Bizarre (1970)

What happens when you combine British portmanteau films, William S. Burroughs cut-up techniques, 1970’s philosophy, British men’s magazines like Mayfair and throw in a mummy? You get a sheer burst of pure insanity like Bizarre.

Also known as Secrets of Sex, the film starts with the story of a king who found his wife’s lover and trapped him in a chest. This theme of trapping lovers carries on throughout the film.

But never mind all that. Let’s meet our narrator — a mummy voiced by Valentine Dyall (The HauntingBedazzled and the voice of Count Karnstein in Lust for a Vampire). He’s here to tell us all about the battle of the sexes. Just listen to his words, as half-naked women and men fill the screen, one at a time: “Imagine you were making love to this girl. Imagine you were making love to this boy. Imagine you were making love to this girl. Imagine you were making love to this boy. Imagine you were making love to this girl. Imagine you were making love to this boy. Imagine you were making love to this girl. Imagine you were making love to this boy. Imagine you were making love to this girl. Imagine you were making love to this boy. Imagine you were making love to this girl. Imagine you were making love to this boy. Imagine you were making love to this girl. Imagine you were making love to this boy. Imagine this girl was making love to you. Imagine this boy was making love to you. Imagine this girl was making love to you. Imagine this boy was making love to you. Imagine this girl was making love to you. Imagine this boy was making love to you. Imagine this girl was making love to you. Imagine this boy was making love to you. Imagine this girl was making love to you. Imagine this boy was making love to you. Imagine this girl was making love to you. Imagine the consequences.”

We’re then on the front row of this battle, with women in underwear facing off with me grasping machine guns. The women have vegetables thrown at them as the men advance. One of the women, a blonde, stares down the men, who fall to her beauty before she removes a straight razor from between her legs.

Alright — let me be perfectly honest. Your ability to enjoy this film totally depends on the amount of drugs in your system, how late you’re watching it and your tolerance for 1970’s experimental filmmaking. If you’re been reading this site for any length of time, you know that this movie was pretty much made for me and sent forward 47 years into the future.

The vignettes that follow — two female photographers castrating a male model at breakfast, an old man that wants a son, a female burglar being caught by the owner of the house, a nerd trying to get Sue Bond (one of the longest running Benny Hill girls) to have a three-way with him and his lizard, the naked adventures of secret agent Lindy Leigh (a character actually from Mayfair Magazine), an old woman who has trapped men’s souls in flowers, an old man who wants a son from his young wife — don’t follow a true narrative structure all of the time. But that makes sense — one of the uncredited writers of the film, Brion Gysin, is credited with inventing the cut and paste technique, where random words are cut up and rearranged to create a new text. Sure, the Dadaists did this, too. But Burroughs always credits Gysin.

Finally, the armies amassed at the beginning have a big orgy (it’s mostly people rolling around on hay bales more than anything really all that pornographic).

Obviously, this movie was cut up — even after the cut-up technique — by censors. Nine minutes were taken from the UK cut and the re-edited U.S. version, Tales of the Bizarre, has seventeen minutes missing. It’s more bawdy than dirty, like the aforementioned Benny Hill with more bare breasts.

Bizarre was directed by Anthony Balch, a lifelong Bela Lugosi fan (he even met him during a 1950’s tour of the Dracula stage play) and distributor of European art films that he’s retitled with lurid aplomb, including 1971’s Satanic masterpiece of weird Don’t Deliver Us from Evil. He also created the sound version of 1922’s ode to witchcraft Häxan and directed Horror Hospital. By all accounts, Balch was an over the top burst of pure strange, walking all over the furniture and given to public outbursts. He even shows up in a cameo during the closing orgy.

I’m at a loss when it comes to describing this movie. It’s not sexy, in the way that what was once shocking now comes off as charmingly naive. It also wears its influences on its sleeve, displaying hip for 1970 books prominently on scenes, with the camera staring at the covers, as if to shout, “I read the books that I am supposed to!” It’s like a first-year college student with copies of Hermann Hesse, Albert Camus and Carlos Castaneda book all over the place in an attempt to impress whomever stops by their dorm.

Yet I can’t hate this movie. No, I mean, how can you? A dinosaur spies on a peeping tom. Shots of an airplane are intercut with a sex scene for no good reason. And above all else, a mummy — YES, A MUMMY — tells us all of the secrets of the war between the sexes in the most bored tone possible. Just look at the poster — DEAD FOR 1000 YEARS…HE ROSE FROM THE CRYPT TO REVEAL STRANGE AND SINISTER PASSIONS!

 

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