Forbidden Zone
Dir. Richard ELfman Fantoma

Previously known only in the world of VHS collector scum obscurity (and ebay trading upwards of $40 a tape), Richard Elfman's "Ultimate Cult Movie" has finally been released on DVD. Boasting an incredibly extensive collection of special features, including cast and crew interviews, commentary, deleted scenes, music videos, and even a lyric booklet to the musical numbers performed by the Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo (members of which would later form the Danny Elfman fronted new wave band Oingo Boingo and pique the interest of a young Tim Burton), makes the special features on this DVD enough to warrant the release itself. In striking black and white photography and stop motion animation (reminiscent of Terry Gilliam's Monty Python animating), the film portrays the rather bizarre world of the Hercules family, and their descent into the sixth dimension (the "Forbidden Zone") by way of a gigantic set of intestines. The sets, mostly composed of cardboard, and the eccentric characters who inhabit them, wander through a Fleischer Brothers inspired world of frog-headed servants, topless concubines, and none other than Herve Villechaize (of Fantasy Island fame) as King Fausto, ruler of the Sixth Dimension. Danny Elfman also contributes as Satan in the musical rendition of Cab Calloway's "Minnie the Moocher" and "St. James Infirmary." In addition, his first ever composed film score compliments the visuals perfectly. If there is any doubt that this is the quintessential of all midnight movies, the new DVD release of this forgotten gem will confirm its rightful place in cinema history. - Jacqueline Castel

The Nomi Song
Dir. Andrew Horn Palm

"He came from outer space, to save the human race" reads the tagline for a film documenting the life of one of the most profoundly bizarre characters to grace the New York City underground punk scene in the late 1970s and 80s. Classically trained as a falsetto opera singer in Germany, Klaus Sperger would later move to New York, reborn as new wave opera oddity Klaus Nomi, to find an audience, and eventually a market for the peculiar niche of music that Nomi would carve in the New York art scene. Andrew Horn's documentary on this new wave icon masterly weaves the accounts of friends, collaborators, and associates of Klaus Nomi, who helped shape the world of Nomi. Page Wood of NYC's The Come-On and later artistic Director for Klaus Nomi's epic underground live shows is one of the key interviewees and offers an interesting glimpse into the contributions that would later come to define the Klaus Nomi aesthetic (archival footage of Nomi's signature giant black and white stripped "N" set at Max's Kansas City's only begins to touch on the intense organization and extreme design of a Klaus Nomi performance). This aesthetic would become the defining trait of Nomi himself and lent itself perfectly to his equally bizarre music. What begins as the standard portrait of an eccentric youth in the thick of New York's thriving art scene becomes an intimate and eventually harrowing view into the life of an intensely serious and dedicated performance artist. As all of Nomi's friends, relatives, and fellow artists confess to neglecting Nomi during his hospital stay shortly before his death, Horn's montage becomes especially affecting and particularly telling of a generation that was to be forever devastated in the wake of "gay cancer." "The Nomi Song" serves as a celebration of an artist who pushed boundaries, and however brief, Klaus Nomi's life serves as a reminder of the possibilities of a limitless imagination. - Jacqueline Castel

Dir. Hans Fjellestad Plexifilm

Hans Fjellestad's documentary on Bob Moog, the eccentric philosopher, maverick, and mastermind inventor of the Moog synthesizer, is a compelling look at one of contemporary music history's most fascinating contributors. "Moog" is fairly comprehensive, but there is a heavy focus on the effect of Moog's greatest invention rather than on Moog himself. Although the live performances of current bands who use the Moog (Stereolab, DJ Spooky, and Mix Master Mike to name a few) were interesting as well as demonstrative of the long lasting impact of Moog's contribution, they seem to be too heavily emphasized within the documentary. The fleeting clips of Moog discussing his philosophy can at times be frustrating because what he has to say is fascinating and yet all too briefly explored throughout the film as a whole. It seems that Moog's philosophy in and of itself is enough to project him into cult hero status, and what insights he offers are telling of what thought went into the creation of his monumental invention. There is a great use of archival footage in the film; however, most notably the rare 1970s advertisements for the legendary synthesizer featuring a young Moog himself demonstrating the inner mechanics of his creation. Bob Moog playing the Theremin is also a choice moment in the film, and is engrossingly intimate. Although the documentary could have been a bit more comprehensive, the rare insight into the life of Bob Moog does make this documentary a noteworthy document of one of the most influential figures in the world of music-making.
- Jacqueline Castel

The Residents Commercial Album
Dir. Various Cryptic Corporation

Those wily dancing eyeballs the Residents have finally, after 25 years, fulfilled their dream of making a music video for every single one of the 40 one-minute songs on 1980's The Commercial Album. Along with the four 1980 videos by the band themselves, they've created eleven new clips and hired over 30 video artists to fill in the rest. Unfortunately, if not unsurprisingly, the rest just kind of comes across feeling likeā€¦ filler. There's a lot of pretty goofy-looking Photoshopping and After-Effecting going on here. These new clips looks especially uninspired when compared with the intricate sets, props, and puppetry of the original four clips. Good luck finding the originals though, because the menu screen of the Commercial DVD is a maze. Literally. A first-person labyrinth, complete with multiple floors and dead ends. I've had this DVD for three months and I still haven't seen everything on it. Not that I've been trying too hard. Were I a bigger fan of the disc's content, I would find the maze gimmick to be an amazingly clever challenge. As it is, though, it just leaves me frustrated. For the Residents in all their visual glory, get the Icky Flix DVD. Avoid this one.
- Preston Spurlock

Off The Charts: The Song-Poem Story
Dir. Jamie Meltzer Shout! Factory

For just about as long as the concept of rock stardom has been making people feel inadequate about their lots in life, there has been the song-poem industry. Here's the basic run-down of this American pop-cultural oddity: studio musicians place ads in the backs of supermarket tabloids and the like, advertising the opportunity to become a published (read: famous) songwriter; hopefuls send in lyrics and a nominal fee to these musicians; the musicians, in turn, take the lyrics and produce a finished "song-poem." But as strange, clumsy, and sometimes downright awful as many of these musical anomalies are, Off The Charts presents all parties involved without so much as a single trace of condescension. The film, in fact, tends to go for bittersweet reflection more so than it does for cheap laughs, and the result is beautiful and surprisingly affecting. As artificial and anonymously commercial as song-poems may seem, there is a vulnerable human element involved too, and Off The Charts captures this perfectly.
- Preston Spurlock

«« table of contents