterboxd gives us the goods:

An incredibly religious woman buys a doll that proceeds to come alive and pleasure her (mmhmm yep that’s right). This causes her to have a total sexual awakening, forego the lord, become a skank, and then realize that only the doll excites her.

Ah, now there’s that weirdness that makes you wonder how a movie like this could ever get made. From all indications, it sounds more bonkers than it actually is, and many mention that the 90 minute runtime is far too long, which isn’t a good sign. And yet, it’s the sort of thing I could see myself catching up with during the forthcoming Six Weeks of Halloween horror movie marathon, so you never know…

Weird Movie of the Week: When Obama Loved Osama

Last time on Weird Movie of the Week, we watched the Citizen Kane of Astrology movies. This time, we’ve got a tale of forbidden love between people named Obama and Osama. Ultimately, it’s a tale of two internet-based movie databases.

Because streaming services are terrible at curation and discoverability, I peruse a number of other websites and tools to see what’s new and interesting. Because I’m a weirdo, it’s often the more obscure selections that catch my eye, like this one that I discovered on JustWatch (new on Amazon Prime, because of course it’s Prime material):

The subject of the film is exceptionally intriguing. It revolves around a man named Barrack Obama and a man named Osama bin Laden. To win the hand of the middle aged man, the hero, bin Laden needs to cross a few obstacles on his way as he is a Muslim and the man of his dreams is a Christian. The movie “When Obama loved Osama” and remember: Osama bin Stylin on all yall n*gs

Apologies for some minor censorship at the end there (honestly not sure what to make of that), but what the fuck is going on with this movie description? Was it written by a six-year-old who doesn’t quite speak English and was only told the title of the movie? As it turns out, the description on Amazon Prime itself isn’t nearly as weird (or as tantalizing, sadly):

Two youngsters, Maggi Obama and Aman Osama, who come from different communal backgrounds are in love with each other. Will their love overcome the religious differences and will they be united?

I mean, that sounds outright boring compared to the bananapants movie described by the six-year-old. What’s going on here? It turns out that there are two major internet movie databases. Everyone knows IMDB (Internet Movie Database), which is also owned by Amazon and unsurprisingly powers Amazon Prime (and thus it has the more prosaic description). But there’s also TMDB (The Movie Database), which has the more insane description and powers lots of websites, including JustWatch and Letterboxd.

Anyway, I didn’t end up watching the movie. It turns out that this is probably not actually a weird movie of the week, but I figured I’d capture the process of figuring out that it’s not. For posterity. Or something.

Weird Movie of the Week: The Astrologer

Last time on Weird Movie of the Week, we covered a tender tale of voluptuous androids and space cops. This time, we’re going to watch the Citizen Kane of Astrologer movies.

When I was in college, one of my roommates had discovered this list of the weirdest (or maybe grossest) movies of all time on the internet. The details are fuzzy and I have never been able to track down that original list, but we had great fun making our way through it. It’s where we discovered things like Alejandro Jodorowsky’s particular brand of insanity like El Topo or Peter Jackson’s early splatter flicks like Meet the Feebles and Bad Taste. Thinking back on it, we were exceedingly lucky to have found copies of these films at all (mostly thanks to the now defunct TLA Video Stores in the Philadelphia area), but there were many films on that list that we were never able to track down.

I might be imagining things, but I believe The Astrologer was one of them. Of course, any attempt to find a home video version was probably doomed to failure. This is one of those movies where people find a 35mm copy in a vault in Brazil, then do a limited tour of film festivals and art-houses with the print. For decades, this was basically the only way to see this film.

A few weeks ago, some hero uploaded the film to YouTube (and it’s of a surprisingly good quality). If trash cinema is your jam, get thee over there now before it gets pulled. Some assorted thoughts below:

  • A plot summary can’t really capture the film’s bonkers nature, but I guess I should give it a shot. A carnie specializing in astrology and putting on a small-scale psychic act on the carnival circuit gets embroiled in a scheme to smuggle rubies out of Kenya. He somehow becomes the sole survivor of that ordeal, and he parlays the ill-gotten earnings into an astrological empire. Once on top of the world, he begins to meltdown.
  • The plot doesn’t really capture how strangely paced the movie is. Each part of the film feels like a sudden digression that lasts way too long, but somehow adds up. The first twenty minutes or so feel awfully conventional, such that you might be wondering why this film has such a batshit reputation. Then a sudden, jarring jump-cut to Kenya knocks you off balance, and I suspect you’ll never recover. Huge emotional swings, every filmmaking gimmick in the book, ridiculous editing, and not an ounce of shame from the egomaniac who made the film.
  • In case you can’t tell, this film is not for the faint of heart. I have no idea how I’d characterize this movie’s politics, but if you’re of the woke persuasion, you will probably find it appalling. Then again, the appalling nature of the film is its primary draw.
  • The reason for this film’s rarity has to do with rights issues. Usually, this sort of thing traces back to contracts that didn’t include music rights for home video, or the movie was lost in the assets of a giant corporation who can’t be bothered with such a small scale release. However, in this case, it’s because the writer/director/star Craig Denney simply inserted a bunch of Moody Blues tracks (amongst others) into the film without any permission whatsoever. Weirdly, the music is so perfectly integral to the film that you can’t just take it out and replace it.
  • Speaking of writer/director/star Craig Denney, one of the other mysterious things about the guy is that he seemingly disappeared decades ago. Rumors abound about mob ties and faking his own death and whatnot. The story behind this film is almost as interesting and weird as the film itself. The movie is generally portrayed as the first work of egotistical mania, a sorta precursor to Tommy Wiseau’s The Room.
Craig Denney in The Astrologer
  • The comparison to The Room isn’t quite right, though. That movie is “so bad it’s good” and people love reveling in how bad it is. The Astrologer almost accidentally bumbles into genius territory.
  • As an example of the film’s accidental genius, take the dinner scene. It’s one of those scenes that’s completely driven by the stolen music, this time Procol Harum’s prog rock epic “Grand Hotel.” You can’t hear what anyone is saying, but you get that a couple is happy at the start and then start arguing until the sequence reaches a fever pitch. It incorporates slow motion, bizarre editing, and weirdly tracks with on-the-nose lyrics. It’s a bravura sequence that I’m pretty sure happened completely by accident, but does that really matter? There’s nothing this brilliant in The Room.

I could go on, but I think you get the idea. The Astrologer is one for the ages, and something fans of schlocky cinema need to check out. It’s bound to be pulled from YouTube at some point, but the genie’s out of the bottle. It’ll probably be available via less reputable methods indefinitely.

Weird Movie of the Week: Galaxina

Last time on Weird Movie of the Week, we covered a touching tale of Vampires and Robots. This time, we’ve got voluptuous androids and Space Police! The poster is certainly an eye-catcher…

Galaxina Poster

Let’s get a load of this plot description:

Galaxina is a lifelike, voluptuous android who is assigned to oversee the operations of an intergalactic Space Police cruiser captained by incompetent Cornelius Butt. When a mission requires the ship’s crew to be placed in suspended animation for decades, Galaxina finds herself alone for many years, developing emotions and falling in love with the ship’s pilot, Thor.

Sounds glorious, let’s watch it!

  • We’ve already mentioned this, but the captain’s name is Cornelius Butt, and it bears repeating. To be clear, it’s not like one of those things where it says “butt” in the credits, but they pronounce it “boot” or somesuch, they actually just say butt. We’re introduced to him when he opens a ship’s log, aping the form of Star Trek, but with the content style of Dark Star (it reminds me of the line where the entire ship’s supply of toilet paper was destroyed, though let’s be real, nothing else can be that well written). He describes his ship’s boring assignment as “Joy and yummies.” Anyway, that’s just his voice. The visual reveal is accompanied by Thus Spake Zarathustra (theme music from 2001: A Space Odyssey) and, well, words kinda fail me.
    Cornelius Butt

    Look, it’s obvious that this is a parody and clearly meant to be funny, but it somehow manages to work on both that level and in an unintentionally hilarious way. Neat trick

  • The film kinda, sorta stars Dorothey Stratten as the titular android Galaxina.
    Galaxina and friends

    Stratten was a former Playboy Playmate and Playmate of the Year who was attempting to parlay that success into a career in film. She had some other small roles, but this was basically her only real starring vehicle because she was murdered by her ex-husband and manager (who also shot himself) not long after Galaxina came out. The tragic event inspired two movies (in one, she was played by Jamie Lee Curtis) and songs like Californication. The general consensus was that she had some talent and could have grown into a pretty good presence on screen. Sorry to bum out what will otherwise be a lighthearted post, but here we are.

  • In space, no one can hear your space siren, but they can apparently see your billboards.
  • There’s a dude who is exercising while smoking a cigar and drinking beer. It’s Thor, the guy who Galaxina will fall in love with…
  • Another dude is dressed in an old Dodger’s uniform (with the sleeves ripped off, natch) and cowboy hat, clearly the inspiration for Danny McBride’s character in that Prometheus/Alien:Covenant/Whatever movie that came out recently and is somehow worse than Galaxina. Also, he’s watching a space opera on future tv. And by space opera, I don’t mean, like, science fiction, I mean a literal opera that ends with a song sung by a fat (alien) lady.
  • The wine served with dinner is called Thunder Ripple, meaning that this is clearly a corporate dystopia where Thunderbird and Ripple have merged. Captain Butt comments that it’s vintage 2001, a very fine year.
  • Captain Butt eats a weird space egg raw, and has an Alien moment where he vomits a monster that runs away. In a shocking twist of fate, the monster becomes the hero of the film (er, spoilers? Can you spoil a movie like this?)
  • Oh look, there’s a space brothel in this movie. Very classy.
  • While the crew is asleep en-route and Galaxina is left to run the ship, there’s a very David from Prometheus/Alien:Covenant/Whatever movie that came out recently and is somehow worse than Galaxina vibe, as she falls in love with one member of the crew and reprograms herself or somesuch.
  • Once the get to their destination and Galaxina is sent out to retrieve the Blue Star (more on that in a sec), we have our Mos Eisley Cantina moment, only the people on this planet eat human beings, so their menu consists of things like “lady fingers” that are actual human fingers. My guess is that, economics being what they are, only approximately half of the fingers served are actual “lady” fingers though. I mean, I guess there could be some “gentleman” fingers that would be recognizably male (or at least, not ladylike?), but why throw away the revenue stream if you don’t have to.
  • Every time someone says “Blue Star”, an “ah ahhh” chorus erupts in the soundtrack, but in a meta maneuver, the people in the scene can actually hear it and are kinda confused. It recalls the Frau Blucher horse whinny gag from Young Frankenstein. I’m sure there’s actually a better reference for this, but it’s not coming to mind at the moment. I know, this movie deserves better from me.
  • The Mos Eisley bit culminates in a shootout that is straight out of a spaghetti western, but with laser pistols. This movie has it all.
  • Oh no, Galaxina has been captured by a strange cult that worships… the great hog in the sky, Harley Davidson. Of course, her crew shows up and they all escape in the cult’s lord, an actual Harley motorcycle.
  • There’s more, but what we’re ultimately left with is an intentional parody that is also somehow unintentionally funny. It’s like they invented a new way to laugh that can never be replicated. Bespoke humor. Look, I don’t want to oversell it and it drags a lot over its runtime, but I had a lot of fun with it and B Movie aficionados will get a kick out of it. The copy on Amazon Prime actually looks pretty good too (i.e. it’s not a pan and scan pal transfer, which has been known to happen to movies like this.)

So there you have it. It’s not a good movie and you shouldn’t watch it, wink, wink.

Weird Movie of the Week

Last time on Weird Movie of the Week, we hunted the elusive albino clown. This time, we tangle with Robots and Vampires. There is indeed a description of this movie, but after watching it, using words to describe it seems dumb. I think all we really need to explain this movie is the poster.

The Robo Vampire Poster

Alright, fine, I guess words are necessary. Assorted observations and thoughts:

  • Unsurprisingly, the film’s title is misleading. This does not concern robotic vampires, but rather, robots fighting vampires. But as we’ve established, words, even words in the title, do not become movies like this.
  • Unsurprisingly, the poster features what must be actual copyright infringement when it comes to the robot’s design, a very clear knockoff of RoboCop. I suspect the movie skirted this issue because this is what the robot looks like in the actual movie:

    He puts the Robo in Robo Vampire

  • Surprisingly, this Robot is not created until about 30 minutes into the movie. Then (spoilers, I guess) he almost immediately gets blown up by a bazooka (weren’t the 80s awesome? Why don’t people shoot things with bazookas in movies anymore?)
  • Perhaps knowing how awful the robot looked, the film leaned heavily on their foley department. The sound effects for the robot are exaggerated for sure, but they almost kinda sorta make up for the look of the costume? I mean, not really, but I can appreciate the effort.
  • The first half hour of the movie actually concerns a bunch of drug dealers creating and training vampires to protect their drug shipments from the cops. The vampires are of the Chinese “hopping” variety, meaning they act more like zombies than vampires. And they hold their arms out straight and hop a lot. As such things go, this isn’t a particularly good example, but the robotic angle makes it interesting enough.
  • At one point, a witch/ghost finds out that her love has been turned into a vampire, which means they can’t be together in the afterlife or something. It’s a wondrous subplot that makes no sense.
  • I really don’t need to describe much more of the plot. The vampires kill some cops, the cops retaliate by creating robocop. The rest is all cops vs drug dealers, robocop vs vampires, and permutations of such.
  • Lots of cheap explosions and gun squibs, leavened with a sorta martial-arts-lite (doesn’t really stand up to actual martial arts movies). Some of the gun stuff and explosions are decent, but a lot are clearly done on the cheap and don’t look great.

Look, it’s not in any way a good movie, but it is deeply weird, and thus worth being commemorated in a post like this. For the bold, it’s currently available on Amazon Prime streaming, though I should warn you again: it’s a bad movie. Don’t blame me if you watch it. Unless you love it.