Thursday, January 30, 2014

GWAR: Phallus in Wonderland

Though GWAR takes credit for the advent of human civilization, they only truly rose to popularity in the ‘90s. As such, they did some severely ‘90s things by appearing in talk shows, MTV videos, and the SEGA Genesis. This totally tubular decade was also a time of eXtreme censorship, making the band’s live shows (which featured a slurry of drugs, sex, and violence – truly GWARtesque) stand out. In one particular instance, their live show stood out a little too, shall we say, erect.

After being targeted for indecency by police in Charlotte, NC, frontman and overlord of Earth Oderus Urungus had his Cuttlefish of Cthulhu (or, in layman’s terms, giant rubber cock) confiscated. It is no small feat to say that one of the most infamous shock rock bands of all time were themselves shocked by the act, and they lashed out the best way possible: by making a concept album about the horrors of censorship. Entitled America Must Be Destroyed, GWAR’s third album featured songs that both railed against and lampooned the superficial political correctness so rampant in the ‘90s.

Though the album features some strong tracks that are still played by the band today, it’s mostly cornball tomfoolery that pokes fun at American society circa 1992. The band also supplemented their album with their Slave Pit-produced film Phallus in Wonderland. Documenting GWAR’s battle against both the Morality Squad and the crack-infused dinosaur Gor-Gor, Phallus in Wonderland is essentially a schlocky vision of what goes on at the band’s live shows. Does it hold up for modern audiences? The only way to know for sure is to let GWAR come unhinged on our nanobots.
  • There’s a reason why most films don’t reveal the central plot point by having it read aloud by a skater punk from a newspaper soaked in fresh hobo vomit. = -7pts 
  • Giving to the pedestrian you just ran over a crack pipe as recompense. = +4pts 
  • Balsac achieves the couch fishing world record for distance by hauling in a skateboarder from the U.S. to Antarctica. = +3pts 
  • Clad in their full regalia, GWAR jams the fuck out to “Crack in the Egg” wherein they literally hatch a Tyrannosaurus Rex through the power of crack cocaine. = +10pts 
  • Slymenstra Hymen’s hairy pits. = 0pts (just an observation – we don’t judge!) 
  • GWAR’s “acting” in 1992 was about as effective as George H. W. Bush’s re-election campaign. = -4pts (well, maybe we judge a little bit) 
  • The nanobots aren’t sure how to describe the scene of events surrounding the trial against the Cuttlefish of Cthulhu. Sifting through the zeroes and ones we found the following: man dressed as nun, dick jokes, papier-mâché masks, and ejaculating puppets. = +4pts (sounds kinky) 
  • Scored with terrible country music and even worse sound effects, Oderus Urungus forfeits his penis after losing a drunken brawl against steroid-infused Corporal Punishment. = -12pts 
  • Grambo teaches us that fish do not achieve an erection when shown a pornographic magazine. = +6pts 
  • Even though GWAR’s bat-helicopter-spaceship-thing is simultaneously powered by crack rocks and a portly guy on a treadmill, it still manages to crash. = -5pts 
  • Corporal Punishment beats up terrorists. = +6pts (‘MERICA) 
  • Catholic priest Father Bohab invites parents to send their young boys to a Bible internment camp where they will in no way be molested. = +3pts 
  • Matricide by hot clothes iron. = -10pts 
  • Gibby Haynes cameos as mustachioed commercial director Fritz Wang who attempts to motivate adults dressed as children by assuring them that the cereal they are about to eat tastes better than sucking off the family dog. = +7pts 
  • The band act like a bunch of cool hepcats during a lounge/thrash song about abducting and violating children. Fun!= +8pts 
  • The nanobots are once again malfunctioning while trying to assimilate what’s happening on the screen. The only thing discernable is “seizure-inducing gobbledygook.” = -15pts 
  • So terrifying is the scene of Oderus murdering and deflowering a young man that not even Beefcake the Mighty can stand to watch. = +5pts 
  • The Morality Squad assembles and reveals their nefarious plans of stopping GWAR and getting people hooked on prescription drugs… or something like that. It’s really hard to pay attention to anything that isn’t GWAR. = -6pts 
  • A masturbating priest chases a guy in a pink leotard around a confessional booth, complete with laugh track and Curly Howard sound clips. = +4pts 
  • GWAR treats their protesters with the same love and affection that they treat their fans. That is to say, they rip the protesters to pieces. = +9pts 
  • Father Bohab’s disemboweling and violation with the cross don’t leave much to the imagination; the nanobots wished that they had. = -14pts 
  • GWAR’s “The Road Behind” riffs on butt-rock ballads and has the band inexplicably fighting robots. = +2pts 
  • After a crack binge, Oderus is awakened with a French kiss from his own Cuttlefish. A more repulsive reunion there could not have been. = -9pts 
  • The showdown between GWAR and the Morality Squad is as grotesque as it is confounding. Let’s just say that lots of rubber suits were torn open. = -20pts 
  • After announcing that Gor-Gor is destroying the city, the newscaster faithfully recreates Bud Dwyer’s final television appearance. = +6pts 
  • The film ends with a kaiju-sized GWAR battling with Gor-Gor while they play the monster’s namesake song. = +8pts 
  • From the wreckage of the Gor-Gor battle raises the Cuttlefish while “Ham on the Bone” plays out the credits. = +9pts
Total Score = -8pts
Available on: YouTube, a VHS tape lodged in the abscess of a tumescent space whale

Phallus in Wonderland had potential to be really entertaining. With still-prescient social commentary coupled with goofy costumes and even goofier gore, this could have been funny even without a budget more than a shoestring. Where it went wrong was an oversaturation of repugnant characters (GWAR not included), one-off gags, eye-gouging green screen, and, as the nanobots put it, “seizure-inducing gobbledygook.” For as much as we here at The Progressive Cinema Scorecard love GWAR, we would rather pretend that this blight on their otherwise glorious career doesn’t exist. If you want to see some actually funny GWAR shenanigans, check here and here.

Score Technician: TJ Geise

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