Vinyl

Victor (Gerard Malanga) is a juvenile delinquent. He beats people up and dances a lot, but is apprehended by the police, who re-educate him via brainwashing, until he becomes a better person and less of a danger to society. Not that any of that matters, because this is easily one of the worst so-called-movies in existence.

When I asked Chip and Steve to inform me of the worst movies on the 1001 list that I had in my future, the unanimous decision seemed to be that this was easily the nadir of the list, and I have to agree. It’s lacking in anything that could be considered a reason to recommend it.

Vinyl is Andy Warhol’s imagining of Anthony Burgess’ novel A Clockwork Orange, with this film having been released six years prior to the Kubrick film that, if truth be told, I’ve never really seen all of, so don’t expect a whole load of comparisons from me. Warhol opted to tell the story in a manner similar to a micro-budget stage production, entirely set in one minimalist location, shot in one or two unbroken takes with a fixed camera, and with “actors” playing more than one role within the same “scene”. Why is “actors” in inverted commas? Well, no-one in this film can actually act. At all. Particularly the lead, who is described in the 1001 Book’s write-up as being “deliciously wooden,” two words that have no business being adjacent in a sentence. Why is “scene” in inverted commas too? That would be because there’s no scenes in the film either, merely the flowing of one situation to another, without changing of sets, costumes or anything else. It’s certainly a unique experience, which I’m grateful for at least.

The first part sees Victor lifting weights for a few minutes. Then he and one of his cohorts start bullying a third character carrying a large pile of books. They rifle through and shred said books, then tie the guy up and insult him some more. Then Victor dances to the Supremes’ Nowhere To Run, on his own for at least five solid minutes. Bear in mind this film is only 70 minutes long, I’d say at least a fifth of that is spent watching characters dancing. Throughout this there’s a person sat either side of Victor. One is a man in a suit, the other is Edie Sedgwick. The most they do here is nod along to the music whilst Victor dances, or bark out a brief hysterical laugh aimed at nothing in particular. However, once some unseen force decrees that the dancing is complete, guy-in-suit stands up and is suddenly a policeman – without changing actor, clothing or anything about his appearance – and is apprehending Victor and taking him away for re-education. All the while Edie Sedgwick is just sat there. I got the feeling Warhol had phoned her up and asked if she’d wanted to pop round and watch them making a movie in his front room, but she’d accidentally been sat in shot when he set the camera up wrong, because she literally does nothing, nowhere near enough for the 1001 write-up to say she “sparkles at the right of the screen.”

After Victor’s apprehension, we’re treated to his torture, which involves being forced to watch videos of juvenile delinquent behaviour – which we aren’t shown, but we hear him explaining them – having melted wax dripped on him, being forced into an S & M gimp mask and generally roughed up a bit, which eventually works well enough so that when his torturer, The Doctor (Tosh Carillo) tried to goad Victor into attacking him later on, Victor is powerless to do so. Then of course there’s more dancing. Also, after the torture scene we get a change in camera shot, as it zooms in a little, but only serves to show an angle that makes it even harder to distinguish what is going on, not helped by occasionally taking the key “actor(s)” from a scene slightly outside the frame, so we don’t know what’s going on anyway. Oh, and there’s no visual opening or closing credits to the film. Instead, thirty minutes in a narrator (presumably Warhol, but who cares at this point) announcing the cast members over the top of the events occurring in the film. If this was meant to be an engrossing experience, it isn’t any more. Similarly the crew are listed to us at the end, but in a barely audible way that matches the terrible video quality perfectly.

I watched this film on YouTube, in a collection of 10-minute clips. I’m not going to post a link, because watching this will not improve anyone’s existence. This is not a film that must be seen before you die. This is a film that must be destroyed. Were it not for Warhol’s “prestigious” name attached to it, it wouldn’t be forgotten because it never would have happened and the world would be a better place. I’m very tempted to create a 0/10 rating specifically to distance this from the modicums of entertainment held within other 1/10 movies, but I don’t think this film is worth the effort of creating a new category on WordPress. I’d have much rather watched the same advert shown between most of the YouTube clips on repeat for 70 minutes than watch any one individual part of this ever again. I suppose I should be grateful that this was the Warhol film selected for this List in place of the likes of Sleep (five hours of someone named John Giorno asleep) or Empire (8 hours of the Empire State building, from evening until early the next morning) but instead I’ll argue that Warhol shouldn’t be in here at all. He never made a film, he made so-called art pieces that were grasped by the pretentious and lauded as being far better and more important than they are. See them for what they are, a waste of anyone’s time. If you’re thinking of attempting the 1001 Movies challenge, brace yourself for dreck like this.

Choose Life 1/10

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8 thoughts on “Vinyl

  1. This is the worst film I’ve ever seen. No contest.

    If I recall correctly, I believe I said in my own review that it’s a film that should be left alone on acetate stock to slowly rot away into nothing until no one has to ever see it again.

    At least (in my opinion) you won’t have a worse sit for a film in finishing up the list.

    • Excellent. However, I think leaving it to rot away would take too long. There’s a chance someone could stumble across it and watch it. It’s so bad that someone needs to actively be tasked with destroying it as quickly as possible, just in case.

  2. I describe this to people as “all the story, acting ability and production values of teenagers goofing around in their living room and then posting it to Youtube.”

    I’m betting that you got that A Clockwork Orange reference the same place everyone else does – from sources talking about the film. And all of those eventually trace back to Warhol claiming that. In all honesty I think Warhol was just fucking with everyone to see if he could get away with it – an Emperor’s New Clothes situation, if you will. I think he just made up the A Clockwork Orange “adaptation” story to see if he could get art/film critics to believe him. And it worked.

    By the way #1 – Sedgwick is there for the smoking-fetishists. Whoever wrote about how she sparkled was probably one of them. I’m not. I’m whatever the opposite of a smoking-fetishist is. It’s a huge turnoff for me.

    By the way #2 – Empire was on the TSPDT list, which I just completed. I watched all 8 hours plus on the fastest fast forward VLC had (32x, in case you’re curious). It still took over 20 minutes and was boring. Other than the position of the building shifting slightly in frame from the camera being jostled as they changed film reels, literally nothing happens. And here’s the rub: not even Warhol intended this to be a movie to be watched; he recorded it simply to play in the background during his art shows. It’s film critics that have turned it into one of the 1,000 best movies ever made because they blindly worship at the altar of Warhol..

    • Jeez, that is depressing about the accidental reverence for Empire. I’m just grateful it’s not on the List, and I’ll be sure to avoid any possible lists it does appear on, purely out of principle. If a list sees it worthy of inclusion, then said list isn’t worth my time. Thanks for the warning.

      And yes, I did get the Clockwork Orange reference from the book’s write-up (after watching I headed there in the hope of some kind of explanation for what the heck I’d seen). However, I think if I was more familiar with the Kubrick movie I might have seen some similarities between the plots, as there are similar beats. I agree it’s not exactly a successful adaptation (I assume the book wasn’t made out of burlap and bound with puréed maggots, although if it was then it’s a very successful adaptation), but there are some similarities. Either way it’s terrible, and I’m done thinking about it.

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