Weird Movie of the Week

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.

Weird Movie of the Week

Last time on Weird Movie of the Week, we saw a touching tale of lobsters and cops. This time around, we examine the elusive and dangerous Clown Hunt:

In the wilds of Texas, grown men gather to hunt the rarest game of all: Clowns. Once plentiful and common now one must pay a heft some to hunt clowns, and for some reason it’s become annual tradition. However this season the appearance of Albino Willie, a rare albino clown, poses a special prize and danger.

Look, this doesn’t get good ratings and it’s not really available (unless you want to shell out $45 for a DVD), but it sounds absolutely amazing. Granted, I’m sure the 72 minute long film doesn’t live up to its premise, but it’s also worth noting that this film was written and directed by Barry Tubb, most famous for his role as Wolfman in Top Gun (he’s one of the pilots that doesn’t get much play – ‘I said to Hollywood, “Where’d he go?” Hollywood says, “Where’d who go?”‘). I don’t know, I just find it funny that this guy was probably carrying around the script for forever and was finally able to make his little passion project.

Weird Movie of the Week

Last time on Weird Movie of the Week, we saw an Enraged Lycanthrope. In searching for 2018 movies I’d like to catch up with soon, one of the films I came across sounded interesting: Lobster Cop. No, it’s not about a cop who is also a lobster, unfortunately, but it does have a pretty weird premise:

Four police officers open up a lobster restaurant as a cover in order to catch a notorious drug dealer, only to find their secret recipe is more popular than they expect. When they get caught up in their new business venture, they find a bigger conspiracy at work.

Alright, so maybe not that weird, but the trailer does have a goofy sense of humor and I kinda love the idea behind the movie.

Now if only I could find a way to watch the damn thing…

Weird Movie of the Week: Enraged Lycanthrope Edition

Last time on Weird Movie of the Week, we saw a woman with a strange growth on her shoulder that wound up being the fetus of a 400 year-old demonic Native American. This time, we return to an old WMotW theme: weird werewolves. So we’ve got a movie called Wolf Guy, which starts with a pretty standard WMotW description, but slowly grows more worthy:

The incredible Shinichi “Sonny” Chiba is WOLFGUY, the only survivor of a clan of werewolves who relies on his feral, full-moon-activated superpowers to solve mysterious crimes. One night, a bizarre and bloody death in the Tokyo streets plunges him into a far reaching conspiracy populated by crooked politicians, naked white women, bit players like Hideo Murota, a phantom tiger, and – best of all – a shadowy organization (called the J-CIA) out to steal the secret of Wolfguy’s powers and the blood right out of his veins.

Oh, and it has an alternate subtitle you see sometimes, “Wolfguy – Enraged Lycanthrope”.

Wolf Guy - Enraged Lycanthrope

Unlike most Weird Movies of the Week, I have actually watched this one before posting about it, so I can tell you that this is indeed worthy of the label. A few thoughts:

  • Chiba never actually transforms into a werewolf, but he does jump around like a wolf a few times.
  • At one point, Chiba has been disemboweled, but since it was the full moon, he was able suck his intestines back into his body using only the power of his mind.
  • Chiba sleeps with every woman he meets, often within only a couple of minutes. Ah, the 70s.
  • The soundtrack is an awesome, swanky 70s affair with some psychodelia thrown in for good measure.
  • Visually, it’s a pretty trippy affair. Lots of zooms and dutch angles which combine well with the funky soundtrack.
  • I watched this on Shudder, which has the recent Arrow restoration of the film, so it’s a really good transfer. Better looking than most exploitation of the era, though maybe that’s just because it’s been restored.

It’s one of those movies that isn’t particularly good, but still a blast to watch for some reason. Well worth checking out for fans of weird schlock.

Weird Movie of the Week

Last time on Weird Movie of the Week, we covered a guy who killed Hitler, and then Bigfoot. This time, we’ve got The Manitou, which I discovered reading Brian Collins’s Horror Movie A Day: The Book. His brief “synopsis based on fading memory” sounds glorious:

A woman gets a weird growth on her shoulder. As is often the case, it turns out to be a fetus.

And not just any fetus, but “a 400 year-old demonic Native American” fetus. And if that’s not enough, the trailer hints at even more bizarre happenings, including Tony Curtis randomly screaming “John!” and a door opening to a starscape or something.

Next week begins the fabled Six Weeks of Halloween, so get strapped in… up first is some Italian horror/Giallos…

Weird Movie of the Week

Last time on Weird Movie of the Week, we covered some Holiday Horror (a film that turned out to be not quite as weird as desired, alas). This time, we return to the Bigfoot realm with a movie that has one of the greatest titles I’ve ever heard: The Man Who Killed Hitler and then Bigfoot. Produced by indie statesman John Sayles (who is probably best known for his serious work like Lone Star or Eight Men Out, but got his start with trash like Piranha or Alligator) and starring Sam Elliott, this premise sounds like a hoot:

The story follows a legendary American war veteran named Calvin Barr (Elliott) who, decades after serving in WWII and assassinating Adolf Hitler, must now hunt down the fabled Bigfoot. Living a peaceful life in New England, the former veteran is contacted by the FBI and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to lead the charge as the creature is carrying a deadly plague and is hidden deep inside the Canadian wilderness.

Sounds glorious. These things don’t always pan out that way, but I think this one is worth the stretch.

Weird Movie of the Week: Holiday Horror Edition

Last time on Weird Movie of the Week, we covered a remake of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s 1973 film The Holy Mountain that is composed entirely of salvaged clips from old dog movies and VHS tapes. This time we’ve got some Holiday Horror:

A Christmas Horror Story has a lot going for it. It’s from several of the creative minds behind the Ginger Snaps trilogy (Grant Harvey, Steven Hoban and Brett Sullivan) and takes place in Ginger and Brigitte’s fictional town of Bailey Downs; it stars William Shatner as a drunk, hyper-conservative radio DJ full of holiday cheer; it features Krampus and zombie elves. Like any horror anthology, there are great moments and there are weak moments, but its framework is cleverly constructed, tying all of the vignettes together in an interesting way that isn’t revealed until the final act.

So the fact that it is a Holiday Horror movie is not, in itself, very weird. There’s lots of them, and we’ve covered this territory before. Repeatedly. Nor is it that it comes from the folks who made Ginger Snaps (an original take on the werewolf story, to be sure, but not quite weird). No, what sold me on this was the Shatner line: “it stars William Shatner as a drunk, hyper-conservative radio DJ full of holiday cheer”. Inspired. I’m all in.

The review isn’t exactly glowing, but few of these movies are actually very good. As it mentions, it’s clearly inspired by Trick ‘r Treat, one of the best horror anthologies ever made (surely the most consistently good and interconnected), which is funny, because this movie supposedly features the Krampus, an obscure Santa precursor that represents Santa’s… darker side (many precursors are actually two separate people, one to give gifts to all the good boys and girls, the other to punish the not-so-good). It turns out that Trick ‘r Treat’s writer/director Michael Dougherty is releasing his own take on Krampus during this holiday season. It’s an embarrassment of riches for Holiday Horror fans this year. Looking forward to it.

Weird Movie of the Week

Last time on Weird Movie of the Week, we covered a movie that revolved around a secret formula for growing hair using peanut butter. This time, we’ve got two weird movies for the price of one! Doggiewoggiez! Poochiewoochiez! is a remake of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s 1973 film The Holy Mountain (itself one of the weirdest movies of all time, along with the rest of Jodorowsky’s oeuvre) that is composed entirely of salvaged clips from old dog movies and VHS tapes. Naturally, the film was made by the Everything is Terrible crew, a group of people that wallow in the detritus of old VHS wastelands and the like (usually to hilarious effect). It makes the Kaedrin watchlist sheerly for the audacity of attempting a remake of a Jodorowsky film and coming up with a premise that actually makes it seem like they might pull it off. Having watched The Holy Mountain, I can tell you that it’s a miracle that someone could even come close to thinking of something that might rival that film’s weirdness. Can they actually fulfill that potential? Only one way to find out!