Weird Movies!


Revelations by Iron Maiden

This is my list of movies that I either own, or plan to own. I'm pretty selective about what I buy, which may be hard to believe when you look at this list. Heh heh.

Street Trash: You must be very warped to appreciate this one… to me, it's the ultimate cult classic! I own a director's cut version with an extra scene, the trailer, and the original fifteen minute short (barely watchable, but funny.) (I got it from VSOM, my number one source for the unusual!) This movie was done by Chaos Productions, and as far as I know, it's their only movie. Look in your local rental store… it should be there (if not, DEMAND IT!!!) Pass me a bottle of Tenafly Viper…

A Clockwork Orange:An absolute classic—Malcolm McDowell's finest performance! (Funny, he went from being Alex in this movie to "the man who killed Captain Kirk." You gotta love a career range like that. Heh heh.) If the ultraviolence sounds good to you, check this one out! Here's an interesting bit of trivia involving the old man in the wheelchair: check out his bodyguard "Julian" with the black glasses. That's David Prowse—the man inside Darth Vader's suit in the Star Wars movies.

Akira (The Special Edition): In a word: awesome! This is the movie that put high-quality anime on the map in America. With cel animation that rivals Disney (with insane amounts of detail,) a soundtrack featuring traditional instruments and choruses, and a storyline that's deep on many levels, it's quite an experience. The recent DVD edition features a new English soundtrack (along with the original Japanese,) the video has been restored and cleaned up to look vibrant and flawless, and there's a second disc with tons of goodies.

Bastard!!: I once rented the tape of the first two episodes of this anime series, and I loved it! Two years later, I found it on DVD as a complete six-part series and had to get it! It's the story of Dark Schneider: a nearly indestructable wizard with an attitude to match. The curious thing about this one is in the original manga (Japanese comic,) most of the spells and names of places are actually band names. The main kingdom in the story is "Metallicana," there are spells like "Megadeth," "Anthem," "Hellion," "Exodus," and even fairly obscure bands like "The Accused" and Seattle's "Mace" are covered. Pioneer decided to change many of those around to avoid becoming lawsuit-bait when they made their English version for America, but the band references still come through on the Japanese soundtrack. ~~:-}

Blazing Saddles: No collection is complete without Mel Brooks' finest production! It was filmed in 1974, and I saw it as a rerun somewhere around 1978. (Yes, they re-ran movies in the days before VHS.) One of my older sisters took me, and I remember the girl in the ticket booth saying, "He's not your son!" Heh heh heh. She let us go after she explained that I was her little brother. Thanks to that, I've been warped forever! Yes, the campfire scene can be fatal to a ten-year-old. This was my first R-rated movie, and oh, what a choice! Mel Brooks seriously bent the rules and brought us one of the funniest movies of all time. There was a double-sided DVD with pan-and-scan (or "slash-and-hack" as one of my friends calls it) on one side, and it's the ultimate example of how pan-and-scan destroys a movie. There is now a 30th anniversary edition on DVD which includes the failed pilot for a related TV show called "Black Bart." The funny thing to me is seeing Cleavon Little's character being played by Louis Gossett (Jr.) He does a good job, and he has hair!

Blue Velvet: David Lynch's finest film! This is a total ass-kicker—bizarre characters, bizarre behavior, bizarre situations… this one's got it all! For all my metalhead friends out there: Benediction's "Dark is the Season" was a song written about this movie, and they also recommend it in the liner notes.

Wild at Heart: David Lynch strikes again! Very similar to Blue Velvet. I was quite pleased that he used the band "Powermad" in a couple places (even though the live performance was faked, and the song "Slaughterhouse" was hacked up big time!) Still, they are one of my favorite bands—too bad they only made one E.P. and one album.

Clerks: This movie killed me! I've been a convenience store clerk more times than I want to remember, and this movie was a great stress reliever for me. This is the movie that made Jay and Silent Bob household names. This movie was done in black and white, and is a true classic!

Mallrats: This is the next movie from the "Clerks people". This film is in color and Jay's behavior is a little subdued. Oh well… other than those things, it's a pretty funny movie. The cameo by Stan Lee was interesting.

The Stoned Age: Follow the legendery adventures of Joe and Hubbs in their quest for fine chicks. (The scene where the local kids rip off a warehouse and come up the walkway chanting "Alcohol!!!" just kills me!) There are several familiar faces in this movie… and the soundtrack is pretty good too (lots of '70's metal!)

Harold & Maude: Ruth Gordon at her finest! This movie makes me want to go out and buy a souped-up hearse!

Hellraiser: I was very impressed the first time I saw this. This is a very unusual horror movie! Created on a low budget, it has quite a following because of its' originality, imagery, and feeling. I came away from this one in awe! This movie is an adaption of Clive Barker's "The Hellbound Heart", and the puzzle box was originally a black cube with a silvery interior. If one was obsessed enough to figure out how to completely take it apart, hell would open up and the pieces would re-assemble in midair when the deed was done. The function of the box is to allow only the truly obsessed into hell, but of course, it opens a little too easily in the movies: in the book, it took Frank days to open it! (This line of logic was further explored in an amazing graphic novel series!) There's a special edition of this movie on DVD that's worth picking up.

Hellbound- Hellraiser II: This is one of those rare times when a sequel out-does the original. It was written by Clive Barker's childhood friend Peter Atkins, and it explores hell itself. Make sure you watch the unrated version! The Hellraiser movies that follow are okay, but they feel more like Freddy Krueger movies to me. Hellraiser III has an unrated edition that's worth seeing.

Nightbreed: Clive Barker's monster movie! This one didn't do well at the box office for some reason, but I think it's a classic. There are several actors and actresses from Hellraiser in here, plus we get to see David Cronenberg act! This movie was adapted from Clive's book "Cabal", and it helps to explain the scene towards the end… Baphomet split himself into chunks to save himself, and that's what you see them carrying in blankets at the end. This movie needs a sequel! (The comic book series is worth getting, if you can find it! Yes, it doesn't have the "Comics Code" seal of approval… heh heh heh!)

Lifeforce: Space vampires! I don't care what anyone says… this was a killer movie! It's nice to see someone do a vampire movie that doesn't have all the standard clichè's (well, okay… there's a few towards the end.) This one was very different, and you can't miss Patrick Stewart's (pre-Captain Picard) twisted performance. Okay, the main female vampire is nude through the whole movie too—now there's a selling point!

Creepshow: 50's comic book in movie form… we get to see Stephen King do more than just a cameo appearance, he's one of the main actors! Also, Leslie Neilsen does an incredibly good job as a villain here!

Swamp Thing: Just because…

I Come in Peace: Very convincing bad guy… whoever did those camera angles to make him look huge is a genius!

The Hidden: A killer alien movie! I would ignore the sequel, but the original's the one to play with the stereo cranked up. (Am I warped or what? I need a bigger stereo!) Keep an eye out for Claudia Christian playing a stripper. (Yeah, I keep spotting those Babylon 5 actors.)

Night of the Living Dead (1990): The George Romero classic brought up to date. (Best seen after watching the original.) It has a different ending, and excellent effects! See if you can spot the Babylon 5 actress… (she's only the main character!)

Two Evil Eyes: Two movies in one-- George Romero does a new twist on the living dead thing, and Dario Argento delivers another weird stylized story!

The Evil Dead: Another true classic… watch with the lights out! There are two sequels made with a bigger budget, but they had just a tad too much comedy in them. I still enjoyed them, so I recommend them anyway.

Intruder (1988- Directed by Jopi Burnama): This one had me riveted! It has Bruce Campbell and three others from "The Evil Dead" movies. Keep an eye out for Emil Sitka as Mr. Abernathy-- he was the regular on the Three Stooges for many, many years (he was last seen on Pulp Fiction.)

The Lair of the White Worm: They don't get much weirder than this…

Society: Well, maybe they do! Brought to you by Brian Yuzna, the guy who's known for doing The Re-animator.

The Rapeman: A very weird Japanese superhero movie. This guy is a high-school teacher who goes out at night and rapes evil women who deserve it (he's hired like a hitman.) I personally don't agree with that philosophy, but I found myself laughing my way through this bizarre movie because it comes across as serious! There's much political intrigue, which I found rather strange. The ending totally broke me up (as in laughing my ass off!) Another gem from VSOM! (There are two sequels also…) This guy's a little like Batman… but twisted!

The Toxic Avenger: You just have to love the nuts who did this cheap-but-funny movie and its' sequels. The Troma Team rules! (Oddly enough, posters of this movie and "Tromeo and Juliet" pop up in the Redneck Rampage PC game.)

The Unseen: This one has some of the weirdest characters I've ever seen! It's about a middle-aged brother and sister who had a kid (YIKES!) who's been living in the basement all these years. If you've ever wanted to see the ultimate dysfunctional family, this is it!!! ("Ahh… I see you've met Junior!") By the way, "Junior" is played by Stephen Furst of Animal House and Babylon 5 fame.~~:-}

Doctor Mordrid: Jeffrey Combs in one of his better performances… he plays a wizard who's fighting an alchemist (Kabal, played by Brian Thompson). This is a movie crying out for a sequel! Oddly enough, the two main actors here have appeared together on Star Trek: DS9. Produced by Full Moon Video-- high quality B movies made for the home video rental market (and basic cable!) (They always have an interesting trailer after their movies… check 'em out!)

From Beyond: Jeffrey Combs again… this movie is an adaption of an H.P. Lovecraft story, and it's totally bizarre!

The Re-animator: Since I'm on this Combs and Lovecraft kick… I enjoyed this one! The sequel was okay, but the original was the stuff! Look for the Millennium Edition DVD in the green box.

Dollman: Tim Thomerson as an intergalactic cop who happens to be only a foot tall compared to humans. You just gotta love his souped-up gun! Another fun movie by the Full Moon people.

Fire and Ice: A truly great animated classic! Look in my Captain Planet page for all the details.

The Cold Comfort Farm: You might think I'm nuts for listing this one, but I had some good laughs watching it. This is a good British movie set in the thirties, and the quote on the box says it all: "She discovered a new branch on her family tree… the one with all the nuts!"

Mainstream Movies:

Star Trek II- The wrath of Khan: The best of the ST movies… this one has it all!

Stargate: Follows a standard formula, but I loved the imagery.

Highlander: This was an awesome movie! I believe there's a special edition with a World War II scene that didn't make it to the big screen. Whatever you do, stay away from the sequels!!! They were made for money and nothing more. Sure, they're good quality… but they totally ruined the story! Do not take them seriously. (That goes for the TV series as well.) Remember this line when it comes to the Highlander movie: "There can be only one!"

Tron: This movie has a special place in my heart. In 1982 there was a TV special about computer animation, and how this movie will be the first to use it in a major way. Part of that special is in the bonus features of the 2-disc DVD edition, and it shows some great unfinished shots. The computer animation (they didn't have the term "CGI" in those days) was done by four different companies and was completely experimental. It only adds up to fifteen minutes of screen time, the rest being taken by more traditional methods. Well, almost. Much of the film was translated into thousands of oversized cells that had to be shipped overseas for complicated animation work. In the end, the film failed in the box office because it was so far ahead of its time, but now the DVDs are making money for Disney. Because of the labor-intensive ways they had to accomplish what they did, Tron is a one-of-a-kind movie, the likes of which we'll probably never see again.

2001: A Space Odyssey: This is Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece! It came out in 1968 (the same year I was born,) and it pretty much blew everything else away at that time. For once, life in space was shown realistically, and the genius of Arthur C. Clarke was brought to the big screen. From the dawn of man to the dawn of the space age, at two and a half hours, this is a movie to see with the lights out, the stereo cranked, and the phone unplugged. Relax, because while there are no spoken words for the first twenty-five minutes, the movie (and music) is an experience.

2010: The Year We Make Contact: The sometimes underrated sequel to 2001 that was released sixteen years later in 1984, is a faster-paced movie that still captures some of the sense of wonder of the original (especially towards the end.) It wasn't made to be an "odyssey" like the first, but that's fine. It's a great translation of Arthur C. Clarke's second "2K" novel, and it's worth a shot.

A few words about widescreen:

Just the other day, I saw some kid in Wal-Mart picking up the full-screen version of Lord of the Rings, and telling his mother, "Don't worry, it's not the widescreen one." I had to pause for a moment to make sure I heard that. Yes, many people out there don't like the dreaded "black bars" on their screen, and quite a few don't understand it and think they're covering up the picture. It's funny how no one complains about that in the movie theater, heh heh. It's simple—most movies were filmed wider since television was invented to help keep people interested in leaving the house for entertainment.

I avoided buying movies on VHS tape for many years:

  • Resolution is limited
  • Magnetic tape wears out with repeated playing
  • I knew Laserdisc was around and wanted to get it, but it never happened
  • Almost all VHS movies are released as "Pan and Scan."

Now we have glorious DVD discs. I don't think they'll be replaced until they perfect holographic data recording technology. I'm sure we'll eventually get movies in optical cartridge form (or maybe sugar cube-sized glass blocks?) That will be the day when movie players do away with moving parts.

Anyway, back to the subject. Older movies like Blazing Saddles were filmed in widescreen, so when they were adapted for television, they had to perform the classic pan-and-scan and cut off up to 50% of the picture to fit it in a TV screen. I mention Blazing Saddles in particular because it's the best example of this type of butchery. It's a double-sided disc with "Pan and Scan" on one side, and the original widescreen on the other. It's easy to see how much you're missing, especially since it was filmed in Cinemascope (the term used today to describe what is really several different formats, but they are all meant for the wider theater screens—they'll even have small "black bars" on widescreen TV's.) So, older movies weren't originally filmed with conversion to television in mind, and "Slice and Hack" does serious damage to the movie experience. (Faces greatly magnified on the screen is one dead giveaway.)

Many movies were filmed in different formats that are now lumped together as "Academy Flat." This is the 16x9 picture that's going to be seen on widescreen TVs, and when seen on a standard 4x3 TV, there will be smaller "black bars." (I quote that term because they're not really bars, just unused parts of the screen.)

On the other hand, there is the more modern "Full Frame." That term is used interchangeably with "Pan and Scan" sometimes, but in reality it's a different thing. Modern movies are filmed on large nearly-square film (Open Matte and Super 35,) and the director either has a display that shows outlines for both formats, or they just block part of the picture so the director will see what it looks like in the theater, and they worry about the TV version later. The effect of this is that the full-frame version will have slighly less information cut from the sides, and there will be more picture info on the top and/or bottom of the screen. Yes, in this case, widescreen (called "Matted" Widescreen sometimes) will remove some of the picture. Keep in mind, though, that the director's main concern is what it will look like in the theater, so in my opinion, full-frame is something else to avoid. BTW, there are a few movies out there with things the director didn't mean to get into the picture because of this. If you're lucky (or unlucky,) you might find an older VHS edition of A Fish Called Wanda where John Cleese's pants can be seen when he's supposed to be nude, or The Princess Bride where you can see a boom microphone in the top part of the picture! There are examples of this at the site mentioned below.

I think it's a shame that most video stores opt for the full-frame version of a movie when separate editions are released. Fortunately, the better mom-and-pop stores will get at least one widescreen copy for us videophiles (and the occasional subtitled version of Crouching Tiger on VHS, but that's a whole different subject.)

Anyway, the only DVDs I really want to own in 4x3 (or 1.33:1) format are the ones where the source material was filmed that way. TV shows and old movies come to mind. The classics were mostly filmed at 1.33 or 1.37, so they fit well on a standard TV screen. Remember, the TV was designed to be like the movie theaters, so the movie industry changed to keep things interesting. Now, it would seem we're coming full-circle, and the widescreen TV will eventually become the new standard. Maybe this will lead to three dimensional laser theaters someday? Maybe they'll adopt the awesome IMAX format with the giant half-dome screen and use it for more than documentaries? Who knows? I'll be happy when they figure out what to do with HDTV/Widescreen here in America and make it drop below the $1000 price range.

I imagine the kid I mentioned above is going to feel cheated when he plays his full-frame LOTR disc on a widescreen TV in the future. There won't be "black bars," but there will be some large "black bands" on the sides! Perhaps he'll have kids someday who ask him why he bought that thing. Heh heh heh.

For more information, check out the Letterbox and Widescreen Advocacy Page at www.widescreen.org.


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