Top 10 Bizarre Early Films of Famous Directors

Anyone who has ever watched some cheesy B-movie on SyFy, or some ambitious college kid’s weird and stilted small video, apparently never would have thought anything would come of the directors responsible for those.  Well, as we’ll see, perhaps these now-famous directors shouldn’t be written off so immediately.

10. Bedhead (Robert Rodriguez)

From the creator of the Spy Kids franchise, Sin CityGrindhouse, and Machete comes this short film that he made for $800 back in the very early 90’s.  It would win numerous small awards that would help Rodriguez finance his indie hit El Mariachi.  The plot of this movie features a little girl with a jerk brother who gets telekinetic powers from a head injury he accidentally inflects on her.  Her first order of business: getting rid of that enormous hair spike he has.  Probably still the most mature thing Rodriguez has ever made.

9. Time Piece (Jim Henson)

Having six years of television experience making the TV program Sam and Friends (which is basically proto-Muppets to the extent that a Kermit who looks and talks the same was in it) from 1955 to 1961, Jim Henson was in a position to make his first movie a bit more polished than most.  Finished in 1966, it was released to theaters as a short film.  Looking at the preview, you can tell that the movie is all strangely symbolic of the stresses of modern life, although why Henson went to the trouble of being so abstract about it is anyone’s guess.  It was an Academy Award nominee for Best Short Film that year.

8. Whatever Happened to Mason Reese? (Brett Ratner)

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Brett Ratner is definitely more powerful than, you know, respected or even liked. He is the guy who made those grating Rush Hour movies, that unpopular X-Men 3 movie, and Tower Heist. Watching this movie will make you wonder how he ever got so far. While the premise of “child actor has cute screen persona but is unpleasant behind the scenes” was kind of old even at the time, this movie does take it in weird directions when a little person shows up with a samurai sword.

7. Piranha 2 (James Cameron)

James Cameron may be the man who directed the highest grossing movie of all time (Avatar, if you hadn’t heard) and the second highest grossing movie of all time (Titanic), but he’s never going to outrun the fact his first credit as a director was for a movie about flying piranha fish.  At least Cameron has a bit of a sense of humor about it.  He said in a 2008 interview that he is confident it’s the “best flying piranha movie ever made.”  So it is, Cameron.  For now.

6. Look At Life (George Lucas)

Technically an animated movie, this project of Lucas’s from 1966 when he was at the University of Southern California consists of nothing but various mildly evocative photos of the time set to drum music with a vague and arrogant “will we survive?” message at the end.  It’s about as long as Star Wars: Clone Wars should have been and at least as deep.

5. Stalk of the Celery (Tim Burton)

Made for the California Institute of the Arts in 1979, it’s neat to see how Burton’s style of character design had pretty much crystallized even then.  Burton himself wasn’t too happy with this one, dismissing the movie in later interviews as “stupid,” but it did draw the attention of Disney Corporation and essentially got his career started.  Weirdly, it was presumed lost for decades but then showed up on Spanish Television.  Burton was probably glad it was this movie that happened to re-appear, and not the…other one.

4. Mae Day: The Crumbling of a Documentary (Kevin Smith)


mae day – the crumbling of a documentary by… by shonanjunaigumi

A documentary about a transsexual singer. That’s what this 1992 movie Kevin Smith and longtime producer associate Scott Mosier made for the University of Vancouver was supposed to be about.  Instead the advocate of slacker filmmaking did what he did best and half-assed the project into being about its own failure (although in the movie it’s also implied the subject was just uncooperative, but Smith and Mosier probably thought the movie would seem funnier if they implied the failure was all their own faults.)  The documentary also has the distinction of probably being the first one to feature outtakes during the end credits.

3. Bring Me The Head of Charlie Brown! (Jim Reardon)

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You might not know the name Jim Reardon, but does a certain show entitled The Simpsons ring a bell?  Jim Reardon was the director of forty-one of the best regarded episodes by both casual and serious fans.  If that’s not enough for you, consider that he was one of the co-writers for the Pixar hit Wall-E. All that came from a guy whose first movie looks exactly like some unpleasant viral video that a thirteen year-old would write. The fact it was the thing that got him the director job for The Simpsons could just serve as a lesson to all you arty types who want to really influence this world.

2. Battle Beyond the Sun (Francis Ford Coppola)

Back before his Godfather franchise and Apocalypse Now phase, Coppola had to work for Roger Corman, which is at least a few steps below starting at the bottom.  His first credited job was this 1962 film, and he didn’t even have the satisfaction of directing the entire film.  The movie is mostly a big re-cut of a Soviet movie from the space-race era called The Heavens Call.  It features numerous scenes played repeatedly, redubbed in multiple different ways, and a randomly spliced in space monster fight.  All those choices would have been handy when he made Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

1. Bad Taste (Peter Jackson)

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You wouldn’t expect a movie about human-eating aliens that descend to Earth to collect samples for a fast food franchise to be weird, but that’s just the surprising touch a young Peter Jackson brought to this 1987 film.  The shoot spanned all of four years because Jackson didn’t bother writing a script until he decided to wrap.  In addition to constant gunplay, mountains of gore, and some very non-PC throwaway jokes, the movie contains probably the strangest example of a director acting in her/his movie.  Jackson not only plays one of the aliens and one of the humans who is part of a strike force sent to stop them, the human character actually physically tortures the alien. That’s something you don’t get from Woody Allen movies.

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