Four Accidentally Strange Films: Yes, They Were Serious
Have you ever watched a movie that was so strange, that you thought to yourself “They can not be serious”? Oddly enough, some of the world’s strangest films were not attempts to be weird. The creators of these films were, in fact, completely serious.
We have all seen a film, at one time or another, where we thought, “They have to be joking”, “They can not be serious”, or “They are just trying to be weird”. This may be true of some films, however, some of the strangest films ever made, have been made by people who thought they had a great idea. It is just that their “great idea” seemed very strange to the rest of the movie going public.
When someone has an idea for a film, that idea is like their child. As such, creators of any film love their child. From the screenwriters to the directors and actors, and everyone in between, do their best to nurture this child. However, just as with the parents of real children, how that care and nurturing manifests in the material world, is dependent on the skills of those involved. Some people are just not cut out to be parents, and some parent in a style that others do not understand. Like children, films either grow into a work that others look on with admiration, disdain, or as being just plain strange. The films I am about to showcase to you, are four that turned out just plain strange. Two of them are films that I love. The other two are films that I, personally, feel are just plain strange. All of these films are ones, in which I feel, that creators took their work very seriously. Works that were what someone thought was a “good idea”, and did not intend to make a weird film for the sake of being weird.
Nude on The Moon
The set of this, 1961, film is the tourist attraction Coral Castle, near Miami, Florida. It is considered to be a “Sexploitation” film, however there is no actual sex that takes place in the film. What the viewer gets is a tale of two astronauts who go to the moon and find its telepathic residents, running about topless in gold lamé shorts. This no budget film was the brainchild, of Doris Wishman and Raymond Phelan. It was one of many what are called nudist or naturist films. Because of its small budget the costumes of the astronauts are even more ridiculous, than that of the moon people. These costumes include informs comprise of bright colored tights, and children’s space helmets, that were most likely bought at the local five and dime. I feel that Nude on The Moon is merely a promotional film for Naturist Sub-culture. Naturism is a belief in a clothing optional lifestyle. It may be argued this film is an exploitation of that sub-culture. It may also be argued that films, such as this one, paved the way for more acceptance of Naturism, in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The best thing about this film is, the song I’m Mooning Over You (My Little Moon Doll), as sung by Ralph Young, in all to tackiness and glory of a Las Vegas lounge lizard. This is a weird film, however, in my opinion, it is a film, in which those making it were completely serious.
Nude on The Moon excerpt
Santa Claus Conquers The Martians
This is the first of these films, that I actually really adore. This action filled film is also wonderfully sensitive. I wish that a director, such as Tim Burton, would remake this film. Someone like Burton could do justice to the premise of the film, and its heart-warming story line. This 1964 film, takes place on a Mars, that is inhabited by repressive society. The children of Mars lead of life of little freedom to play and enjoy themselves. The Martian children are immersed in studies, day after day. One Martian parent, feeling that this is affecting their culture negatively, comes up with a plan of action. That plan is to kidnap, that jolly old elf, Santa Claus, and bring him to Mars, to teach their children about toys and how to play. I will stop the synopsis here, because you really need to see this film. Although, I feel this story could be updated, and used as fodder for a new film that may do it more justice, the film making in the original is first rate, in spite of a low budget. The actors in the film are brilliant, although some may find them a bit campy. As a side note, this film also gave, actress Pia Zadora, her first role. Only those with a broken inner child would fail to see, that the creators of this film were serious, and created something beautiful. If you do not already own this film, consider buying a copy for next Christmas.
Santa Claus Conquers The Martians Condensed
Wild in The Streets
An American International Picture release, which came out in 1968, at a time when there was a great debate over giving the vote to 18 year olds in The United States. I was a small child at the time, yet I remember the divisions this proposal caused. My own father was called an anti-christ at our church, because he supported giving the vote 18 year olds. This film was in part responsible for some of the paranoia about this proposed change in the voting age. The film was, based on a short story by Robert Thom, entitled “The Day it All Happened, Baby!”, and nominated for an Academy Award.
The film’s main character is Max Frost, a revolutionary singer, who along with his band, and the help of a young senator, played by Hal Holbrook, affect a change in the voting age. They also affect a change in the age that one can become President of The United States. Max Frost just happens to fall in that age group and is elected President. He then decides to implement some changes in the country and sends every one over the age of 30 off to concentration camps and gets them strung out on LSD. He does this so “They can’t hurt anyone, and most of all so they can’t hurt themselves.”. This film has many noted actors and celebrities of the time period, which include, Richard Pryor, Shelly Winters, Ed Begley Sr., Barry Williams of Brady Bunch fame, Dick Clark, Attorney Melvin Belli, Bert Freed, Bobby Sherman, Walter Winchell, and Diary of Anne Frank star Millie Perkins. The Monkees Peter Tork even manages to have a cameo appearance in the film.
This film may seem strange now but at the time is was considered very serious by those who made it. It is the second of these films that I actually like, and that is mainly because of the music. The score was written by Les Baxter, who did many such scores for American International, and infused with tracks of the psychedelic garage music of the fictional band, Max Frost and The Troopers. However, on the radio and charts, they shortly became a not so fictional band,. You may remember the song “The Shape of Things To Come”, Barry Mann/Cynthia Weil, which made it all the way to #22 on the US Billboard Chart. This song has been covered by many artists, most notably The Ramones.
Wild In The Streets- Trailer
Gas-s-s-s (aka, Gas! It Became Necessary To Destroy The World In Order To Save It)
This film is not so good. If I were not such a polite person, I would refer to it as something one needs to scrap off their shoe from time to time. However, someone did think they had a “good idea” when they decided to create it. I would agree with that. The premise of the film is a good one. An idea that was done much better by someone else later, with a similar idea, in the creation of the comic and television series, Jeremiah. If you are familiar with Jeremiah, you might like this film. I like Jeremiah, but I do not like this film. Before I confuse you too much, this is film and Jeremiah are only similar. They do not have the same story. They share a similar premise. A premise that most adults do not like. That premise being that something causes the deaths of everyone over a certain age, leaving the children, teens, young adults to create a new world. This is why I brought up Jeremiah, which has all adults dying from a plague, I liked that television series, in spite of being above the age of those who live. My reason for disliking Gas-s-s has little to do with it being about a military gas leak that kills everyone over the age of twenty-five, it has to do with the fact that the film was not put together well.
The execution of this film does not sit right with me. The screenplay is haphazard at best. The acting was silly, when it should have been campy or serious. The film was suppose to be a comedy, however, I think, this was done because, the producers or writers were afraid to take this idea into the realm of serious science fiction. Everything about this film smacks of someone having a good idea and not following through with it. The cinematography for much of the film is horrendous. They try to put in many special camera effects, yet they all come off as out of place or irritating. Some may say that everyone was stoned on drugs during every step of the creation of this film, from initial concept to release in theaters. I might have to agree with that. The only reason I own this film is because it is on my copy of the DVD, MGM Presents Midnite Movies, Double Feature, Wild in The Streets/Gas-s-s-s. Fans of the 1960s band Country Joe and The Fish may find value in this movie because of their appearance in it. If you get the same DVD I did, you can give it a whirl, but just remember you were warned and they were being serious, when they made this piece of…….. oh well never mind.
Gas-s-s-s excerpt with Country Joe and The Fish Performance
Gas-s-s-s excerpt “Say Goodbye to Dallas”
No matter if these films seem strange to some, they were all made by people who thought they had a “good idea” and were serious about it. None of these films should ever be slated as being made in an attempt to be weird. There are films that are made to just be weird, but it none of these were. The fact that these films were made by people who were serious might amuse or scare you. You may think these films are trash. One thing that must be remembered is that the people, who made these films, actually got out there and made their “good idea” into an actual film. That effort has to be respected, even if you think their creation was strange or a piece of (fill in the blank).