Where do all the movies go? Thousands of movies are made every year and yet when you look at the Radio Times it's the same offenders again and again - Three Men and a Little Lady, The Fly and, for fans of arthouse, Priscilla Queen of the Desert.
TV Movie scheduling has been rotting away for some time, it can be nailed down to the moment that Channel 4 decided that City Slickers 2: The Search for Curly's Gold was eligible for the 10pm Sunday night slot. Pick up any copy of F Maurice Speed's Film Review annuals and take a look at the number of films released in one year, it's surprising just how many you have neither heard of or seen (unless of course you are F Maurice Speed - which is unlikely, because he's dead).
So where can you turn to? You can prowl the manky video racks of Cash Convertors, trawl through Ebay or turn to Something Weird in America - purveyors of forgotten trash for the connoisseur. Something Weird is the greatest DVD and video distributor that has or ever will exist in the world. That's a fact. The joy of Something Weird is not merely that they have managed to lay their hands on so many extraordinary films (there roster includes Bad Girls Go To Hell, Scum of the Earth and The Curious Dr Humpp - Argentina's greatest alien zombie detective sex thriller) but that they also put truly charming extras on every disk. The DVD release of The Child - some girls play with dolls. Rosalie plays with zombies - includes an ultra cheap voodoo zombie confection called I Eat Your Skin, trailers for Axe, Kidnapped Co-ed, Frankenstein's Castle of Freaks and two short educational films: The ABC of Babysitting which advises teenage babysitters how to avoid being kidnapped by perverts; and The Outsider, which tells the moving story of Susan Jane who just can't seem to make friends at school. We leave Susan Jane just as she is about to go to her first party, will it be a success? Will she make real friends? Only the Young American Film company knows for sure.
It is Something Weird that discovered my 29,999th greatest film, Godmonster of Indian Flats (1973, dir. Frederic Hobbs). Without their fine archivists I would have no idea of its existence. It is the work of Frederic Hobbs who was supposedly a conceptual artist on the West coast sometime in the 1960s, though that only narrows him down to a man who might have painted surreal landscapes on the back of pigs or hung a bicycle wheel from a fruity hat in a white space somewhere in Haight Asbury. I do know that he wrote a book called Eat Your House: Art Eco Guide to Self-Sufficiency and that is certainly a better title than Dick Francis's Whip Hand.
In 1969, Frederic twisted his concept filled head towards directing movies, as well as writing and producing them, and designing sheep monster costumes when necessary. Unfortunately his first three films are currently obtainable, though his second Roseland does end with some nude hippies dancing round a purple flower phallus and a song from this movie, You Cannot Fart Around With Love, is included here as an extra, so I'll certainly be joining the queue outside Tower Records when that is released.
Godmonster of Indian Flats is altogether more family orientated - the story of a 20th century town that has reverted to the ways of the old west except that the noxious gas that occasionally pours out of its old mine has created a mutant sheep thing that will go on to terrorise the community, but only a little bit.
This is a film of two stories intermingled in a delightfully cack-handed way. We start in Reno, where sheep handler Eddie is off for a good time. To his delight, he wins $200 on his first pull of the one-armed bandit. Now that kind of money makes you mighty popular In Reno, and before long he's being whisked off to a crazy western town to be royally ripped off by a local lady and given a good going over by the locals. A local crazy professor, Dr Clemons, picks him up and drops him back with his sheep, for some reason Eddie has nowhere to sleep apart from under the sheep awning.
That night, amongst the baahings and the bleatings, Eddie has a terrible whiskey psychedelic nightmare with sheep's faces drifting through his head amongst bones and detritus. Upon waking up he discovers that some kind of mutant sheep that looks like offal has appeared over night. Fortunately the professor comes along and takes the hairy innard lump to a special tank he happens to have prepared for just such a mutant sheep happening. Dr Clemons is assisted by hippie chick Mariposa, she will become Eddie's love interest and later teach a two legged sheep monster the soothing rhythms of dance.
Whilst all this is going on, troubles brewing in the nearby town of Indian Flats, ruled by a tyrannical historian, Silverdale (Stuart Lancaster, a regular in Russ Meyer's flesh feasts and later bit part actor for Tim Burton) who has ensured that the place is historically authentic to the old west. He is helped out by a camply reptilian assistant, Mr Maldove, who fell from grace on Wall street and a lardy sheriff by the name of Gordon, whose mutton chopped face would be better suited to advertising meat pasties. A man called Barnstaple comes into this place of old world values (mainly whores and saloons), he represents a big corporation and they want to buy out Silverdale, and Silverdale is not happy about that.
So after the first 20 minutes the plot then mainly becomes the story of Barnstaple and how the town dignitaries try to shame him (they brand him a dog killer), lock him up and then come close to lynching him. Then we return to the fast growing sheep offal monster who briefly terrorizes the town, is caged, exhibited in a car park and finally killed whilst the town runs riot. We are left on a shot that warns of the ecological disaster that lies ahead of us should we not change our ways - two sheep grazing while thick toxic yellow smoke pours out of the soil, another Godmonster could soon be on its way.
The two narratives in this film are relatively simple, the only confusion arises from Frederic Hobbs refusal (or forgetting) to film details that would make them clear. The love between Eddie and Mariposa is presumed inevitable as they are the youngest and prettiest things in the movie, so Hobbs sees no reason to labour the point. Scenes just happen - there is no build up to a drunken confrontation, someone just suddenly turns up in a location we've never seem before, is drunk, shouts, pulls a gun and goes. In ways this is a refreshing relief from the tortuous frameworks Hollywood uses that mean you as a viewer will always no what is coming next. Frederic Hobbs always maintains the element of
Godmonster of Indian Flats is a very peculiar movie because from a distance it looks pretty normal. It is perfectly well put together, the acting is not achingly dreadful and the camerawork is not the usual fumbled or pedestrian rubbish you find in so many drive in movies.
It has many highlights, the psychedelic sheep's head dream, the dog funeral, the monster being wooed and taught to dance by Mariposa and of course the monster costume itself, a confused mix of rugs, bones and skull. And of course, for some it also has the message of what happens when man tampers with nature (more seventies eco-horror films will be appearing as the countdown continues).
Russ Meyer fans should also watch out for Erica Gavin (Vixen in the film of the same name, she also appeared in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and Jonathan Demme's magnificent women in prison movie Caged Heat) who appears in a boozy barroom scene near the beginning of the film.
Sadly, Godmonster was barely shown on the American drive in screens and Frederic Hobbs would never make another film.