Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Funhouse is alive on Blu-Ray July 18th!

Pre-Order NOW from Arrow video!

Hey Funhouse freaks,

JR alerted me to this startling news last week, but I didn't want to steal the thunder from Joey Inside The Funhouse too soon.

After two "bare-bones" releases - the murky but finally widescreen 2001 Goodtimes disc and the cleaned-up 2004 Universal edition - The Funhouse is finally getting it's digital due on Blu-Ray this July 18th, thanks to the UK home video company Arrow Films. Of course the colors and shadows will be more vibrant than ever on the enhanced Blu conversion, but more importantly, Arrow has scrounged up more special features for this than any other Tobe Hooper movie since the original Chain Saw. I was amazed when The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 got as nice of a DVD special edition as it did, having long been considered a failure by critics and horror fans alike, but you could kind of see it coming with Bill "Chop-Top" Moseley's rediscovery in the films of Rob Zombie and the forgiving passage of time. Besides, it even did well enough on video back in the day to warrant a "Collector's Edition" VHS like it was Aliens or something. But The Funhouse? Part of the reason this blog exists is to bring more attention to an under-appreciated masterwork. Judging by the extras Arrow Films came up, you'd think it really was Aliens!

I have to wonder if The Funhouse has a better following in England than here in the States. My only theory is the fact that the film was put on the infamous Video Nasties list of banned horror films in England, which in itself was a case of mistaken identity with the grisly 1977 no-budget film The Last House On Dead Street being originally theatrically released as "The Funhouse." There's only one scene in the relatively tame 1981 Funhouse I think would catch the censor's ire - when a noose slips around Miles Chapin's neck. British censors hate hangings, it's the only violence snipped from the 1980 video nasty Human Experiments and I recall that the raucous song "The Lord Loves A-Hangin'" was banned from a Ren & Stimpy episode in the early 90s.

The fact a British company bothered to put a lot of great stuff together for a new video release is especially baffling considering that we're probably still a long ways from Eli Roth's rumored 3D remake, which is the only thing that would spike new interest in this long neglected masterpiece. Because British and American DVD / Blu releases always belong to different companies, we won't be seeing this disc on our store shelves. Fortunately Arrow advertises that the Blu is "ABC Region" meaning you can stick it in your American player.

Get a load of these extras:

- 4 panel reversible sleeve options with original and newly commissioned artwork

- Double-sided fold-out artwork poster

Arrow apparently creates original art for all their releases, which is admirable, but all the same I'm glad they give you the option of flipping to what will either be the theatrical "mouth" poster or the "Jack-in-the-box" video art. Their art is pretty cool, don't get me wrong, and I love that they incorporate the iconic Jack-in-the-box, but what's up with the girl? Being blonde she could only be interpreted as Liz, yet she's obviously wearing more revealing clothes for the sake of revealing clothes. In any case, what they came up with on their own is a nice tribute to the film in it's own right. They got the Fat Lady doll and post-mortem Richie in there, plus the arrangement of the unmasked Monster amongst other monsters creates a little ambiguity for those who haven't seen the film yet. Good color design as well.

- Collector’s booklet featuring brand new writing on the film by critic and author Kim Newman.

This is awesome. Kim Newman is a British horror novelist who dabbles in horror film criticism and manages to turn up on a lot of DVD special editions for horror and non-horror films alike. He's a smart chap; on the Batman Returns special edition he pointed out that Tim Burton's Bruce Wayne owes a lot to Citizen Kane. 

- Audio commentary with The Funhouse S/FX wizard Craig Reardon and Jeffrey Reddick (creator of The Final Destination series)

The first of a stunning 3(!) commentaries features the great Craig Reardon, who should have a lot to say. Jeffrey Reddick doesn't have anything to do with the film so he must just be a huge fan.

- Audio commentary with producer Derek Power and genre scholar Howard S. Berger

I don't know much about Derek Power but obviously as producer he'll have tons of great behind-the-scenes information. In 1979 he produced the horror film The Dark which Tobe spent a few days on before being replaced by John "Bud" Cardos, and that's probably how they knew each other. Power seems to have spent most of his post-Funhouse career in music, supervising the soundtracks of many films and working with The Police on concerts and documentaries.

Unfortunately I'm wasn't familiar with Howard S. Berger, but apparently he has a cool film blog called Destructible Man.

Incidentally - Howard Berger! Thanks for posting a comment to the blog. Sorry you felt the need to take it off, but any fan of The Funhouse is a friend of ours.

- Audio commentary with Justin Kerswell, author of ‘Teenage Wasteland’ and host of the slasher cinema website Hysteria Lives, and author Calum Waddell

You might think The Funhouse Blog is opposed to slashers because Hooper and Larry Block did such a bang-up job sending up the nascent cliches of the subgenres. I can't speak for JR, but I've been known to enjoy the occasional stylish or trashy or stylishly trashy stalk-n-slash and Hysteria Lives! is a very nice website dedicated to them. Kerswell is also a British bloke, which probably helped him get invited. Calum Waddell I'm not familiar with any more than Howard S. Berger, but he wrote a book about "Spider Baby" director Jack Hill so he must be pretty damn cool.

- Stuck in the Funhouse with director Tobe Hooper

- Carnage at the Carnival: Tobe Hooper Remembers ‘The Funhouse’

I don't know how much they paid Hooper to do his moderated commentary on Chainsaw 2, but he seems to hate commentaries. At least they got him to sit down here as Dark Sky Films did on their 2-disc Eaten Alive special edition DVD.

- Miles of Mayhem: Acting in Tobe’s Funhouse with star Miles Chapin

I wonder if he demanded his corpse be put on the cover art in exchange for the interview.

- A Trilogy of Terror: The Make-up Madness of Craig Reardon, the S/FX wizard recollects his collaborations with Tobe Hooper; ‘Eaten Alive’, ‘Poltergeist’ and ‘The Funhouse’

- Never before seen behind the scenes photographs from the collection of Craig Reardon

Who knows what Reardon will cover about The Funhouse that couldn't be covered in the commentary, but I'm more interested in what he'll have to say about Poltergeist and Eaten Alive, considering Poltergeist hasn't had a proper special edition yet and Dark Sky Films didn't have his participation on their Eaten Alive release.

- Master Class of Horror: Mick Garris, the director of Sleepwalkers and The Shining reflects on the crimson-covered career of his longtime colleague Tobe Hooper

Not much to say here, Garris is a real horror expert in addition to horror film director and truly appreciates him some Hooper. Should be good!

- Live Q&A with Tobe Hooper from San Francisco  

This may actually be a similar Q&A to the one hosted by Mick Garris at the Los Angeles screening of The Funhouse, which was transcribed here. Even if this one wasn't hosted by Garris, hopefully they cover some new stuff.

I don't think JR or I ever really thought the day would come when a special edition release of The Funhouse would come jam-packed with this much stuff. The best we thought we could hope for was a new disc with a short feature or two, maybe a single commentary track if we were lucky, and only when the Eli Roth version became a reality. That may still be a reality someday, and the silver lining is that the features would be completely different since it's two different companies. This special edition is quite a fantastic surprise and we salute Arrow Films for giving Hooper's other great classic the respect it has so long deserved.


  1. "Unfortunately I'm not familiar with Howard S. Berger, but hey, can't wait to hear his genre scholarly thoughts!"
    Some of my "scholarly thoughts" are on display at Destructible Man ( where I (and fellow Maciste Brother Kevin Marr) analyze films through their dummy-death sequences. I also co-directed the cult black comedy/horror feature ORIGINAL SINS (heavily censored in the UK) and am in post-production on my music documentary, A LIFE IN THE DEATH OF JOE MEEK. Hope this helps to demystify, Chip.:)

  2. Looks and sounds great.

    But I'm never going to buy Blu-Ray.

  3. I know how you feel, but something like this is one of the few things that could sway me. One or two more exclusive special editions for movies this dear to my heart, and I'll give in.

  4. Hey Chip -- I didn't remove the comment. You have a comment thief within your midst!

    I am indeed a fan of THE FUNHOUSE and this blog! Great place to spend time I should otherwise be using for work!

    And, I'm glad you enjoy DESTRUCTIBLE MAN -- we will be deconstructing a few of Hooper's dummy-death pieces down the 'pike (SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION, LIFEFORCE and, of course, TCM). Come on down!