Unstreamable is a weekly column that finds films and TV shows you can't watch on major streaming services in the United States.
USA, 2007, 75 min, Dir. Robinson Devor
I recently learned that filth elder John Waters is a big fan of Zoo, a documentary that Stranger senior staff writer Charles Mudede helped write. I knew this dreamlike documentary about "Mr. Hands," the Enumclaw dude who died after getting fucked by a horse, had fans in strange places, but I was surprised to learn Waters was among them. I made this connection while reading Waters' recent book Carsick, which is about him hitchhiking across America. In the first chapter, Waters writes a fictional scene where he lives out a fantasy: his best possible hitchhiking experience. In this fantasy, he encounters a young art-house hunk named Harris who has a shockingly girthy knowledge of films. That's where this paragraph comes:
Think of that. John Waters' ideal, flirty encounter includes a convo about Charles' movie about the sacred boundaries between mammals. And it turns out this fictionalized anecdote contains some truth: In 2011, Waters presented four "Double Features From Hell" at the Sydney Opera House, and one of those double features, titled "Sex," paired Zoo with Waters' own Tracey Ullman-starring film A Dirty Shame. Reportedly, an "elderly woman" went up to Waters after seeing Zoo at the Sydney Opera House and said: "My daughter bought me a ticket and I didn’t want to come—but that was really sensitive." She said sensitive!
And it turns out this fictionalized dialogue in Waters' book, where "Harris" discusses the nature of whether an animal can consent to sex with a human, is not a topic confined to the minds of queer anarchist hitchhikers. It's also a topic that preoccupied the thoughts of the formerly-living demon Rush Limbaugh, as Mudede recently noted in this Slog post.
"Limbaugh expressed the extraordinary opinion that animals do have the power of consent," wrote Mudede. "If they didn't, he reasoned, then how could a horse, for example, fuck a human? How could a horse get its big dick hard?" Limbaugh "generously" gave Zoo's director and Mudede "the permission to use his musings" in their film.
What all of this reveals to me is that if John Waters were hitchhiking across America, and, under extraordinary circumstances, Rush Limbaugh picked him up, the two radically different men would find common ground in an unlikely place: a 2007 film my colleague wrote about horsefucking in Enumclaw. CHASE BURNS
USA, 1970, 112 min, Dir. Hal Ashby
I am in awe of writer-director-actor Bill Gunn. He touches some of the best films Black/American cinema has to offer: Ganja & Hess and Kathleen Collins' Losing Ground. Much of his work is only recently getting the attention it deserves, and The Landlord—Hal Ashby's directorial debut, written by Gunn—should be included in this reassessment.
The film follows the spoiled and wealthy Elgar (Beau Bridges), who buys an apartment building in Park Slope with the intent to kick out the poor Black tenants and renovate the space as a palace for himself. However, he begins to see the building as a way to get back at his stupid, racist parents. Thus, Elgar slowly gets his white boy self entangled in the lives of the Black tenants and neighborhood, exploding his own life in the process.
Anchored by Gunn's sharp, irreverent script, The Landlord does well because it focuses on the ridiculousness of wealthy white people. For once, the idiot white man reaps what he sows; his ineptitude does not save him.
The movie also presages a lot of conversations about gentrification, Blackness, and social capital. "Baby, Black is a whole new thing and you're going to have to reckon with it!" several characters tell Elgar in one scene. And reckon with it he shall! JASMYNE KEIMIG
UK, 1975, 91 min, Dir. Richard Loncraine
Jasmyne and I have an informal agreement where we try to make these blurbs land at around 200 words. I blew my word count on my first blurb, so I'll make up for it with my shortest blurb yet.
In 1975, America was in love with the overly shampooed locks in the Academy Award-winning film Shampoo. Across the pond, the Brits were getting frizzed-out doos, too, with some fine examples being the members of the English rock band Slade, who also released a movie in 1975. Shampoo is better. CHASE BURNS
UK | USA, 1983, 74 min, Dir. Nick Broomfield and Sandi Sissel
Chicken Ranch captures the mundane and not-so-mundane aspects of sex work at the eponymous legal brothel in rural Pahrump, Nevada.
The documentary opens with a small plane landing in what seems to be the middle of a dusty, desolate desert. But there's a lot happening in that desert, because that's where the Ranch is situated. As the film moves inside the brothel, the brightness of the exterior is a marked contrast to the dark windowless interior. The parlor, where johns are welcomed and much of the action takes place, is lined with mirrored walls, decorated with white furniture wrapped in plastic and bright red carpeting. It's gaudy and homespun all at once.
The Chicken Ranch's legal status makes the work more regulated. The sex workers don't have to worry as much about cops or extremely violent clients, though they are still severely underpaid for their labor. Directors Nick Bloomfield and Sandi Sissel follow the women as they smoke weed on the job, goof off with one another, discuss sex work and abusive ex-partners, barter with clients, debate management, and dream about their life outside this financially precarious job. It's an excellent time capsule that is made tragic by the fact that one of its stars, Mandy, was murdered a few years after it came out. JASMYNE KEIMIG
*Unstreamable means we couldn't find it on Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, or any of the other 300+ streaming services available in the United States. We also couldn't find it available for rent or purchase through platforms like Prime Video or iTunes. Yes, we know you can find many things online illegally, but we don't consider user-generated videos, like unauthorized YouTube uploads, to be streamable.