Okay, dear reader, we’ve come to perhaps the strangest movie we’ve ever covered here. The closest comparison is, perhaps, “The Roller Blade Seven”, but even that miserable movie made an attempt to tell a story of some sort, and only repeated the same bits of footage five or so times. “The Other Side” goes so much further.
Firstly, there’s almost no information about it anywhere on the internet. No IMDB page, no mention of it on any biography of any of its cast or crew. The only discussion I can find of it is a 15-year-old post on a forum dedicated to American comedy troupe The Firesign Theater, but they seemed to not know anything (and got the plot wrong, such as it is); then, the place where I got my copy…let’s just call it the grey market…had an image of something which may have been the VHS cover, or may have been a clever mock-up. With it’s having such a generic title, that makes it even more difficult to search for.
Peter Bergman is listed as the director, and that, as it turns out, is a red herring as to why this almost completely unknown movie is the way it is. The above-mentioned Firesign Theater made a movie called “J-Men Forever” in 1979 which is mostly a re-dubbed, heavily re-edited version of those 1940s serials – one of the Firesign guys, Peter Bergman, wrote it and was one of the stars of the small amount of new footage they shot. But, that was a proper comedy, with jokes coming thick and fast (even if most of them were pretty bad). This…isn’t. Anyway, it’s not the same Peter Bergman, which was just confirmed for me by a friend who knew the late great comedian. “I emailed him one day, asking him about it, and expecting a great story about this wild trouble-filled shoot. He told me it wasn’t him”. At least I’m not alone in thinking it was probably the wrong guy!
There’s a plot, which I’ll recap in its entirety – don’t worry, it won’t take me very long. Jimmy Lowson (Larry Carver, no IMDB profile) is an investigative journalist for the Daily Scoop, and he’s been dispatched to find out why Andy Warhol, who’d been dead for three years at this point, has started showing up in lambada clubs. He keeps seeing him from a distance in “Lambada Real”, the hottest spot in town, but Warhol just leaves as soon as Lowson arrives – not running away, seemingly just a coincidence every time. Lowson falls in love with one of the women on Andy’s arm, billed as “The Mysterious Woman” (Lisa Hambley, who does have one other credit, at least), but she dies. Then there’s a vague attempt made to pin the murder on Lowson, but then she’s fine later on. Or maybe she isn’t, it’s somewhat hard to tell.
The late great Robert Z’Dar is also in this, playing the “Coroner of Manhattan”, with Manhattan being spelled wrong in the credits. He’s in maybe a minute of original footage, and is first billed. My friend has an even better story about him – after being rebuffed by Bergman, he contacted Z’Dar (he’s much better connected / talented than me) only to be told that Z’Dar had no memory whatsoever of being in it!
To amp up the confusion, footage of the real Andy Warhol is used at one point, an interview where he spends most of his time silent, as well as a few clips of someone who looks very much like Richard Hell, performing Richard Hell songs.
But the plot is definitely not the most interesting thing about “The Other Side”. I’m going to give you some of the building blocks of it:
- · About a minute or two of lambada footage
- · Lowson walking into a club, looking vaguely puzzled
- · Lowson slumping in his chair, then checking his answering machine
- · A bare-chested guy holding an axe, not moving
- · Z’Dar glaring, with his face mostly in shadow
- · “Warhol” standing at a bar with two women, then leaving
- · “Warhol” dancing
- · Lowson talking to his editor
I’m not exaggerating when I say that the lambada dancing footage is repeated at least fifty times (in different combinations and edits, but it’s the same minute or so). Even the biggest fan of dancing ladies’ bottoms will be thoroughly bored of seeing them after this movie. Everything else I’ve listed above is shown at least twice, and as often as ten times, too.
There are some jokes. Like, the first time Lowson walks behind a pillar in the club, his voiceover (which sounds nothing like his real voice) refers to it; and there’s a newsreader (played by co-writer Maci Celli, who also doesn’t have an IMDB presence) who gives us an occasional gag. But…it’s just not trying to be funny, enough of the time. It’s not really trying to be anything!
Even if you accept that it’s just an extremely low budget movie made to cash in on the lambada craze, which was pretty hot in 1990, you still have to factor in that it makes no sense whatsoever. Could they not have filmed the lambada dancers for a few more minutes? Or edited it better? Like, there’s a scene where Lowson admits his love for the Mysterious Woman, but she walks away. Then, in the next scene, he goes back to the club they were just in and hassles the people at the bar, looking for her. Or the way the Warhol scenes go. I assume there’s a reason for it to be this wildly confusing, but I can’t for the life of me figure out what it is. Why not put the word “lambada” in the title, now we come to it?
Normally, I at least try and figure out why a movie is the way it is, after I’ve made some of my trademark baseless supposition, but with “The Other Side” there’s nothing to find out. Much like “The Roller Blade Seven”, or “After Last Season”, I’m firmly of the opinion that nothing this odd could have been made by accident, so every absurd choice, every repeat of those bloody couples dancing, must have been done on purpose. But the fact that it’s 30 years old and has disappeared to the point there’s almost literally zero information about it online, that its star (before he died) didn’t even remember being in it, means our questions will remain unanswered. If you, by any wonderful chance, read this and know someone who was in the movie, then please ask them to get in touch as I’d love to find out more about it.
One of the more confusing experiences of my movie-going life.