Musicals can be warped little things. Gone are the days of Rodgers and Hammerstein and here are the days of Tom Cruise doing his best shirtless serpentine in “Rock of Ages”. I fully embrace this trend and would take “Team America: World Police” over “The King and I” any day.
I have always been a fan of the Odd Musical. To swallow a world where anyone can breakout into song and dance at the drop of a top hat, I think it helps to add some quirk.
Might I present to you Cinemastance’s List of Odd Musicals? That was a question. I’ll assume the affirmative and continue.
Little Shop of Horrors-
A Great American Musical based on a 1960 Roger Corman B-Movie about man-eating plant starring Rick Moranis and directed by the voice of Miss Piggy. That’s not too weird, is it? While the film is tiny bit sick and twisted it is perfectly entertaining and features fantastic, 60’s-style doo wop songs by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken who went on resurrect the Disney musical in the late 80’s with “The Little Mermaid and “Beauty and the Beast”. Then there is Steve Martin as the sadistic dentist getting his rocks off yanking the molars out of children. Possibly Mr. Martin’s best performance.
Looking to bank on the popularity of “The Godfather,” director Alan Parker concocted this 1976 curiosity about gangsters acting all gansta 1920’s Prohibition Era Chicago. The twist: The movie stars only children who sing songs voiced by adults. They also shoot Tommy guns that pump out whipped cream. Starring Scott Baio and Jodie Foster, this one is a lost classic. Some strong songs by Paul Williams who frequently contributed tunes for various projects for The Muppets, including “The Rainbow Connection”. Parker went on to direct another musical anomaly: “Pink Floyd’s The Wall”.
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band-
This one is just bad, bad, bad. Why not make a film featuring iconic songs by The Beatles and get the Bee Gees and Peter Frampton to warble them for you? Why stop there? How about George Burns singing, “Fixing a Hole” or Steve Martin doing a spoken word performance of “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”? Now let’s throw in appearances by Aerosmith, Earth, Wind and Fire and Donald Pleasence. This was made in 1978 so I think a movie with the Bee Gees and Peter Frampton singing songs by the Bee Gees and Peter Frampton might have worked a touch better. With all that said, I highly recommend this film. Classic cheese that doesn’t get much stinkier than this.
Rocky Horror Picture Show-
The “Citizen Kane” of Odd Musicals. What keeps “Rocky” playing on the big screen after 35 years from its release is an addictive soundtrack and a delicious performance by Tim Curry. That’s right: I said delicious. You need to see this with the full, blown-out performance as kids act the film in front of the screen and audience members scream out ever changing dialogue. One of the best movie-going experiences available. And a nubile Susan Sarandon running around in a bra doesn’t hurt much either.
Happiness of the Katakuris-
Director Takashi Miike is world renown for making some of the most extreme cinema of the last 2 decades. See “Audition” and “Ichi the Killer” as examples. While his films disturb, none are as beautifully bizarre and exciting as his take on the musical: “The Happiness of the Katakuris” Once you get through the first ten minutes, you will either turn it off in frustration or be smiling with joy. I’m of the “smiling with joy” camp. “Happiness” is a horror-comedy that tells the story of a Japanese family of failures who run a hotel that may be cursed with bad luck. Songs are awkwardly thrown in to confuse and entertain.