If you're more of a film buff than a Trekkie (or if the hard-core comic-book crowd makes you a little queasy), you can get your fill of fantasy flicks in the varsity leagues rather than among the maladjusted at Dead Channels: the San Francisco Festival of Fantastic Film
. The festival features a motley assortment of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and experimental film -- everything from matinee-friendly B movies rife with cheeky homages to alien invasions to art-house whimsy for filmaniacs who like their exotica sans the kitsch. Polished jewels include director Mark Robson's Happy Birthday, Wanda June
, based on the novel by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. The obscure 1971 classic, which was until recently buried in the annals of Sony Pictures flops, stars Rod Steiger as an explorer who shows up on his wife's doorstep after having vanished into the Amazon eight years before. Her world of normalcy is shattered by A-bomb-wielding subordinates and games of cosmic Russian roulette. Big Bang Love, Juvenile A
, the latest from Japanese director Takashi Miike, is another festival highlight, and is sort of the opposite of Vonnegut's kooky badinage. Miike, with his surreal, gruesome fusion of yakuza violence and Freudian sexuality, drop-kicks the conventional cinematic ruses in this movie, which is part cosmic metaphor, part love story, and part prison-break fable. Miike's meticulous attention to mood and detail make seeing his films tantamount to watching a psychic surgery. Dead Channels' selections prove that unclassifiable doesn't automatically mean unwatchable.
The festival starts today with The World Sinks (Except Japan) at 2:30 p.m.