The Funhouse Blog: A General Statement of Principles and New Resolutions
Hello, marks. It's been a while, hasn't it?
The world of The Funhouse fandom got a big bombshell recently when the best home video company on the market today, Shout! Factory, acquired a swath of cult-horror titles from Universal Pictures including Halloween II and III, They Live, Phantasm II, Terror Train, and our beloved The Funhouse. This means a new special edition Blu-Ray and DVD release, although the special features have yet to be announced. They're apparently being produced by DVD special feature king (and oft-time guest of Deadpit.com) Michael "Slipcase" Felsher of Red Shirt Pictures, which must mean the features won't simply be imported from the jam-packed Arrow Films UK Blu-Ray release. And that's a pity - but in any case, Shout! Factory has done an incredible job in the past giving reverential treatment to beloved cult titles (their "Roger Corman's Cult Classics" collection is truly something to behold) and I have no doubt their re-release will be excellent. Here's the cover art, which along with their other horror titles was created by artist Nathan Thomas Milliner:
It's not bad - I actually prefer it to Arrow Films' cover, which revealed The Monster and seemed eager to make the film appear trashy in a way which it was not. The only real problem with this cover is that it reveals Kevin Conroy's Barker as an antagonist, which is almost a worse spoiler for first time viewers. HOWEVER, like the sublime reversible cover for Forbidden World / Mutant on the "Roger Corman's Cult Classics" label, these covers will have original poster art printed on the opposite side for we proud home video owners to enjoy. I'm hoping for the "mouth" design seen at this blog's header and not the cornier "Jack-in-the-box" design, but either way, the added expense by Shout! Factory is much appreciated.
Incidentally, are proud home video owners a thing of the past? Don't kids today think of movies as free ephemeral data?
Back to business:
The reason I conceived The Funhouse Blog was a book by Jonathan Lethem called They Live, about the film of the same title. This was the inaugural installment in a series of publications called Deep Focus, "A Novel Approach To Film," in which contemporary writers turn out paperback sized analyses of their favorite films. Moreover, these analyses are conducted in a chronological, moment-to-moment basis, with subject headings and time code accompanying each digression from the film's start to finish. They Live sucked me in as the film has remained one of my all-time favorites, and Lethem is a cultured and erudite writer with something to say about literally every moment in the film. Unfortunately, Deep Focus has yet to produce another entry in its series about a film I actually care for - I can't imagine being engrossed in painstaking chronological dissertations of Death Wish, Heathers, The Sting, The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training or Lethal Weapon, which are mostly pretty mediocre films at best. Come on, Deep Focus, you're blowing it!!
The point is, this kind of film criticism is the literary equivalent of the DVD audio commentary track and it was just around the time of reading Lethem's They Live that I started talking to my friend in Internet film criticism and Tobe Hooper fandom, JR, about The Funhouse. A blog, I thought, could be the perfect venue for a similarly thorough feature-length picking-apart of a great and (still!) overlooked masterwork by the much misunderstood and maligned Hooper.
The mistake was, in retrospect, going crazy with the God damned screen captures. This is the real reason the blog goes months without updates: not for lack of things to say about The Funhouse but the exacerbating process of taking hundreds of screen caps, choosing the best 50 or so, and then cropping and uploading them. This is no way to run a railroad. There's no reason each scene couldn't be better represented by merely a dozen or so illustrative stills - no one, I imagine, is coming to this blog to see the film in screen capture form, scene by scene. Lethem's They Live has probably less than a dozen, using time code to suffice for a guide to the viewers at home. Lethem also presumes a familiarity from the viewer with the film, which the authors of great film criticism have the luxury of when writing about recognized great films - like David Thomson's The Moment of Psycho, another stellar work about a single film which takes a "commentary track" tact in breaking down said film with literary linearity.
So here's what's next. The Funhouse Blog will be updated on the first
Thank you for staying interested - those who are still here - and if you've just discovered this website today, oh ye faithful fans of Miles Chapin, Elizabeth Berridge, Kevin Conway, Wayne Doba, Rick Baker, Sylvia Miles, Craig Reardon, William Finley, Lawrence Block, and oh yes, Tobe Hooper - you came at the right time. Because in the next chapter this Friday, Frankenstein meets Madame Zena, and shit finally gets real for those impetuous youth.
See you at the carnival...