When Mike Vraney (1957 – 2014) founded Something Weird Video in 1990, it quickly grew into the premiere collection of schlock, gore, and sleaze sought voraciously and lasciviously by an entire generation of home video fanatics. Vraney had the courage to dig deep and come up with some of the oddest, sexiest, grossest, and just plain prurient exploitation reels anywhere from obscure smut to Z-grade horror.
There was a time – back when video stores were plentiful and VHS rats like myself could thrive in the crannies – when seeing that distinct wavy logo on the spine of a VHS tape was a veritable guarantee that you were going to get something memorable within. After the surface had already been scoured, curious adventurers into the realm of horror filmdom would eventually find themselves sifting through the Something Weird catalogue with mounting glee.
Although Vraney has passed, Something Weird lives on at SomethingWeird.com, where you can buy their movies on Blu-ray and DVD and subscribe to their streaming service, giving you free access to movies, collections of lost trailers, smut reels, kiddie flicks, ancient commercials, drug scare films, monster mindfucks, and just about anything to take the edge off of a hard day of work.
Since the catalogue is so extensive and mere browsing can be a little daunting, here are some of the best films in the Something Weird vault, culled from years of dangerous fringe exploration and careful, painstaking research.
These three films were all directed by the legendary Herschell Gordon Lewis and are frequently packaged together as the “Blood Trilogy.” If you are unfamiliar with Lewis, then your horror education is incomplete. Lewis was a low-budget filmmaker of the 1960s who, when trying to make his films stand apart from the usual grindhouse schlock, elected to make his films as gory as possible. And, he does not disappoint. Over the course of three films, hundreds of gallons of paint-red stage blood spill out of people like broken water balloons.
BLOOD FEAST (1963) was the earliest of the infamous Video Nasties and can perhaps be considered the world’s first gore film. It features a scene of severed breasts cooked in an oven. Enough said. TWO THOUSAND MANIACS! (1964) is a definite precursor to THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, only its an entire Southern town of maniacs rather than just a single family. And COLOR ME BLOOD RED (1965) is about an artist who uses blood as his medium.
Directed by notable nudie-cutie shlock-teur Doris Wishman, 1963’s NUDE ON THE MOON will provide one of the most delightfully demented erections you have experienced. Two rich white guys trek to the moon on a whim to discover, what else?- a nudist colony of buxom lunar babes. The queen of the nudists has a magic wand that makes people dizzy. You have seen films like NUDE ON THE MOON spoofed endlessly throughout the years. It’s time to see where a lot of that came from.
The 1982 debut of the wonderful Frank Henenlotter remains as twisted and odd today as it did over 30 years ago. BASKET CASE follows a despondent young man who travels to New York with a wicker basket containing his monstrous twin brother, a savage lump of vaguely human flesh named Belial. This is one of the best midnight movies of the 1980s and is well trod material for enterprising genre seekers. Henenlotter, who also made FRANKENHOOKER and BRAIN DAMAGE, is heavily involved in Something Weird, writing a lot of their ad copy and having made a documentary film about Herschell Gordon Lewis. BASKET CASE is synergy in action, a mind created by the SW vault is now a part of it.
This list, you may notice, leans heavily on Herschell Gordon Lewis, but I would be remiss if I did not mention the very film that gave Something Weird Video its name. SOMETHING WEIRD is a 1967 oddity about an electrician who is disfigured in an accident, becomes bitter, gain psychic powers, has his face restored by a witch, reluctantly becomes her boyfriend, takes LSD, and is attacked by living bedsheets. It’s like Lewis couldn’t decide if he wanted to make a supernatural thriller, a gore film, a nudie film, or a drug film, so he just rolled them all together.
Makers of creature features are always looking for new mutants, which may lead to some rather unlikely and undeniably nonthreatening movie monsters. Killer shrews, giant rabbits and the like have all graced the screen. And with GODMONSTER OF THE INDIAN FLATS, we also have a giant killer sheep beast to contend with. Said sheep rampages around a small Western town in Nevada – a town that is clearly using the movie as a tourism vid – causing the usual havoc. The movie is part spoof, of course (it would be massively difficult to take it seriously), but is also just a heaping fistful of bugnuts weirdness.
LOVE CAMP 7 is a 1968 near-porn Nazi-sploitation (Nazploitation?) flick about a group of women being stripped and humiliated in a Nazi sex camp which is infiltrated by two busty undercover American agents. THE GHASTLY ONES, also known as BLOOD RITES, is a 1968 murder mystery with low production values, gay characters (a rarity for the time), and a vicious retarded groundskeeper who eats raccoons. It inspired a Gothy rockabilly band. The two have nothing to do with one anther, expect that they were both listed as infamous Video Nasties. Any film worth banning is a film worth seeing, to co-opt an axiom, and SW offers up three of the noted 72. Get started.
Compared to most of the films on this list, this 1970 jungle goddess sexploitation film is practically an A-feature. A group of vapid city folk trek into the jungles looking for missing heiress, only to find that she is the blonde goddess of the local tribesman. This is slick, dumb, sleazy and wonderful. Aside from H. Rider Haggard’s SHE, jungle goddess stories have always worn their adolescent spank fantasy status in their sleeve. TRADER HORNEE understand this and runs with it.
I cannot describe this film, so I won’t try. It’s a 1968 acid film from David F. Friedman. There’s a lake party and a girl sinks in quicksand. There’s a trip to Hell, and there’s a bunch of boobs. I’m not much of a drug aficionado, so I’m never sure if these acid films were a) made on acid, b) meant to be watched on acid, or c) meant to serve as a psychedelic experience when you don’t have any acid on hand. I imagine THE ACID EATERS would work on all three levels.
This 1977 mondo sex-change movie is, have no doubt, most certainly staged. Well, some of it is actual documentary footage, but – as with all mondo movies – it is only included to shock and titillate more than inform or report. The rest is full-bore sexploitation and freak ogling. This is some oddball, real-life medical shenanigans, and it takes a strong constitution to handle something like LET ME DIE A WOMAN, the hard-edged spiritual nephew/niece of Ed Wood’s legendary GLEN OR GLENDA?