"It Came From Kuchar" gleefully piles on everything anyone could want in a docu on the fabulous Kuchar brothers, whose deliriously campy zero-budget mellers -- with titles like "Hold Me While I'm Naked" or "Sins of the Fleshapoids" -- enlivened many otherwise somber evenings of '60s underground cinema. Critics and aficionados seek to distill the essence of the twins' work, while clips from the films in question unspool in a fever dream of compelling non sequiturs. Meanwhile, George and Mike Kuchar themselves hold forth unstoppably. A must-see for filmmakers of all persuasions, Jennifer M. Kroot's docu could spark accompanying retros. A present-day George Kuchar collaborates with his students from the San Francisco Art Institute as they wrap the latest Kuchar extravaganza, "The Fury of Frau Frankenstein," starring a huge, purple plastic spider and septuagenarian Kuchar regular Linda Martinez (sans panties). The chronicling of this work-in-progress is intercut with entertainingly scattershot interview snippets. The Kuchars speak about their upbringing in the Bronx, their love for Hollywood melodrama and their joint arrival on the New York underground film scene; cartoonist Bill Griffith (who admits his "Zippy the Pinhead" was based in part on George) expounds on George's comicbook artwork at Arcade, where he worked alongside R. Crumb and Art Spiegelman; Mike Kuchar discusses his trip to Nepal and his graphic erotic comics; several Kuchar "stars" such as Bob Cowan and Donna Kerness poignantly reminisce; and a host of appreciative filmmakers offer bemused encomiums. It is hardly surprising that early exposure to Kuchar films fueled the lurid reveries of Guy Maddin and the high kitsch of John Waters. But who ever would have imagined that the Americanization of Wayne Wang could be attributed to "Thundercrack," a legendary collaboration between George and his late lover, helmer Curt McDowell, a work described by Buck Henry as "a wonderfully foul and degrading film?" Kroot crams a true cornucopia of excerpts from the prolific brothers' output, sampling everything from their early 8mm films of the '50s and '60s such as "A Town Called Tempest" and 16mm classics like "The Corruption of the Damned," to George's more recent, video-shot "Weather Diaries," complete with impromptu commentary by Atom Egoyan. Also analyzed is the bifurcation of the Kuchar vision, Mike's films becoming more ethereally haunting as George's plunge headlong into further fleshbound oddities. Kroot's unlimited access to the entire Kuchar canon allows her to visually connect specific scenes with interviewees' anecdotes, and even to match particular Kuchar images to clips from the Technicolor soap operas that spawned them. In one instance, the pic cuts from a slip-clad Elizabeth Taylor in "Butterfield 8" to an identically dressed, albeit grotesquely made-up and very differently endowed femme fatale in George's "The Devil's Cleavage." Kroot's film itself is a throwback to the good old days before skyrocketing rights costs waylaid numerous docus on actors, directors and cinematographers. With so much Kuchariana so sumptuously spread out, viewers can experience first-hand the strong sense of composition and tweaks to classical editing that gave the brothers' tortured grotesques such undeniable pathos. --Ronnie Scheib, Variety
So you've never heard of the (semi)legendary fraternal-twin filmmaking team of George and Mike Kuchar, the visionary duo behind such ultralow-budget, 8mm underground classics as the truly amazing Hold Me While I'm Naked and Pussy on a Hot Tin Roof? Not to worry. This wickedly engrossing documentary details the rise of the Bronx brothers and explains why everyone from Jonas Mekas to John Waters thinks the Kuchars are sui generis when it comes to American underground moviemaking. Rightly famed for their nonstop output (more than 200 films and counting) as much for their films' gleefully lurid, anything-goes aesthetics, the young Kuchars initially gorged themselves on Douglas Sirk's candy-colored melodramas and looked as though they stepped full-blown from Diane Arbus' shutter. Guy Maddin, Atom Egoyan, and other film-world notables weigh in on all things Kuchar, but it's the mad-genius sibs themselves now scraggly of hair and borderline toothless that linger in your mind the most, like some weird and wonderful dream. --Marc Savlov, Austin Chronicle
When it comes to It Came From Kuchar, Jennifer M. Kroot s deceptively breezy documentary about experimental filmmaker brothers George and Mike, I am without a doubt a member of the choir. George Kuchar was my independent study advisor when I was an undergraduate at the San Francisco Art Institute, and much of Kroot s film documents his life and times at that alma mater of mine. George is seen clomping through the bayside, architectural masterpiece of a campus, slightly hunched, with appreciative students trailing off him like some kind of handycam-weilding, Bronx-accented, beautiful schlock-peddling pied piper. George isn t the right professor for everyone as John Waters puts it in the film, I think some of his students are probably horrified and leave but for me, as a very, very serious studier of cinema who took my own attempts at filmmaking very, very seriously, George gave me a much-needed license to have fun with film, to play and pursue the weird. As Brook Hinton, another SFAI stallwart, says of George s work in the film, it s profound, has great beauty, and yet doesn t take itself too seriously. George Kuchar is a walking whoopie cushion n a world of art school pretensions ... except, you know, funny. So I can t proclaim distance, but I can express my appreciation for Kroot s film as a creative exemplar of how to make a talking head documentary becomes , and salute it as a much-needed work of historiography. As Anthology Film Archives Andrew Lampert notes on screen, there is no complete Kuchar filmography George in particular works so fast, and with an attitude that renders distinctions between video diary, collaborations with students, and his Real movies so meaningless, that even the completists can t completely keep up. Kroot s film is clearly the result of intimate access to not only the brothers and their films (thus rendering the doc something like a Greatest Hits reel with commentary), but even to some of their unused archival footage. After a brief set up in the present day, It Came From Kuchar goes back to the 60s and more or less works forward from there, demonstrating how the Kuchars established themselves as the fun filmmakers in an art underground primarily concerned with making formal statements against mainstream culture. As one talking head puts it, in art films nothing happened, but Kuchar films, reflected Hollywood, where everything happened. In terms of film history, the doc is most valuable in revealing the ways in which the Kuchar brothers small guage, handmade Hollywood-inspired epics both pillaged the mainstream film industry and the world of celebrity, and were later a reference for directors both Hollywood-dependent and underground. And so Butterfield 8 inspires George s The Devil s Cleavage, which latter inspires Guy Maddin. As the footage shows, (a typical exchange Woman: I stink, I stink so bad It scares me! Man: Then let me fumigate that beautiful body! ), the Kuchars best work brings the liminal subtext of late-Classical Hollywood cinema up to the primary level, but in the process those themes get twisted into a weirdly charming grotesque. The translation back from Kucharland wasn t so successful; the B-movie novelty of robot sex in Mike Kuchar s Sins of the Fleshapoids lost its charm once replicated virtually exactly in Barbarella. The film loses steam a bit when talking about George s foray into non-cinematic pursuits like comics, but regains momentum when talking about George s sublimation of his desire (of the gay variety, and thus extremely problematic for a Catholic mama s boy) through the casting of hunks like Mike Diane. The film then drifts into George s relationship with Curt McDowell, an SFAI student who made gay art porn, who George collaborated with on a film called --Karina Longworth, Spout
Long before YouTube, there were the brilliantly insane, no-budget movies of underground, filmmaking twins George and Mike Kuchar. Ceating stars out of their friends and family with just consumer-grade cameras, the teenage Kuchar brothers went from the 1960's New York City underground film scene of Andy Warhol and Kenneth Anger to become the twin maestros of B-movie glamour and sleaze. In a mesmerizing stream-of-consciousness style, IT CAME FROM KUCHAR effortlessly interweaves nostalgic footage of 1950's New York, a "greatest hits" collection of Kuchar clips and present day interviews of an all-star lineup of fans including John Waters, Buck Henry, Atom Egoyan, Wayne Wang, Bill Griffith, Gerard Malanga, B. Ruby Rich and Guy Maddin. Both outrageous and lovable, George and Mike will inspire you to pick up a camera and start making movies. IT CAME FROM KUCHAR is a must see for lovers of film everywhere. This exclusive DVD contains over 45 minutes of Behind-the-Scenes footage packed with interviews, video clips and secrets of the fascinating and bizarre world of the Kuchar Brothers!