Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Secret Life of Plants—Out of the Vaults!

The Secret Life of Plants (1979)
Netflix Instant has started featuring many films that have not been available for decades because of wacky legal hoo-ha-ness, like biker flick The Glory Stompers, or Ken Russell’s The Music Lovers, or Elia Kazan’s The Visitors.

Case in point—earlier this week I literally stumbled over The Secret Life of Plants.
It’s not just a Stevie Wonder album!

The Secret Life of Plants, directed by Walon Green with music by Stevie Wonder, and ace microscopic plant cinematography by expert cameraman Ken Middleham.

Middleham was responsible for bug photography duties for Green’s previous—and Oscar-winning—faux-ish documentary The Hellstrom Chronicle
as well as the insect photography in Saul Bass’ Phase IV and William Castle’s Bug!

Walon Green is also the co-screenwriter of The Wild Bunch, screenwriter of Friedkin’s Sorcerer and Robocop 2 (both of those flicks I like), and more lately producer/writer for the Law & Order: Criminal Intent TV franchise.

According to Wikipoopia, Green
“is also notable for allowing a centipede to crawl over his face in the tunnel scene of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.”

However, The Secret Life of Plants is three (or more) movies in one—but very poorly bolted together, in an almost haphazard fashion, with no real discernable style providing a through-line.

It’s like a movie made FOR stoners, BY stoners—showing incredible flashes of genius occasionally, with drawn-out moments of mediocrity.
(Just like only right-winger like Nixon could open up China, only a straight-edge dude like Big Stan K. could come up with something as trippy as 2001.)

Here we’ve got:

Stevie Wonder is rowing a boat across a lake!

Bad actors are reenacting Russian science experiments chopping cabbage!

Exquisite time-lapse photography shows you a forest of grass churning the ground and sprouting in seconds!

Wide-angle lens aerial stock footage zooming over the desert canyons!

Hindus bathing in the Ganges!

Brilliant microscopic photography follows a fly through a minefield of Venus flytraps! (A genuinely suspenseful moment!)

A man hooks a plant to a lie detector and kills some brine shrimp!

Stevie Wonder sings about the indignities George Washington Carver suffered—while B&W photos of the scientist and inventor are flashed over “sing-along” style subtitled lyrics, all done in a very “Ye Olde Timee” font! (Yeah, I know: Huh?!?)

The Secret Life of Plants is an unholy mess (no wonder—no pun intended—this flick hasn’t been seen in YEARS!)—
As such, it absolutely needs to be seen, if anything for the time-lapsed plant growth footage.

(And it does have an awesome Stevie Wonder soundtrack, with some help from George Harrison and others.)


  1. Love the plant theme and the whole chlorophyl vibe brother. I'm not sure how those black bunnies figure into the mix, but I thank you.

    The killer bunny to the far left is the best. Granted, maybe plants and fertilizer and fertility and bunnies doing what they do comes into play here. It's a stretch but I'm pulling it together.

  2. After careful examination, and profound reflection, I would say the third girl from the right looks like she would rip it up in the sack. Yes, she's great. Very hot.

    But then, the SECOND girl from the right seems out of place, like she's actually a really cool chick that shouldn't even be in this bimbo line-up. I could see hangin' out with her, and strolling through a park, gazing at a babbling brook, and then going to a bar. sigh.

    Damn, life is full of confusing situations...

  3. i meant, OUR right. THEIR left.

  4. I just love how y'all are focusing on this one photo! Which, I'll admit, has quite an allure on us... Rodine, while I would enjoy the company of all these fine bunnies, I have to side with the Sci-Fi Fanatic: there's something about the tall, blonde bunny all the way on the left (our left, the bunnies' right). Maybe she's got magical powers or something...

  5. A quick query (undoubtedly in the wrong place, but what the hell): do you know how to get in contact with either Walon Green or the film's producer, Michael Braun? Please let me know (