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Seven Rare Films To Watch Now Before Google Video Dies

Seven Rare Films To Watch Now Before Google Video Dies  (photo)

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This post will self-destruct in two weeks…well, not exactly, but the videos below will be since Google unceremoniously announced the end of Google Video over the weekend that they are putting a kibosh on the video service as of April 29th that unlike the one they eventually bought, YouTube, allowed users to upload video longer than 10 minutes. This development won’t be mourned by many, as the video quality was never that great and since 2009, users lost the ability to upload videos, so it became something of a barren wasteland in terms of content.

However, unrestricted by time and largely ungoverned, the site also became the place on the Internet where cinema’s orphans could be widely seen, either because they now belong to the public domain or because issues legal or otherwise have prevented their release through traditional means. Naturally, this meant there was plenty of piracy on the site of more recent films, much of which was eventually cleaned up, but for cinephiles, it also offered easy access to films that were mostly exclusive to the bootleg market, including a lot of early films that add context to some famous filmmakers’ later oeuvres or obscurities that must be seen to be believed. Here is a sampling:

“Fear and Desire”

Last year, there was word that a DVD edition of Stanley Kubrick’s first feature film may finally become available in the near future after Eastman House uncovered a print in a Puerto Rican film lab they inherited, but the late director long tried his best to keep the film out of circulation, which is why this online version is the closest most cinephiles have ever gotten to see the film, featuring future writer/director Paul Mazursky as one of four soldiers who must fend for themselves in an unidentified country after their plane crashes in enemy territory. After Kubrick raised the film’s $10,000 budget on his own, he sold the rights to foreign film distributor Joseph Burstyn, who subsequently went out of business, leaving “Fear and Desire”‘s rights in limbo and public screenings have been rare ever since.

“American Boy”

The last time this 1978 documentary from Martin Scorsese was widely available, it was still mostly for collectors as part of a laserdisc set The Voyager Company (of which the Criterion Collection descended) released of the director’s early nonfiction shorts in 1990. As Dave Kehr wrote for that disc’s liner notes, the film’s subject Steven Prince bears a resemblance to “The King of Comedy”‘s Rupert Pupkin as a storyteller in search of an audience, though Prince is genuinely captivating as he simply tells tales from his growing up, and the film is insightful not only in terms of Scorsese’s style (full of closeups) taking shape, but into the influences that shaped him as it’s clear Prince is a close friend. (It’s also obvious the film had an impact on Quentin Tarantino since one of the anecdotes is the basis for one of “Pulp Fiction”‘s most famous scenes.) If you find the time, after you see “American Boy,” you should do yourself a favor and watch Tommy Pallotta’s wonderful follow-up doc “American Prince” – also available for free online — which catches up with Prince in the present day when he’s as compelling as ever.

“HWY: An American Pastoral”

This experimental film starring Jim Morrison got a resurrection last year when Tom DiCillo dug it up to serve as the backbone for his documentary on The Doors, “When You’re Strange,” which had the surreal effect of bringing the late singer back to life since so few people had seen the original film and the image of a bearded Morrison coasting through the desert and ultimately ending up in Los Angeles is eerie to say the least, though it ultimately owed far more to the influences of Michelangelo Antonioni than it does the singer’s personal journey. As DiCillo told me during an interview last year, “There’s no way in hell we could’ve recreated that” and indeed, the clips in “When You’re Strange” get the best presentation the film has ever received, yet the film is currently only available in full online.

“Begotten”

No less than Susan Sontag labeled future “Shadow of the Vampire” director E. Elias Merhige’s highly experimental 1991 horror film “one of the 10 most important films ever made,” which surprised the writer/director since as he told Filmmaker magazine years later, “I had people telling me I’d be lucky if I could ever show the film for free.” Ultimately, that’s how it worked out since short of paying upwards of $60 on eBay for an out-of-print self-distributed DVD of the film, the version online is the only way to see this dialogue-free, black-and-white variation on the story of Genesis that’s extraordinary for what Merhige was able to do with the processing of the film for a surreal visual effect.

“Society of the Spectacle”

SnagFilms has cornered the market on delivering free documentaries to the public online, but Guy Debord’s 1973 adaptation of his own philosophical book about how society has been shaped by media and constant modernization, as told through a collage of film clips and other archival materials, is appropriately available on one of the widest platforms available.

“Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story”

Short of a secret screening at SXSW in 2009 where the title had to be kept under wraps, Todd Haynes’ 1988 biography of the famed singer told only with Barbie dolls is rarely shown in public as a result of rights issues from the music, which Richard Carpenter used to keep the film from ever being widely distributed. Yet the film remains beloved by cinephiles as it demonstrates the empathetic and articulate filmmaker that would go on to make “Far From Heaven” and “I’m Not There.”

“The Conqueror”

Frankly, words can’t do much justice to this 1956 disaster that starred John Wayne as Genghis Khan and Susan Hayward as the Asian princess Khan attempts to romance. Sadly, it wasn’t just a bomb by movie standards, but was believed to have been responsible for cancer in many of the film’s cast and crew since the film was shot near an atomic testing range in Nevada. All these things led producer Howard Hughes to buy back the film’s rights to keep it out of the public eye, though Universal eventually released the film on VHS in 1992. Still, “The Conqueror” hasn’t been re-released since, leaving this version the only way to see Wayne don a mustache that droops below his lips. As commenter Derek Hill mentions below, “The Conqueror” did make its way to DVD in 2006 as part of the “John Wayne: An American Icon Collection” series.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….

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IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.

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IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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