A young man's struggle with sexuality overtakes his life, driving him deep into his subconscious where guilt and fears of physicality chase him still further. Cornered by an intangible terror, he realizes he must either break out or break down.
Pop artist Red Grooms stars as the titular Wendel Samson, who, confusedly frightened by every form of sex presented, first runs away from his boyfriend into the arms (and beds) of other admirers, male and female. Drifting, he is unfeeling toward his random male companions and unable to seal the deal with the ladies; a loveless lover. The psychological torment manifests itself as a dreamy witch-hunt in the sci-fi infused finale, when Samson's secret—and its real power—is revealed.
Directed by one half of the underground filmmaking legends the Kuchar brothers (Mike—the other, George, appears as a ray-gun wielding assailant), The Secret of Wendel Samson is one of the twins' more narrative and dialogue driven films, even if that dialogue was dubbed in later, intentionally sloppily. Growing up, the brothers watched hours of movies and television—anything that was on—and their films reflect the equal influence of heady melodrama and high camp. Making movies on the rooftop of their Bronx apartment, the brothers honed a homemade aesthetic, using friends or themselves as actors and audio recorded from B movies on TV. The two began to enter their films into shows at the same New York City art house theaters where Andy Warhol and Jack Smith were showing their acclaimed works. Famed critic Jonas Mekas took notice of the twins' self-deprecating hometown attempts at Hollywood glamor, recognizing their talent and distinctive style as the marks of creative geniuses. Mekas wrote adoringly about their work, providing the unknowns entry into the underground cinema circuit.
Living together in relative obscurity, the two are responsible for hundreds of full-length and short films produced in cooperation or as individual projects. Their high art/low art juxtapositions have been an admitted influence on the trash master John Waters and other well known directors, even if their names go somewhat unknown. Though an early work with laughable production values, The Secret of Wendel Samson is indicative of their characteristic style and humor, and, like the rest of their output, evinces a singular passion which has sustained them throughout decades of middling success: their overwhelming love for their art.