In my last article, I explored some fairly strange films, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I could go stranger. So here are four even stranger films that for one reason or another have become hard to find. Note- I’m not including online sources that violate copyright, because true film fans deserve fancy Blu-ray releases with glossy covers, brilliant transfers, and tons of special features.
You can check out yesterday’s article here.
INTREPIDOS PUNKS (1980)
During the 1960s and 70s, psycho biker films were all the rage on the underground film circuit. Fueled by the disenfranchised biker classics THE WILD ONES from 1953, biker films really hit their peak in the late 60s/early 70s. They even enjoyed occasional mainstream success with films like EASY RIDER (1969) and MAD MAX (1979). Although the genre would make the occasional appearance in later decades, INTREPIDOS PUNKS was probably its last grand hurrah.
Part bikesploitation/part punksploitation, INTREPIDOS PUNKS was the creation of Mexican filmmaker Francisco Guerrero. INTREPIDOS is the story of a biker gang lead by a Wendy O-esque silicone enhanced stripper named Fiera. Fiera, played by an actress billed as Princesa Lea, leads a gang of bikers who are punked-out in the most stereotypical punk rock garb ever imagined. Donning brightly colored mohawks, garish makeup, studded black leather, and in some cases gold lamé Luchador masks, the gang repeatedly pillages the countryside before returning to their mountain hideout. During their adventures, they run afoul of law enforcement and the Mexican mafia. The film had a very limited run in mostly non-English speaking countries with only a few underground home viewings on bootleg cassettes. In 1986, the film finally made it to the US on VHS. Then in 1996, an extremely limited DVD release, entirely in Spanish with no English subtitles, made a brief appearance.
DR CALIGARI (1989)
This surrealistic loose sequel to the 1920 film THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI is an avant-garde mind fuck that had a brief run on the midnight movie circuit. In this new incarnation, the doctor’s granddaughter is conducting her own experiments on mental patients. With its nonsensical dialogue and garish color scheme, it is a strange yet beautiful film. It was the perfect flick to usher in the arthouse indie films of the ’90s that would soon follow. Despite being well received by arthouse critics and the midnight movie crowd, DR. CALIGARI only made it as far as getting a laserdisc release. In 2002, Excalibur films, a porn distribution company formed by DR. CALIGARI’s executive producer, put out a limited run DVD that mostly flew under the radar. Although surrealist avant-garde filmmaking has fallen out of favor with the indie college filmmaking community, it is still cool to see what was considered arthouse before mumble-core came along.
MONDO TRASHO (1969)
Legendary Baltimore-based filmmaker John Waters shot his first film in 1969 on 16mm black and white film. A 23-year-old auteur, Waters created his own unique style and genre with this story of degenerate foot fetishists, nude hitchhikers, visits from the Virgin Mary, and other various, unusual imagery that would quickly shape the Baltimore art scene for decades to come. MONDO TRASHO was also America’s first introduction to Harris Milstead, who would become better known by his stage name, Divine.
Waters and Devine were both members of the Baltimore artist underground, a family of beatniks, hippies, and weirdos who called downtown Baltimore their home. At the time, Waters was already aspiring to make “the trashiest motion pictures in cinema history”, and MONDO TRASHO would be his first foray towards that goal. The film centers around a platinum blond bombshell named Vivian Pearce. We first meet Vivian on a bus as she reads Kenneth Anger’s book HOLLYWOOD BABYLON, a trashy Hollywood indictment that sets the stage for this and almost every other John Waters’ film. Later, she meets a hippie foot fetishist, known as a “shrimper”, who molests her feet while she fantasizes about being Cinderella. Afterwards, she’s hit by a car driven by Divine.
Divine puts Pearce’s unconscious body in her car and drives her all around Baltimore before taking her to a Dr. Coathanger who amputates her feet and replaces them with giant bird feet. The film has very little dialogue and mostly moves itself from scene-to-scene using music cues. Unfortunately, Waters never had permission to use the music, therefore the release rights for MONDO TRASHO are nearly impossible to obtain. Even YouTube has a tough time keeping the film online since their music copyright protection software automatically deletes the audio portion of any upload. This seems to be fine with Waters who never really cared for the film and said that he wished he had made it a short instead.
NOTHING LASTS FOREVER (1984)
In 1980, SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE executive producer Lorne Michaels left his own show to pursue other creative endeavors. His hiatus lasted five years, and during that time he produced several comedy specials for SNL alumni Gilda Radner and comedian Steve Martin as well as a short-lived sketch comedy series called THE NEW SHOW. He also produced a strange science fiction comedy called NOTHING LASTS FOREVER by SNL writer and filmmaker Tom Schiller. Schiller had been making unusual short films for SNL since the early years. The film, an homage to 1950s sci-fi, is the story of pianist Adam Beckett who is forced to flee New York City after being run out by an angry mob. After a brief stint in Europe, he returns to America where he learns that the Port Authority has taken over the city and closed off all entry. Beckett goes on to learn that the city’s homeless population are the ones who are actually controlling everything from underneath the streets. Their leader tells Beckett that he must travel by bus to the moon so that he may spread peace to the universe and find his true love.
MGM postponed and then canceled the film’s theatrical run weeks before its scheduled release. Eventually, the copyright went to Turner Entertainment who aired the film on its cable network, Turner Classic Movies. There have been a few attempts at a home video release. However, in 2003 Warner Brothers, who took ownership of MGM’s pre-1986 library, stated that a DVD release would never happen because of “legal difficulties”. Then in 2007, they amended that statement to say that there might still be hope for an official release. Co-stars Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd have both said that they will take part in the DVDs special features whenever a release is announced.