Here Thar Be Monsters!

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20.2.11

The 10 Weirdest Films of All Time

We here at Far Side Global Headquarters try to keep the weekend columns on the lighter side. The world is full of bad news, so why not put a little spark out there? We will return to our usual grousing and complaining on Monday. Fair enough?

OK, you asked for it (not really, but we can blame you anyway). Due to the overwhelming popularity of the first Top 100 list (yeah, we know it only had 10), we are adding our take on the really, truly weird. Orson Welles figures prominently in this list because his movies were, well, just weird.

To make it on this list, the film has to have some redeeming qualities. Good production value and acting help, but it can be just a legacy of weirdness, also. In a couple of cases, we just chose the weirdest of a weird director's filmography, because we only have ten slots here.

No, "Reefer Madness," nor any of its ilke made it on our list, because all propaganda is weird and we don't like it, so we don't promote it in any way. That's why you won't find Leni Riefenstahl's Nazi flicks on here, either. Just too weird, you know?

So, log on to Netflix and get your credit card ready, here comes a list of must-see weirdness for the whole family!
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10. Rhinoceros (1974) - Tom O'Horgan dares to sit in the God Seat and take on Eugene Ionesco in head-to-head combat. The German playwrights of Ionesco's era were a strange bunch, and their products are even stranger. O'Horgan is afraid to go it alone, so he brings in Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder and Karn Black to watch his six. The result is a brilliant rendition of the classic minimalist play, but it doesn't lose a single, precious drop of weirdness in translation. The central character watches his circle of friends and acquaintances turn into rhinoceroses, one by one. It's a metaphor for political movements, especially Nazism and Communism, and it works, if you know what the message is. Still, this is just one plain weird movie and well worth a rainy afternoon of your time.

9. Touch of Evil (1958) - This one has it all! Charlton Heston as a Mexican cop, Marlene Dietrich as a Mexican madame, Orson Welles as a small-town Texas sheriff, a young Dennis Weaver in a small role that inspired Alfred Hitchock's "Pyscho," and one of the longer uncut shots in cinema history (and the only one spanning two soverign nations). Not only is the story weird, but Heston as a Mexian cop has got to be the all-time weirdest casting decision ever. The accent alone will send shivvers down your spine. The motel scene with Heston's screen wife and Dennis Weaver has all the elements of "Psycho" packed into just a few minutes of screen time, with a Mexican gang thrown in to make it even more weird. Welles, of course, takes the God Chair, writing and acting credits, though we hear the Chair was re-enforced for this one.

8. The Trial (1962) - Yup, Orson again. This time, he wrestles with Franz Kafka and produces one of the all-time strangest flicks we know of. Once again, Welles sits in every chair on the set, not that we're complaining, of course. Anthony Perkins heads the cast as a mild-mannered clerk who gets tangled up in a bureaucratic nighmare, which twists and turns and contorts until it's hard to figure out what the truth is, or if there is even any truth at all. Naturally, that was Kafka's whole point, which is why his name became an adjective. Welles does a masterful job of blending halucination with reality until its all one big opium cloud. Perkins' acting is up to par and we feel his confusion, anger and frustration, as things go from bad to weird. The weirdest part of this movie is that once you finish, you look around at your world and see the movie come to life before your very eyes. You'll want to watch this one with your lawyer.

7. Crash (1996) - The question becomes, "What was David Cronenberg smoking, and when did he smoke it?" This movie is one of those pycho-sexual mind-blowers that's just too weird for words. A TV director gets into an auto accident and ends up in a world of sexual weirdness where people get off on watching staged car wrecks and touching each other's scars and disfigurements. Only Cronenburg could come up with this and it fits into his well-respected filmography of weirdness. This is also one of his least-known works, which is not surprising, if you make it to the last reel. James Spader and Holly Hunter top the cast list, with Holly playing a role unlike anything we've ever seen her do. James tends to drop back into his "Sex, Lies & Videotape" character, every now and then. The scene at the re-enactment of Jimmy Dean's death is just beyond weird. Where does Cronenberg come up with this stuff? It's almost as if he lives it...

6. Myra Breckinridge (1970) - OK, imagine you have a book by Gore Vidal, and a list of stars that includes Mae West, John Huston, Raquel Welch, Jim Backus, John Carradine, Farah Fawcett, Andy Divine, and even critic Rex Reed in his first and only on-screen role, and yes - even Tom Selleck in his film debut!  This probably wouldn't be first on your list of weirdness for a rainy Saturday afternoon, but buddy, this one is weird.  Rex Reed is transformed at the hands of a drug-addled surgeon into Raquel Welch (in front of an audience cheering along).  Raquel then goes on a series of adventures as she tries to break into the Hollywood elite, meeting strange characters and having very weird adventures along the way.  No collection of weird is complete without this title, but be warned, you're going to have to work to find it.  This movie is so weird that Gore Vidal wrote in Esquire Magazine it "proves that God exists and there is such a thing as Divine Symmetry," because the director Michael Sarne was reduced to slinging pizzas after the film's release.  Now, THAT's weird!


5. Zardoz (1974) - Sean Connery was fresh out of the 007 franchise, and John Boorman had written this really weird story about a post-apocolyptic world which had based itself on one of the few surviving books, "The Wizard of Oz." Connery, wanting to shake off the Bond Bubble, needed something to break the spell, and this was just weird enough to do it. He's a long-haired barbarian, carefully groomed to be Destroyer of Worlds. He flies around in 'godheads,' gets lost in crystals, is haunted by some weird floating head guy with a penciled moustache and an Egyptian head-dress. Connery's job is to destroy the Immortals, who have grown bored of thier lives, to the point that some have become 'apathetics.' His job is to introduce a little death and destruction to snap everyone out of their centuries-long doldrums. To get a handle on this flick, you'll need to read the book, "Wizard of Oz," by L. Frank Baum, not watch the movie. And yes, there is a BIG difference.

4. Eating Raoul (1982) - Paul Bartel takes pen in hand and sits in the God Chair, as well, for our next selection. Bartel's list of weird flicks includes, "Lust in the Dust,' which takes honorable mention on this list. Bartel and Robert Beltran head up the cast. The subjects are an LA couple who are self-righteous, pretentious and despise the immoral swingers who live all around them in the apartment building. They also want to open a restaurant, by the way. They find a way to clean up LA's swinger scene AND get money for their restaurant, all in one easy solution! This flick has something for everyone: wine lovers, swingers, cannibals, and mushroom lovers. As weird as it is, it is really funny, and you'll never look at your frying pan the same way again. The toy closet and, of course, the title character Raoul, are hysterical. But the whole thing is pretty darned weird, when you think about it. This is definitely a flick for the well-rounded collection of weird.

3. Edward Scissorhands (1990) - In the realm of weird, Tim Burton's God Chair will end up in the Smithsonian. He is the Sultan of Strange, the Wizard of Weird and the God of Gravitas. This particular film stands out for its complete artistry with non-sequitur. Borrowing from Mary Shelley, Vincent Price, in his last filmed performance, plays a mad inventor who lives in a castle on a hill in the middle of 50s suburbia. Where else? Johnny Depp is the Creature, and an all-star cast of misfits fills out the superb cast, including Alan Arkin, who we love in anything. Everything about this movie is just plain weird. The cookie-cutter pastel suburbia, the choreographed "go to work" scene, the topiaries, the costumes. It's kind of like "The Women's Room" meets "Frankenstein" and they kick ass on "Leave It To Beaver." It's a Gothic novel twisted into a Burton-esque landscape. We happen to think Burton is one of the greatest minds in film, and this one shows why. But, it doesn't change the fact that the movie is just...weird.

2. Plan 9 from Outer Space (1958) - No list of weird would be complete without Ed Wood in the God Chair. This guy's mature work looked worse than our childhood films. But, you gotta hand it to this guy...he's got staying power. We're not even going to try to describe this flick. It's so far out there, so disjointed, so bizzare that it's hard to believe a single person could have this scrambled of a vision. Ed must have suffered from dylexia, ADHD and myopia all at the same time. It's notable, of course, for Boris Karloff, who was just a weird guy. It's also notable because Philip Glass wrote a weird opera with nearly the same title. This is one of those movies to watch when you need inspiration, because if this guy could become famous making this kind of weirdness, well, we all have a fighting chance.

1. Liquid Sky (1982) - On our list of all-time weirdness, this one takes the cake and eats it, too. Slava Tsukerman hunkers down in the God Chair and takes us to New York City, which is a weird place, where aliens in a dinner plate arrive to load up on heroin (why they don't go to Afganistan, we don't know). In the process of cranking on the residents of a brownstone, they discover that the opiates produced by the brain at the moment of orgasm are far superior, and so invade the body of a young, nubile, bisexual punker. She then proceeds to become a world-class nympho, sucking up every orgasmic brain stem she can get her hands on. This flick is notable for its make-up and the music score, which we find haunting, though we haven't heard it in years now. Having no budget also made Slava very creative with special effects and the camera work is highly unusual and creative, as well. We are taken places most of us would never go. We see things most of us would never see. And we are thankful it's just a movie. This movie is equally fun because no one knows about it. We have met maybe a handful of folks who have seen it, and half of them only because we tied them down and forced them to watch, a la "Clockwork Orange." None have ever recovered from the experience. If you're a Fan of the Freaky, this movie is for you. It takes weird and flogs it into submission.

As mentioned above, our Honorable Mention goes to, "Lust in the Dust." Watch the flick, you'll soon understand why. Nuff sed.

So, that fills out our Weirdest Films list. Now, you may be saying, "Hey, these are pretty mainstream for the Far Side." We hear you. But, this list, we felt, should be accessable to most folks. Weird implies "different, but not too far outside the norm." At some future point, we'll publish our Top 10 Most Subversive Titles, which will include almost nothing you have ever seen, and likely never will, because even with our "Good Housekeeping" stamp of approval, you probably won't got watch it. Only us professionals know about them, and we rarely speak of such things among the uninitiated.

We'll also be bringing you our list of Double and Triple Features with Obscure Connections. This is a great list for film buffs and can fill out a rainy Saturday with infinite entertainment options.

How's that for a tease?

Happy viewing, and don't forget to tell your friends about the Far Side. We're here almost daily, bringing you content you won't find any where else. Thank God for that.