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Vileness Fats (originally conceived as Vileness Flats)[1] is an unfinished feature film by The Residents, which was filmed between 1972 and 1976. Described by the group as "the first attempt at translating phonetic organization to film",[2] over fourteen hours of footage was shot for the project, constituting less than two thirds of the incomplete script.

Vileness Fats dominated The Residents' lives over the four years it was in production, and they have since revisited the project to create two short featurettes; the 30-minute Whatever Happened to Vileness Fats? in 1984, and a 17-minute "concentrate" edit in 2001. Despite this, many scenes shot for the film have never been released to the public.

In late 2016 it was announced that the group were in pre-production on a semi-sequel featuring original video material from the unfinished film. The new film, entitled Triple Trouble, has completed shooting and is in post-production as of December 2020, and is expected for release in 2021.

Contents

History

Origins

In 1972, The Residents had just moved from the small apartment in San Mateo where they had lived and recorded for four years, into a two-floor studio space in a former printworks at 20 Sycamore Street, San Francisco. The new space was promptly dubbed "El Ralpho" by the group, and became the center of operations for their recording studios and home of their newly founded independent record label Ralph Records.

The Sycamore Street space featured a completely open ground floor, seemingly ideal for a soundstage. The group's projects were rapidly expanding in ambition, some funding was being provided by an independently wealthy friend, John Kennedy, and they had begun to feel that a feature film would be the perfect medium for the ideas they had been developing.

The studio was spacious, but not quite big enough to house a full film studio. To circumvent this problem while still being able to fit sets into the ground floor space, The Residents decided to make the film's primary characters midgets, designing the costumes so that full-height actors could crouch in them to appear much shorter in height.

Initial production (1972-1974)

Shooting Vileness Fats

With the assistance of Homer Flynn and Hardy Fox, The Residents constructed a series of elaborate sets in a style influenced by the German Expressionist film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. The sets were built mostly from cardboard, meaning that they were prone to damage, but also easily repaired - during one visit, the group's friend William Reinhardt accidentally broke a signpost on the bridge of the Vileness Flats set, but managed to repair it before anyone noticed.[3]

Space limitations meant that each set had to be completely dismantled before the next one could be built. This affected the filming schedule and sometimes even the script, which was being continually developed as the group were shooting. The first set built was likely The Bridge/Vileness Flats, which is heavily featured in a reel of test film footage released on the Theory of Obscurity DVD. This would have been followed by either The Cave or the Night Club, the latter of which took a full year to construct and shoot.

During shooting of the Night Club scenes, Palmer Eiland (the group's then-housemate) did not attend as expected. The cast and crew waited for Eiland, only to find that he had unsuccessfully attempted suicide. After offering emotional support to their friend, The Residents rescheduled the shoot, but Eiland again attempted suicide unsuccessfully and failed to appear. By the end of that week, Eiland had attempted suicide five times. Despite eventually completing the scene, Eiland left the Sycamore Street studio shortly thereafter.[4]

The Residents hired people (mostly friends of the group) to assist with the film as they found a need. Graeme Whifler helped the group with lighting and some directing during the Napoleon flashback scene, and the members of what would later become The Cryptic Corporation (Flynn, Fox, John Kennedy and Jay Clem) assisted in a variety of ways; Clem was also the lead actor in the film, portraying a dual character: the religious figure Saint Steve, and his alter ego, the film's villain, Lonesome Jack, while Flynn and Fox appeared as Death and Uncle Willy, respectively, and Kennedy acted as the film's main editor.

Alongside appearances from Clem, Fox, and Homer and Diane Flynn in various minor roles, Vileness Fats starred Marge Howard as Steve's Mother, Portland musician Barry "Schwump" Schwam (who appeared in black-face in rehearsal footage, singing Al Jolson's "Mammy"), Sally Lewis as the Indian priestess Weescoosa, Palmer Eiland and George Ewart as Arf and Omega Berry (respectively), Margaret Smyk as Peggy Honeydew, and the group's mentor N. Senada as himself, among many others.

Some of the last scenes filmed were those set in The Banquet Hall; parts of this set were re-used in the group's Third Reich 'n Roll short film in 1976. The group were possibly in the middle of shooting the Desert sequences (of which only half are labeled as having been shot) when they abandoned the project.

Shift to 1/2" open reel video tape (1974-1976)

Hardy Fox filming Mother (Marge Howard)

Without a film company in control of the project, The Residents were completely free in their artistic expression. They largely financed the film themselves (with one member of the group selling his sports car to help fund the production) and could only work on it during evenings and weekends due to the jobs the members of the group were holding in order to fund it.

After having shot a number of sequences on film, The Residents discovered EIAJ-1 1/2" black and white open reel videotape, a format previously only available within the television and film industry which had recently become available to consumers.

They decided to adopt this format in shooting Vileness Fats, feeling that video would be an important medium in the future, and due to its convenience over film: unlike film cameras and equipment, the EIAJ-1 format was relatively lightweight and portable, and with the 1/2" videotape (which, unlike film, did not have to be developed) they could see the results of their work immediately after filming, allowing the group to re-shoot quickly and efficiently when necessary, and cut down on costs.

Abandonment

An overall lack of direction meant that the production of Vileness Fats dragged on for four years. By 1976, The Residents had shot approximately fourteen hours of footage, and were not even two thirds of the way through the still-incomplete script.[5] To make matters worse, the EIAJ-1 1/2" videotape format had already become obsolete due to the introduction of the Beta and VHS color video formats, so the scenes shot on tape already looked dated despite having only recently been filmed.[5]

There was no way that the tape could be transferred effectively to film, and reshooting the large amount of video footage was out of the question, as too much time and money had been already been spent on shooting it. The growing realization that they wouldn't be able to do anything with the finished film other than "gather a bunch of friends around their living room to watch it"[6] caused the group to begin losing enthusiasm for the project.

Finally, in February of 1976, shortly following the release of The Residents' second album The Third Reich 'n Roll (the cover of which advertises the film as an upcoming release "at a theater or drive-in near you"), they abandoned Vileness Fats entirely, choosing to shelve the footage and move onto other projects.

When The Residents shelved the film, they had yet to shoot several particularly ambitious scenes (including an extravagant musical number in the film's first act, an animation sequence in its second, and most of the film's finale). They had planned to create the film's entire soundtrack in the studio (including overdubbed dialogue tracks and sound effects); while sound was recorded on-set, it was not intended for use in the film as it is of low fidelity and includes extraneous set noises and crew chatter.

Plot outline

The bridge to Vileness Flats

The following is a scene by scene breakdown of Vileness Fats, as it was originally scripted by The Residents.

While the plot line for the projected video feature was written before the filming began, the dialogue was usually scripted several days before each scene was shot.

In addition to the full story, as released by the group on the Vileness Fats Historical page in November 2005,[7] this breakdown indicates which scenes were video taped and which were not.

Scene 1 - Arf and Omega (shot)

Arf and Omega in Scene 1 (from Whatever Happened To Vileness Fats?)

Siamese twin tag team wrestlers, Arf and Omega Berry (Palmer Eiland and George Ewart), are first seen in a motel room. Omega is asleep as Arf watches a news bulletin about a fight between a band of renegade Bellboys and a group of virtually defenseless townspeople.

Hoping to turn the battle from a minor bloodbath to a major massacre, the Berry Boys recite a magic chant, designed to summon an enchanted Indian priestess, Weescoosa (Sally Lewis), who spends eternity rescuing short people from life threatening situations.

Curiously, since the combatants on BOTH sides of the battle are one-armed midgets, the resulting scenario is uniquely no-win AND no-lose. The scene ends with Arf and Omega chanting: "Kick a cat, kick a cat, kick a cat today, fish are dumb, pluck an eye from one."

Scene 2 - Bellboys & Townspeople Battle 1 (not shot)

As the battle rages, Weescoosa arrives in her biplane, and since it's difficult to tell which short people are in the most danger, she randomly strafes anyone within range. Shocked by her sudden appearance, the Bellboys quickly take flight, but as the Indian priestess brings the biplane in low to survey the scene, she loses control and crashes.

Scene 3 - Town 1 (not shot)

Weescoosa, scruffy and disheveled, is escorted through the village by Steve (Jay Clem), the town's pious religious leader. In a major production number, the bewildered Indian is dazzled by dancing one-armed midgets, whirling houses and sweetly singing children. By the end of the scene she appears to recognize Steve, but he brushes her off, saying that he has to leave for a meeting.

Left alone, Weescoosa is then befriended by Ninnie (Danny Williams), a local teenager. Ninnie takes the disheveled and angry Weescoosa home in order to freshen up.

Scene 4 - Mother's House 1 (shot)

The Mother's House

As the scene opens, an older woman (Marge Howard) is stuffing a seemingly endless stream of dirty white clothes into a washing machine. As she works, the woman is speaking to someone, apparently her son, off camera. The voice is recognizable as that of Steve, but as they talk, his personality seems to change, becoming increasingly confident and assertive.

Finally at the end of the scene, the other person is revealed to be Lonesome Jack, the other side of Steve's split personality. Having completed the transformation, he kisses his mother goodbye and leaves.

Scene 5 - Weescoosa & Ninnie 1 (shot)

Weescoosa and Ninnie in Scene 5, from Whatever Happened To Vileness Fats?

Frustrated and upset, Weescoosa seems to take Steve's casual brushoff much more seriously than the situation warrants, causing confusion in her friend; regardless, little Ninnie knowingly suggests that nothing gets a man's attention better than a nice new dress.

After initially resisting the idea, Weescoosa weakens after seeing the striking sequin covered dress drug out of her new friend's closet.

Scene 6 - Cave 1 (shot)

Constructing Atomic Shopping Carts

Hiding out in their cave on the edge of the desert, the Bellboys are seen constructing atomic shopping carts in preparation for their next attack on the town.

As their confidence begins to wane, Lonesome Jack reminds them of the magic powers of Evergreen, the essence of purity and truth. With their beliefs validated once again, the Bellboys are re-inspired.

Scene 7 - Weescoosa & Ninnie 2 (shot)

Cleaned up and wearing the new dress, Weescoosa looks spectacular, but, as the Indian priestess contemplates her past romantic failures, she sadly drifts into remorse. Encouraged by Ninnie, she tells her friend that she's cursed; even though she lives forever, the enchanted priestess constantly relives same affair, with the same short powerful man, over and over again.

Decade after decade it never changes: they need her, she gives in, they leave and they die - then it happens again ...and again. And, since each love affair ends with her lover's death, he never recognizes her after being reborn, but, as an unfortunate consequence of living forever, she always knows. Everyone has their problems. Frustrated, Weescoosa recalls two of her past affairs.

Weescoosa and Napoleon

Scene 8 - Weescoosa's Flashback (shot)

In flashback, Weescoosa tells Ninnie about previous affairs with Napoleon and Abraham Lincoln, casually remarking that the statuesque Lincoln was actually quite short but appeared taller due to the Indian priestess's magic spell. Ninnie, of course, has no idea what her friend is talking about.

Scene 9 - Weescoosa & Ninnie 3 (shot)

In a brief scene at the conclusion of the two flashbacks, Weescoosa sadly sums up the pattern of her failed love affairs for Ninnie. Concerned, but terribly confused, the bewildered Ninnie can only shake her head; regardless, the overly optimistic teenager somehow manages to convince the Indian priestess to give it one more try.

Resplendent in the striking new dress, Weescoosa goes back to town, determined to find Steve.

Scene 10 - Bellboys & Townspeople Battle 2 (partly shot)[8]

Outtake footage from Scene 10

Convinced of the purity of their purpose, the motley Bellboys attack the townspeople again, this time with their Atomic Shopping Carts. Determined to protect her new dress, Weescoosa can't be bothered, but she does pause long enough to conjure up a spell summoning Arf and Omega.

Delighted to find themselves in the midst of a battle with the much smaller and weaker Bellboys, the Berry Boys take great glee in crushing the one-armed midgets once again.

Scene 11 - Town 2 (not shot)

Led by the mayor, Arf and Omega are shown around the town by the grateful villagers. The boisterous Siamese twins quickly become bored with the pleasant but bland townspeople, but after being told that a banquet will soon be thrown in their honor, the wrestlers decide that being giants among midgets is, perhaps, not so bad.

Scene 12 - Desert 2 (not shot)

Lonesome Jack and Weenie, his trusty sidekick (Danny Williams), are alone in the desert watching the defeated Atomic Shopping Carts return to the cave; Lonesome Jack is angry and says there's no choice but to use the Master Plan. He shows a book of matches to Weenie.

Scene 13 - Lonesome Jack & Peggy (not shot)

Later, Lonesome Jack and his girlfriend, Peggy Honeydew (Margaret Smyk), a nightclub singer, are seen in bed together, apparently having just made love.

With a heavy heart, Lonesome Jack says that, after the failure of the Atomic Shopping Carts, he has no choice but to use his Master Plan, and he needs her help. After briefly whispering in the singer's ear, the rebel leader says he has to go to the desert to be alone.

Scene 14 - Desert 1 (shot? not shot?)

The story continues to follow Lonesome Jack, when, shortly after, the rebel leader is seen deep in thought, standing alone in the desert.

Consumed with doubt, the idealistic midget gradually falls prey to his worst weakness, the lure of ecstatic bliss, eventually convincing himself that HE is the illusive Evergreen, a delusion that triggers his transformation back to Steve. Suddenly uncomfortable in Lonesome Jack's old cowboy clothes, Steve returns to his mother's house to change.

Scene 15 - Mother's House 2 (shot)

Steve in Scene 15 (from Whatever Happened To Vileness Fats?)

Steve is seen leaving his mother's house in the sparkling white garments of a respected religious leader.

Scene 16 - Town 3 (not shot)

Searching the town for Steve, Weescoosa spots her ill fated lover leaving his mother's house.

As he purposefully strides toward her, a smile on his face, the priestess is convinced that this time true love will indeed conquer all; but, as they near each other, Steve ignores her outstretched arms, walking past as if she was invisible.

Standing a few feet behind Weescoosa are Arf and Omega, and after a brief greeting, the religious leader offers to escort them into the banquet hall. Dejected and rejected once again, Weescoosa hangs her head and walks away.

Scene 17 - Banquet Hall (shot)

The Banquet Hall

Arf and Omega are being honored at a banquet for having saved the town. The twins are welcomed by the good natured mayor who then introduces the pompous religious leader, Steve.

As Steve delivers his standard pretentious and self serving speech, Arf and Omega begin to mock the town's leader, then pummel the midget with giant pieces of broccoli. The previously condescending Steve, now covered with broccoli sauce stains, loses his composure and quickly leaves; the humiliating attack by Arf and Omega has triggered his transformation back to Lonesome Jack.

Shortly after, Weenie, disguised as a waiter, shows Arf and Omega the matchbook given to him by Lonesome Jack. The matches are from Willie's Hot Spot, the local night club; claiming an aversion to broccoli, the only item on the menu, the twins hurriedly excuse themselves and leave.

Scene 18 - Cave 2 (shot)

Lonesome Jack and The Bell Boys singing "The Importance of Evergreen"

Despondent and depressed, the defeated Bellboys have virtually given up hope when Lonesome Jack suddenly appears in the cave singing the inspirational Evergreen theme song. Joining in with their inspirational leader, the rebels' lift their voices in song - elevating their hopes once again.

Scene 19 - Bridge 1 (shot)

Despondent over her continuing romantic failures, Weescoosa is seen walking on the bridge leading out to the desert.

Scene 20 - The Master Plan (not shot)

Originally planned as an animation, Lonesome Jack reveals his Master Plan to the Bellboys in this unshot sequence.

The plan is a variation on the Trojan Horse, in which all the rebels disguise themselves as pieces of meat. Since the insurgents have successfully blockaded the town for several months, the villagers have had nothing to eat except broccoli which is of course grown in local greenhouses. Consequently, the meat starved townspeople are desperate - the plan can't possibly fail.

Scene 21 - Cave 3 (shot)

As the camera pulls back from the screen where Lonesome Jack has just revealed his Master Plan, the Bellboys are happily working away on their meat costumes. Lonesome Jack tells Weenie that he has to go out to the desert to meditate.

Scene 22 - Desert 3 (not shot)

Weescoosa is seen at the edge of the desert. While still upset over her continuing romantic failures, the Indian priestess is determined that it will not happen again.

Scene 23 - Night Club 1 (shot)

N. Senada performs "Eloise"

In a brief musical number, the Mysterious N. Senada is seen performing Eloise in the night club.

Scene 24 - Desert 4 (shot)

Lonesome Jack and Weescoosa meet in the desert. At first, the Indian is cold and distant, but the rebel leader is both romantic and needy, a dangerous combination. He sees her as a sign from Evergreen.

Scene 25 - Night Club 2 (shot)

As Arf and Omega enter Willie's Hot Spot, Peggy Honeydew, Lonesome Jack's girlfriend, is singing. Easily impressed by feminine pulchritude, the twins are ecstatic as they are led to a table by the stage.

Scene 26 - Desert 5 (shot)

Lonesome Jack and Weescoosa continue their love scene. Initially, the Indian priestess still attempts to resist, but the outcome is unavoidable, and gradually she succumbs.

Scene 27 - Cave 4 (shot)

With their meat costumes now complete, The Bellboys are ready to carry out their latest assault on the unsuspecting townspeople. Weenie sends Mel to find Lonesome Jack in the desert.

Scene 28 - Night Club 3 (shot)

Peggy Honeydew joins Arf and Omega at their table. With little effort, the beautiful singer soon has the bickering brothers at each other's throat. Lonesome Jack's Master Plan is apparently working.

Scene 29 - Desert 6 (shot)

Oblivious to everything else, Lonesome Jack and Weescoosa are consumed with the passionate throes of true love, until they are abruptly interrupted by Mel. Without hesitation, the stoic Bellboy informs his leader that preparations for the Master Plan are now complete, and the rest of the rebels are waiting on word from him.

Completely conflicted between true love and duty, the overwrought rebel leader is suddenly helpless, and incapable of making a decision. Turning, as if to run away, he bumps Weescoosa, who then falls, hitting her head and knocking herself unconscious.

Mumbling that he has no choice but to seek advice from the mysterious Window of Never, Lonesome Jack suddenly disappears. Confused, Mel returns to the cave to inform Weenie.

Scene 30 - Night Club 4 (shot)

As the tension between them escalates, Arf and Omega continue to antagonize each other. Pleased to be the center of attention between two big, strong men, Peggy convinces them to have a contest to determine which one can hold his breath the longest.

Scene 31 - Cave 5 (shot)

Distraught and confused, Mel returns to the cave, telling Weenie that Lonesome Jack has inexplicably run away to the Window of Never. The rebel leader's right hand man instantly realizes that their only hope for salvation lies with one person - Lonesome Jack's mother.

Scene 32 - Night Club 5 (shot)

Encouraged by the smug Peggy Honeydew, Arf and Omega continue to provoke each other. As the tension in the night club continues to grow, it soon becomes obvious that the brother's confrontation will not result in a happy conclusion.

As the scene ends, Willie, the owner of the night club (Hardy Fox), presents the twins with a pair of knives - with blindfolds in place, the brothers prepare for a duel to the death.

Scene 33 - Mother's House 3 (shot)

Weenie, disguised as a frankfurter, hurries into the mother's house, breathlessly informing the older woman that her son has gone to the Window of Never. Without hesitation, and with a mother's love burning in her heart, Lonesome Jack's mother quickly dons her asbestos suit and hurries off to save her son.

Scene 34 - Night Club 6 (shot)

The knife fight

After a brief incantation, overseen by a mysterious cape dancer (Homer Flynn) symbolizing nothing less than death itself, Arf and Omega begin to battle it out on the floor of the night club. Fueled by a fury that only exists in siblings doggedly confronting each other, day after edgy day, the fight escalates with a fever pitch, finally concluding as Arf slips, giving Omega the opening he needs to stab his brother in the heart.

This shocking moment of sudden death is then immediately followed by a voice, declaring that Steve, the leader of the town, is at the Window of Never; startled by this unexpected announcement, the crowd vanishes, leaving Omega standing in the center of the dance floor with his dead brother. With the night club suddenly silent, the anguished twin slowly drags his brother's body towards the door, leaving no one in the room except a ventriloquist and his dummy, dancing together on stage.

As Arf and Omega pathetically exit the room, the ventriloquist and dummy deliver the story's moral, in the form of an absurd poem, with Willie, the night club's owner, slithering up to utter the final punch line.

Scene 35 - The Window of Never (partly shot)[8]

Unexpectedly sucked into a whirlpool of confusion and despair, Steve/Lonesome Jack stands at the edge of a volcano directly below the enigmatic Window of Never.

Mumbling incoherently, the lost leader looks up at the Window, which gazes back at him with seeming indifference. Hearing a noise behind him, the pathetic schizophrenic looks back and sees everyone, his mother, the Bellboys, townspeople, night club patrons and Weescoosa - all hurtling towards him at full speed... and so, seeing no other solution, he jumps.

Without hesitation, and borne by the love that's like no other, his mother immediately follows him, jumping into the volcano and heroically managing to rescue her son with only minor brain damage, which, fortunately, cures his schizophrenia.

Nearly everyone lives happily ever after.

Cast

Sally Lewis as Weescoosa, the Indian Princess

with:

Crew

Soundtrack

Margaret Smyk as the fabulous Miss Peggy Honeydew

Prior to the early 21st century, no music had been confirmed by The Residents as originating from the original Vileness Fats sessions, aside from the song "Aircraft Damage", which featured on the Santa Dog EP in 1972.

The album Not Available was compiled partly from disused sketches composed by the group for the soundtrack to the film, however which pieces of music these were remains largely unconfirmed by the group. An hour long suite titled "X Is For Xtra", thought to include a number of these original sketches, was released in 2019 on the pREServed edition of Not Available.

Both released versions of the film feature newly-recorded soundtracks (available commercially on the albums Whatever Happened To Vileness Fats? and Icky Flix), and both re-recorded versions of the soundtrack include musical numbers which had been shot for the film, such as "The Importance of Evergreen" and "Eloise". "Lord It's Lonely" was revealed in 2013 (in an outtake released by Theory of Obscurity filmmaker Don Hardy) to have originated as a cover of the Randy Newman song "Lonely At The Top".[9]

A short outtake of Peggy Honeydew performing "Fever" was briefly released on the group's website at one time, and has since circulated among fans. A clip of N. Senada performing "Kamikaze Lady" on the nightclub set and a longer excerpt from "Lonely At The Top" have also circulated.

Musical numbers filmed

Possible instrumental score

  • "Mehico Ron Devoo"
  • "Theme From X"
  • "Ho Ho Bumped His Toe"
  • "Fairly Well"
  • "March of the Winnebagos"
  • "Slow Texture"
  • "Tennessee Williams"
  • "Asonarose"
  • "Tune of the Unknown"
  • "Soundtrack Music Piece 17"
  • "Mehico Ron Devoo Finale"
  • "Russian Love Song"

Legacy

The Residents poured most of their time, energy and funds into Vileness Fats for the four years that it was in production. Elements of the film would find their way into other projects; "Aircraft Damage" (or "Kick A Cat") from the group's 1972 EP Santa Dog is taken directly from the film's soundtrack, Margaret Smyk joined The Residents as the character Peggy Honeydew for their live performances between 1971 and 1976, and the Third Reich 'n Roll promotional video was shot using Vileness Fats sets and props.

Not content to let even their failed projects go to waste, The Residents (and their management company The Cryptic Corporation, founded in June 1976) incorporated Vileness Fats into their mythology and continued to tease the outside world with stills from the mysterious film for years after its abandonment.

Despite its recent abandonment, Vileness Fats was referenced in The Residents' Oh Mummy! Oh Daddy! live performance in June 1976, with the appearance of Palmer Eiland and George Ewart as Arf and Omega Berry, performing their musical number "Aircraft Damage". The later albums Fingerprince and Not Available were derived at least partly from material the group had recorded which had been intended as the soundtrack to the unfinished film.[10]

The Cryptic Corporation attempted another entrance into the film industry in 1977, after purchasing a run-down movie theater with the intention of turning it into an independent science-fiction and fantasy theater. The proposal was aggressively protested by members of the neighborhood, who mistakenly believed that the Cryptics would use the space as a gay pornography theater, and the concept ultimately did not go ahead.

Release

Whatever Happened To Vileness Fats?

Whatever Happened To Vileness Fats? (1984)

In 1984, The Residents discovered that video technology had advanced to the point where they could salvage their old 1/2" Vileness Fats videotape footage and transfer it to the newer format of VHS. This process allowed them to create a 30 minute feature from selected elements of footage from Vileness Fats, which they accompanied with a newly-recorded soundtrack and released on VHS in 1984, titled Whatever Happened to Vileness Fats?.

Whatever Happened To Vileness Fats? focuses on Arf and Omega, from the Atomic Shopping Cart battle to the knife fight at Uncle Willy's. It also spends a lot of time on Steve and his mother, but touches only briefly on the Bell Boys, Lonesome Jack, and Weescoosa.

As the original soundtrack (deemed by the group to be of too low a quality for release) has been largely overdubbed by The Residents with the new score, Whatever Happened To Vileness Fats? has very little audible dialogue and is not overly concerned with conveying a coherent narrative.

Icky Flix (2001)

Vileness Fats title, Icky Flix DVD, 2001

In July 2000, The Residents announced that they were attempting to recover the Vileness Fats footage from the original video tape reels for use in an upcoming DVD release.[11] These efforts ultimately resulted in the release of the group's retrospective multimedia project Icky Flix on DVD and CD in 2001.

The Icky Flix DVD featured a newly edited 17 minute "concentrate" of Vileness Fats. This version focuses primarily on Steve and touches only briefly on the Atomic Shopping Cart battle, but also features the Bell Boys and Lonesome Jack more prominently than the previous, longer version.

Despite being significantly shorter than Whatever Happened To Vileness Fats?, this is currently considered the best place to see the Vileness Fats footage, as The Residents remastered and restored the film and videotape to the best quality they were capable of at the time. Like the earlier release, however, the Icky Flix edit includes very little audible dialogue from the original video.

The Vileness Fats "concentrate" was accompanied on the DVD by the viewer's choice of two soundtracks; selections from the 1984 soundtrack of Whatever Happened To Vileness Fats? or an alternate, newly recorded soundtrack. The new score was released in full on the Icky Flix soundtrack album, and was later reissued digitally as a standalone EP, RZ VF.

Theory of Obscurity: A Film About The Residents (2015)

Newly digitized outtakes and previously unseen footage from Vileness Fats was included in Don Hardy's 2015 documentary Theory of Obscurity: A Film About The Residents, with additional footage being included in the bonus features of the DVD and Blu-ray releases of the film.

As part of the production of the film, "as much as possible" of The Residents' audio and video archives were digitized in early 2014 (aided by an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign),[12] and further short excerpts of Vileness Fats footage were released on Vimeo by Don Hardy in the lead-up to the release of the documentary.[9]

Current status

Over the years, The Cryptic Corporation have occasionally hinted at an intention to digitize and/or restore the Vileness Fats footage, with the intention of editing it into a stand-alone DVD feature.[11] To date, however, The Residents have expressed little desire to restore and complete the film as it was originally conceived, with a Resident explaining in 2013 that "it's really hard to get a lot (of) umph behind resurrecting 35 year old projects".[13]

It is known that at least a portion of the Vileness Fats footage was digitized between January and April 2014, as part of a crowd-funded effort to digitally preserve "as much as possible" of The Residents' video archive. The campaign was organized by director Don Hardy during production of the documentary film Theory of Obscurity: A Film About The Residents, which was released the following year.[12]

The possibility of a release of Vileness Fats footage as part of the group's ongoing pREServed series of archival releases was discussed by The Residents with Cherry Red Records in late April 2020. Cherry Red spokesperson Richard Anderson said that he wasn't sure it would happen, and that they were unsure of what condition much of the footage is in. Anderson noted that most of the music recorded for the project was released on X Is For Xtra, the bonus disc of the pREServed edition of the group's 1978 album Not Available.[10]

Triple Trouble

Randy Junior (Dustin York) discovers a reel of Vileness Fats footage in Triple Trouble

Feeling that the naivety of the original Vileness Fats footage was a large part of its charm, and that it is impossible to go back half a century later and re-create the naivety which drove the film's production, The Residents instead decided to re-purpose the footage, framing selected scenes from the original film with new material shot by the group in 2016 and 2020 (with filmmaker Don Hardy and video artist John Sanborn) in order to create an entirely new film.[14][15]

Triple Trouble is set in the near future and focuses on Randy Junior, the son of Randy Rose, the recently-deceased lead singer of The Residents. While searching for his father's stolen ashes, Junior discovers the footage from Vileness Fats in a foot-locker, and as he watches it his life begins to mirror that of the film's protagonist Saint Steve.

As of August 2021, the group are in post-production on the film, having completed a ten-day production schedule of new material shot to complete the film with the money they had already raised for it, while under lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The group are hoping to complete the film by September 2021 so that it can be submitted to the Sundance Film Festival, with further festival screenings to follow.[15] The film is expected to be accompanied by a soundtrack album entitled Endless Illusions.[14]

A letter from "Harve"

"Harve", 1972

This letter is from an ex-record industry executive who corresponded with The Residents several years ago. After having lost his job in an industry-wide purge in the mid 1970s, he left the music business and now operates a garden shop in the Los Angeles area. In keeping with an obvious theme, he wishes to remain anonymous and undisturbed, but he did send the following reply to my inquiry. - UW[16]

Dear Willie,

Okay! Okay! So you didn't give up and finally got me to answer one of your snivelly nagging little letters. I don't know why I'm doing this, but I guess something won't let me forget about The Residents, like all the other crap I dealt with at XXXXX (deleted) for 20 years. The Residents and me didn't have much contact. The Warner Bros. Album was okay at best, but what I really liked were pictures they sent of their movie (he means the legendary Vileness Fats - UW[16]). I kept them in my office and even after I was fired, I still had the one of the old lady midget standing by the washing machine. Then not too long ago I was in my local video shop and what should I see but that little old lady smiling at me from a box. It had been a long time since I had even thought about The Residents, but I was hooked; I had to check it out.

Okay, so it's been twenty years and you need something for your book. Here goes. I've never in my life seen such a brilliant example of the art of claustrophobia. It's like when you were a kid and you had the friend whose father kept an incredibly outrageous model train set in his basement. You never saw the kid's father around the neighborhood, except maybe driving the car, because he was always down in that basement. And maybe once or twice, if you were lucky, the kid would sneak you down there while his old man was at work or at a lodge meeting or something and there it was: trees, mountains, towns, an amusement park with little ferris wheels, dogs, cats, policemen chasing robbers and a stadium with lights and baseball game going on. All in that kid's basement and all done by his crazy father who drove a Studebaker, sitting stiff and straight and smoking a pipe.

And that's what I thought about when I saw The Residents' movie. A psychotic model train set crammed into a corner basement of Hell and if my mind had just stopped there, maybe everything would have been all right. But no, my imagination kept going. I would see that little old lady, the one who kept saying, "More dirty white clothes! More dirty white clothes!" and I would wonder who she was and what did she really do and how did they get her into that hellish basement. It was the same with the smiling old duffer with the top hat. Who was he? What could possibly have induced him to enter this nightmare and what did he tell his wife about how he spent his day off? "Guess what honey? I got to squat and hop around while Siamese twins threw giant broccoli at a guy with a white hat on. How was your day?" And the balloon set. Hundreds, maybe thousands of balloons stuck all over the walls of the basement and who blew them up? Someone, like my friend's father, who went home after his day job, ate his dinner and went down to that basement and blew up balloons for two weeks? Three weeks? A month? So I know you think I'm raving, but the point is - this was crazy! But not just crazy, it was ordered craziness. And I had to know what that order was.

So I watched it again. And again. The third time it actually seemed to make a little sense so I cautiously decided to try it once more. Then I had it. The Hindu religion has a principle called "Maya" and it's always intrigued me. Maya is the space between perceived reality and the real thing - between human perception and the reality of the gods and I think that's what Vileness Fats is all about. Now I'm not saying that I think The Residents are Hindus, but I do think they appreciate Maya whether they've ever heard of it or not. This is the way I see it.

On the side of perceived reality you have the movie - a fairly simple, if not confusing, love triangle between both sides of a split personality, representing the eternal duality of human existence, and an ageless goddess who represents hope. In classic form the conflict between good and evil is unresolved, but hope lives on. This much was easy to see, but then comes the bigger picture. And the bigger picture always walks hand and hand with, or maybe I should say solidly linked (as in Siamese twins) to Maya.

The big picture is the little old lady sitting at her desk - she's a bill collector for some hospital and nervously wonders if her wrinkles are going to show later when she acts in that crazy movie for those sweet but nutty guys that work in the office next door. The big picture is convincing some wild Mexican cape dancer to paint his face white and dance right after exploding a giant weather balloon and of course getting him to do it for free. The big picture is convincing people that your fantasy is so big and so strong and full of enough of the spirit of life that no matter how crazy it looks and sounds, it's worth giving up your day off for. And I think The Residents knew that; I think they knew that anyone who watched had to eventually see the big picture, or at least its shadow, and Maya.

Okay that's it. If it's too weird and off the wall for your book (I realize I'm flattering myself), I understand. JUST DON'T BOTHER ME AGAIN! And there better not be any of your weirdo fans showing up at my shop.

Warmest regards

Harve (not my real name)[16]

See also

External links and references

  1. Ian Shirley, Never Known Questions: Five Decades of The Residents, 2016
  2. The Third Reich 'n Roll promotional poster, 1976
  3. "San Francisco Vacation & Meeting Residents, Uninc." by William Reinhardt
  4. "The End of Arf" video on YouTube
  5. 5.0 5.1 Whatever Happened To Vileness Fats? liner notes
  6. Homer Flynn, Theory of Obscurity: A Film About The Residents, 2015
  7. Big Brother, "The Residents release the plot of Vileness Fats", The Residents' Official News BOG, November 9th 2005
  8. 8.0 8.1 The original plot outline on The Residents Historical claims that this scene was not shot, however outtake footage from this sequence surfaced in the promotional campaign for Theory of Obscurity: A Film About The Residents in 2012, indicating at least that test footage was shot for this scene.
  9. 9.0 9.1 "Vileness Fats Outtakes", posted to Vimeo by Don Hardy, 2013
  10. 10.0 10.1 "(Vileness Fats pREServed) was actually discussed this week, but I don't know if it'll happen. The 'X Is For Xtra' stuff on the Not Available reissue covered the musical side of it, and I don't know what condition the footage is in... We'll see." - Richard Anderson, The Residents Facebook group, May 1st 2020
  11. 11.0 11.1 Tzoq, "Residential Announcements", RZWeb, July 23rd 2000 (via archive.org)
  12. 12.0 12.1 Theory of Obscurity: A Film About The Residents at Indiegogo
  13. "Yeah, well I'd probably love to see it myself but I don't think it's going to happen. There was some talk of that a few years ago, but the reality is that it's really hard to get a lot umph behind resurrecting 35 year old projects." - Randy Rose (to a fan), Dead Dogs In Space, April 11th 2013
  14. 14.0 14.1 Anomany Podcast Episode 67: The Residents
  15. 15.0 15.1 Homer Flynn, "Homer Flynn (Spokesperson for The Residents) on WZRD Chicago 88.3FM" on Mixcloud, August 5th 2021
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 Uncle Willie's Highly Opinionated Guide To The Residents


Vfshoppingcart-sml-transparent.png Vileness Fats
(1972 - 1976)

Cast and characters
Saint Steve / Lonesome Jack (Jay Clem) · Weescoosa (Sally Lewis) · Arf and Omega Berry (Palmer Eiland and George Ewart) · Ninnie (Danny Williams) · Steve's Mother (Marge Howard) · Peggy Honeydew (Margaret Smyk) · Weenie (Danny Williams) · Uncle Willy (Hardy Fox)
with
Irene Dogmatic · J. Raoul Brody · Barry "Schwump" Schwam · Hugo Olson · Bill Dewalt · Diane Flynn · Homer Flynn · Tony Logan · Dennis Sealy · The Mysterious N. Senada as himself

Crew
The Residents: direction, screenplay, music, sets, costumes · Graeme Whifler: lighting, sets, second unit direction · Diane Flynn: costumes · John Kennedy: editing

Soundtrack music
"Aircraft Damage" · "Mammy" · "The Importance of Evergreen" · "Eloise" · "Kamikaze Lady" · "Lonely At The Top" · "Fever" · "Russian Love Song" · X Is For Xtra ("March de la Winni" · "Asonarose" · "Soundtrack Music Piece 17")

Related works
The Boarding House performance · Santa Dog · Meet The Residents · Not Available (X Is For Xtra) · The Third Reich 'n Roll (video) · Oh Mummy! Oh Daddy! performance · Fingerprince · Whatever Happened To Vileness Fats? (soundtrack · PAL TV LP) · Video Voodoo · Twenty Twisted Questions · Icky Flix (soundtrack · "The Knife Fight" · RZ VF) · Theory of Obscurity: A Film About The Residents · Triple Trouble (trailer · soundtrack)

Related articles
Vileness Flats · Atomic Shopping Carts · Residents, Uninc. · Sycamore St. studio · Ralph Records · The Cryptic Corporation · The Ugly Grey Theater

Notavail-edweena-transparent-sml.png Not Available
(1974 - 1978)

Side A
Part One: "Edweena" · Part Two: "The Making Of A Soul"

Side B
Part Three: "Ship's A'Going Down" · Part Four: "Never Known Questions"
"Epilogue"

Characters
Edweena · Porcupine · The Catbird · Uncle Remus · The Enigmatic Foe

Personnel
The Residents · Sally Lewis · Reed Paulsen

Related works
"Russian Love Song" · Vileness Fats · X Is For Xtra · "Available Piece" · "Available Nonsensical" · Fingerprince · Shadowland

Related articles
N. Senada (Theory of Obscurity) · Residents, Uninc. · Sycamore St. studio · Ralph Records · The Cryptic Corporation · Pore-Know Graphics · Eskimo

Wbrmx-sml-transparent.png The Delta Nudes / Residents, Uninc.
(1967 - 1974)
Nsenada-mintgreen-transparent.png The Mysterious N. Senada
(1907 - 1993)
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