“The Overlook” Declaration Of Principles
1. The films I shall write about in the coming year will be esoteric, lost, or largely forgotten. They will also be fascinating, tantalizing and weird, but in the best way.
“How is this any different than your previous column, ‘Unsung’?” I hear someone on the internets scream. “Well,” I patiently explain, “‘Unsung’ was a series of 52 columns detailing films that I felt had been unjustly overlooked; they were all masterpieces of their kind.” Many of the films I will discuss in “The Overlook” richly deserve to be consigned to the trash bin of history. But we are here because we are interested in the trash bin of history! Each week I’ll bravely scour that trashbin and nyum-nyum garbage to let you know which ones are worth your time.
2. I will here refer to my readers as “babies.” I have never felt comfortable with the term “F-Heads,” which my refined sensibilities find coarse. Please understand that “babies” is an affectionate term. If some of my readers turn obstreperous, argumentative, or annoying, I will then refer to them as “diaper babies.” See the distinction? You’ve been warned, babies.
3. In the cases of films that readers have actually seen, when readers’ opinions differ from mine, MY OPINION WILL ALWAYS BE THE CORRECT ONE—those readers just haven’t come to their senses yet. Poor babies.
Now here is an authentic obscurity. Never legitimately released in this country on VHS or DVD until last October (thank you, Warner MOD), Wicked, Wicked has occasionally popped up on Turner Classic Movies, but only once in a blue moon.
ANNOYING AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL PAUSE: I first saw Wicked, Wicked at a real movie theater when I was ten. My mother uncharacteristically treated me to a double feature; we saw Wicked, Wicked and Westworld. I remember it like it was yesterday—the theatre passed out cool cardboard guns to all of us kiddies. The two-dimensional gun had a hidden paper flap and when you held the gun and brought your hand down fast (the way a murderous robot might) the hidden paper flap would bang like someone popping an inflated paper bag... Boy, I wish I still had that cool cardboard gun right now! Did I just dream this?
Nope! It’s a real thing. It looked like this:
Now, what was I talking about? Oh, Wicked, Wicked.
Wicked, Wicked was filmed in a “new process” that MGM touted as “Anamorphic Duo-Vision.” (This calls to mind John Goodman’s character Lawrence Woolsey in Joe Dante’s Matinee touting films in “Rumble-Rama” and “Atomo-Vision!”)
MGM assured potential patrons that no glasses were required for this amazing new process: “All you need are your eyes!”
Well, Thank God for THAT.
At what exactly was Wicked, Wicked’s “Anamorphic Duo-Vision? Wait for it...
Split screen. The ENTIRE goddamned movie is in split screen. Check out the trailer, which cleverly avoids giving away the secret by using the tired old trope of showing it in “single screen”:
Ninety-five minutes of split screen could work if director Richard L. Bare were more skilled at balancing the stereo frame and providing more visual cues as to which side the audience should focus on. Sometimes it works as a kind of 1970s cinematic PowerPoint presentation, as characters on one side of the screen reference objects being shown to the audience on the other side of the screen (murder clues, flashbacks, and newspaper headlines) but most of the time it is a confusing, annoying distraction. There is a reason that Wicked, Wicked is the ONLY film ever filmed in Anamorphic Duo-Vision.
But wait! The movie’s music consists entirely of selections from the original pipe organ score from the Lon Chaney Phantom of the Opera. Is this the producers engaging in an epic shout out to an older (better) film, or were they just trying to do post-production of this turkey on the cheap and the Phantom score was handy?
Here’s the title song, which I must advise, readers will not be able to get out of their heads once they have heard it. Gee, do you think the guy running the spotlight is the killer? Nahhhhhh.
THE CRITICS RAVE: Doug Thompson of The Alton Telegraph wrote, “[The] direction is erratic and sloppy and acting by the principals is appalling.” Mike Meserole commented in The Berkshire Eagle that, “ Duo-Vision is geared more for action than acting, which is fortunate because Wicked, Wicked has plenty of the former and none of the latter.” The San Mateo Times’ Barbara Bladen wrote, “There may be laughs to be had for someone with a strong stomach for blood but the [. . .] film’s more grisly scenes quite choked them back on me.” Paul Mavis of DVDTalk.com lovingly called it “Crappy, Crappy.”
The film was only ever released on VHS in Germany and Finland. Say what you will about the Finns, they know what they like (and what they like is reindeer sausage and Wicked, Wicked.)
THE BOTTOM LINE: Some films are so bad that they’re a lot of fun; Wicked, Wicked is so bad that it is just a lot of bad. You can probably scratch Wicked, Wicked off your must-see list, babies. Because the inept screenwriter and clueless director tip their hands way too early as to the identity of the real killer (no spoilers here, but could it be THE HANDYMAN?), the film becomes less a mystery or thriller and more a “how-to” manual for beginning psychopaths.
New column! Yay! I now want a shirt that says “I’m a JB baby”.ReplyDelete
And so you SHALL! (Waves magic wand)ReplyDelete
I am so in for one of those shirts. So thrilled to have you back JB! I just want to clarify; if myself or Dennis ever become an annoyance, would we be referred to as Diaper babies or Nappy Babies?Delete
*theater of the mind*Delete
True here over the pond they are called Nappies!Delete
You guys really need to get onto the marketing. We all want FthisMovies Tshirts. Caps. Fridge magnets. Stickers. And Like Gil says. " Im a JB Baby" I would wear that. F is for Family style with "Its Fine" on the back. Scary movie month. Junesploatation. Damn the possiblitlties are endless and I want all of them...
Just a thought. Im 100% sure there's a market
This has been on my radar for a while! Glad to hear that it is finally on DVD. The trailer features one of the greatest "guy crashing through a window" scenes EVER!ReplyDelete
Btw - excited for an obscure film column, JB! Welcome back.Delete
Ive never heard of this. A full split screen movie! The concept is already making me go crosseyed.ReplyDelete
Welcome back to the columns JB. Its gonna be fun
I will be your twin Gil. Split screen twin babies.
This is great. Not the movie, clearly (like most babies, I haven't seen it), but having JB back with a new column! Yay!ReplyDelete
Also...kudos to (I assume) Doug for the header photo. That is fantastic.Delete
JB's excellent wife Jan actually crafted that cover photo (which looks great, I think).Delete
That's what I get for assuming...great stuff Jan!Delete
(Blush) Thanks guys! Glad you like it. And our son took the photo of JB! I guess this proves that the F in F This Movie! really stands for... family. (Cue sappy orchestral score.)Delete
So glad you're back!ReplyDelete
Does this mean we have to call JB "Daddy"?ReplyDelete
You weren't already?!Delete
Of course, but it was the voluntary nature that made it sweet.Delete
Firstly - love the picture! Sure I'm a little disappointed you didn't take the semi-nudity of the "Unsung" picture a little further but that rocks - it's like YOU'VE ALWAYS BEEN THERE.ReplyDelete
Secondly, I'm so down with the baby stuff - I'm actually typing this in my 6'x6' man-crib right now!
This does look like a fascinating mess - I love "anamorphic duo-vision" (I call dibs on that name for my new hipster band) but damn, what a weird way to make/watch a movie - seems like a headache but I kinda want to see it. Also, why so quick to point fingers at the handyman/substitute spotlight operator? You see "creepy", I see intensely dedicated to honing his craft. Personally, I think it's Sgt. Ramsey - his little ruse to get Lisa into a blonde wig seems mighty suspicious to me! You think you know so much just because you actually saw the movie. I suppose you're going to call me a diaper baby, now?! (Please call me a diaper baby.)
So glad to hear your voice in your writing again, instead of just in your talking - love the new article and looking forward to more!
Since this is The Overlook, are you going to "correct" the babies that don't agree with you?ReplyDelete
Glad to have you back JB!
"The tired old trope of showing it in “single screen”.ReplyDelete
JB! I don't know where else to ask this (Do you guys read comments on older posts?) but in a recent episode you talked about sharing a mind blowing interpretation of the magic trick at the end of Babadook with Patrick. I'm easily the dumbest F This Movie listener and what I see in that scene is pretty much on the surface. Am I missing something?
I have a weird take on that scene as well, but I'd like to see JB's as well before I go into it.Delete
SPOILER ALERT: Unless the boy has received a live dove as a birthday present (which we don't see) that's a pretty sophisticated trick for a ten year-old. Or is he really magic?Delete
I always take magic tricks in movies kind of at face value and after all the crazy shit that happened, it didn't really stand out to me. But this interpretation opens up all kinds of possibilities. (Although I've never enjoyed "the kid was dead all along/in her imagination" theories.)
So glad JB's back! You've been missed.ReplyDelete
And a shout-out to Finland! Woohoo! Makes me want to track down that VHS. I just hope my old VCR still works.
I just had to look into it.Delete
The cover of the Finnish VHS looks like this. The case against the handyman is certainly building up.
And the Finnish title for the movie is Hotellimurhat, which translated as The Hotel Murders. Innovative, no?
Welcome back JB!ReplyDelete
First, glad JB is back. Great pic too, the man doesn't look a day over 145 years old. ;-)ReplyDelete
I actually saw "Wicked Wicked" on TCM a few years back and it's every bit the mess JB describes. However, I'd love for some talented and ambitious knows-what-he/she-is-doing filmmaker to give this concept a try because I like the idea of having a wide screen with more to look at than just the one thing the camera points at. The closest I've seen this multi-screen gimmick succeeding at (which still failed because the core story/characters wasn't interesting-enough to sustain it) was Mike Figgis' "Timecode" in 2000, which actually went to four simultaneous screens instead of two.
Let's face it, with our ever de-volving attention spans, if we don't blow it all up before 2050, EVERY movie will probably be in anamorphic octo-vision.Delete
Anybody else seen the short film WAT’S PIG? It did the same split-screen thing to much better use, so the audience is never uncertain or confused on where to look. Perhaps the gimmick is better suited to a short than a feature.ReplyDelete
Looking forward to more obscurities, JB!
Charles B. Pierce (The Town That Dreaded Sundown, Boggy Creek II: The Legend Continues) was the set decorator! There's a sign of "quality"!ReplyDelete