20 Awesome Obscure Movies

Savage (1996)

The Plot: Fuck knows.

Our best guess involves an evil corporation-head trying to achieve immortality by using computer technology to induce an alien invasion, accidentally turning a bloke into a superpowered caveman after killing his family and sending him on a path to vengeance in the process.

But, quite frankly, we don’t have a clue. And we’ve seen it five times.

Why So Obscure:
Possibly because this straight-to-VHS gem doesn’t contain a single star.

Unless you live in a universe where people prefer Olivier Gruner to Jean-Claude Van Damme.

This thing is so unseen, even the main image in the imdb listing is from the wrong film. (opens in new tab)

If you’ve just clicked on that link, you’ll have seen that Savage has a mere 4.4 rating on the imdb, which is a travesty of justice.

And here’s why…

How Awesome: Just take a look at the trailer.

It’s possibly the most awesome film advert ever made – the lunatic stream-of-consciousness of a sugar-rushing teenage boy who falls asleep on a pile of comic-books every night.

If that experimental cut-up of the film’s fist-fights, forced flights and odd internal combustion scenes doesn’t make you want to immediately seek it out, then perhaps you prefer your obscure movies to be a little more transcendental.

No problem, we’ve got you covered…

Mind Game (2004)

The Plot: Nishi is a loser who’s fed up with his life, which he thinks is packed with missed opportunities.

But a chance diner encounter with his childhood sweetheart and some angry Yakuza sends Nishi on an adventure through heaven, limbo, and the belly of a whale – changing his perspective on life forever.

Why So Obscure: Despite appearing in several festivals, Mind Game has never had a proper release in the UK or even America. If you ever get an opportunity to see it, grab it with both hands – it’s incredible.

How Awesome:
Once described as the Citizen Kane of cartoons, Mind Game uses a wide range of different animation techniques (several of which can be glimpsed in the incredible trailer) to tell a singular narrative.

The constantly shifting styles should be distracting, but they genuinely add to the action / emotion onscreen. Not only that, but they’re frequently breathtaking.

And it’s worth watching more than once, too – after the ending’s revealed and you realise the whole thing’s been a clever trick. Or a mind game.

Watch the trailer and tell us you don’t want to see the full film.

Mind Game is more than an animated movie, it’s a spiritual experience.

Out on DVD in Japan and Australia (with English subtitles), but still not in the US or the UK. Start the campaign for its release right now!

Something Weird (1967)

The Plot: When an attractive man recieves facial burns in a freak pylon accident, he develops psychic powers and goes into the clairvoyance business.

His genuine power to predict the future attracts the attention of a gross old witch, who offers to make him handsome again in exchange for becoming her lover.

He agrees – but only after she demonstrates that she can make herself attractive.

But when a karate expert / cop falls in love with the pretty version of the witch, all hell breaks loose.

In a really odd way.

Why So Obscure:
It’s considered one of the worst Herschell Gordon Lewis flicks, and let’s face it, he’s not exactly a household name to begin with.

How Awesome: Imagine if Ed Wood directed an episode of The Mighty Boosh (when the witch is the witch and not the pretty girl, she’s Old Gregg in all but name).

That’s how awesome.

Tragically under-rated, Something Weird is pretty much non-stop fun. Just don’t watch the trailer before you buy the DVD. It contains a MASSIVE spoiler.

Samurai Cop (1989)

The Plot: A cop trained in Japan to be the greatest American samurai (apparently, though we never see any firm evidence of his samurai skills) comes up against the Yakuza on his home turf.

Hilarity ensues.

Why So Obscure: Because it’s full of performances that make Garth Marenghi’s Dark Place look like The King’s Speech .

Seriously, look at it. Just look at it.

If this thing was in the mainstream, no-one would get any work done.

We’d all be too busy watching Samurai Cop to worry about stuff like driving trains or farming animals or being the actual police.

How Awesome:
If you didn’t chuckle at least once during the above clip, then we’re seriously worried about you.

Honestly, go see a doctor. Now.

But it’s not even the best bit. Samurai Cop has got the majority of the weirdest flirting / worst fight scene choreography / funniest awkward pauses / awful buddy cop chemistry we’ve ever seen, on film or in real life.

It’s a festival of awesome that has to be gawped at to be believed .

Symbol (2009)

Plot: In Mexico a wrestler is preparing for a big fight. Meanwhile, a Japanese man wakes up trapped in a white room with no doors. That’s about all we’re prepared to give away.

Why So Obscure: It’s probably been kept secret because Symbol contains scenes and moments that would melt the brain of anyone but the most die-hard film geek.

It goes without saying that we love it.

How Awesome
: We’re going to reveal one small detail, in order to encourage you to see it.

Early on in the flick it’s revealed that the man in the white room has to push down angel’s penises in order to make odd objects appear.

He has to remember which – identical – angel penis creates each mystery object, if he’s going to have any hope of escaping.

It’s a bit like Labyrinth (1986), basically. In the weirdest way possible .

The Wild Life (1984)

The Plot : A bunch of kids graduate high school, and try to come to terms with their new-found responsibilities.

Whilst planning the most incredible party of their lives.

Why So Obscure: Awkwardly marketed as a sequel to Fast Times At Ridgemont High – much to the annoyance of Cameron Crowe, writer/director of both films – The Wild Life failed to find an audience on release, cult or otherwise, and quickly faded into obscurity.

It’s a shame. It’s great fun. Here’s the trailer for proof.

How Awesome : Wild Life has one of the best casts of the ’80s, all on top form.

It’s hard to pick a favourite from Chris Penn’s career-high Tom Drake (imagine Spicoli on coke instead of weed, and you’re halfway there), Rick Moranis’ pretentious new wave douchebag, Eric Stoltz’s stoic Bill Conrad, or Lea Thompson’s Anita, displaying the kind of bright-eyed charm that would see her cast as Marty’s mom a year later.

So, we’ll highlight a name you probably won’t recognise, Ilan Mitchell-Smith.

Mitchell-Smith puts in a performance of such effortless cool we want to be him when we grow up.

The kid practises nunchucks in his bedroom and lies in the middle of the road when the school bully’s driving towards him, fer chrissakes.

Add in one of the best party scenes of the ’80s – featuring cameos from Rolling Stones’ Ron Wood and a Michael Jackson impersonator – and you’ve got an essential addition to any obscure collection.

Also, it features a scene where two idiots smash their heads through a wall. What’s not to like?

Speaking of idiots…

Miami Connection (1987)

The Plot: So, there’s this band, right? They’re called Dragon Sound.

Despite the fact Dragon Sound don’t appear able to play their instruments, a rival band teams up with a gang of drug dealers to kill them.

Basically, the drug gang want to be free to deal cocaine without clubbers being distracted by the postive messages hidden within Dragon Sound’s songs.

Luckily, despite the fact they all look like huge berks, Dragon Sound are experts at Tae Kwon Do.

They practice it a lot. Often in slow motion.

Why So Obscure: We have no idea. This scene should be amongst the most quoted in cinema history.

How Awesome: Connection contains a powerfully strange subplot about how the keyboardist isn’t an orphan.

It allows the guitarist (who had clearly never seen a musical instrument before this making film, miming air-guitar style whenever he’s holding a real guitar) to utter the immortal line: “I didn’t know you had a father?”

Also, it’s deeply implied that the head of the drug gang is in love with his own sister.

A fat man bodypops before improvising the line: “I haven’t seen him since 1962.”

Oh, and there are ninjas.

The ninjas show up out of nowhere for an intensely baffling final act.

This thing leaves behind more unanswered questions than Inception .

Sumo Do, Sumo Don’t (1992)

The Plot: A bunch of rag tag sumo fans join the school team for different reasons – to graduate, to be popular, to bring honour to the sport, for love, to understand Japanese culture.

However, they quickly realise that sumo isn’t easy as it looks.

After being humiliated in a local competition, they decide to train hard and do their best for their school and their proud professor.

And, in doing so, they learn important lessons about themselves and their potential.

Why So Obscure:
Possibly because sumo isn’t considered as cool as karate or kung fu. Despite the fact this film proves it definitely is.

How Awesome: Essentially The Karate Kid (1984) if The Karate Kid featured five Daniels. That’s how awesome.

Sumo Do, Sumo Don’t won Best Film at the Japanese equivalent to the Academy Awards in the year it was released, and for good reason.

Films don’t get much more uplifting, exciting and powerful than this one.

Also, it features quite a lot of fart jokes, if you’re that way inclined.

The Appointment (1981)

The Plot: A father is called away on business, forcing him to miss his spoilt daughter’s violin recital.

That’s pretty much it, but the devil’s in the details with this one.

Why So Obscure:
The Appointment is currently impossible to get hold of, on Blu-ray, DVD or even VHS.

And, after glacing at the above plot summary, and possibly visiting its imdb page (where it has a 4.5 rating) you’ll probably be thinking, well, so what?

Well, here’s what.

How Awesome : The Appointment is arguably one of the most underrated British horror flicks of the last 30 years.

Containing at least two powerfully shocking scenes that’d give Don’t Look Now ‘s climax a run for its money, The Appointment ‘s weird British TV movie vibe adds menace and tension that a glossier horror flick couldn’t hope to mimic.

The Appointmen t’s critics dismiss it as boring – but that’s almost wilfully missing the point of what makes it so great.

The dull moments – and there are a lot of dull moments – only serve to make the surreal elements even more jaw-dropping when they appear.

Watch this opening scene, turn the volume up, and prepare yourself to jolt in your seat when the horror finally happens.

Sure, some of the cast are a bit wooden at times.

But Edward Woodward’s rarely been better, particularly in the intense final sequence.

Someone needs to rescue this one and put it out on DVD.

It’s a lost gem that deserves to be rediscovered.

Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance (1972)

The Plot: Framed for the murder of a lord and with his beloved wife slain, Ogami Itto – the shogun’s official executioner – becomes a wandering assassin with a twist; he has his young son, Daigoro, in tow.

Taking kill-jobs whilst gathering information on the ninjas who destroyed his life, Itto plots his revenge.

Why So Obscure:
Sword Of Vengeance was considered too uncommercial to release in US and UK cinemas in its original form.

So, footage from Sword was spliced together with footage from its sequel Baby Cart At The River Styx to craft a new beast (complete with dubbing and disco music!), named Shogun Assassin (1980).

As such, a lot of film fans will assume that if they’ve watched Shogun Assassin , they’ve already seen most of Sword Of Vengeance .

But just 12 minutes of footage from Sword shows up in Shogun – and it’s a film that deserves to be seen in full.

How Awesome:
It’s not as action-packed as its American remix, but it’s no less entertaining.

Ogami Itto is one of the greatest characters ever created, not just in samurai cinema, but across all genres.

Sword Of Vengeance allows us to spend quality time with Itto, discovering the exact circumstances that made him so insanely cool.

Where Shogun Assassin is occasionally narratively confusing (it does, after all, condense 3 hours of film into 86 minutes of near-constant sword-fights), Sword Of Vengeance is a masterclass in methodological moviemaking.

The story unfolds at a slow pace, making it all the more rewarding when Itto kicks Daigoro’s babycart in the general direction of the scumbags he wants to lop limbs off.

The cinematography is beautiful, the performances stunning. And as Tarantino gears up to (finally) screen Kill Bill: The Whole Bloody Affair , surely it’s time to revisit this steel-cold classic.

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