Vileness Fats is an unfinished film project by The Residents, filmed primarily from 1972 to 1976. The group shot over fourteen hours of footage for the project, but were not even two-thirds of the way through their incomplete script before they abandoned the project.
Excerpts from the film have been released; first in 1984 as the 30-minute featurette Whatever Happened to Vileness Fats?, and in 2001 on the Icky Flix DVD as a 17-minute "concentrate". Despite this, many of the scenes shot for the project have never been publicly released.
In late 2016 The Residents announced that they were attempting to fund a semi-sequel to Vileness Fats, featuring original video material from the unfinished film. The new film project, Double Trouble, remains in pre-production as of January 2020.
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 and be 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.
Initial production (1972-1974)The group created elaborate sets (with the assistance of friends Homer Flynn and Hardy Fox) in a style influenced by the German Expressionist film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. The sets were built from cardboard, and the 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 still developing as the group were shooting.
The Residents hired people to assist with the production as they found a need. Graeme Whifler helped the group with lighting and some directing, and the members of what would later become The Cryptic Corporation (Flynn, Fox, Kennedy and Jay Clem) assisted in a number 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. Alongside Clem and appearances from Fox, Homer and Diane Flynn, KBOO-FM disc jockey and musician Schwump appeared in black-face, singing Al Jolson's "Mammy", as well as J. Raoul Brody, Margaret Smyk and the mysterious N. Senada (among many others) in various roles.
Video tape (1974-1976)
Without a film company in control of the project, The Residents were completely free in their artistic expression, something they felt was very important. They largely financed the film themselves (with one member selling his sports car to help fund the production) and could only work on it during evenings and weekends, due to the day-jobs the members of the group were holding in order to pay for it all.
After having shot a number of sequences on film, The Residents discovered 1/2" black and white video tape, which had recently become available on a consumer level. They decided to adopt video tape in the filming of Vileness Fats, feeling that video would be an important medium in the future, and wanting to be pioneers of new media. With tape, they could see the results of their work immediately after filming, allowing the group to re-shoot when necessary. Unlike film, video tape did not have to be developing, meaning they could cut down on costs.
An overall lack of direction meant that the production of Vileness Fats dragged on for many years. By 1976, The Residents had shot fourteen hours of footage, and still were not even two thirds of the way through the still-incomplete script.
To make matters worse, 1/2" black and white video tape had already become obsolete by this time, due to the introduction of the Beta and VHS color formats, so the many scenes shot on tape looked dated even though it had only recently been shot. There was no way that the video could be transferred to film, and re-shooting the footage on color videotape or on film was out of the question, as too much of the film had already been shot and too much money had been spent. The space limitations were also becoming a problem – it took a full year for the group to build the set for the nightclub sequence, and then film it.
Finally, shortly after The Residents released their second album The Third Reich 'n' Roll (the cover of which advertises the film as an upcoming release) they abandoned Vileness Fats entirely.
Vileness Fats dominated the group's lives for the four years that it was in production. Even when they were taking breaks from the film and working on other projects, Fats would creep in. "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 early live performances between 1971 and 1976, and the 1977 Third Reich 'n Roll promotional video was filmed, for the most part, on the Vileness Fats sets, using Vileness Fats props.Not content to let even their failed projects go to waste, The Residents (and their newly-founded management company The Cryptic Corporation) proceeded to tease the outside world with stills from the film, incorporating the mysterious film that never was into their mythology and releasing two heavily shortened versions of the film (each with a newly-created soundtrack) in 1984 and 2001.
The Cryptic Corporation attempted another entrance into the film industry by developing a concept for a science-fiction movie theater, the Ugly Grey Theater, in 1977. The proposal was aggressively petitioned by members of the neighborhood the theater was intended for, who mistakenly believed that the Cryptics would use the space as a gay porn theater.
When one of The Residents' eyeball masks was stolen during their 13th Anniversary Show tour in 1986, they used a skull from the production (also seen in the Third Reich video) to replace it, creating the recurring Mr. Skull persona in the process.
The Cryptic Corporation have occasionally announced plans to remaster the fourteen hours of original footage, with the intention of editing it into a new stand-alone Vileness Fats DVD, but to date this project has never come to fruition. The Vileness Fats footage was digitized in 2015, in a crowd-funded effort to preserve The Residents' film and video archives during the production of the Don Hardy documentary Theory of Obscurity: A Film About The Residents.
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, presented here for the first time, this breakdown indicates which scenes were video taped and which were not.
Scene 1 - Arf and Omega (shot)
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."
- Excerpt included in Whatever Happened To Vileness Fats?
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.
Scene 4 - Mother's House 1 (shot)
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.
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 included in Whatever Happened To Vileness Fats?
Scene 6 - Cave 1 (shot)
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.
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.
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.
- Excerpt included in Whatever Happened To Vileness Fats?
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.
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.
- Outtake footage from this sequence is seen in Theory of Obscurity: A Film About The Residents and related promotional videos
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)
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)
- Scene included in Whatever Happened To Vileness Fats?
Scene 16 - Town 3 (not shot)
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)
As Steve delivers his standard pretentious and self serving speech, Arf and Omaga 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)
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)
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 included in Whatever Happened To Vileness Fats?
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)
- Scene included in Whatever Happened To Vileness Fats?, Video Voodoo Volume One, Twenty Twisted Questions and Icky Flix
- An outtake featuring N. Senada performing "Kamakazi Lady" has circulated among fans
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 included in Whatever Happened To Vileness Fats?
- An outtake featuring Peggy Honeydew performing "Fever" was briefly released on The Residents' website
Scene 26 - Desert 5 (shot)
Scene 27 - Cave 4 (shot)
Scene 28 - Night Club 3 (shot)
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.
- Excerpt included in Whatever Happened To Vileness Fats?
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.
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)
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 (not shot)
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.
- Saint Steve/Lonesome Jack - Jay Clem
- Weescoosa - Sally Lewis
- Arf & Omega Berry - Palmer Eiland and George Ewart
- Steve's Mother - Marge Howard
- Ninnie/Weenie - Danny Williams
- Peggy Honeydew - Margaret Smyk
- Uncle Willy - Hardy Fox
- The Mysterious N. Senada as himself
- Hugo Olson
- J. Raoul Brody
- Barry "Schwump" Schwam
- Bill Dewalt
- Irene Dogmatic
- Homer Flynn
- Diane Flynn
- Tony Logan
- Dennis Sealy
- Lighting - Graeme Whifler
- Sets - The Residents
- Costumes - The Residents and Diane Flynn
- Editing - John Kennedy
- "Napoleon" Scene Set and Direction - Graeme Whifler
SoundtrackPrior to the early 21st century, no music known to originate from the Vileness Fats project had been released to fans. Whatever Happened To Vileness Fats? featured an "almost all-new" soundtrack, and the "concentrate" version on the 2001 Icky Flix DVD also featured a newly-recorded soundtrack, with the option of viewing the new edit with the relevant selections from the 1984 soundtrack. Both re-recorded versions include musical numbers from the film, including "The Importance of Evergreen", "Eloise", and "Lord It's Lonely".
A small clip of Peggy Honeydew performing "Fever" on the Vileness Fats set was briefly released on the group's website at an unconfirmed time and has since circulated among fans. A clip of N. Senada performing "Kamikaze Lady" on the nightclub set has also circulated on the Internet.
In 2015, director of the Theory of Obscurity documentary Don Hardy uploaded short outtakes from the then-recently digitized Vileness Fats film and video, including a previously unseen clip of Peggy Honeydew performing Randy Newman's "Lonely At The Top" (later to become "Lord It's Lonely").
An hour long suite titled "X Is For Xtra", thought to include a number of pieces of music intended for the score to the original version of Vileness Fats, was released in 2019 on the pREServed edition of the group's 1978 album Not Available (the final version of which is known to have incorporated elements from the discarded score).
- "Kick A Cat" - Arf & Omega
- "Mammy" - Schwump
- "The Importance of Evergreen" - Lonesome Jack and The Bell Boys
- "Eloise" - N. Senada
- "Kamikaze Lady" - N. Senada
- "Lonely At The Top" - Peggy Honeydew
- "Fever " - Peggy Honeydew
- "Mehico Ron Devoo"
- "Ho Ho Bumped His Toe"
- "Fairly Well"
- "March of the Winnebagos"
- "Slow Texture"
- "Tennessee Williams"
- "Tune of the Unknown"
- "Soundtrack Music Piece 17"
- "Mehico Ron Devoo Finale"
- "Russian Love Song"
In 1984, The Residents discovered that the state of video technology had advanced to the point where they could salvage their old 1/2" Vileness Fats footage and transfer it to VHS. With this, they created a 30 minute feature with a newly-recorded soundtrack, titled Whatever Happened to Vileness Fats?.
This version 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's mother, but touches only briefly on the Bell Boys, Lonesome Jack, and Weescoosa. As it does not include the original soundtrack, it has very little dialogue and is not overly concerned with conveying a coherent narrative.
Icky Flix (2001)
In 2001, The Residents released their retrospective multimedia project Icky Flix on DVD and CD. The DVD featuring a new 17 minute "concentrate" edit of Vileness Fats, with another newly-recorded soundtrack by the group (which was also featured on the CD). This version focuses mainly on Steve, touches only briefly on the Atomic Shopping Cart battle, and features the Bell Boys and Lonesome Jack more prominently.
Despite being the shortest version available, this is currently considered the best place to see the Vileness Fats footage, as it has been cleaned up and restored to its best quality (taking into consideration the age of the tapes.)
Outtakes and previously unseen footage were included in the documentary Theory of Obscurity: A Film About The Residents in 2015. As part of the production of the documentary, the entire video archives of The Residents, including the fourteen hours of Vileness Fats footage, were digitized in their entirety, and further short snippets of this footage was seen in promotional material for the documentary.
In 2016 it was announced that some original footage from Vileness Fats will be used by the group in a new feature film project entitled Double Trouble, to be directed by Don Hardy. The new film project focuses on Randy Junior, the son of recently-deceased lead singer of The Residents, Randy Rose. Junior discovers the footage from Vileness Fats, and as he watches it his life begins to mirror that of the protagonist Steve.
With this project, The Residents intend to create something new by re-purposing the original Vileness Fats footage around a new plot, directly related to the events of the original film. As of December 2019, the group are still trying to raise funds to begin shooting the film.
A letter from "Harve"
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
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). 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.
- Whatever Happened To Vileness Fats?
- Icky Flix
- Double Trouble
- Not Available
- X Is For Xtra
- The Ugly Grey Theater
- Vileness Fats at The Residents Historical
- Vileness Fatsat RZWeb
- Vileness Fats at Wikipedia
- Whatever Happened To Vileness Fats?at IMDb
- ↑ 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.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 Uncle Willie's Highly Opinionated Guide To The Residents