Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Vernon, Florida (1981)
Unusual and a classic taste of old world Florida
I collect and watch weird movies. Not just "B" movies, mind you. Those are fun, but most of them have acquired "B" status by merely having been made decades ago with low budgets, compared to today's multi-million dollar blockbusters. But it's the movies that are made with interesting back stories that catch my eye. So it was that while perusing Netflix's recommended movies, that I came across an obscure movie made in 1981 called Vernon, Florida. Now I've seen other documentaries made decades ago about old Florida towns, and having grown up here, I could always relate to the people and places, including the unmistakable wood frame houses surrounded by endless acres of sandy roads, Florida scrub and stands of palmettos. Vernon, Florida looked like such a movie, and with a running time of an hour, I decided to sit down and watch it.
Sure enough it showed a small Florida town, located in the panhandle of Florida and included numerous interviews from the people there, where they just rambled about the town, giving anecdotal accounts of things that happened to them in their lives. I instantly related these folks to the countless small town Floridians I had known over the years and with whom I had spent so much time talking and hearing similar stories. The deep southern drawls were quite intelligible since I had grown up here, and I wondered how much trouble others would have understanding. I also wondered how weird the movie would seem to those not from the south. Certainly to them it would be a comedy, but in reality that's the way things were and still are in some places here. But it wasn't until the movie abruptly an hour later that I did a little research and found out the interesting back story to this movie, and to the town known affectionately back then as "Nub City." "Nub City," I thought. That's a strange nick-name. After a little more research, I found out where the name came from. Apparently, during the 1950s and 1960s, the Florida panhandle area accounted for ⅔ of the insurance claims in the whole country for people who had lost limbs and body parts due to accidents, and Vernon, Florida was apparently the epicenter. One insurance agent's list of clients included the following: a man who sawed off his left hand at work, a man who shot off his foot while protecting chickens, a man who lost his hand while trying to shoot a hawk, a man who somehow lost two limbs in an accident involving a rifle and a tractor, and a man who bought a policy and then, less than 12 hours later, shot off his foot while aiming at a squirrel. Nearly 50 men in Vernon and surrounding areas collected insurance for these "accidents" and none were ever convicted of fraud. An insurance investigator later reported, "to sit in your car on a sweltering summer evening on the main street of Nub City, watching anywhere from eight to a dozen cripples walking along the street, gives the place a ghoulish, eerie atmosphere." Suddenly, it made sense. This is what director, Errol Morris intended to do a documentary on when he rolled into town in 1981. The problem was that his subjects threatened to murder him if he reported their secret. So in response, he retooled his film to be merely a documentary full of interviews of local residents.
Today, Vernon, like many of Florida's small towns, is facing the challenges of growth and urban sprawl. It's main street has been widened into a four-lane road and many of its historic buildings have been demolished. Most of those with peg legs or claw hands are gone as well, as commercial chains worm their way in, transforming Vernon into the stereotypical "Anytown, USA" that is so prevalent across our country today. But alas, thanks to the contributions of directors who seek out the weird, and those subjects who are happy to share their stories, at least one more small town is recorded on film for history to remember her by. If you have a Netflix account, you can either get the DVD or watch it instantly. Knowing the back story, it will be much more interesting, I promise you!
View of Ringling Brothers Circus from Backstage
Produced in conjunction with Walt Disney Pictures, this documentary shows the backstage and preparation for the Greatest Show on Earth. Very insightful and shows just how much work goes into producing the circus...at least back in the early 1980s. A great documentary for those interested in circus history as well as for those interested in running away to join the circus. Many legendary performers can be seen in the film, including one of Ringling's greatest all-time clowns, Frosty Little.
The film follows Irvin Feld around as he personally looks at and approves each act, actor/actress and the sequence of acts within the overall show. You hear lots of candid conversations, likes and dislikes. You also hear from the talents themselves as they share personal stories and concerns about their own performances.
Jingle Cats Christmas (2008)
One of the most bizarre movies in my extensive bizarre movie collection
I honestly don't know where to begin with this.
Countless cats and dogs are filmed against the 'poor man's' equivalent of a blue screen using some kind of poor man's video editing system and incorporating every single effect possible. Barks and meows are edited with their pitches changed to match the songs.
As for the rotating, flashing backgrounds, if you've ever wondered what it's like to trip on mushrooms, just watch 10 minutes of this bonanza of weirdness and you'll know.
Dogs and cats barking and meowing to "Havah Nagilah" make this a true multi-cultural seasonal experience. Worth every one of the 50 cents I paid for this at a thrift store.
The Body Shop (1972)
No H.G. Lewis, but it tries real hard
Sorry, but this movie is too slow paced to make my bad movie night recommendation list. J.G. Patterson, who stars in the movie, does a great job with the gore, although there doesn't seem to be enough of it...especially if you are into that genre.
The variation I saw included a 10-minute introduction by H.G. Lewis who praises Patterson for his acting and directing experience. Unfortunately, the movie does not live up to what is promised.
Fortunately, the color and sound have been preserved, unlike many movies from the late 60s and early 70s that have become faded and trashed.
Like many movies of this genre, the enjoyable parts are the mismatched pieces of editing, makeup and the horrid acting.
It definitely has the influence of Lewis, but stops short. If the pace could have been picked up, the movie just might be worth rating a 5.
Now if Patterson could have mixed in a little gratuitous sex, ALA Harry Novak, it might have made my "B" list. Make sure to watch out for the beach makeout scene...
Ron Jaffe Orlando, Florida
Sex Ritual of the Occult (1970)
Maybe for a "Bad Movie Night" with friends...
This is not the documentary it claims to be, and in fact is probably pretty representative of the sexploitation flicks of the late 1960s with more skin content than any real substance.
You can find this film currently as one of the extra "shorts" on the Something Weird Video release of "Satanis the Devil's Mass and Sinthia the Devil's Doll" double-feature DVD.
The Alien Dead (1980)
Flesh - It's what's for dinner
Following in the footsteps of H.G. Lewis....following WAY BEHIND, comes Fred Olen Way with Alien Dead. This movie highlights the dangers of houseboating in Florida and shows people once and for all that people hit by metorites really do turn into zombies. Filmed locally here in Oviedo Florida and Rock Springs State Park now called Kelly State Park, Alien Dead illustrates the passive nature of Floridians in how they never run when being attacked by the undead... They just make the horrible face, scream and gently fall on the ground while the zombies chew them up for dinner.
One might think that the horrible plot, video, sound, acting, lighting, etc. is strange enough, but what's even stranger is that half the movie shows people actually swimming in Florida water...something we locals haven't done for decades.
This movie is destined to make the Something Awful Video lineup one day. Let us hope it happens before this wonderfully awful movie fades away into the sunset.
Interestingly enough, the movie does have a big name, Buster Crabbe. Yes, the same Buster Crabbe from the Buck Roger's fame, playing the local sheriff who is followed around by his dorky deputy sidekick.
And if the ending leaves you saying anything other than, "What the hell just happened?" then either you fell asleep, or worse...you actually did understand it.
Ron Jaffe Orlando, Florida