Bizarre Films

mon·do. Slang. Adj.
Enormous; huge: a mondo list of pizza toppings. Adv. Extremely; very: a mondo big mistake.

[From mondo (bizarro), very bizarre, from Italian Mondo Cane, (A Dog’s World), name of movie with bizarre scenes that was a cult favorite in the 1960s.]

In my lifetime (1965-present) I estimate I’ve seen approximately 8,000 to 10,000 motion pictures. I’m basing that on approximately 200 films a year (about 4 per week) for 40 years. I’m not counting the first 5 years of my life, because I can’t remember those years, but I do vividly remember “The Lost Continent” (1968) and “King Kong Escapes” (1967). During my college years (1983-1989), I probably watched 10 films a week (520 films/year x 6 years = 3,120 films), so my grand total is probably teetering around 10,000. I think that’s a fair amount of films.

A few times each year I see a film so extraordinary, so mind-boggling and bizarre that it etches an unforgettable scar in my mind. “Willy Wonka” is such a film (Gene Wilder freaked me out). I love weird films. This past year I have added three more to my list: “Goke, Body Snatcher from Hell” (吸血鬼ゴケミドロ)(thanks Rich)(coming soon from Criterion!), the Otto Preminger oddity “Skidoo”, and the mesmerizing “Manos: Hands of Fate” (I’m holding Vince and Nic responsible –Watching “Manos” is like trying to stay awake on a 24-hour sleep deficit). While “Goke” is brilliant and colorful (Tarantino digs the film), “Skidoo” is… Well, I don’t know what it is… and “Manos” is just plain awful. AWFUL. Here at long last is my partial life-list of truly bizarre films. Rent them! I suffered through them so should you:

Häxan (1922) – “Witchcraft Through the Ages”. Odd silent Swedish film. I still can’t figure this film out. Check out the Criterion DVD print.

Un chien andalou (1929) – This is the short avant-garde film featuring the razor through the eyeball sequence. Written by Dali.

The Black Cat (1934) – Ulmer’s films are terrific and I consider this a top 10 horror classic. But it is one of the strangest horror films I’ve seen. Poelzig’s Bauhaus pad belongs in a French new-wave flick.

Blood of the Beasts (Le Sang des bêtes)(1949) – This is a short film supplement on Criterion’s “Eyes Without Face” (also bizarre). It’s a romantic treatment on the “slaughter house” industry in Paris. It blew me away.

Robot Monster (1953) – My vote for the weirdest flick of the 1950’s. Phil Tucker’s films are surreal.

The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T (1953) – Hans Conreid + Dr. Seuss. With Mr. Zabladowski and Dr. Terwilliker.

Mondo Cane (1962) – Paolo Cavara’s and Gualtiero Jacopetti’s hit “shockumentary” has lost punch these days. Still creepy and a great portal into 60’s exploitation film-making.

Matango (Attack of the Mushroom People) (1963) – “I Ate Them…” Not too many films are like Matango. I love Matango. It changed my life. Long live Son of Svenghoulie.

Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster (1965) – My vote for the strangest Frankenstein film. Off-beat, weird, unusual with bizarre B&W deep focus (?) photography and weird forced perspectives. What is up with that score?

Incubus (1965) – Bill Shatner stars in the only film crafted with the artifical language of Esperanto.

The Saragossa Manuscript (1965) – Jerry Garcia loved this film. It’s LONG and still hard for me to follow. Maybe you need to drop acid…

Manos: Hands of Fate (1966) – Masterful manipulation of film and audiences. Art or Junk? You decide. Netflix is a click away…

Skidoo (1968) – Just check out the cast:

Santo and Blue Demon Against the Monsters (1970) – Just plain weird. I wish a good print would surface.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) – Quaker Oats (!) flipped the bill for this film. This might be the strangest children’s movie ever. Wilder should’ve been nominated for a supporting actor academy award.

Eraserhead (1977) – This would be my oddest pic for a David Lynch film. Grotesque.

Lifeforce (1985) – Cosmic vampires in the tail of Haley’s comet. WTF.

Dust Devil (1992) – Filmed in Namibia. Grim and dream-like. I also like “Hardware” directed by Richard Stanley.

Well, there’s a partial list. I’ll think of some more. What are yours?

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