The VHS Rorschach test

A.K.A. return of the pile

Here’s an activity I haven’t indulged in for a while — I’m going to break out my old VHS collection and root through it seeing what kind of bizarre memories come up. Let’s begin with….

Fight for Survival (1977). Hey I remember this! A bunch of thieves steal a kung fu manual divide it up amongst themselves and run off in different directions to learn its secrets. They all get martial-arts superpowers but really weird ones. Like one of the thieves winds up changing into a woman because that’s apparently a side-effect of practising “negative kung fu” and another has to walk on his hands everywhere and head-butt people instead of standing up straight like a normal person. Seriously he just keeps his feet up in the air for the rest of the movie. Not because he wants to but because the physical training he’s undergone means he can’t walk normally anymore. Bummer.

Cool movie though. I remember I had to buy this one twice because the re-titled version (called something like “ Lady Wu Tang ” I think) cut out the opening heist leaving audiences with no clue as to what the film is supposed to be about.

Bonus fun fact: other alternate titles include Kung Fu Halloween and Don’t Bleed on Me .

Orgy of the Dead (1965). Fans of the hilariously amateurish Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959) often lament how sad it is that writer/director Edward D. Wood Jr. was forced to work on erotica later in his career. That attitude fails to take into account the fact that Eddie made erotica that was so ridiculous it was easily the equal of his “mainstream” work. Case in point — this piece of delirious T&A nonsense in which a bunch of cosplay strippers do a burlesque show in a graveyard. Ed even brings his old buddy Criswell back to read the exact same bit of opening narration he spoke in Plan 9 . (“Monsters to be pitied! Monsters to be despised!”)

Bonus fun fact: as a celebrated fortune teller Criswell once predicted that the city of Denver Colorado would be melted by a beam from outer space. (Predicted date of destruction: June 9 1989.)

Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life (1995). Okay so now I’m intentionally pulling out the weirdest movies I can find but that’s also kind of how I bought them in the first place. This Academy Award-winner (for Best Live Action Short) combines the suffocating paranoia of Franz Kafka’s writings with the jubilant happy ending of Frank Capra’s holiday classic. (The similarity in names provided the creative inspiration.) The result actually works and manages to be both freaky and uplifting.

Bonus fun fact: it’s written and directed by Peter Capaldi who has recently been cast as the new Doctor Who .

Billy the Kid vs. Dracula (1966). If I’m honest I’m probably never actually going to get around to watching this tape but what a title!

Bonus fun fact: directed by William “One-Shot” Beaudine who earned his nickname by insisting on only filming “one shot” even when a second take was clearly necessary.