Exciting news, carnival denizens - alternate and unused footage from the TV broadcast version of The Funhouse has surfaced on YouTube, uploaded by the stalwart fan "Goremeister 100" - whose YouTube channel also features the unused workprint footage from The Return of the Living Dead and lots of rare behind-the-scenes video from Tom Savini projects like Creepshow and Day of the Dead. A hardworking archivist, obviously - so a hearty tip o' the hat to him, first of all.
These extra clips were taken from a recent broadcast on the cable horror channel Chiller. It was actually somewhat common practice for horror films backed by major studios (Universal, in the case of The Funhouse) to have a little extra footage tacked on certain scenes specifically for future television broadcasts, to compensate for the time lost to censorship: pot smoking was a no-go (sorry, Richie) as were breasts or even too much display of flesh (sorry, Strip Show MC). As fans of the film know, The Funhouse isn't particularly violent, but it does have Sylvia Miles giving a handjob, so there was definitely a few extra minutes worth of extra needed to replace those missing bits.
Halloween II, another Universal horror release from 1981, has an even more elaborate alternate TV cut to compensate for a greater amount of excised sex and violence, and both these films' TV cut footage will be available next month when Shout! Factory releases their long-awaited Blu-Rays. If you haven't already, you ought to pre-order The Funhouse as I have - those free promotional posters aren't going to last forever. Shout! Factory hadn't yet announced the special features the last time I posted about this new release, so here's a quick rundown before getting into the early taste of lost treasure:
• Audio Commentary with Director Tobe Hooper, moderated by filmmaker Tim Sullivan
Unlike the extensive UK-only Arrow Blu-Ray release that came out last year, this is the sole commentary track the American release will have. The Arrow release was blessed with three(!) but at least ours will have Hooper himself at the mic. Hooper's commentaries are kind of notoriously rambling, hence the need for moderation by a young admirer - Tim Sullivan is kind of a psycho in real life from what I understand, but with him playing fanboy/straight man I'm sure the track will be better than it would have without - much like the Texas Chainsaw Part 2 commentary track with Hooper being guided along by Chainsaw documentarian and horror home video honcho David Gregory.
• The Barker Speaks! - An interview with actor Kevin Conway
Wow! Now here's the real advantage to producing special features for a film in the country of its origin. I feel bad for saying this, but I'm frankly surprised Conway is alive - apparently he's 70. This kind of compensates for Arrow getting Richie (Miles Chapin) while we don't. Unless, you know, they also had time to ask him about the making of Get Crazy.
• Something Wicked This Way Comes – An all-new interview with Executive Producer Mark L. Lester
Ahh, the great Mark L. Lester - director of the exploitation classics like Class of 1984 and Commando, unlikely executive producer of The Funhouse. I've always wondered how he became involved, and now I'll get to find out.
• Carnival Music – An interview with Composer John Beal
Sweet. John Beal's score was always one of the film's strongest assets and hearing him talk about its creation should be a delight.
• Audio Interview with actor William Finley
Seeing as how Shout! doesn't advertise this as "all-new," and Finley passed away recently this might've been recorded who-knows-how-long-ago, but no matter. A pleasant surprise.
• Deleted Scenes
• Theatrical Trailer
• TV & Radio Spots
Finally, some special feature standards round out a package which is not as hefty as the Arrow release but nonetheless a unique and much-welcome compilation for a film that's finally starting to get its due. As previously discovered on YouTube, the TV spot has some unique footage of their own which JR called "adorable."
The listing of "Deleted Scenes" got me excited as hell, and I wasn't expecting to see them surface anywhere else first - but thanks to Goremeister 100, here's at least a few - maybe it's too much to hope that there could be even more unseen stuff on the disc, considering how problematic the shooting of the film was and that Hooper probably didn't have much time for extraneous creativity. Still, there remains that mysterious lobby card of Amy touching a Texas Chainsaw style bone trinket at one of the carnival game booths...
So, about these new scenes. As JR put it when we found these scenes, some of them seem practically improvised by the actors. First, we see Buzz actually inside the Harper house, at the front door to collect Amy - unlike the theatrical cut in which he honks his car horn from outside and Amy leaves the house on her own.
Amy's dad grills Buzz about pumping gas for a living, to which Buzz glibly replies that he's considering joining the army. Amy's dad then warns him to bring Amy back by midnight - she's still his little girl. Walking to Buzz's car, he grumbles that her dad doesn't seem to like him, and Amy defends daddy by saying "he doesn't even know you." This is interesting as a reversal to the final theatrical version of the scene, which finds Amy chiding Buzz for saying her "old man" is just trying to "bum her evening" with the retort, "You don't even know my father."
Of thematic interest as an additional TV beat is Buzz noticing that Amy's parents are watching them from inside the house - honor thy mother and father, kids - and of lame expository interest is an extra news bulletin on the radio which hamfistedly states, "...The presence of the carnival brings to mind the killings that took place last year. And now back to some music." Wow, and I thought having Amy's parents mention the missing kids in Fairfield was clunky.
The most fascinating of these newly discovered TV scenes is the one which follows directly after Buzz picks Amy up: that of Joey enthusiastically reading Grimm's Hansel and Gretel to himself, specifically a passage describing the witch - which, whaddya know, happens to look EXACTLY like the Bag Lady whom Amy and Liz encounter in the bathroom tent ("God is watching you!!") and who later frightens the bejeebus out of Joey when he's creeping around the closed carnival. I have mixed feelings about the loss of this scene; on one hand it justifies the time spent on the Bag Lady scare a bit more, but on the other hand I don't think it's as thematically consistent for Joey to be a fan of Grimm fairy tales and a fan of horror films - or maybe it's too thematically consistent, too obviously tying together those traditions. A fascinating find regardless.
There's some inane stuff with Liz and Richie making small talk as they get into Buzz's car, and Buzz joking around at the carnival's ticket booth - all in order to fill time lost by not showing the gang getting stoned. The one good moment is Buzz kidding Amy by asking for "One adult and one child" as he buys her ticket.
After a few unused shots of Amy & Co. on the carnival rides (including an entirely unused moment on bumper cars) there are some redubbed lines in the "God Is Watching You" scene: Liz now says "If you play your cards right, you may not have to spend the rest of your life alone" (instead of "a virgin") to which Amy now replies, "Liz? Shut up!" instead of the baffling "Liz? Fuck up!"
There is also a slight change in the scene when Joey is threatened by the pickup truck driver: one new line ("You sure you don't want a ride?") and the addition of music where there wasn't any before (the same cue that begins when the Bag Lady appears in the bathroom tent.) I guess the TV editors figured it wasn't sufficiently creepy already for an adult to wave a shotgun in a kid's face just to scare him for laughs...
There's a juicy new morsel for fans of Marko the Magnificent - aren't we all? - a disappearing dove in a box before "The Impaler." An unseen audience member complains that the advertised finalé involved a guillotine, and stupid Buzz actually piles on and attempts to lead the audience in a chorus of Boos, the asshole. Marko brushes off the criticisms with his special brand of haggard grace, claiming "The guillotine, that piece of junk, was impounded - unfortunate accident."
A strange variation on the moment in which Madame Zena prepares to see Liz & Co. finds her counting the money instead of nipping the turk before showtime - merely to reduce the amount of onscreen alcohol consumption? - and as one would expect, the line "Don't come back or I'll break every bone in your fuckin' bodies" is sanitized to "filthy bodies" in a rather laughably obvious dub job.
Speaking of censorship, the Girl Tent scene doesn't show so much as a bare leg in the TV edit. What we get instead are new shots of previously unseen, bored-looking extras who look like they were borrowed from the film's crew. Hooray.
After an alternate shot of Amy and Buzz getting into the Funhouse cart with assistance from Frankenstein, there's a massive amount of cut footage from the carnival closing down and Joey creeping around the fairgrounds, just for the sake of time. And of course, there's some new jumping around from angle to angle inside the Funhouse itself to keep Berridge's boobs off-limits to TV audiences.
Of key interest to Funhouse aficionados is how the murder of Zena by Frankenstein is stripped of prostitution. Using longer takes from above the floorboards where Amy & Co. are hiding, Sylvia Miles is able to dub in new dialogue that excises the handjob entirely: "You can look at me now...Have you ever seen such a beautiful body?...You've seen enough...Don't touch me! It was not in the deal. Not my fault if you've...changed your mind." It doesn't make any real sense to pretend that Frankenstein was only paying to see her naked, but that's censorship for you.
The rest of the changes are too minor to mention, except for one hilarious exchange between Liz and Richie that I really wish Hooper had kept:
LIZ: "What time is it?"
RICHIE: "Five minutes after what it
was the last time you asked me."
Aaahahaha. Oh man, Richie. You really are the worst person in the entire film. It's 3:21, he goes on to say - which would literally be the only fix on what time it is at any point in the film once they get to the carnival. Neat, huh? But that would've detracted from the feeling that being inside the funhouse is being in limbo, so it all evens out.
This is an exciting time to be a fan of The Funhouse. I'll be giving the Shout! Factory disc a full review in time, but consider this a sample of the secret knowledge to finally be revealed. Maybe there'll be even more unseen footage, who knows? Check back next month for the long-awaited unmasking of Frankenstein. You will scream with terror. You will beg for release...