We’ve sorta banned the word “rare” here at Dangerous Minds, because, let’s face it, nothing’s really rare anymore in the digital age. Nothing. Something might be “seldom seen” (we’ll be using that one a lot at DM) but “rare”? Nah, not in this century, bubbee. If there was ever more than two copies of something made, trust me, it’s out there somewhere in cyberspace, and can be located and downloaded with a little effort. Some of the seriously specialist “art house” and “cult movie” torrent trackers have shit so obscure and previously hard to find, that the word “rare,” especially when it comes to digital media just ought to be retired.
How rare or scare can something you don’t even need to move your ass off the chair for (and is normally free, for that matter) be???
It used to be that certain things were difficult to see, but no more. What about, say, the X-rated Rolling Stones documentary Cocksucker Blues. Once one of the rarest of the rare (at least for a watchable copy) during the heyday of the 80s VHS tape trading underground, you can now probably find close to 10,000 torrent files out there in the hinterlands of the Internet. It used to be on YouTube, for fuck’s sake. And again, it’s gone from “rare” to… ahem… free.
Warhol films? That’s easy.
Whenever I’m trying to get across to someone new to the idea of what bit torrent has to offer and exactly what kind of cinematic rarities are out there, the example I usually whip out is Jack Smith’s campy, pervy underground classic from 1963, Flaming Creatures. How many celluloid copies of this film ever existed in the first place? We know that some prints were seized in police obscenity raids, but considering how few places there ever were, historically, to legally be able (and willing) to screen such a confrontational film—subterranean Times Square pre-Stonewall gay porno theaters is the answer—I’d wager fewer than five prints maybe? Flaming Creatures was the limit test case for a rare cult movie. Outside of some institution showing it, or snagging a personal screening as a film scholar at Anthology Film Archives in Manhattan, you could pretty much forget about ever seeing Flaming Creatures.
Until fairly recently. It was even shown on French television.
When Flaming Creatures and another of Jack Smith’s films, Normal Love, were posted on Ubu website, I recall thinking that the paradigm of “rare” was well and truly dead. Another legendary movie that I’d always wanted to see was the At Folsom Prison with Dr, Timothy Leary film, and that I was able to embed in a blog post here last week. Like I was saying, nothing is rare anymore and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
Which brings me to George Kuchar and Mike Kuchar, deviant twin filmmakers whose work also used to be difficult to view, but not anymore. The Kuchar Brothers were among the original indie mavericks of 60s cinema. But if you are thinking in terms of a young Martin Scorsese or Roger Corman, guess again. Troma before Troma, would be closer to the mark.
The Kuchar Brothers made silly, smutty, no budget, overblown melodramas and Sci-Fi epics that were part of the “Underground” film movement of the time. Their nearest contemporaries were Andy Warhol, Kenneth Anger and Stan Brakhage, but the space between a Douglas Sirk drama and Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space would seem to nicely define the campy aesthetic continuum the Kuchar’s films exist in. John Waters claims the Kuchar Brothers were bigger influences on him than Warhol, Kenneth Anger or even The Wizard of Oz in his introduction to their (amazing) 1997 book Reflections from a Cinematic Cesspool.
In a time long before YouTube, the Kuchar Brothers borrowed their aunt’s Super-8mm camera at the age of 12 and began making their films: poorly-acted, cheapo productions as much parodies as homages to the Technicolor movies they grew up watching in the 1950’s. The sweetly oddball Kuchar sensibility was also informed by the SF underground comix scene (via friends Art Spiegelman and Zippy the Pinhead creator Bill Griffith) when George ended up teaching at the San Francisco Art Institute. George, the more prolific of the twins, has made over 200 films, mostly with the help of his SFAI students, with memorable titles such as I Was A Teenage Rumpot, Pussy On A Hot Tin Roof, Corruption Of The Damned, Hold Me While I’m Naked, Color Me Shameless and House Of The White People. His best known film is probably the short, Hold Me While I’m Naked.
Mike Kuchar, often in collaboration with his brother and his brother’s students, made films with tiles like Sins of the Fleshapoids, The Secret Of Wendel Samson and The Craven Sluck. He also made an amazing short with Dangerous Minds pal, Kembra Pfhaler called The Blue Banshee and collaborated with gay German underground auteur Rosa von Praunheim.
These days, rare no more, the films of the Kuchar Brothers can be purchased on DVD, downloaded for free from Ubu’s website and are posted on YouTube. There’s even a documentary, 2009’s It Came From Kuchar, which you can stream on Netflix’s VOD. Below, 1966’s Hold Me While I’m Naked:
Below, the trailer for Jennifer Kroot’s documentary, It Came From Kuchar:
The Day the Bronx Invaded Earth: The Life and Cinema of the Brothers Kuchar (Bright Lights Film Journal)
George & Mike Kutchar (Vice)