5 Totally Crazy Film Genres You Had No Clue Existed
We've come a long way from the early genres of classic film, which were 1) "Watch me electrocute this elephant" and 2) "Oh shit, a train!" Now we have innumerable distinct categories, from biopics to sentimental animal stories to Liam Neeson in Oh Shit, A Train! But with so many genres flooding the market, you may have missed out on some of the absolute craziest that ever existed. It is long past time to remedy that.
Osterns And Red Westerns Were Soviet Versions Of American Westerns
American Westerns were extremely popular in the Soviet Union, but there was a problem with that: the West. So they invented their own cowboy genre, which was about how great communism was and how much capitalism totally sucked. Many were much more progressive than their American counterparts -- often portraying Native Americans as the heroes, for instance.
Most of these movies fell into two categories: Red Westerns, wherein Russians would somehow end up in the American West, and Osterns (Easterns), which had similar themes to American Westerns, but were set in the Eurasian steppes. In contrast to American Westerns and their focus on rugged individualism on the supposed frontier of civilization, Red Westerns depicted the "Wild West" as a struggle between oppressed Natives and evil imperialist Americans. In the East German film The Sons Of Great Bear, money-grubbing white people try to steal Native land so they can mine for gold. Obviously they're defeated, because the Natives are anti-capitalist and therefore more pure. Also, they can control bears, a useful asset.
Romania's The Oil, The Baby And The Transylvanians follows a group of Transylvanian brothers who move to the American West. Naturally, they're forced into ideological struggles, often tempted by "riches" when they should be sticking to their pure, hardworking values. In one scene, evil bandits attack and ... try to buy their land. They're not trying to steal or kill; they only want to pay them money for their farm. Just like an evil capitalist would.
Sadly, the genre died alongside the Soviet Union, because Russia and the United States now get along swimmingly and have no disagreements to speak of.
Mexico Made Hundreds Of Superhero Movies Starring Luchadores
You've heard the saying "Not all heroes wear capes." The Mexican film industry took that idiom one step further in the '50s, '60s, and '70s. Their heroes didn't even wear shirts.
In the same way that Hollywood continually casts WWE legend The "Dwayne Johnson" Rock, Mexico produced a horde of films starring their own famous wrestlers. But whereas Hollywood usually limits Johnson's enemies to CGI monstrosities and his own dialogue, these luchadores would battle every conceivable otherworldly threat, from vampires to aliens to stick shifts.
The most famous filmic luchador was El Santo, who starred in over 50 films that inexplicably required an overweight man in a mask to fix things. Several other famous wrestlers also took part. During the genre's heyday, over 150 luchador films were made. Champions Of Justice is a sordid tale about an evil doctor who builds a machine that turns midgets into super strong wrestlers. To stop this horrifying development, five luchadores must band together to defeat these meaty homunculi in battle. The film features several scenes wherein fully grown men get the crud beaten out of them by dwarfs.
In Santo Contra El Cerebro Del Mal, Santo is brainwashed and turned into an unwilling minion of Doctor Campos, sort of like if Hawkeye ever bothered to wear a mask in The Avengers. To break the curse, another luchador pounds Santo in the face until his brain is no longer evil, and together they go kill a bunch of gangsters. This is what's known in the business as "a perfect script."
In a decidedly sexy turn for the genre, Operacion 67 capitalized on James Bond's popularity by recasting the suave British spy as a masked Mexican wrestler. The hero refuses to remove his signature silver mask for the entire film, because "doing so would put all other men to shame." Then there's Neutron The Atomic Superman Vs. The Death Robots, which is pretty self-explanatory.
Eventually, the luchadores had defeated every conceivable threat and the genre petered out, because no one wanted to watch El Santo Versus Weakening Eyesight And The Doctor Who Says He Should Stop Clotheslining People For The Sake Of His Heart. But we'll always have the beautiful memories.
White People Playing Native Americans Killing White People
America has a long and terrible history of exploiting Native Americans, and Hollywood is no exception. Once early plots evolved beyond "Hey, here's a horse," Native Americans quickly became the savage villains in Hollywood Westerns. Eventually, movies turned a more sympathetic eye toward them, but there was a weird period in between during which filmmakers didn't know what to do. They'd overworked the "Natives as evil" angle, but directors still couldn't imagine one working at a restaurant or shopping at Whole Foods, what with all their mandatory war paint and ornamental headdresses. That confusion birthed Redsploitation.
A typical Redsploitation film begins with a Native American protagonist being abused by whitey, and ends with our hero scalping and tomahawking those assholes in the most stomach-churning ways possible. Think Inglorious Basterds, but without all the subtlety. Of course, all of our Native heroes were portrayed by white people, in case you were worried Hollywood did something right.
In the not-quite-classic Thunder Warrior trilogy, for example, Thunder returns home from a long absence, only to discover construction workers tearing up his ancestral burial grounds so they can build an ... observatory? You know those damnable astronomers and their cultural insensitivity. Thunder initially tries to defuse the situation with words, but the construction workers laugh him off and beat him up a bit, 'cause whitey gotta white. So Thunder breaks into a store, walks right past the guns, and grabs a big-ass crossbow, 'cause Natives gotta Native. Thunder subsequently murders everyone in town for three straight movies, like Rambo with better hair.
In Johnny Firecloud, Mr. Firecloud returns from the Army to find his tribe being harassed by a rich white rancher. Firecloud and the rancher have a good old-fashioned heart-to-heart. It goes about as well as you'd expect.
This ludicrous genre died out sometime in the '90s, when everyone outside of Cleveland, Washington, D.C., and Steven Seagal's entourage finally acknowledged that Native Americans probably weren't all mystical warriors secretly looking to get revenge on small-town America.
Italian Mondo "Documentaries" Were All About Insane Shock Value
Back in the '60s, Italian filmmakers grew tired of making "safe" movies starring bicycle thieves and pasta-loving cowboys. So they traveled the globe, documenting foreign cultures and their freaky habits to create "shockumentaries." These films depicted taboo subjects like sex and death, and would often go to great lengths to horrify audiences. The film that inspired the whole practice, Mondo Cane, featured dogs getting skinned alive, bulls being beheaded, men being hunted, and about a bazillion nipples. And the ante only upped from there.
Filmmakers soon realized that real people, even people who live in a jungle and don't always wear pants, aren't all that different from everyone else. So they started staging crazier sequences to make their movies more titillating. You might notice this as the exact opposite of the point of a documentary, but nobody at the time did. Africa Addio (delicately translated in English to Africa: Blood And Guts) documented the end of colonialism in Africa, and its marketing campaign claimed they actually killed a Congolese Simba rebel on camera. This obviously prompted police to seize footage and arrest the director, who was only released after he proved that his crew had shown up right before the man's execution and hadn't planned it themselves. Which was ... totally OK, somehow?
Ultime Grida Dalla Savana (Savage Man Savage Beast) is a barely connected collection of footage related to hunting, including a real(ly staged) scene of a man getting ripped apart by lions while his family watches in horror. Further sliding down the rabbit hole, La Donna Nel Mondo (Women Of The World) promised an in-depth look at naked women from other cultures. They threw a few whiteys in there too, but the movie existed solely to show exotic lady butts. In that, it delivered.
Farewell Uncle Tom is considered the horrific peak/nadir of the genre. The film depicts American slavery, and used hundreds of Haitian extras to give it that authentic feel. Robert Ebert's response was, "They have finally done it. Made the most disgusting, contemptuous insult to decency ever to masquerade as a documentary." The film was ridiculously violent, exploitative, and racist, but the directors claimed that having endless scenes of naked black women being brutally raped and killed was in fact "anti-racist," so really, who can say? Hey, the excuse works for Tarantino.
Ugandan Action Films Are The Most Ridiculously Violent Things Ever
For decades, Uganda was ruled by the vicious Idi Amin, and according to Ugandan director Isaac Nabwana, "Being that Idi Amin killed people, we have also to kill people to rub that off that ... bad image." There's no time to determine whether or not that makes sense, because we've got explosions to see!
The developing "Wakaliwood" film industry gained some infamy in the wake of Nabwana's ludicrous viral hit Who Killed Captain Alex?, and that was only the start. In Tebaatusasula: Ebola, self-proclaimed "Ebola hunters" try to stomp out Ebola in the developing world by shooting and kicking everything to death.
They've even begun to diversify by adding violent music videos to their explosive catalogue.
Nobody in Wakaliwood is under the impression that they're making high art. The films are knowingly over the top, and when they're shown in Ugandan theaters, they're often presented by a "Video Jockey." This emcee talks over the entire movie, yelling things like "Now expect the unexpectable!" and "Action is coming, I promise you!" (the latter of which is also DC's new marketing campaign). And because many of these films are recorded in several different languages, the VJs will often translate for their audiences. So every showing is a live Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode wherein the audience is riffing on a film that was only ever intended to be riffed on. It's movie joke inception.
One short, Attack On Nyege Nyege Island, was made at a film festival over a period of two days, and anyone who wanted to be an extra could be -- as evidenced by the film's "Waka Stars" musical group, which is made up of little kids who use martial arts to take down the Tiger Mafia.
All of this madness is actively ongoing, and they've set up a Patreon for people to donate to their bloody cause. And unlike a typical Hollywood production that uses audience money to pay for sexual harassment lawyers, money donated to Wakaliwood covers stuff like electricity and an Adobe Creative Cloud license.
You could create your own insane genre, couldn't you? Get that script started with a beginner's guide to Celtx.
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