An unbelievable journey into the awesome worlds of ESP and witchcraft!
Cronin Mitchell has really tapped into a streak of heinously bad luck. While on the job as an electrical engineer, he loses a battle with a wild high power wire and gets the kind of mega volt facial that Rodeo Drive spas will be charging $85 for next season. Cursed with ESP (which does not stand for "Extra Stupid Personality") and a literal pizza face after his wattage workout, he is reduced to reading qualms in a skid row strip mall. To add insult to stupidity, a real live wart and cackle witch offers to give him back his male model mandible if he simply agrees to one thing: become her supernatural sex slave! Well, vanity must rule over libido, as Mitch takes the wanton Wiccan's arrangement and starts solving crimes with his sixth sense specialty. The government gets a whiff of his Columbo meets Kreskin persona and sends a paranormal specialist (ala X-Files) to recruit him to the right side of freedom with a little lysergic acid diethylamide, otherwise known as Lorenzo St. Dubois. Every place our prissy psychic goes, his spellcaster is sure to follow. To his eyes, she's a disgusting visage of boils and bad fashion faux paus. To the rest of the world she looks like she's auditioning to be the next Breck girl. When a local Wisconsin police force calls in the soothsayer to forego and foregone all their criminal conclusions, bedding attacks people and a ghost promenades through a church. One thing is for certain: Something Weird is definitely going on.
Here it is, the movie that started it all. The film that so impressed a young Mike Vraney that he named his company after it. Or maybe not. Something Weird is indeed the perfect designation for a video retailer that has made a name selling the most obscure, deranged, and eccentric titles in all of VHS and DVD. But as a movie, Herschell Gordon Lewis' ode to acid and proper on the job safety procedures is one whacked-out warped wonder. Nothing makes sense, and yet the narrative attempts to construct a serial killer whodunit by sandwiching it in between a supernatural sex farce and a full-blown scientific exploration of precognition. And then it throws in some karate and cocktail party parlor tricks for scatterbrained measure. The juxtaposition of ideas is absolutely mind bending. In one scene we watch a maniac blowtorch a woman's face back to its carbon-based biology. The next we witness a character go five rounds with two falls or a ten minute time limit as he wrestles 210-count percale sheets that attack (?) him. Never before in the history of cinema has a title so aptly described a movie. Something Weird offers a little dab of doodie from every genre and then makes up some completely new ones just to be different. Who else but Lewis would conceive this deliriously daffy Dead Zone, complete with one of Macbeth's weird sisters, like its Uri Gellar's autobiography?
Since this title is the namesake for an entire exploitation empire, you'd figure on SWV giving it the royal treatment. And you'd be about 50% correct. For the first time in its tenure as a second tier feature film, Something Weird is remastered and uncut. But don't expect any added grue or provocative sexuality. This is a tame film and the extra bits include the aforementioned seven-minute karate sequence, previously excised because it made no sense and slowed down the narrative (in a twisted, tangential tale like Something Weird? Go figure). The widescreen presentation in a sharp, colorful 1.85:1 aspect ratio transfer is pleasant, but there are a lot of age defects (scratches, jumps, and faded spots) and—sorry home theater lovers—it is not anamorphic. As one of SWV's first DVDs, this is forgivable, but not acceptable. There needs to be a revamp of this title ASAP, and that goes for some of the extras too. While we are treated to a series of archival short subjects which all center on a certain mind-altering hallucinogen and the bad trips one can take on it (including the fantastically phantasmagoric Psyched out Sing-along with the 4-D Witch), we do not get to see the trailer for Something Weird. Or any trailers for that matter. And the gallery of exploitation art is presented without accompaniment, meaning that you have to sit and watch the images unfurl in silence.
But there is one additional extra that more than makes up for the paltry offerings here, even if it too has some limitations. On the added commentary track, we get to hear Herchell Gordon Lewis discuss the making of Something Weird for 30 minutes. He is informative as to the film's roots (he was offered the movie by a researcher who fanatically believed in ESP) and hilarious as to its limitations, both cinematically and as entertainment. As if to indicate his feelings, he bails out and we are left with the true narrative gem. Founder Mike Vraney and partner Jimmy Maslin, along with exploitation producer David F. Freidman, tell the story of how Something Weird Video came into existence. And it is a riveting and highly evocative tale. Even if it was a case of "right place, right time, right niche market," Vrany's love for this lost cinematic art form and the lengths he will go to preserve and enjoy it make his ultimate success seem natural. As part of the overall SWV DVD library experience, it is an essential track. However, it is audibly one of the worst. There is lots of hiss, distortion, over modulation, drop out, and rough edits to be found throughout the near hour the trio talk. But while it may require careful listening and the endurance of many irritating sonic shortcomings, no SWV DVD collection should be without it. As a movie, it is as odd as sod. As a history lesson, there is nothing bizarre about Something Weird.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Something Weird Video
• Audio Commentary by Producer David F. Friedman and SWV Founder Mike Vraney on the Origins of Something Weird Video
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