Sunday, September 18, 2011

What Lurks Within THE FUNHOUSE: Fango for Dummies Issue #11

It's time to prime your pump for our holiday of choice. That would be Halloween. What better way to do so than with a retrospective of a magazine that features one of the movies that graces our TV screens during the month of October, Tobe Hooper's Funhouse. Granted they cut the living shit out of it which has me boob-hungry and blood thirsty, but a little bit o' Fango between friends will get us through until we can purchase the Arrow Video version of that fine picture. It's a great cover featuring THE MONSTER, and what a great monster he is. Let's get behind the cover... Rob Bottin awaits as does a certain Canadian slasher film that was remade in recent memory with the aid of a third dimension.

This issue looks like a who's who of effects men. Some Dick Smith, Bottin, Rick Baker and of course a wee bit of the man they call Savini. Before we get to all that I find that the best way to identify with the horror fan of the past is through the Fango Postal Zone. This issue features a top ten list of best/worst movies of 1980. I think you'll enjoy seeing where we've come. What they valued then and what we've taken from this pivotal year. My personal favorite one that made the cut, The Children. It's low budget can only be matched but its perfect camp to kill to laugh ratio. Fear your children, teach them well and let them lead the way... to your doom! PJ Soles gets a nod by a fan who says she doesn't get the proper credit in the movie Halloween. I concur and say doubly so for her topless scene. Yes, I am that old and pubescent. It's congenital. Also, Gene Siskel was a Romero fan? There's hope for him yet. You may recall that we have previously attacked Mr. Siskel in the after life with a "letter writing campaign". Feel free to continue writing. Couldn't hurt right? One last note, someone mentioned meeting Rory Calhoun after reading the Motel Hell entry. I have often felt a strange desire to eat jerky with Farmer Vincent although I will never have the opportunity. Guess I'll chew a bit off and spit it on the ground for one of the greats and say I wish I could have met him as well.

There's a great combination article with Stephen Lack of Scanners fame alongside the special effects wizard who created the beloved head explosion. Lack discusses the precise calibration of several of the effects to meet MPAA standards to avoid an X rating. Some things never change. Tom Schwartz, who assisted on Terror Train, discusses some of the advances in effects make up including the use of gelatin to give Scanners that extra splatter. The most important piece of info you can gain from this article is the explanation of the brain blowing effect:

"We apply a substance called alginade to an actor's face to get an impression for a plast castig. Alginade is used by dentists to make dental impressions; it is very cold to the touch and hardens in just three minutes. Then we make a plast mold castin and melt clay into the mold, for easy sculpting. A silicone rubber positive mold is made with a plaster backing for rigid flexibility. Industrial gelatin is heated an poured in the mold."

I want you to think about that piece long and hard indy filmmakers. How can you use that to top the Scanners effect even with today's highly advanced effects (we call them CGI). Get splattering! That's a challenge.

After brief stint with the sword and shield film, Excalibur, Fango goes straight into the stuff that my readers real groove on. Interview with American International maverick Charles Griffith, writer for AIP's classics including Little Shop of Horrors and A Bucket of Blood... ya we'll take that. Griffith is the guy responsible for directing the crabs in Attack of the Crab Monsters. This is genius that only marionette puppeteer's can understand fully. This is a must read for the fan of the atom age monster movies.

Funhouse. As a kid my dad wouldn't let me see this one. He said there were things in that I shouldn't be seeing at such a young age. I've written an ode to my pop's that goes into details on that found on this very blog, but this movie is a creep out that plays on our deepest fear. What happens when you're having fun at a place designed to have fun and suddenly fun turns to death. As a kid, I remember hearing stories about a traveling carnival that came to my home town of Long Valley, NJ. Some kid got too close to the a wild cat's cage and was mauled to death effectively ending the yearly carnival near my home. I wonder if Funhouse would have scared me more with a memory of a traveling carnival in my past, but alas, no such memory exists. The article features some commentary on the effects work for Funhouse although nothing of note save some commentary on the budget and a remark that suggests that Hooper's Salems Lot is superior to Kubrick's The Shining due to truth in the adaptation of Hooper's work.

Rob Bottin, another effects wizard, is featured in the next article. The subject matter, The Howling. In my opinion a better werewolf picture has not been produced before or since. Yes, I love American Werewolf in London and the classics. This film's transformation sequence is what does it for me. It's Bottin's finest hour although I'd say he has quite a few finest hours. Per the article:

"The "Werewolf Transformation" - even in the best instances - has been one of the most familiar cliches of fantasy film; you know, knuckles sprouting hair, the blossoming pompadour hair-d0, fuzzy face and the whole bit. Everybody knows what to expect, and perhaps that's one reason why there's been so few werewolf films over the last 20 years. With the Howling all is changed."

So Rick Baker has to turn down The Howling due to a scheduling conflict and Bottin changes the werewolf film forever. Dante talks about how they shot a bunch of excellent stop motion werewolf footage, but it didn't line up well with the actual werewolf effects. They didn't want to use live animals because their too darn difficult (hello, can someone say Wolfen). There's a discussion at the end of this article about Dick Smith telling Rick Baker that he was far more advanced an effects artists when he was the same age as Baker and Baker in turn also casting praise at Bottin... but then he seems to challenge Bottin to a werewolf duel. Stay tuned to see how that turns out. Remember Stan Winston's on the prowl too. This is sort of a wizards duel of special effects.

There's a brief interlude where the Omen III claims its not a horror film. That's just poor marketing if ever I've seen it. Follow that up with the continuation of an interview with the great Jimmy Sangster. This is a continuation of a previous interview and discusses Hammer's TV efforts and the Night Stalker. This if followed by a must read for any aspiring horror filmmaker, a bio article on Terence Fisher and Hammer.

Terence Fisher is the reason that Hammer becomes synonymous with Horror. His work on Curse of Frankenstein and Horror of Dracula got Warner Bros interested in a partisanship with Hammer and the rest is history. The most important thing I take away form this is that Fisher is in his mid-40's by the time he gets his big break as a director and changes horror cinema. Apparently there was a rumor that Hammer made three version of Horror of Dracula: "a mild one for Britain, stronger one for America and a really bloody one for Japan". Fisher denies it patently, although its pretty much the norm in future studios closet of tricks to boost sales. The article says that it is commonly agreed that the Devil Rides Out (the Devil's Bride in the US)is seen as Fisher's (and Hammer's)best work. I urge you to see it if you have not. It is well worth the watch, subtle and a commanding performance by Christopher Lee.

Check out the trailer:

A classic film exploration section written by Alex Gordon follows with questions about Motel Hell and Plan 9 from Outer Space. He also walks through some history behind Laemmle's The Cat and the Canary. This is immeidatly followed by a look at the Jean Cocteau vision of Beauty and the Beast. I find little horror value in this one other than some conversation about the influence on Cocteau's work by Jekyll and Hyde. It's either a true film historian at work or somebody's film turn paper turned magazine article.

The next piece is an onset account of the making of Fear No Evil. Shot in Rochester, NY, this piece details on some of the special effects creation as well as some of the finer points of tearing apart a house for the sake of film. With so many iconic demon films about to possess the 1980's this one definitely has a few cliche setting moments. It's one of the VHS movies that my mom and pop video store stocked on the shelf when I was a kid that I really wasn't allowed to rent, but then went into obscurity for me until recently. It's not quite got the fame of Demons (like not at all as famous as Demons), but you might notice some images that feel the same. now for a trip across Lake Ontario to Canada to Valentine Bluffs.

My Bloody Valentine has the distinction of being sensored way too much for such a classic slasher picture. It's imagery and gore pushed the bar, and that's only the parts the MPAA didn't make George Mihalka cut.The great part about reading this article is that no one knows that the film will be come a censorship extravaganza. The article is touting this movie as the next thing in realistic gore picture (calling it gorror), but that "isn't too graphic". Well, it's too graphic for the association of idiots down at the MPAA, gets itself cut and still manages to inspire generations of movie goers to gross out levels. I urge you to watch this movie with every deleted scene you can find and where a button that says, My Bloody Valentine Will Outlast the MPAA! I'm bitter, ya?

As we get close to the end of this issue of Fango it's important to note some of the film's that are coming out. Kain of Dark Planet, The Incredible Shrinking Woman, Piranha 2, Dark Crystal, The Sword, Nightmare Weekend... all good. The most relevent piece of info to current events... There was supposed to be an "ultimate anthology" film that would have films by Cronenberg, Walter Hill and John Carpenter. This idea is scrapped. Why? Because Carpenter couldn't commit due to the rumor of a remake of THE THING! Well it's about twenty years later and we've got a new Thing prequel on the way. It's fitting. We thank John Carpenter as horror fans every day for his remake. Good decision. Better to not get involved with that body horror lovin' Cronenberg.

So with the rumor mill turning in Fango #11, we dummies have a better handle on what might be in store for the early 80's Effects Masters will do battle. The lines of morality will be drawn quickly and then shifted lines maps in a war room. John Carpenter will continue to revise horror and gore will reign supreme.

You know, I write these brief synopsis for a few reasons, but the most important is to get your ghoulies to get out there and buy 'em. From Fango if they have any of them (given the warehouse debacle) or from any private collector. There's way too much to cover in one silly blog and these interviews are gold. Please explore these magazines and treat them like mini text books. With horror literature focusing on popular horror and a minutia of specific subgenre's you'll need these articles to bolster your understanding of where we've been and how to conquer the next generation of gore hounds. We were all little gore pups at some point.

-Dr. Terror

You won't find all Fangos Back Issues here due to the fire, but try to support them. Even the big guy in horror publishing needs to make some bread. FANOGRIA BACK ISSUES

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