“Arise! The SubGenius Movie”: The return of Night Flight’s “Love That “Bob”” episodes!

By on January 12, 2018

Arise! The SubGenius Movie — now streaming on Night Flight Plus! — tells the story of beloved founder J. R. “Bob” Dobbs and his Church of the SubGenius, an adults-only discordia-influenced “religion” ideally meant for those who “slack.”

Arise! is a mind-melting 86-minute collage of clips created for the sole purpose of attracting and indoctrinating new believers into the Church’s semi-spiritual slacker belief system.

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All images here are ©The Church of the SubGenius

We asked the Rev. Ivan Stang — who today serves as the Church’s high-profile leader and publicist — to tell us, in his own words, about Arise!:

The Church of the SubGenius recruitment movie, Arise!, was written and edited to work as a documentary feature film, or as twenty separate stand-alone two-to-ten-minute excerpts.

Night Flight ever-so-wisely used those modular excerpts as recurring episodes of “Love That “Bob”.” (Notice the important, if awkward, quote marks on the sacred name “Bob”! That’s part of the religion.)

The movie was originally assembled, much like the Frankenstein monster, from parts of dead movies, then brought to life in unholy rituals involving editing 3/4-inch Umatic cassette format video on spare equipment in basements on loan from nightclubs and art collectives.

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Arise! was instigated around 1984 by Rev. Cordt Holland, who had access to editing equipment in San Francisco, was written by Rev. Ivan Stang on a plane flight from Dallas to San Francisco, and was narrated by Dr. Hal Robins the same week.

Rev. Stang established the overall outline and structure of narration vs. existing SubGenius event footage and graphics, and Rev. Cordt Holland “filled in the blanks” with painstakingly-selected clips from found films, public domain industrial films, and obscure great/bad film monster movies and religious documentaries.

Editing went on for several years, on and off, until a definitive 1-inch master was delivered to Polygram Video, who sold 800 VHS copies to Sound Warehouse for rental to the public; however, Sound Warehouse was bought by Blockbuster, who (being a faith-based company) returned the 800 blasphemous VHS copies of Arise! to Polygram.

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It was a study in something — the ability of a true underground movie to stay underground, perhaps. In 2005, Rev. Stang converted the 1-inch master to DV format and added some newer CG animation and a few glimpses of the greatly aged SubGenius preachers.

The one thing we would change now is the PO Box of the Church, which has changed to Box 807, Glen Rose, Texas 76043.

The face of “Bob” and the word SubGenius are trademarks and can only be used with permission. Praise “Bob.”

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Read more about the Church of the SubGenius and Arise! The SubGenius Movie below.

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Hey! Do you have a Night Flight Plus subscription?

We’re offering up original uncut air masters of Night Flight programming from the video vaults of the 1980s TV show, as well as provocative new selections from the world of music, documentaries, animation, cult films and more. Sign up today!

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The Church of the SubGenius has been around since 1953, when its fatherly-looking figurehead, J.R. “Bob” Dobbs — a smiling pipe-clutching dad-dude who looked suspiciously like a Ward Cleaver-ish bit of clip-art — was first approached by the alien rebel-god, Jehovah-1, or J1.

JI bestowed upon “Bob” certain supernatural powers, namely the abilities to time-travel and to see the past and the future, and he was originally supposed to use his powers to brainwash earthlings into working for a living.

Instead — after first learning of the existence of Yetis during a trip to Tibet and how they were connected, genetically, to a “sub-race” of humans — Dobbs formed the Church of the SubGenius, later described as “the most aggressively preposterous theology the world has ever known!”

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In late 1979, Dobbs “recruited” two young Texans –“Dr. Philo Drummond” (Steve Wilcox) and “Reverend Ivan Stang” (Douglass St. Clair Smith) — to create a photocopied document, called Pamphlet #1, which they disseminated in and around Dallas, TX.

Pamphlet #1 was used to educate the masses and to spread its gospel of “Slack” (essentially the idea that the world is a sham, a long con, and rather than contribute to the grand American dream of commercial success, we should all, in essence, “slack off”).

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Drummond and Stang were assisted early on by cartoonist Robert Crumb, who reprinted Pamphlet #1 in the first issue of his comic Weirdo.

Soon new followers were helping spread the “Word” around the world, including celebrity endorsers like David Byrne, Mark Mothersbaugh (who did the music for SubG-MTV,” a commercial for MTV’s “Art Minute”), Paul Reubens (“Pee-Wee Herman”), Ken Kesey, Frank Zappa, Mojo Nixon, and filmmakers Jonathan Demme, Richard Linklater and Alex Cox, the director of the very SubGenius-y cult hit Repo Man.

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Eventually, there was a book, The Book of the SubGenius: The Sacred Teachings of J.R. “Bob” Dobbs (ultimately there were five published books), fanzines, newsletters, cassette tape releases, posters, comics, and at least three weekly radio shows broadcast in three different towns (including the long-running “The Puzzling Evidence Show” in Berkeley, CA).

There was also an MTV special, an “Hour of Slack” podcast, and over the past several decades there have been numerous websites, and various social medias and Facebook groups all perpetuating the word of “Bob.”

More recently, a documentary film, Slacking Towards Bethlehem, is being assembled by director/producer Sandy K. Boone. You can read more about that here.

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Central to the Church’s success in the ’80s, however, was this 1988 VHS release, Arise!, which Film Threat called “One of the 10 Must-Have Underground Videos.”

Arise! has been updated with new computer animation sequences, better copies of old footage, and the addition of some modern devival and doktorband clips.

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Night Flight are also pleased to be able to share several SubGenius shorts, including The Ballad of “Bob”; Adventures in Teen Life; Day of the SubGenius,

There’s also Reproduction Cycle Among Lower Life Forms Under the Rocks of Mars, an award-winning claymation film and big hit at film festivals that Rev. Stang and Dr. Drummond did in 1978.

Watch Arise! The SubGenius Movie and assorted shorts at Night Flight Plus!

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.