Director/Photography – Herschell Gordon Lewis, Screenplay/Producer – James F. Hurley, Background Music – Edward J. Petan, Special Effects/Makeup – Louise Downe. Production Company – Hur-Lew Productions, Inc
Tony McCabe (Cronin Mitchell), Elizabeth Lee (Ellen Parker), Bill Brooker (Dr Alex Jordan), Mudite Armus (Hag), Lawrence Wood (Chief Vinton), Ted Heil (Detective Maddox), Larry Wellington (Reverend Ammond)
Engineer Cronin Mitchell falls from a roof after being electrocuted by a power cable. One side of his face is left badly disfigured but he also finds that he now has psychic powers. Hiding his deformity behind dark glasses and a scarf, he sets up business as a psychic. He is then visited by a hideous old crone who tells him that she is a witch and offers to make him handsome again if he will become her lover. His looks restored, Mitchell goes out and picks up the beautiful Ellen Parker in a restaurant, only to discover when he takes her home that she is the old hag. Mitchell’s reputation as a psychic grows so much that the FBI recruit psychic investigator Dr Alex Jordan to determine if Mitchell’s powers are real and to then employ him to stop a serial killer that is murdering women in the area. Jordan suggests the use of LSD to amplify Mitchell’s powers. Mitchell gives several impressive displays of his powers, including holding a séance and banishing a ghost from a church. Jordan then develops a case of lust for Ellen and determines that she must be his.
Something Weird is one of the films from the infamous Herschell Gordon Lewis. Lewis first appeared in the early 1960s with a host of nudie films and then gained a cult following with his splatter films. (See bottom of page for a listing of these). His cheapness and frequent technical ineptitude has become legendary. Towards the end of the 1960s, Lewis’s films began to move towards an almost respectability as he plumbed what might be termed middle-class exploitation issues – the Sexual Revolution with The Girl, The Body and the Pill (1967); juvenile delinquency with Just For the Hell of It (1968); the biker movie with She-Devils on Wheels (1968); swinging with Suburban Roulette (1968); even making a children’s film with The Magical Land of Mother Goose (1967).
Amid Herschell Gordon Lewis’s oeuvre, Something Weird sits in a category of its own, being neither one of Lewis’s splatter films nor one of his nudies. Amid Lewis’s frequently hyperbolic titles, at least the title Something Weird sums the film up perfectly. The opening only give some hint of the bizarreness that is to follow – a woman is pursued by a maniac and the frame freezes on her being attacked before a white face is dangled into camera; the action then cuts to a man making out with a woman and her saying “Alex, you’re electrified” whereupon we abruptly cut to the image of a man falling from a roof after touching an electrical cable. The plot is completely demented. There is a bizarre scene where peeved witch Elizabeth Lee takes revenge on Bill Brooker after he develops a case of lust for her by trying to cause his bed sheets to strangle him. Lewis even manages to jump aboard the fad for LSD films, which became a sudden new vogue in 1967 (the same year that Timothy Leary’s experiments with the drug had it banned by Congress). Here the parapsychological researcher (Bill Brooker) suggests with astonishing casualness that Tony McCabe take some LSD so that it will enhance his psychic potential. An incredibly dull LSD sequence transpires towards the end of the film where Tony McCabe wanders through the desert and confronts the killer where everything is shot with an orange tint and partially through a kaleidoscopic lens. The film arrives at a bizarre ending where Tony McCabe is shot, Bill Brooker tells Elizabeth Lee that he deliberately let McCabe die so that he could have her, she reveals her true witch’s visage to him, he flees in horror but trips and falls on a construction site and disfigures his face on a burning lamp, whereupon she comes and offers to heal his looks as long as he is her lover and we see the cycle repeating itself all over again.
There are other moments of sheer bizarreness that cause Something Weird to rank highly as a Psychotronic classic. Indeed, it seems exceedingly possible that the entire film may have not only been conceived but also directed under the influence of LSD. There is surely the least convincing witch ever in the history of cinema – she turns up in a completely phoney quavering falsetto cackle, wearing a scarf, floral print dress, a yellow shawl and with white greasepaint on her face. There is possibly the dullest and most inept séance scene ever put on screen – where the party assembled merely say that there is something at the window, we then cut to the camera moving through the group in what is supposedly the never-seen ghost’s point-of-view as everybody tries to act scared, and finally we see a badly faded piece of film that tries to make it look as though Tony McCabe’s chair is being levitated (although equally possibly this could just be Herschell Gordon Lewis moving his camera down while McCabe is positioned against a white wall).
The film has a theme about playboys and men’s looks – that said, lead playboy/psychic Tony McCabe looks like a weasel with perfect skin and Brylcreemed hair. He gets some hilarious pick-up lines, approaching Elizabeth Lee in a restaurant after threatening off a drunk: “I’m Cronin Mitchell. Pretty girls in trouble usually call me Mitch and they always ask me to join them.” A few minutes later, Bill Brooker greets his secretary’s peck on the cheek: “Not tonight pussycat, have to leave.”
As usual, there is the near total technical ineptitude of a Herschell Gordon Lewis – in the handling of actors, in the photography that looks as though it has been processed in a spin drier, everything. Indeed, Something Weird is possibly the most technically inept of all of Herschell Gordon Lewis’s films.
Herschell Gordon Lewis’s other splatter films are:– Blood Feast (1963), Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964), Color Me Blood Red (1965), A Taste of Blood (1967), The Gruesome Twosome (1967), The Wizard of Gore (1970), The Gore Gore Girls (1972), Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat (2002) and The Uh-Oh Show (2009).