Whenever someone bemoans the death of the American dollar, I usually point them in the direction of the nearest Rite-Aid. Lurking within those endless aisles of extreme daily megavitamins and extra large incontinence pads for the morbidly obese is a surprisingly eclectic collection of motion pictures priced for next to nothing. Some of them are good, some of them are bad, and some of them make you wish you'd been born blind, deaf, and impossibly dumb. However, occasionally you'll get lucky and stumble across a film that magically changes the course of your pathetic life, alters the fabric of your being, rescuing you from an existence coated with sticky suburban mediocrity.
For a couple of sweaty dollars and a few kind words to the gangly clerk with the foggy glass eye, I was able to procure a copy of Simon Sprackling's deliriously enjoyable 1994 horror/comedy "Funny Man", a movie that ranks with "Ice Cream Man" and "Skinned Deep" as one of my all-time favorite unintentionally hilarious genre pictures. It has a mildly annoying theme song, plenty of corny jokes, a cross-dressing jester, a liberal amount of dodgy gore -- all of the ingredients necessary for undiluted cinematic bliss. Needless to say, I would have gladly paid much more for this one-of-a-kind experience, though I'm not going to public poop on the deal I was given. Gift horses and me are tight like that.
After winning the keys to a spacious mansion from a very curious fellow (Christopher Lee) during a high-stakes poker game, an obnoxious music producer, his highly obnoxious wife, and his two obnoxious children say goodbye to their hectic city lives and reluctantly relocate to their new abode. What this grossly dysfunctional family doesn't know, of course, is that the mansion comes equipped with a peculiar house guest: a deranged, hideously deformed court jester with an affinity for horrible puns, silly songs, and demented, Monty Python-style violence. As such, it doesn't take long for things to get incredibly messy and sublimely surreal. Which is a good thing, I suppose, as there's really no story to speak of.
In fact, to keep the movie going once the producer and his brood have been effortlessly dispatched, writer/director Simon Sprackling delivers a dingy van full of colorful characters directly into the lap of the titular villain, allowing the picture to haphazardly flourish for a proper 90 minutes. The kills are nothing special, and often consist of a joke, a few screams, and a splash of gore; it's pretty elementary stuff, to be sure, and it's certainly more fun than this shoddy little review makes it sound. However, if you find that tiny voice in the back of your mind screaming like a whipped mule whenever any of the "Leprechaun" films are within earshot, "Funny Man" isn't going to jive with your cinematic sensibilities. Stop right now and get some sun.
The only thing separating this admittedly bizarre entry in the "wise-cracking monster" genre from all the other lotions in the basket is Sprackling's penchant for freaky funhouse visuals and Tim Armstrong's deadpan portrayal of the picture's quick-witted jester. Without Armstrong, the film would have been a dud, a complete wash, doomed to live in the dank, dark shadows of its like-minded kinsman. After all, a motion picture centered around the sadistic deeds of a murderous jester isn't in itself particularly entertaining. But let's not get ours wires crossed -- "Funny Man" is a pretty wretched affair regardless of how you slice and serve it. I may love the little rascal more than marmalade, but I well aware that it's loaded with problems.
Before blindly rushing to your favorite locally-owned cult video shop, a thoughtful consumer warning: Subversive Cinema's release of "Funny Man" is the only way to roll. Not only is the film presented uncut and unmolested, the disc also contains a slew of extras you won't find anywhere else. Sadly, both editions appear to be out-of-print, so you might want to think strongly about snagging a copy before it disappears forever. I've always wanted to say something like that.
Before I die, I fully intend to watch Sprackling's "Funny Man", William Lustig's "Uncle Sam", and Michael Cooney's immortal classic "Jack Frost" back-to-back in my underwear during a thunderstorm. The deadly combination of killer snowmen, homicidal national icons, and deranged court jesters may result in irreversible spinal disfigurement, but the sheer pleasure will be well worth the years of social and physical torment I will have to suffer. If illogical plotting, weird characters, and an unstoppable monster with a propensity towards cornball theatrics sounds like fun, open your hearts (and your wallets) to the wonders of "Funny Man".