Movies We Like
Sins of the Fleshapoids
For those of you who do not know of Mike and George Kuchar, I highly recommend the documentary It Came From Kuchar which gives a thrilling account of their lives as underground filmmakers and artists. For those of you who know about them and are unable to find their work, I suggest looking at the releasing company Other Cinema, and the DVD compilations, Experiments in Terror. The documentary highlights their works, but three films stand out: The Devil's Cleavage, Born of the Wind, and Sins of the Fleshapoids. I was beyond thrilled to discover that some of their films were available for purchase, even if it's a just a few. The Other Cinema release of Fleshapoids also includes The Craven Sluck, and The Secret of Wendel Samson. Shot with consumer grade film with a cast of the director's friends, Fleshapoids is an experience in underground cinema that is not to be missed.
The Kuchars were at the tender age of 23 when they made this film, with Mike behind the camera and George in a starring role. The music assemblage and narration is done by Bob Cowan, and George Kuchar co-wrote the script. It takes place a million years in the future, where humans have enslaved androids with shells of human flesh, using them to do menial tasks and obey their every command. The earth suffered a nuclear war, turning rivers to poison and causing the near-death of all living things. The quest for scientific and mechanical knowledge brought about great turmoil, and now humans only indulge in the fulfillment of the senses. Picture hippies who wear mardi gras beads and fake furs. Their lairs are filled with leopard print, jewels, and bountiful displays of food. They call on the fleshapoids for massages and the ability to have everything done for them.
Like the evolution of organisms billions of years ago, some of the fleshapoids have acquired senses and emotions. Xar (Bob Cowan), one of the veteran androids, is tired of seeing humans enjoy the pleasures of the flesh and a good meal. He's in love with the fleshapoid who is a slave for Prince Gianbeno (George Kuchar) and his wife Vivianna (Donna Kerness). In a fit of rage, he kills his master and ventures to Prince Gianbeno's castle. Meanwhile, Vivianna is enjoying an affair with the young Ernie. The Prince is met with two troubles: one is the issue of approaching his wife about her lover, and the other is the revelation that two robots are in love. The latter issue worries him the most because if the fleshapoids advance and reproduce (by touching fingers), a new race could take over, leading to war and possibly human slavery.
Each frame of this short is busy with various props and lurid color. The low budget allure was brought out through props such as plastic fruit and subtitles drawn onto the film. The costumes and art design went far beyond my expectations, especially when we are introduced to Vivianna's flimsy wardrobe. The narration by Bob Cowan and the bright colors reminded me of my favorite Guy Maddin film, Careful—a film from 1992 that's shot in technicolor and resembles a silent picture. Maddin appeared in It Came From Kuchar and expressed that the two brothers were of great influence to his work. Several others, including John Waters, claim the same thing, and Fleshapoids is a marvelous example of such inspiration. The outrageous elements of the story and its resemblances to a futuristic Egyptian cult film was unlike anything I'd ever seen. The insert in the DVD contains several interviews with the brothers about the New York underground film scene in the '60s, as well as Cowan's involvement in it. It also talks about the rise of gay pride and the increase of seeing gay sexuality within cinema. Several scenes from the movie do lean towards homoeroticism, in the colorful bathhouse sort of way that Kenneth Anger used it. Much of the acting was improvisational, and Kuchar allowed Cowan and Kerness to express themselves however they pleased. The result is truly fantastic! There's groovy music, animation, and an astounding amount of paintings and drawings incorporated into the film. What more could you want from an underground film from the '60?