“Yeah, well, you know that’s just like your opinion, man.” – The Dude (Jeff Bridges) in “The Big Lebowski”
This is just, like, my opinion, man, but “Time Warp: The Greatest Cult Films of All-Time” is just the right docuseries for these very wrong times.
As the quarantine continues, this is a great time to revisit or introduce yourself to some of the most iconic cult films ever, and the three-part series “Time Warp” (the first episode debuts Tuesday on multiple streaming platforms) is a breezy and insightful look at dozens of wonderfully strange, sometimes campy, often hilarious, exceedingly endearing favorites.
Director Joe Dante (“Gremlins,” “Piranha”) serves as the host, with fellow director John Waters (“Pink Flamingos,” “Polyester”) and actors Illeana Douglas and Kevin Pollack rounding out the panel. From time to time the quartet discusses why a particular film has such resonance, and their insights are welcomed — but the real treasure trove is the bounty of interviews the filmmakers scored with the likes of Malcolm McDowell, Pam Grier, Rob Reiner, Kevin Smith, Jeff Goldblum, Gina Gershon, Gary Cole, Jim Gaffigan and the list goes on and on. It’s a delight to see actors and directors who are attached to one memorable cult film or another talking about how much it means to them that audiences have connected with these outcast movies.
“The more you see it, the more you see IN it,” Bridges says of cult movies. “Even the bad parts of a movie, they forgive it,” notes Gaffigan. “Every movie is a cult movie,” says Gary Busey, which makes no sense but probably makes sense to Gary Busey.
In the first episode, titled “Midnight Madness,” the filmmakers explore the ultimate cult movie, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” as well as Hal Ashby’s “Harold and Maude,” David Lynch’s “Eraserhead” and Waters’ “Pink Flamingos,” among other films. Compared to those bizarre gems, “The Big Lebowski” is practically a mainstream affair, if only because of the big-name cast. Still, hearing Jeff Bridges and John Turturro quote their own characters is pretty fantastic.
“This is Spinal Tap” director Rob Reiner says when the movie came out, people asked him why he chose to make a documentary about a little-known band instead of a group such as the Rolling Stones. Jeff Goldblum recalls taking a date to see “Spinal Tap,” and at the end of the movie, the woman asking him if the band was real. (Then again, the lines between fiction and reality blurred when Spinal Tap, with the actors in character, actually played live shows.)
In Part Two, which focuses on horror and sci-fi movies, “The Human Centipede” director Tom Six, who looks and sounds like he should be starring in a cult movie, says, “As you can imagine, people thought I was crazy … when I did the pitch [for the movie]” and goes on to explain how he consulted a real surgeon who said it was technically and medically feasible to construct an actual human centipede under controlled conditions. “Human Centipede” star Ashlynn Yennie says she got the job mostly because when the other actresses at the audition were given the outline for the movie, they left — but she stayed. We also get some great insights from Malcolm McDowell re: “A Clockwork Orange,” Jeff Goldblum on “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai” and John Sayles and Joe Morton reminiscing about “The Brother From Another Planet.”
The series finale is titled “Comedy and Camp.” We learn Cheap Trick was the first choice for “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School,” but they wanted $50,000, so The Ramones got the gig. It’s neat to hear from “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School” star P.J. Soles, who was also in “Stripes,” “Carrie” and “Halloween,” not all of which could be called cult movies but wow was P.J. Soles in some touchstone films. Meanwhile, Jon Heder reveals his favorite line from “Napoleon Dynamite” was “Tina you fat lard, come get some dinner.”
Never fear, that’s not mean. Tina was a llama.