Bizarro World Cinema 3: GEEK MAGGOT BINGO or THE FREAK FROM SUCKWEASEL MOUNTAIN (1983), directed by Nick Zedd
“If a film doesn’t shock it isn’t worth looking at.”
In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s a loose-knit group of provocative and controversial filmmakers from the Lower East Side of New York began making a new kind of cinema. The Cinema of Transgression was defined in Nick Zedd’s Cinema of Transgression Manifesto which was published pseudonymously in the Underground Film Bulletin and outlined Zedd’s philosophy on the movement he spearheaded.
The Cinema of Transgression was defined by the work of filmmakers such as Kembra Pfahler, Casandra Stark, Beth B, Tommy Turner, Richard Kern and Lydia Lunch. The work produced gave birth to a new aesthetic based on very low-budget films that were often made using cheap 8mm cameras and were consciously aimed to shock, provoke and confront an audience.
The Cinema of Transgression was an attempt to reject the academic snobbery of ‘film school cinema’ and to transgress the moral, social and aesthetic values of what Zedd called ‘the boring films’. With this new style of filmmaking the filmmakers of transgression aimed to use shock and a black sense of humour to challenge all the traditional values of mankind. They considered nothing sacred and every taboo had to be explored, questioned, shattered and then reassessed in order to free the stagnant cinema from the shackles of tradition. The films of transgression always depicted groups of social outcasts and misfits (often friends and associates of the filmmakers) and were often shot guerilla style using stolen equipment and even leftover film clipped from the ends of porno reels found in dumpsters. They confronted the viewer with criminality, perversion, brutality, drugs, disease, sex and excess.
In the words of Nick Zedd – “We violate the command and law that we bore audiences to death in rituals of circumlocution and propose to break all the taboos of our age by sinning as much as possible. There will be blood, shame, pain and ecstasy, the likes of which no one has yet imagined. None shall emerge unscathed.”
The movement has remained largely unknown but the aesthetics defined by the Cinema of Transgression predated the MTV style of filmmaking that appeared later in the 80’s and bloomed into the mainstream during the 90’s. The films of Nick Zedd and his fellow transgressors have been a significant influence for many artists who have come since.
Geek Maggot Bingo or The Freak from Suckweasel Mountain (1983) is a perfect example of the cinema of transgression and is one of only a few full feature-length films directed by Zedd (the rest of his work consists of short films only) and is arguably his most famous work alongside They Eat Scum (1979), Totem of the Depraved (1983) and War Is Menstrual Envy (1992).
The story is your basic horror parody of the old cult drive-in and midnight-movies of the late 50’s and early 60’s. It follows the insane Dr. Frankenberry (Robert Andrews) and his quest to reanimate the dead using cosmic regeneration. After his funding is cut off, Frankenberry flees to his isolated castle and with the help of his hunchbacked assistant Geeko (dressed as a transvestite) he begins to lure in men from which he can collect the fresh body parts he needs to continue his experiments. Frankenberry also gets help from his stripper-like daughter who gets about in a hot pink see through nightie. For some reason a vampire shows up in a really bad silver wig and fake teeth and hypnotizes Geeko for info on Frankenberry’s experiments in an attempt to raise his own army of the dead. Later, Geeko the hunchback kidnaps a cowboy and is then chased around the cardboard cut-out woods by one of the most awesome two-headed monsters in the history of bad film.
Some faces melt, Geeko gets his face turned upside down and the monster rips off some papier-mache heads. It also features punk rocker Richard Hell as the cowboy and Donna Death as a vampire seductress named ‘Scumbelina’. From the hand-painted sets, to the low-budget costumes and hammy acting (complete with narration by TV horror host John Zacherle), Geek Maggot Bingo is reminiscent of John Waters‘ earliest trash films and has been described as a nursery school production put on by a bunch of mental patients.
This film is cheap, poorly executed and utterly horrible but it truly defines the attitude of the Transgressive filmmakers. There is certainly some charm to hand painted sets and bad special FX. It’s definitely a testament to what people can achieve with no money and a little elbow grease. This is independent cinema in its purest form. Geek Maggot Bingo is true underground and it takes a certain kind of viewer to sit through the utter weirdness that unfolds before the eyes.
Below I have included a link to the full film of Geek Maggot Bingo for those who want to attempt to sit through the whole thing.
“The act of courage is known as transgression. We propose transformation through transgression – to convert, transfigure and transmute into a higher plane of existence in order to approach freedom in a world full of unknowing slaves.” – Nick Zedd
GEEK MAGGOT BINGO or THE FREAK FROM SUCKWEASEL MOUNTAIN (1983) – directed by NICK ZEDD