First up… guess who’s novella/connected short stories were just accepted?! No, me, I meant me.
Not so long ago I posted a couple of sites where you could read Aleister Crowley for free, and threw in a UK documentary for chuckles. It’s a little over the top and sensationalised but still interesting.
Well, it seems it was part of a series called Masters of Darkness, and I’ll share the others with you now on the equally bizarre alchemist and mathematician John Dee, sadistic Marquis De Sade and ‘mad monk’ Rasputin (not an author, you got me, but come on, he’s fascinating). There’s a book about him I’d really like to read which apparently cuts through the myth, which I’m endlessly in favour of.
I’ve also added a documentary about Issei Sagawa, the student of avant-garde literature who murdered and cannibalised his girlfriend and, due to a technicality, served only fifteen months. Yep… He now makes his living writing and talking publicly about being a cannibal.
I missed an exhibition in London of John Dee’s library a year or two ago, I’m still annoyed about it.
The Marquis De Sade (disclaimer: Andrea Dworkin talks a lot of tripe)
Doesn’t the air smell of faded leaves and over excitement?! I for one can barely wait to start digging up bodies and spoon feeding them cake and chocolate. That’s what you do, right?
The evenings are drawing in and what better way to relax than with a few informative, yet suitably weird, documentaries?
The Addams Family
These first three really count as one. I’m not sure what TV channel broadcast them first or if they were DVD extras, but it’s a 2007 look at the TV series and original cartoons of the Addams Family.
The Aswang Phenomenon
If you’ve seen bizarre cult classic Mystics of Bali you may have heard of the witch who separates her head from her body and floats through the air…her lungs and spine dangling beneath. Well, apparently they have a similar creature in the Philippines, the Aswang, who oddly seems to take many other forms according to whoever tells the story.
Ripley Believe it or Not!
Ripley’s Museum of Oddities will always hold a special place in my heart as Bill and I visited for our second date (my choice of course).
This documentary charts Ripley’s beginnings from cartoonist to global weirdo phenomenon, celebrating those who always felt a bit different on the way.
Frankenstein and the Vampyre, a Dark and Stormy Night
Two legendary horror monsters were created during the same holiday in Geneva, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and the modern, aristocratic vampire by John Polidori. Also with them were poets Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary’s stepsister Claire Clairmont.
Their trip isn’t just famous for their creative output, however, there were also drugs, sexual confusion and scandal. Exciting!
If you’d like to see more documentaries on romantic gothic literature, including the Brontes and Edgar Allen Poe, toddle off to this link here.
An atmospheric wander through urban legends that turned out to have some basis in fact, whether before or after the telling. Remember, Halloween wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t all think nice old ladies were trying to kill us with sweets (candy).
Sacred Weeds: Henbane the Witch’s Brew
This was one of the oddest documentaries I remember from the 90s. It seemed to me that during that period everything went very sun and moon and incense, and to be honest I still secretly love it. There were four episodes in the series; Blue Lily, Henbane, Salvia Divinorum and Fly Agaric, but Henbane deals with Gothic folklore and witch trials.
The premise is what makes it so strange, two people turn up to a castle in the middle of nowhere so scientists in suits can watch them trip out of their tiny minds. The scientists argue before the trial and after, not a single one agreeing or changing their mind in the least. To be honest, though, fair enough if you’ve done the research and others clearly haven’t.
Watch out for the man who seems to have wandered in from some fetish dream, declaring with little to no evidence that witches definitely rubbed ointment on their vaginas and held naked sabbats.
Pip pip, what what and other meaningless phrases. Here are a few full length episodes of ‘documentaries’ from my distant memories. It seems to me that the 90s developed an obsession with the odd in all it’s forms, from Fortean Times to sun, moon and star decorations (which of course I had as wallpaper). Perhaps my memory is biased because I lapped it up like a crazy cat, but here are my favourites IN FULL!
Sacred Weeds. There were four episodes in this series: Blue Lily, Henbane, Salvia Divinorum and Fly Agaric Mushroom. They were fascinating for a couple of reasons; firstly for the study on natural drugs, secondly for the stubbornness of the scientists who very rarely if at all change their minds and thirdly for the sheer oddness of suited men and women questioning people tripping their tootsies off. Here’s the Henbane episode, thought to have been taken by witches:
For an added treat here’s Salvia Divinorum
BBC Weird Night. Back in 1994 the BBC had a ‘weird night’ which became legendary in my mind, partly because there’s almost no information on it and the programmes were never shown again. It will always have a special place in my mind as a defining moment of weirdness setting me on a particular path with my fiction. I personally don’t believe in the paranormal anymore, but it’s still a fun watch if only to bask in 90s tastic weirdness. Also of note, follow the link above to see which films, including David Lynch, were shown after the programmes.
Fortean Review of the Year (1994)
The next was WSH, The Myth of the Urban Myth. Urban myths are fascinatingly grotesque, and this show weaves drama with genuine experts discussing them from all angles:
Weird Thoughts. Continuing Weird Night, here’s a gathering of ‘experts’ in the bowels of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum discussing the meaning of weird. I love this because the London museum was the destination of mine and Bill’s second date:
This is slightly cheating as this programme was first broadcast in 2002, but the image of a kitty cat drug orgy was burned onto my retinas. Here’s Weird Nature, Peculiar Potions:
Hello my little sausage sandwiches. I’ve got lots of exciting things coming up which I shall share with you when the time has risen from her bed chambers for her morning fry up.
You may have noticed that, as well as weird fiction, I also like weird fashion, art and films etc. Fashion is an art too so let’s celebrate it with a a few full length video treats, some short and some quite a bit longer.
1. The Artist Is Absent: A Short Film On Martin Margiela is a ten minute film on a designer who liked to hide his model’s faces with fabric masks, lending the show a rather unsettling feeling:
2. The Legend of Leigh Bowery. When it came to fashion or art or… pretty much anything you couldn’t get much weirder than Leigh Bowery. This documentary contains some things not suitable for children or people with delicate eyes:
3. Style Out There – What Do Harajuku Girls Really Look Like? The modern crazy dressing Japanese girl is explored in this eye-meltingly colourful short:
4. Mcqueen and I. Alexander Mcqueen was known for his bizarre shows and tendency to shock and Isabella Blow was the first one to spot his potential. She also wore crazy hats:
5. Notebook On Cities And Clothes is a documentary by Wim Wenders on designer Yohji Yamamoto. I don’t have the full thing but here’s a small clip and the IMDB is here.
6. Dutch Profiles: Iris Van Herpen shows the designer’s hypnotically bizarre and alienesque designs, enjoyed by the likes of Bjork and Lady Gaga:
I’ve been in a documentary mood lately (it comes in fits and starts) and have managed to stumble on some rather interesting ones. Here we go:
1. Henry Darger: The Realms of the Unreal. Very sweet and rather sad story of a janitor nobody really noticed who, upon becoming ill, was found to have created an illustrated novel of over 1,500 words by his neighbours.
Titled The Realms of the Unreal, it was an entire universe he’d worked on his whole life. It truly proves you can never have anyone completely figured out, and ‘boring’ people probably don’t exist – we just don’t know what’s going on inside.
2. Derailroaded. In a similar theme to the previous entry, Derailroaded explores the life of Larry ‘Wild Man’ Fischer. Plagued by mental illness, Larry nevertheless had flirtations with fame first by appearing on Frank Zappa‘s label Straight Records and then releasing albums with out there artists Barnes and Barnes.
Whether you like his music or not is beside the point, this is a fascinating film of an unusual personality. On the flip side, though everyone already knows about this I’m sure, I also loved the film about Daniel Johnston. Watch that one too.
3. Live Nude Girls Unite. Strippers formed a union and took their argument to a tribunal? I can hear you chuckle. However this shows each of the characters involved in the fight for fairness at club The Lusty Lady through the eyes of Julia Query, a woman who strips between comedy gigs.
I found this film quite amusing, so maybe you will too. It’s very low-fi and quite short, but it was a fun way to pass an afternoon.
4. The Last American Freak Show. I’ve mentioned this one before but I like it, so I’m mentioning it again. As a disabled man filmmaker Richard Butchins is uncertain of the ethics behind freak shows and rightly so.
The 999 Eyes travelling show is ramshackle, poorly organised, ill equipped to deal with all of its member’s problems and the owners spout constant nonsense about why freak shows are actually really good. But…its this unexpected turn of events that makes it so fascinating. We glimpse the reality of life on the road and meet some genuinely interesting characters. And meeting new people is good.
5. Man on Wire. I’ve seen this film lots of times and I’m sure everyone else has too, but it’s beautiful and very French and it contains a circus performer, so why not hear about the tight-rope walker who balanced his way between the World Trade Centres in New York one more time? Plus the music by composer Erik Satie helps me sleep at night.
Well, Bob’s your Aunt and Fanny’s your…cousin, that’s your lot. Before we pop orf however I’d like to leave you with two lilting melodies garnered from the films mentioned. Number one is the dreamlike piano of Erik Satie, and number two is a rousing tale of fish heads and their various uses by Barnes and Barnes:
This morning I stumbled across this interesting post from the blog of racey writer and columnist Violet Blue (have a look at her site if you’re not surprised by rude images, it’s genuinely informative).
Kickstarter (community type project which helps people finance their work) are currently hoping to raise money for a documentary on porn stars who are raising children, and as you can tell from some of the reactions of the people in the trailer it should be fascinating.
As mentioned in a previous post, I’m fascinated by the history of porn as well as the performer’s outlook on life. Perhaps they intrigue me because they live so much on the outside of what is viewed as ‘acceptable.’ But why isn’t it viewed as acceptable? This is the interesting thing…
I love this fog. I’m expecting a headless coachman to pull up and say, “Where to? No, it’s a bit far love.” I imagine he’ll be able to speak by paranormal forces or something.
I watched a documentary recently called Graphic Sexual Horror. It was fascinating and more than a little unnerving, and some of the images will stay with me. I liked it, it was good. It was about a website called insex that begin in the 90s which featured pictures and live feeds of consenting girls being tortured for the pleasure of the viewers. In the same way that I love Straw Dogs (though I think I’m the only one) for highlighting the complexity of human relationships and interaction, I found the grey area of consent and real fear intriguing. They may have agreed to appear in the films but at certain points they were definately not acting. As one woman said, “I felt raped, but I could have used my safe word at any point.”
Equally fascinating is the way the website ran into trouble. The credit card companies disapproved of the content so made it impossible for viewers to pay by card, thus deterring potential customers.
It’s worth watching, if you can handle that sort of thing.