Cults, Sects and Mind-Control

Thu Oct 20
Oddball Film + Video
8 pm
Film Screening, Movies
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Oddball Films and curator Kat Shuchter present Cults, Sects and Mind-Control, a program of vintage films, trailers, original news footage and TV specials about the extremities of beliefs that can lead to brainwashing, violence and even murder. It's October, and that means it's time to examine the darker reaches of our souls, beginning with the tenuous grasp we each have on our own self-will. This program will investigate many of the most famous, most destructive cults of the 20th century, many of whom had their roots in San Francisco. We will begin with two outrageous long-form trailers, one for the docu-drama Manson (1973) containing real footage of "The Family" and The Lash of the Penitentes (1936), a pseudo-documentary of a sect of Catholic flagellators. CBS news looks into cult brainwashing tactics in Cults: Choice or Coercion (1979). One young ex-Moonie stars as himself in a reenactment of his journey with the Unification Church until his benevolent capture and deprogramming in the super-rare TV-special Moonchild (1983). Witness an excerpt from the outrageous "documentary" Mondo Cane (1962) about a tribe of New Guineans that worship cargo planes. And for such a heavy show, we'll need a bit of comic relief, in the form of Dan Akroyd starring as the didactic preacher of the Church of Jack Lord (from Hawaii 5-O) in a segment of the underground classic Mister Mike's M*nd* Video (1979). Di$ney's Chicken Little (1943) warns of falling for sweet-talking foxes reading from Mein Kampf. From Friz Freleng comes a similar allegory: Fifth Column Mouse (1943) only with a freewheeling community of mice that become slaves to a hungry cat until they stand up and fight back with a mechanical bulldog. In De Overkant (1966), Belgian filmmaker Herman Wuyts brings us a bleak interpretation of a totalitarian society in which independence equates to death. And finally, from San Francisco's own News Outtakes, an original 1977 news broadcast of Jim Jones and members of the People's Temple after a fire was set at the temple on Geary, and original uncut footage of the 1975 capture of Patty Hearst, the poster-heiress for brain-washing and Stockholm syndrome. All films are original 16mm prints from our 50,000 title archive and most are not available to view anywhere else.

Date: Thursday, October 20th, 2016 at 8:00 pm
Venue: Oddball Films, 275 Capp Street San Francisco
Admission: $10.00 Limited Seating RSVP to [email protected] or (415) 558-8117


Manson Trailer (Color, 1973)
This long form film trailer docu-drama terrifies us with actual footage of mass murderer Charles Manson and his girl gang. Meant for rubbernecking exploitation fans and disguised as an "insight"!

The Lash of the Penitentes Trailer (B+W, 1936)
"Penitentes" were a secretive cult of Catholic religious zealots in New Mexico. During their ceremonies, they whip and lash themselves bloody until they fall into unconsciousness. In the early 1930s, documentary filmmaker Roland C. Price managed to secretly film some of their ceremonies before he was discovered and almost killed; during his escape he was shot several times and lost a finger. Several years afterward, exploitation specialist Harry J. Revier shot some new, and fictional, footage about a filmmaker trying to photograph a Penitente ceremony who gets involved in a love triangle and murder. The new footage included shocking (for the time) scenes of naked women being whipped. He combined this footage with Price's and passed the whole thing off as a documentary.

Cults: Choice or Coercion (1979, CBS)
Examines the reasons why young people are attracted to religious cults such as Reverend Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church. Includes interviews with a UC Berkeley professor, Dr. Margaret Singer, explaining cults’ recruitment techniques, one teenager who devoted two years to the Moonies, his parents, and the former Moonie who deprogramed him, in order to provide insight into the appeal of, techniques employed by, and psychological and emotional effects on cults. Near end, montage of Moonies protesting outside United States Capitol Building, fact- finding panel by Senator Robert Dole who speaks on religion. - WorldCat

Moonchild (Color, 1983)
"I've been here for a week and I never knew you guys were Moonies"?
A rare made-for-TV special. A reenactment of real life deprogrammers and ex-Moonies re-create the story of young man's journey through the Unification Church. Chris Carlson stars as himself to reveal how he unexpectedly got sucked into a cult, and it all started in San Francisco! Youth recruiting tactics and high pressure indoctrination are exposed. This film attempts to show how the effects of cult brainwashing can be reversed by simulating the painstaking process of deprogramming. Get a taste for it now with this opening clip...

De Overkant (B+W, 1966)
This Belgian short made by Herman Wuyts is a bleak and shocking look at an imaginary, but terrifying totalitarian civilization. All people are forced to walk along the walls of the street, never looking at each other or the world beyond the walls. As the hordes shuffle down the street - their hands brushing along the walls but never touching one another - one man dares to run into the middle of the street, where he is promptly gunned down. As more men give their lives for the freedom of choice, the people attempt an uprising, that is quickly and bloodily dispensed with before the masses run back to the relative safety of acquiescence.

Fifth Column Mouse (Color, 1943, Friz Freleng)
An allegory for the axis powers; this cartoon pits a hungry cat against a group of rodents. The cat tricks one of the mice that he is there to protect them as long as they appease him and serve him like a King. When his true colors are shown, the mice storm onto the battlefront in a mechanical bulldog to even the score.

Chicken Little (Color, 1943)
Another allegory for the Nazis' rise to power, this twisted fable features Foxy Loxy utilizing Hitler's own philosophies of mind control to fetch himself a feast of fowl. Originally, Foxy got his ideas from"Mein Kampf", but the studio switched the title of the book (but not the content) to read "Psychology".

Mondo Cane Excerpt (Color, 1962)
An outrageous excerpt from the first Mondo Cane film that became a cult sensation, documenting strange rituals around the world. The most (in)famous sequence- Cargo Cults- primitive tribes that worshipped airplanes as gods.

Mister Mike's M*nd* Video(Color 1979, Excerpt)
Dan Akroyd stars as the blustery preacher of the church of Jack Lord (from Hawaii 5-O) at the "Mainland Temple of the Perfect Wave" in a bit from this underground classic. Conceived by SNL writer Michael O'Donohue as a spoof on 1960's shock documentaries and intended to air on television, it was deemed too over-the-top and offensive by network executives. Eventually released as a short feature film where it became a midnight-movie staple, the origin of this print is a mystery and contains slugs for commercials. Could this be the original program intended for late night TV in 1979?

People's Temple San Francisco Footage (B+W, 1960s)
See ultra-rare news footage of San Francisco-era Jim Jones and the People's Temple shortly after their church had been set fire to. They protest with signs and Jim asserts that they are being persecuted for their fervent beliefs. Now with audible sound!

Patty Hearst and the SLA (Color, 1975)
A rare piece of San Francisco's historical dark-side! Original news footage of the local capture of Patty Hearst and the surviving members of the Symbionese Liberation Army, a group of radical militants that kidnapped the young heiress. Hearst was subjected to mind-control tactics like locking her in a closet for nearly 2 months until she began to side with her captors, even falling in love with one of them. Patty and the SLA robbed a San Francisco bank at gunpoint, and she was later apprehended and convicted (though later presidentially pardoned).

Curator’s Biography

Kat Shuchter is a graduate of UC Berkeley in Film Studies. She is a filmmaker, artist and esoteric film hoarder. She has helped program shows at the PFA, The Nuart and Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theater and was crowned “Found Footage Queen” of Los Angeles, 2009. She has programmed over 250 shows at Oddball on everything from puberty primers to experimental animation.

About Oddball Films

Oddball Films is a stock footage company providing offbeat and unusual film footage for feature films like The Nice Guys and Milk, documentaries like The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, Silicon Valley, Kurt Cobain: The Montage of Heck, television programs like Transparent and Mythbusters, clips for Boing Boing and web projects around the world.

Our screenings are almost exclusively drawn from our collection of over 50,000 16mm prints of animation, commercials, educational films, feature films, movie trailers, medical, industrial military, news out-takes and every genre in between. We’re actively working to present rarely screened genres of cinema as well as avant-garde and ethno-cultural documentaries, which expand the boundaries of cinema. Oddball Films is the largest film archive in Northern California and one of the most unusual private collections in the US. We invite you to join us in our weekly offerings of offbeat cinema.


  1. Oddball Film + Video
    275 Capp Street, San Francisco, CA