Saturday, January 30, 2010

Saturday Music for Strange Behavior

In 1981 THE FUTURIST! saw a perfectly bizarre fascinating original horror film entitled STRANGE BEHAVIOR. It was directed by Michael Laughlin and written by Laughlin and Bill Condon (who later directed and wrote GODS AND MONSTERS and won a Best Adapted Screenplay Academy Award for that very work). Filmed entirely in New Zealand during the popular Australian film renaissance, STRANGE BEHAVIOR aka DEAD KIDS (title changed for American distribution due to the uncomfortable reaction the distributor felt might occur because of the words DEAD and KIDS ... Americans can be strangely sensitive) was the odd story of a group of teenagers being used for experimentation at their college by two mad scientists. The plot sounds derivative of a lot of 50s horror pictures and rightly so ... it is ... but, it has this fresh feeling of eccentricity and self awareness that defines itself from it's antecedents. It wants to evoke those earlier sci-fi horror films and that is evident through its sense of time. Does it take place in the 50s/early 60s? ... it does not, but the cars and the decor of the homes and the clothing send that retro signal. The cinematography has that cheese cloth soft illumination that brings to mind something of the past. The film has a dark sense of humor that its characters joyfully wrap their performances around with boldly staged setups of macabre wordplay and over the top hysterics; Oscar winning actress Louise Fletcher is the most rightfully accused perpetrator of scenery mastication.

THE FUTURIST! saw this film for the first time in a small single screen theater right next door to Utter Despair in Paramus, N.J. at Cinema 35, a strip mall film palace. There were, perhaps, 6 other people in attendance. The film pleased THE FUTURIST! and scared him at the same time; well, they do go hand in hand quite a bit, don't they? He never forgot this little gem with its eerie story of mind control or the soundtrack by Tangerine Dream. Especially memorable is the music that plays as we watch, first person point of view, as our main hero drives to school through a serene seemingly Mom and Apple Pie environment; this same music appears again, at the end, as we see the cast pictured with their names displayed under featured scenes.

When a friend of a friend visited from Texas 4 years ago, THE FUTURIST! showed them both this film one evening. They were over joyed by its bizarre plot and the way it was presented. Of course, criticisms were made and THE FUTURIST! will admit the film loses its way a bit toward the end, but it is an amazing joy before those bumps are felt on the ride. Most of all, they were thrilled with this sequence that is the feature of THE FUTURIST!'s Saturday Music post.

Below is a 7 minute sequence from the film that features two of the main characters arriving at a costume party. It is a musical sequence full of retro 60s costumes of pop culture characters in the middle of a horror picture. You can see Batman, Wilma Flintstone, The Flying Nun, Lily Munster and a weird girl sitting alone wearing a clear plastic mask (brrrr). It's just a teen party of beer drinking and frivolity, but the camera pulls back through their gyrating joy and we are suddenly in a musical. THE FUTURIST! loves this sequence. Of course, it turns into sadistic bloody murder, but it's fun to have fun before the knife starts its own rhythmic beat! (Get a load of the Tor Johnson mask on the killer!)

Listen and watch:

performed by Lou Christie
from the film STRANGE BEHAVIOR (1981)


christian said...

This was essential during SHOCKTOBER and strangely, I've been listening to the very rare soundtrack this week. Or what there is of it. But that scene is crazy cool.



It is essential SHOCKtober viewing.

You and THE FUTURIST! must have an uncanny connection of mind waves ... you are listening to this rare soundtrack? Amazing. It must be the Full Wolf Moon tonight.

The scene is exactly what your fine description paints a picture of ...


Dara said...

Bill Condon has had quite a random career! I just found out he also wrote some of last year's Oscars...