The worst mistake a movie can make is to be mediocre. I can abide the lowest grade B-movie as long as it has heart, and avoids being boring. While almost all of these films suffer from low budgets and other handicaps that come with not being big productions, they at least don’t commit the unforgivable sin of being boring or milquetoast… or at least they possess a single scene that delivers such a compellingly strange moment that it makes the whole viewing experience worthwhile.
Here, in no particular order, are just a handful of my personal favorite odd, bizarre and WTF moments from films off-the-beaten path. Enjoy.
(1) Deadly Friend (1986)
Scene: Death by Basketball
Of all the kill scenes from the endless slasher movies of the eighties, none are as randomly bizarre as this scene in Wes Craven’s Deadly Friend. Perhaps the biggest “holy shit” moment in cinema. The scene that will have you asking yourself “Did that really just happen?”
Sam (actress Kristy Swanson) has been brought back from the dead and given the brain of a robot (don’t ask). She goes to a neighbor lady’s house, picks up the basketball and throws it at her face….. which EXPLODES like a pinata of blood and brains. Her headless body then flails around squirting blood from the point of decapitation. It’s gratuitous, insane, out-of-nowhere, and completely implausible. This movie seemed like a PG rated, family-friendly horror flick until a few moments ago. I saw this movie as a teenager in a theater, and I remember the crowd going absolutely nuts.
(2) Get Crazy (1983)
Scene: Penis as Rock Star Life Coach
No one gets out of this film with dignity intact (except maybe Lou Reed). Get Crazy is just one insane moment after another – not particularly funny, just random cocaine fueled ridiculousness. The difficulty is selecting which scene deserves to be singled out. There’s a robot drug dealer named Electric Larry, there’s a scene where a plane encounters turbulence and cocaine goes flying everywhere, a man in a giant reefer costume that pops up for no reason, and Ed Begley Jr, Fabian and Bobby Sherman get incinerated by a bomb.
But the strangest moment of all has to be when the rock star, Reggie Wanker (Malcolm McDowell, pictured above with massive codpiece), starts talking to his penis. In fact, his penis convinces him to turn his life around. Wanker then makes his talking penis the band’s new manager. What in the ever-lovin’ hell?
(3) Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number! (1966)
Scene: Drugged by Phyllis Diller
Bob Hope doesn’t want his wife, Martha, to find the sexy Elke Sommer, whose crashing at his place. He’s completely innocent, but it’ll be awfully hard to explain to Martha why there’s a naked lady in his living room. What to do? Naturally, forcefully drug her and hide her body underneath the bed. Yes, that happens.
Phyllis Diller arrives, and like Winston Wolf in Pulp Fiction, she springs into action to help Boh Hope out of this dilemma. She forces some “pep pills” down her throat, and the two carry her naked body to the bedroom! No, there’s no onscreen nudity, but it’s a cinematic WTF moment if there ever was one.
(4) Star Slammer (1986)
Scene: Battling the Ballsack Alien
I could do an entire list just on terrible looking movie monsters. Topping that list would have to be the monster in Star Slammer which looks like a giant testicle with a mouth. Poor Sandy Brooke, the actress who plays Taura, must run around pretending to be seriously fighting this big mushy gonad!
(5) National Lampoon’s Movie Madness (1983)
Scene: Orgasm via Autobiography
The follow up to Animal House was an abysmal failure, and has been called “a cocaine-fueled fiasco”. The standout scene in this flick is undoubtedly when Jason (Peter Reigert) and Diana (Teresa Ganzel) give themselves orgasms just by talking about themselves. It’s a perfectly over-the-top parody of the “Me Generation”.
(6) The Swamp of the Ravens (1974)
Scene: Lounge Act from Hell
The Swamp of the Ravens (1974) (original title: El pantano de los cuervos) is an interesting Spanish film about a guy who experiments with immortality with disastrous consequences (as you might expect). What you won’t expect is the creepiest, most randomly bizarre scene I’ve ever witnessed on film.
The scene takes place in a lounge, where the stereotypical lounge singer is doing his cheesy act (think Bill Murray doing his Nick the Lounge Singer routine). But this lounge singer is singing to a creepy as f**k doll! Weirder still, he’s singing about a “dead robot”. David Lynch couldn’t conceive of such surreal horror.
I actually took the time to copy down the lyrics (you can thank me later):
Never, never will you fly from me
Lifeless heart that doesn’t beat after all
I have such feelings for a dead robot
While remember the past and all its love
Wherever you may find yourself, I wish you were dead
My own robot, my own, my lady
Don’t stare at me with those eyes of horror
Sure, there’s a backstory. We learn the lounge singer has been jilted by his lover (who looks exactly like his doll). Still, this scene is beyond creepy. One of the problems with creating a list such as is this, is that it is difficult to convey the scene adequately. The only way to truly grasp the weirdness of this scene is to see it for yourself. It demands to watched.
(7) Huntress: Spirit of the Night (1995)
Scene: Lycanthropy Via Bright White Rape Light
Movies tell us how we become werewolves – you get bit by another werewolf. It’s simple. Not so, for Huntress: Spirit of the Night. In this film, a werewolf girl sends a burst of white light which hits the main girl (Jenna Bodnar)… which causes all her clothes to instantly explode off her body. It’s either the best or the worst werewolf transformation scene in cinema history, depending on your perspective.
(8) Beyond the Darkness (1979)
Scene: Sex, Lies and Taxidermy
Beyond the Darkness (Buio Omega, original Italian title) is a unbelievably nasty little film by Joe D’Amato. Never mind that the lead character Frank (Kieran Canter, with awesome seventies feathered hair) steals his dead girlfriend from the grave to stuff and preserve her. And never mind that actress Cinzia Monreale plays a fully nude corpse for the entirety of the film…. the truly troubling scene occurs when Frank takes a woman home and shags her in the same bed as his dead girlfriend (and then proceeds to rip her throat out with his teeth!). I told you it was a nasty little film.
(9) Virtual Desire (1995)
Scene: Sex, Lies and O.J. Simpson
Late night cable and straight-to-video-sleaze have come up with all kinds of creative ways to deliver sex scenes; many quite original, but none perhaps as odd as this one. Virtual Desire features a scene where a woman (Peggy Trentini) has a secret sex fantasy she wants to fulfill – nothing unusual about that… except that she wants to do it in the jury room of the O.J. Simpson trial. Are you kidding me?
(10) Double Exposure (1983)
Scene: Death by Bag o’ Snakes
Michael Callan plays Adriane Wilde, a photographer with “issues” and we’ll leave it at that. His job today is take pictures for a garbage bag advertisement. The model for this session is played by Debbie Zipp; the actress played Katherine on Gilmour Girls and was a regular on Murder, She Wrote. She’s had parts here and there on everything from The Fall Guy to One Day at a Time, to Magnum P.I.Configuration Wizard
At any rate, Adriane the photographer suddenly decides to drop a poisonous snake into one of the garbage bags, then tie the bag over the head of poor Debbie Zipp! An incredibly horrific death scene follows, one that you won’t soon forget. Double Exposure plays like a typical seventies TV movie, punctuated by this memorably random murder. It’s one of the most brutally hard to watch death scenes I’ve ever seen, and ultimately it makes zero sense.
(11) Death Walks on High Heels (1971)
Scene: Racist Cringy Striptease
Death Walks on High Heels (1971) – (original title: La morte cammina con i tacchi alti) is your standard Italian giallo flick, with one scene in particular that is just beyond cringeworthy. Nicole (Nieves Navarro) is a beautiful red-headed girl who works at a burlesque club…. and dresses up as a black woman to do her striptease!
I get it. It’s Italy, it’s 1971 – they had no idea that putting on an afro wig and wearing blackface was offensive. But it still makes for a singularly uncomfortable scene.
(12) Playbirds (1978)
Scene: Scotland Yard Audition (No Clothes Required)
Playbirds is a strange movie in itself; it’s both a sexy comedic type film (in the vein of the Carry On films) and a depressingly bleak satanic serial killer story. The combination can be jarring at times. With seemingly endless oddball scenes, the one that really stands out is the police screening/striptease scene.
Detectives Morgan and Holbourne need to find a police officer to go undercover as a Playbird centerfold. What do they do? The hold an audition for young female police officers to come in and take their clothes off! I don’t think this would fly today; it might get you in a bit of trouble with HR. The men eventually decide on Sgt. Lucy Sheridan (Mary Millington) who is more than willing to disrobe… for the greater good, of course. Sure, there have been sillier scenes in sexploitation cinema, but none plopped right in the middle of a supposedly serious film about a serial killer.
(13) Ghoulies IV (1994)
Scene: Jive Talking Trolls Get Laid
Ghoulies IV is currently ranked in the all time bottom 20 on IMDb; that’s quite an achievement. Why does it rank lower than the thousands upon thousands of utter crap that has been released over the decades? Doubtless it is due in no small part to these trolls (not Ghoulies, mind you) who arrive from another dimension. They speak in jive and love pornography, and literally every scene they’re in could easily qualify as the worst cinema has ever offered. Perhaps the low point comes when the jive talking trolls save a woman from a mugger, and she then offers them sex as a token of appreciation. What in God’s name?
(14) The Mad Bomber (1973)
Scene: Children Go Boom
Chuck Connors is “The Mad Bomber” reeking havoc on the streets of Los Angeles. At one point he decides to blow up a school. As the explosion erupts, you can see children VERY close-by running and falling to the ground. This was well before CGI, and you can tell this isn’t an optical effect – this is the real deal. How many “stunt children” were harmed in filming this movie is anybody’s guess. I’m going to go on the assumption that no real kids were burned, dismembered or blown to bits filming this scene.
(15) Microwave Massacre (1983)
Scene: Frosty the Cannibalistic Snowman
Jackie Vernon, comedian and voice of Frosty the Snowman, decides he likes the taste of human flesh. Among his many victims is a hooker, Dee Dee Dee (who likes to say “Have you ever screwed in 3-D?) played by actress Lou Ann Webber in her one and only IMDb credit. Vernon smothers the prostitute and lugs her to the kitchen to be chopped and cooked, and delivers the film’s biggest punch-line: “I’m so hungry, I could eat a whore.” It’s almost as if the entire movie was designed around that quote.
And the other-worldly insanity of it all…. Jackie Vernon, Frosty the frickin’ Snowman, chopping up a prostitute to eat! It doesn’t get much stranger than this, folks.
(16) Cindy and Donna (1970)
Scene: Red Wagon of Death
In 1973 a Kentucky drive-in theater owner was taken to court on obscenity charges for showing this film and thrown in jail. Thankfully, he was acquitted, but it marked a historic try by the government to shut down the smut that was filling theaters and drive-ins across the country. Cindy and Donna is a far cry from porn, but it does have its share of nudity. But the strange bit comes at the end.
Indeed, I could do an entire list of ridiculously bad endings in B-movies. For now, this one will suffice, as it would easily make the top ten. In the final scene, Donna stumbles over a red wagon, then… (get ready)…. randomly stumbles into oncoming traffic, gets hit by a car and dies. The End. After a whole movie of watching Donna and Cindy’s exploits, the director decides to just randomly kill one of the girls for no reason. What the hell?
(17) Succubus (1968)
Scene: If Satan Held a Cocktail Party
When I first thought of the idea for this list, this scene from Succubus was the first that popped into my mind. Janine Reynaud plays Lorna who is fed LSD by a midget at a party. Then, the guests start crawling and surrounding Lorna, and barking wildly like dogs. It’s surreal and it’s creepy as all hell.
(18) Max Mon Amour (1986)
Scene: French Chimp Porn for the Whole Family to Enjoy
I’m not exaggerating when I say this is one of the simultaneously stupidest and strangest films I’ve ever seen. Let’s not beat around the bush – here’s the plot: Charlotte Rampling is in love with an ape. Okay, so there’s some human-primate romance… but what makes it even more off-putting is that it is filmed like a family movie. It’s hard to explain, it feels like a dumb kiddie movie along the lines of “Harry and the Hendersons”… but there’s this disturbing ape-romance thing going on. (shudder)
This is more than a little problematic for Rampling’s husband, Peter (played by Anthony Higgins). His whole world has been turned upside down by this sick love triangle. What’s a guy to do? Well, what he does is hire a prostitute (Sabine Haudepin) to have sex with Max while he watches. Yes, you read that right.
I guess the purpose is to see what Max can do to a woman that he can’t. Thankfully, Max only has eyes for Charlotte Rampling, and rejects the hooker. The film’s one redeeming quality is the special effects work of Rick Baker. That chimp looks frickin’ amazing. But the realism of the ape only makes this whole affair that much more disturbing.
(19) Love at Stake (1987)
Scene: Salem Witch Trial Hip-Hop
It’s a Salem Witch Trial comedy that tries way too hard. The best scene may be the New England Clam Chowder Wrestling, but the most insane/inane is when three maidens possessed by Beelzebub launch into a rap (“Don’t Keep Satan Waitin’) that would make LL Cool J spin in his grave (if he were dead). The godawful lyrics go like this: “Sunday school is a place for fools
It’s hot in hell, but the devil’s cool!” Ugh!
(20) The Wicked Dreams of Paula Schultz (1968)
Scene: Hogan’s Heroes Abduction
A family friendly romp starring Elke Sommer and Bob Crane (plus a number of other Hogan’s Heroes alums). It’s all in good fun, but there’s one scene which has bothered me since I first saw it many years ago.
Bob sneaks into East Germany to get back in touch with Elke Sommer. In order to do that, he decides he needs to disguise himself as a female Olympic athlete (?). In order to do that, he… (get ready) abducts a passing female athlete, drags her behind a wall, binds and gags her, and steals her clothes! What the – ?
This was supposed to be hilarious, but I always wondered what became of the poor athlete whose clothes were stolen? Did she live? Something tells me this was all Bob Crane’s idea.