Youtube be damned. Since they started collecting tapes in 1991, Found Footage Festival curators Nick Prueher and Joe Pickett have an abiding relationship with oddball VHS tapes (and their "stars") culled from thrift stores, garage sales, and, sometimes, dumpsters that's led them all the way to the Late Show with David Letterman, a twice-weekly spot on the Onion's AV Club, and around the country for the last six years and counting.
"Just like record collectors appreciate the hisses and pops of old albums, we've come to love the washed out colors and bad tracking of VHS videos." Nick told me via email. "You got a lot of amateurs trying out weird and esoteric ideas, just to see what sticks."
Unlike the omnipresent eye of the webcam and Youtube's instant comment feedback, folks in the VHS era filming in their living rooms had no idea who would see their videos–a lot of times they still don't–so things got, and stayed, pretty far out there. It turns out quite of few of these weirdos are in our own backyard (big surprise, right?). In anticipation of their two night stand at the newly Kickstarted Roxie this Saturday and Sunday, Nick sent us a list of his top seven Californian discoveries:
7. Something's Happening
In this public access talk show from Oakland, something is definitely happening. A man named Arthur Bloom explains that mucus in your mouth is killing you. His solution? Spray grape juice down your gullet, spit out the purple foam, and light it with a blowtorch to prove it's toxic. We've had mucus-free mouths ever since finding this one.
6. California Big Hunks
Journey back to San Diego, circa 1986–a place where hunks were free to live, love, and act out a series of confusing stripping scenarios. We're still not sure why this California cop is fantasizing about himself during a routine traffic stop, but hunks operate by a different set of rules than the rest of us.
5. What I Want
This informational video for a Bay Area self-help guru encourages participants to talk about their life dreams, which include writing books about angels and touching people. Donated by David Cross.
4. Carnival in Rio with Arnold Schwarzenegger
Technically found in New York but featuring the former two-term governor of California, this 1983 travel video for Rio de Janeiro features a young and horny Arnold Schwarzenegger, groping just about everything in sight. Stick around for the seductive carrot-feeding scene.
3. Harvey Sid Fisher
A dapper singer-songwriter with an interest in astrology, Harvey Sid Fisher recorded this video demo in Los Angeles to woo music industry bigwigs. It might not have worked, but he definitely wooed our undying fascination with his songs and, more importantly, his stable of interpretive dancers.
2. How to Seduce Women Through Hypnosis
A video that somehow manages to be creepier than even its creepy title suggests, we found this one in Sacramento many years ago and it's stayed with us ever since. We looked up the producers' names in the phone book a couple of years ago and ambushed them with a phone call, but when we mentioned the video, they refused to admit they had anything to do with it and hung up on us. Can't say we blame them.
1. Dancing with Frank Pacholski
We found the first episode of this 1999 public access show a few years ago and declared it to be the most mysterious video in our collection. Since then, we've tracked down the legendary "lost" second episode of the program–featured in the new Found Footage Festival show–where things get even weirder. We had so many questions about this video that we hired a private investigator to find Frank Pacholski and he succeeded! See the exclusive interview with this very odd man at our shows in the Bay Area this weekend.
The Found Footage Festival of video and live comedy runs Saturday and Sunday at the Roxie Theater.