Tuesday, June 6, 2023

More Media Funhouse full episodes on the Net, free!

The Funhouse TV show will celebrate its 30th anniversary on Sept. 30 of this year. Besides making me feel incredibly old, the fact that I’m still doing the Funhouse after all this time does make me proud. I’m proud that I’ve kept the show going despite obstacles too numerous to mention, proud that I’ve gotten to cover a broad spectrum of both high art and low trash (something you can’t do in mainstream media — it’s one or the other, and neither makes $), and proud that I’ve been able to share it all with the Manhattan cable viewers of the show, those who read the associated writing I’ve done (both on this blog and in my DVD/BD reviews), and those who watch the show virtually on the MNN stream each late Saturday night. 

So, I felt it was time to put a few more shows up online in their entirety. This can’t be done on YouTube, which arbitrarily enforces copyright, bashes to death the notion of “fair use” and critical context, and deals harshly with those who ain’t payin’ them. As for popular categories of “fair use” YT vids, I never wanted to talk through or “shrink” into a tiny box the clips I show on the program; I don’t think me “reacting” to things is interesting — I introduce the material and then let ’er rip! 

This time it’s a quartet of recently produced shows, two of which fit snugly into the “high art” category, one of which is surely “low trash,” and a fourth that is simply a great Golden Age film that deserves a bigger audience. 

The last-mentioned is the first show I posted. On this episode, I discuss and show clips from the 1937 British thriller Love from a Stranger. I will readily admit that the reason I encountered this particular thriller (which I hadn’t heard of until recently) was because I had finally obtained the long out-of-print (and often wildly overpriced) book The Wild Wild World of the Cramps by Ian Johnston. 

In the book, which supposedly the Cramps were not fond of (a shame, because it’s the best of the two books written about them and is quite reverent and informative), there is a section from an interview in which the late lamented Lux Interior provides a list of films he really loves. The Cramps’ deep love for both Russ Meyer and Herschell Gordon Lewis was mentioned in many of their interviews (and they sang theme songs from films by both men), but this longer list was interesting, in that it mostly seemed to have items that were put out by two public domain video labels of the time. 

Thus, it seemed to me to be a list of Lux’s recent purchases — many of the movies were just standard-issue horror and juvenile delinquent flicks. The list, started out, though, with the masterwork of frenzy that is The World’s Greatest Sinner by Timothy Carey. 

Lux also included Love from a Stranger in his list. Here is the entry: 

“Lux: It’s a great old movie and stars Basil Rathbone as a serial killer. 

Ivy: He plays a psychotic! 

Lux: Basil Rathbone in his most demanding performance (laughs) and I ain’t kidding. He starts off as being really suave, sweeps this girl off her feet and tells her he’s rich. As the movie goes on he becomes more and more nutty and in the last half hour of the film she realizes the man she’s married to is a full-blown psychotic. She’s alone with him in this house in the middle of nowhere and he plans to kill her. He becomes more disheveled throughout. They’ll be sitting eating dinner and he’ll suddenly turn round to her and say, ‘WHY ARE YOU LOOKING AT ME LIKE THAT!’ He shovels tons of food into his mouth and it all starts dribbling down his chin and then he burps, loudly… this is Basil Rathbone! He turns into a monster. 

Ivy: He just turns into a monster without make-up. The performances are excellent.” 

The only things I can add to this lively description is that the film was scripted by the leading woman screenwriter of the time, Frances Marion (who wrote Dinner at Eight), and was based on a short story by Agatha Christie. It does have some really good twists and turns, and does feature a truly manic turn by the future Sherlock Holmes (aka Wolf von Frankenstein). 


Another title mentioned in a different list of movies recommended by Senor Interior (in the 1986 tour booklet that contained list of faves from all four members of the band) is Confessions of a Psycho Cat (1968). This film was part of a major rediscovery (thanks to the great producer Dave Friedman letting one mail-order firm know about a trove of 16mm copies of pretty much forgotten titles) of sexploitation titles, and it is well worth a look. Lux liked it SO much that he wrote a song with the same title

The 9,000th version of the “Most Dangerous Game” scenario (in which humans are the prey that is hunted, not animals), this one features an insane female hunter pursuing three down-and-out figures on the streets of NYC: a washed-up actor, a junkie beatnik, and a former wrestling “champeen,” played by none other than Da Bull himself, Jake LaMotta (who really trades on that nickname here, being killed in a mock bullfight by the hunter, dressed to the nines in a torera outfit). It’s a quite amazingly nuts film and worthy of a full Funhouse episode. 


Time to flip the equation and move to the “high art” side of the film world. This is represented by a pair of episodes paying tribute to one of the biggest heroes in the Funhouse, namely Uncle Jean, aka Jean-Luc Godard. After his death, I knew I would have to look long and hard through his work and assemble a series of episodes paying tribute to his work, era by era. So far, I’ve assembled and aired two of these shows, and one episode discussing and excerpting scenes from A Vendredi Robinson, the 2022 Mitra Farahani film that offers us a last sustained look at JLG in his natural habitat (filmed in 2014-15 before he was gravely affected by a neurological condition). 

The first show covers the first six years of his most famous period, the Sixties, from 1960 to ’65. I discuss a few of the tenets of his work, display a few of the many magazines and books devoted to him, and then show scenes from nine of his first 10 features. (Including some that are truly iconic — and ripped off to no end — and some that show off specific aspects of his work.)


The second episode completes the overview of Godard Sixties features. (I’ll approach the anthology contributions, shorts, and the missing ’60s feature in a future episode.) Here I open with some more books/magazines and an anecdote illustrating what it was like seeing Godard’s most obscure work in a certain Manhattan museum.

From that point I move on to the period in his work that opened the way for an incredible amount of radically unusual films in the late Sixties/early Seventies. We move from his last classically “New Wave” film (MASCULIN FEMININ) to his post-“end of cinema” features in 1968. 


I plan to only put up a select few episodes online. (There have been over a thousand new shows in the 30 years we’ve been on the air.) The only way to see the show regularly for those outside of Manhattan is to catch it late Sat/early Sunday at 1:00 a.m. EST on the MNN stream on Ch. 3, the “Spirit Channel.”

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