I love movies. I love some true masterpieces, some of questionable taste, some for their quaint awfulness. One of my favorite things is finding some jewel of an obscure film that’s all the more precious because nobody else on the face of the planet seems to know it exists.
But never let it be said that I’m stingy when it comes to sharing the cultural wealth! Today, I’m sharing with you all a smattering of the obscure, the offbeat, and the nearly unknown films that make me smile.
Highway 61 is the tale of Corky, a small town Canandian barber, who sets off on a mission to deliver a coffin to New Orleans. If that weren’t enough, a man who may or may not be the Devil is hot on the trail of Corky and the roadie whose brother is purportedly in the coffin. It’s ridiculous, surreal, and completely bizarre. Don McKellar as Corky (he also wrote the script) is gloriously lost most of the time. You will never look at bingo or chicken dinners quite the same way again.
Watch for a cameo by Jello Biafra as an American border guard. This scene alone is worth the price of admission for me!
Bottle Shock is based on a true story that I remember, because I lived in California Wine Country at the time. Back in 1976, a blind taste testing of wines, California (specifically Napa County) vs French took place in France… and California won. I was fourteen and had never had a single sip of wine in my life, but I, too, nearly burst with pride. Sure, it was Napa and I lived in Sonoma County (which also produces some pretty drinkable wines), but the important part wasn’t that: it was that we beat the French at their own game, on their own soil, using their own tastebuds.
More than thirty years later, a charming and quirky film based on the story was made, starring Alan Rickman, Bill Pullman, Dennis Farina, Eliza Dushku, and a host of other talented and pleasant to view people. Add in a soundtrack composed mostly of vintage Doobie Brothers music, and we’re talking about a darn good time. You don’t even have to care about wine to enjoy it… but it helps if you do or if you know something about life in California at that point in time. I got mighty nostalgic just looking at the cars.
Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter is… perhaps not as artistically worthy as the others mentioned thus far, but I never promised these would all be good. I only said I love them. Still, how can I not love a film that sets Jesus down in the middle of Canada facing off against vampires with the help of his sidekick, Mary Magnum, and some pretty cheesetastic Kung Fu moves? And then there’s the Godburger.
This one is sick, offensive on levels I cannot begin to contemplate, and done on a budget that would have made Ed Wood blanch. It’s also hilarious, hip, cartoonishly gory, and willing to laugh at itself as hard as it does at everything else.
And in honor of the late, great Davy Jones, I cannot finish this list without mentioning Head, the only film The Monkees did, and the only project where they had complete artistic control.
The result is… fascinating as Mr. Spock would say. Also fascinating is the fact that I think Leonard Nimoy was one of about four famous people at the time who didn’t appear in this film. How often to you get to see Victor Mature, Annette Funicello, and Frank Zappa in the same movie? To the best of my knowledge, this is the only one they were all in. It’s also a gloriously absurd exploration of control, power, anarchy, and desire that I doubt their handlers understood at all.
Oh, and there are some darn good tunes in it, too.
How about all of you? Have you got a little known gem of a film you want to tell us about? Please! Share with the class!