The independent and underground world often bring us the unusual and new, but occasionally mainstream goes weird too. There are too many examples to mention but here are some of my favourites, beginning with two well known ‘uns.
1. Twin Peaks. There may be a segment near the end of series two that goes slightly astray but the good episodes of this programme are way better than most other things that have been on TV. Fire Walk with Me is also very worth seeing.
2. The Twilight Zone. An obvious classic, and the good episodes (there are many) are half hour plays of entertaining freakiness.
3. Three Cases of Murder. I recently watched this at 2am when I couldn’t sleep and was very happily surprised. I love portmanteu horror films (more than one story linked by a main tale – Tales from the Crypt and the Vault of Horror are my personal favourites -) but this ‘un from 1955 is one I’d not heard much about before.
My favourite was the first segment directed by Wendy Toye (yes, a lady in the fifties!). When it begins you prepare yourself for harmless whimsy as Alan Badel observes his own painting with a curator at a gallery, but it quickly descends into something more disturbing. With its skewed camera angles and obsessed characters it was one of the more bonkers things I’d watched that evening. The final segment contains Orson Welles and Alan Badel again (he appears in all three stories) and I actually laughed loudly, though the comedy is, of course, mixed with something a little bit darker.
4. The Unknown. The twenties and thirties made some very peculiar filmic gems, ‘Freaks’ being one example. Another is The Unknown from 1927 by the same writer/director Tod Browning. Joan Crawford (pre ‘wire hangers’) and horror regular Lon Chaney both work in a circus.
He’s the armless (?) knife thrower and she the beautiful assistant. He loves her, and she has a terrible phobia of men’s hands. Oh, and he’s also a robber and murderer with two thumbs, who really does have hands, and decides to have them removed permanently when one of his victims recognises him. Can he live dementedly ever after with Joan, or will things go horribly wrong?
5. Weird Night. There was a 90s-tastic series of BBC programmes in 94 during a special evening entitled ‘Weird Night.’ At 13 I’d not been exposed to too much of this sort of thing yet and I consumed it eagerly. The schedule ran as such:
1.Fortean Review of the Year
3. The last American Freak Show (different to the one mentioned in a previous post)
7. Weird Thoughts
You can watch each of the programmes on this youtube channel (thanks skynet!). Below I’ve included all segments of the final show – Weird Thoughts – in which ‘experts’ debate their opinions on all things weird. Weird weird weird weird (my painkillers just kicked in). As expected, everyone laughs at silly old scientist with his knowledge and that.
6.Eerie Indiana. Another 90s offering which shaped my interests growing up. Watching it as a grown up is better though; not only do you have nostalgia but you notice the horror/sci fi references that appear throughout, thus satiating the geek beast within.
7. Sacred Weeds. The 90s seemed to develop an obsession with the ‘out there’ and odd. If it wasn’t Fortean it was mind bending plants.
This was a truly odd documentary series. One person who had never consumed a certain natural drug (proper drug, not homeopathy) and another who had taken them before joined a team of scientists in a big house to trip balls while being asked questions. I’m serious, it happened. Cue many peculiar scenes of suited men assisting in salvia bong hits and mushroom tea dosage. The plants tested (one per episode) were: Fly Agaric mushroom, Salvia, Henbane and Blue Lilly.
Thats enough for now you greedy little pickles, we shall meet again.
It’s definately wintery here; sometimes snowing, then raining, then both at once. Christmas will soon be upon us! I’ve decided in future to put up Halloween decorations for Christmas rather than the traditional although I’d still have a tree, just an unusually adorned one. I don’t abide by all this ‘I hate Christmas’ cynicism, put tinsel in your hair and run through the streets naked and weeping I say! I’m not remotely religious but there’s always time to do that. Unless you’re Jewish. Or Muslim. Or Hindu. Or Budhist. Or Sikh or…something else.
Anyway…rather than watching repeats of Only Fools and Horses for the 500th time I’ve concocted a witch’s brew of eye goodies to make Christmas a spooky, strange or otherwise unusual affair, as I often do each year. If you don’t own any of these things I recommend them.
1: The Last American Freak Show. A documentary by Richard Butchins covering the exploits of a modern day travelling freak show. Reality, as is often the case, never quite lives up to expectation and Richard, a disabled man himself, struggles with the implications of the show and the haphazard way its run.
2. Freaks. It just makes sense to watch it after viewing the first one. Made in 1932, Tod Browning’s film is as good as ever.
3. Psychoville Halloween special. I love all of psychoville, particularly the librarian, but the Halloween special is a good spooky/funny standalone hour.
5. Amicus horror compilations. The above two are heavily influenced by such films as Tales from the Crypt and The Vault of Horror. Entertaining fun!
6. The Others. I love this film. Alejandro Amenábar’s direction is extremely atmospheric with enough fog for an early Hammer horror. Plus Christopher Eccleston’s in it and I love him.
7. Oddities. It’s ridiculous fluff in the style of Pawn Stars for weirdos but I enjoy it, I think its fun. Watch it online somewhere or on Discovery Realtime.
8. Coraline. It’s cute! From a story originally by Neil Gaiman and directed by Nightmare Before Christmas’ Henry Selick.
9. Black Mirror. Disturbing viewing and best avoided during the festive dinner, but otherwise Charlie Brooker’s three stories are amazing and necessary watching.
10. Dr Who. The disturbing episodes are my favourites, usually either by League of Gentleman co-writer Mark Gatiss (also have a look at his History of Horror on BBC 4) or head writer Steven Moffat.
11. Dead Set. Again by Charlie Brooker its tense, atmospheric and Derren Brown co-writer Andy Nyman gets to spout some very inventive insults.
12. Derren Brown. Is it wrong to find him hammering nails up his nose and walking on glass slightly erotic? My favourites are the disturbing series Trick or Treat, live show Something Wicked This Way Comes, his latest offerings The Experiments and the third series of Tricks of the Mind.
13. Twin Peaks. Zavvi are currently selling the gold disc set of both series plus lots of extras of Twin Peaks for just over £20. Woo hoo!
So there concludes our festive list of fun. There’s bound to be things I’ve forgotten, but try not to wail and rend your garments until you’ve at least opened your presents. Farewell!