Opening with nude hysteria in a prison, this 1969 film still has the capacity to rattle the viewer like a lit fuse within seconds of its opening. A feral woman cackling and stabbing with a false knife does not stop a somber man from telling his tale: you see, long ago, a man with webbed hands went to a private island. He and his wife had a son there but then sent the son back to the mainland to live with his wet nurse thereafter. Our hero, the storyteller, is meanwhile searching through these clues while discovering he has the same scar on his foot as the now missing son. The storyteller is then framed for the death of a circus performer, a magician girl who floated to him through the night. It’s all very convoluted–and this summary could indeed be very inaccurate–, but the imagery is breathtaking, startling, and immeasurably strange and should be the real reason why you might choose to seek this film out.

In a favorite scene–and, once we get finally get to the island, they’re all favorite scenes–a man with a white stripe on his face dances to the music of the waves, an intense and unnerving performance. While he is not malformed himself, a scene following his dance presents two malformed men surprising two female bathers. “Malformed men will rule the world,” the interpretive dancer (and island ruler) intensely intones. Men and women in loincloths dance to tigers growling atop a hillside, their faces painted to match the tribal drumming. “I want to show you my ideal world,” the dancing man continues, leading the storyteller on a strange river ride: a woman colored in silver lies spread eagles on the prow of a boat beside a birdcage, her long hair trailing like a bridal train through the waters behind.

Today is May 28th, 2020, and Horrors of Malformed Men (1969) is currently streaming VOD on Youtube, Amazon, and Google Play.

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