One of the most attractive things about cult films is the sense of belonging they can bring. There’s an inherent elitism to cult films. To see a particularly rare cult film, such was the case with David Lynch’s Eraserhead (1977) in the nineties, gives one and one’s friends this sense of exclusivity that brings them together. Most cinephiles are familiar with these occurrences whether they recognized it or not. When I was a teenager, making weekly trips to Movies Unlimited in North East Philadelphia, I was able to rent extremely hard to find titles to share with my friend Danny. Some films, such as Lommel’s Blank Generation (1980), weren’t just bizarre novelty escapades on celluloid but were of some critical value that lead to seeking out other films, such as Lommel’s Cocaine Cowboys (1979). This was the nature of the video store and its function in establishing the social aspect of the cult film experience. The three films I discuss and recommend in the following blog post are all titles I initially saw as a teenager, and had been rented from video stores back in the early 2000s.
The Terror Of Tiny Town (1938)
Billy Curtis stars in the only all-little person musical western directed by Sam Newfield and produced by Jed Buell. The film is standard Roy Rogers fair except for the casting. Many consider this one of the worst films ever made, but its otherworldly execution makes it a “must see” cult film.
Bill & Coo (1948)
George Burton’s trained birds are the only stars of this fantasy film in which the world is one giant bird civilization. Dean Riesner, the film’s writer/director, has constructed one of the most unique children’s films of all time utilizing nothing more than a narrator to propel the narrative and lend the feathered performers depth. The film was so unique and so well crafted for what it was that it won an honorary Oscar the year it was released. Adult audiences today will more likely equate their viewing experience to surrealism, not fantasy. But seeing this film as a boy I was captivated by its quirky charm.
The Gardener aka Seeds Of Evil (1975)
After making a number of films with Paul Morrissey and Andy Warhol actor Joe Dallesandro starred in this oddball thriller. Dallesandro plays a seductive gardener, seducing affluent women left and right. The primary concern of the film is not with the narrative, but rather with providing reasonable scenarios in which Dallesandro can be seen in the nude. The Gardener is not particularly enjoyable for those who aren’t already fans of Dalesandro, nor is it anything of real substance beyond its use as a historic document of sexual sensibilities in the mid-seventies. However, the climax of the film may be enough to justify non-Dalesandro fans sitting through the first ninety minutes.