Far-out, freaky films, ranging from works of mad genius and epics of Bad Taste to so-bad-it's-good outrageousness. Just the thing if you feel like watching something out of the ordinary, or some post-pub entertainment with your mates (if they don't leave halfway through). The following titles are my personal selection of outstanding examples of film at its wierdest!


"You're a groovy guy...I'd sure like to strap you on sometime!"

Any list of groovy movies has to include what us fans call 'BVD'. This was softcore director Russ Meyer's only film for a major studio, and watching this, it's not hard to see why! Meyer took the trashy 'soap and schlock' formula of "Valley of the Dolls", but about an all-girl rock group instead of actresses. Imagine a psychedelic, X rated version of Josie And The Pussycats, with a bit of Scooby Doo and Melrose Place thrown in. The Carrie Nations' music rocks - sort of Jefferson Airplane meets Mamas & Papas. "Find It" is my favourite song. The film is full of quotable 'groovy' dialogue ("This is my happening and it freaks me out!" being its most famous line), and the editing is the best I have ever seen in any film - cut together like a 90-minute pop video, with clips intercut with dialogue, and flash-forwards, it's a helluva ride.

FREAKS (1932)

"Can a full grown woman truly love a midget?"

If any film can be described as unique, then "Freaks" has got to be it. Made by "Dracula" director Tod Browning, it's about a travelling carnival in which a trapeze artist discovers that one of the freaks, a midget, has a huge fortune and plots with the strongman to marry him and then murder him. The fellow 'freaks' come to his rescue and have their revenge on the couple. Controversially, Browning used real-life freakshow artists in this film, and although the strongman and trapeze artist are shown to be the real 'monsters', it's this which makes the film so disturbingly compelling. Original punks The Ramones used the freaks' rally cry of "We accept you, we accept you, one of us!" in their song "Pinhead" in 1977.


"I have it on very good authority that the world is about to I'm going home to watch it on the telly..."

A very obscure British science fiction film, Jon Finch (Frenzy, Macbeth) plays Michael Moorcock's flamboyant hero Jerry Cornelius ; anticipating Laurence Llewelyn Bowen with his curly black locks, frilly shirts and foppish velvet suits, Cornelius is a dandyish scientist and playboy, dragged into a quest for his dead father's 'final programme' - a microfilm blueprint of the next stage in mankind's evolution. Along the way we meet the sinister Dr Smiles, the bisexual doctor Miss Brunner who physically absorbs her lovers, and Jerry's smackhead brother Frank, all of whom are also after the microfilm. The film also features a very unusual soundtrack, a collaboration between trad jazz saxophonist Gerry Mulligan and experimental synthesiser duo Beaver and Krause.


"Grand's the name, money's the game. Care to play?"

Loosely based on Terry Southern's cult novel of the same name, "The Magic Christian" is a typically late '60s satire on materialism; with Peter Sellers as the eccentric millionairre Guy Grand who takes a homeless man (Ringo Starr) under his wing, and sets out to show his charge that everyone has their price, by concocting elaborate pranks and bets. John Cleese and Graham Chapman helped out on the script, and Monty Python fans will enjoy seeing lots of scenes and ideas not dissimilar to those used in the TV series a year later. Chockablock with cameos from Christopher Lee, Hattie Jacques, Spike Milligan, Richard Attenborough, Wilfred Hyde-White amongst others; and great use of Badfinger's "Come & Get It" and Thunderclap Newman's "Something In The Air".

Worth the price of admission for a scene in which Yul Brynner, in full drag, sings "Mad About The Boy", to a clearly uncomfortable Roman Polanski; and Laurence Harvey performing a strip tease during Hamlet's "To be or not to be" speech; and Raquel Welch in charge of a rowing galley of nude women!


"Piss off, Brahms!"

Ken Russell has made some pretty wierd films in his time, but "Lisztomania" has to take the biscuit, cigar and complimentary T-shirt. It portrays Franz Liszt as the first pop star, played by Roger Daltrey (who had just done "Tommy" with Russell), with a synthesizer soundtrack of electrified Liszt and Wagner by Rick Wakeman. What can you say about a film that features Paul Nicholas, that charming man from "Just Good Friends", playing Richard Wagner - first as a matelot-wearing revolutionary brandishing a Superman comic (geddit), then a Dracula-cum-mad-scientist figure, and finally reincarnated as a Hitler/Frankenstein robot gunning down Jews with a Swastika-shaped guitar; not to mention a scene in which Daltrey sprouts a fourteen foot latex phallus straddled by four harpies who use it as a maypole; and Ringo Starr plays the Pope? I can't even begin to describe the completely preposterous final scene...


Of all the films director/producer Paul Morrissey made with Andy Warhol's Superstars at the Factory, "Women In Revolt" is the most interesting - although "Heat", their inversion of "Sunset Boulevard" comes a close second. It's about three women - played by transvestites Jackie Curtis, Holly Woodlawn and Candy Darling - who form a feminist group PIGs (Politically Involved Girls), only for each of them to self-destruct in their own way. It was never intended as a deep satire of the women's liberation movement, and is clearly a reaction to Warhol's attempted assassination by Valerie Solanis in 1968. The three drag queens make compelling viewing in every scene, their androgyny and role-playing creating an epic of gender confusion, and Jackie Curtis is a revelation, wringing sympathy out of her often unlikable character, and coming out with some inspired improvisations.


A bizarre hybrid of bikini movie and espionage spoof, starring Vincent Price as the evil Dr. Goldfoot, who has manufactured beautiful robot 'girl bombs' as part of some convoluted plan for world domination that villains tend to specialise in! Teenybopper idol Fabian plays the secret agent who has to foil Dr Goldfoot's wicked plans. Directed by Mario Bava, the film features effects that probably looked low-budget even then, and some very silly high speed chase sequences, alternated with some moments of inspired surreal comedy - and a homage to "Dr Strangelove" with two bungling spies falling through the sky astride a bomb. Vincent Price is superbly camp and appears to be having a whale of a time sending himself up, even dragging up as a Mother Superior!

THE BABY (1971)

I saw this film on BBC2 very late one night in 1993, and it's been indelibly etched on my mind ever since. A perverse shocker about 'Baby' - a fully grown-man who has been kept in a state of mental infancy by his twisted mother and her two sadistic nympho daughters. A young social worker Ann takes a special interest in the Baby, and the family do everything they can to stop her advancing Baby. It turns out that Ann has her own dark reasons for helping Baby, which leads to a twist ending that has to be seen to be believed. "The Baby" would have been wierd enough if it was an underground, John Waters or Paul Morrissey, film, but the fact it's a mainstream production - the mother is played by Ruth Roman, unrecognisable from Hitchcock's "Strangers On A Train" - makes it even more bizarre!


A great mix of sci fi, action, comedy and satire, this Spanish film is about a gang of cyborgs and mutants whose mission is to destroy the 'beautiful people' and blow up health spas and gyms. They kidnap a politician's beautiful daughter for a huge ransom and fly off to a barren planet that resembles a "Deliverance" village. The leader of the gang plays his underlings off against each other so that he can have the money to himself. The action is intercut with newsreel footage of reports on the gang's antics and spoof ad breaks. A great camp sci fi film in the style of "Fifth Element", "Barbarella" and "The Tenth Victim", but with action and violence scenes very much of the Tarantino school. Also boasts a good Euro cult pedigree: The director is Pedro Almodovar's protege, and special effects are by the makers of "City of Lost Children" and "Delicatessan"


Before Rupert Everett went to Hollywood, he made some obscure films in Europe. This is one which challenges all your expectations of the foppish chiselled-cheekbone toff. "Dellamorte" is a horror-fantasy-romance for existential slackers in which Everett plays a misanthropic undertaker who has to keep re-burying the living dead; reacting to such scenes as zombie Cub Scouts, and a whole pack of Hell's Angels roaring out of their graves astride their Harleys, with little more than a deadpan quip. Things change when he falls in love with a beautiful widow. Her dead husband comes back from the grave and kills her in a fit of jealousy. This scenario keeps repeating herself and she keeps coming back to life, etc. With scenes of comic horror in the style of "The Evil Dead" or "Braindead", it's funny but a lot darker than those films - as you'd expect from Dario Argento's protege, Michele Soavi ("The Church") - and the film builds to a truly existential climax that will have you holding your breath and scratching your head!


Hell's angels, frogs and Beryl Reid! A gang of bikers led by Nicky Henson discover the secret of coming back from the dead, and proceed to top themselves in amusing and elaborate ways only to come back to life and wreak havoc in inner city supermarkets and the like. The 'secret' involves Henson's mum, a medium (played by Beryl), whose spooky butler (George Sanders) made her make a pact with the devil. I'm not sure exactly what the frogs have to do with it all. Lots of low-budget thrills and spills, bizarre dream sequences, and a cool opening title sequence of motorbikes driving through the mist in slow motion to a bass-heavy soundtrack. Nicky Henson talking to Ghoul Britannia: "Beryl and George and I would just break up, it was such a dreadful script. I kept saying to the producer, 'How did you get away with this?' and he would say 'I just thought motorcycles, stunts, horror - it can't lose.'"


Made on a shoestring budget, this is a curious arty sci-fi picture about aliens living on the roof of a New York apartment block, who feed on the energy produced in human brains when high on drugs or mid-orgasm. Their victims include an androgynous female model and a male prostitute, both played by Anne Carlisle. The film avoids cheap effects by disposing of them altogether - the aliens are microscopic beings inside a flying saucer the size of a plate; the victims turn into tinfoil when 'sapped'. "Liquid Sky" would be an awful film if it wasn't so good - although the amateur acting, stilted dialogue and New Romantic costumes give the viewer plenty to laugh at; the film is full of good ideas, has an unusual soundtrack ("Me And My Rhythm Box" should be covered by Chicks On Speed), and Anne Carlisle's central performance as the gender-bending junkie is strangely affecting.

HEAD (1968)

"Hey hey we are the Monkees, you know we love to please; A manufactured image with no philosophies..."

We all know that the Monkees were a manufactured pop band - although they did actually play and write, very well too, but that's another story - but how many other bands have committed commercial suicide so spectacularly by sending up and destroying their image? Matinee idol Victor Mature appears as a giant 'The Big Victor' (representing their record label RCA Victor) attempting to crush the prefab four underfoot; Frank Zappa gives Davy Jones career advice; and the Monkees appear in sketches that send-up their TV personas, and the film is intercut with clips of Vietnam war footage, news clips, bits of old films and 'man in the street' interviews. The soundtrack is worth seeking out, with lots of dialogue cut-ups and some incredible songs, written by Carole King, Harry Nilsson and other talented types.

"Head" was made by the team that went on to make "Easy Rider" the following year (Bob Rafelson, Bert Schneider and Jack Nicholson) - apparently the film was called "Head" so that "Easy Rider" could be promoted with the tag-line "From the people who gave you 'Head'"!

If you enjoy off-the-wall films, you can find out about plenty more at Paul Baker's excellent web site Doll Soup, which I cannot recommend highly enough (Is the cheque in the post, Paul?)

Pictures taken from my personal collection and the following sites:

Ghoul Britannia
Deep Focus
Brian's Drive-In Theater