Review: Impossibly Funky: A Cashiers du Cinemart Collection, edited by Mike White

Cashiers du Cinemart was my favorite magazine during its existence, and I devoured every issue I could get my hands on. Its pretension-bursting title was clever enough, but its contents were the real reward–each issue was packed cover-to-cover with a wild array of film-geek topics that for the most part lined up quite nicely with my interests, and were fascinating anyway when they did not. So this greatest-hits compilation, with some updates and new material, is a cause for celebration. You may have a hard time tracking down back issues, but for a measly $20 plus shipping, you can buy the the biggest and baddest issue of any indie film mag ever published, a whopping 375 pages of geeky goodness.

There is so much here that even if certain topics are of no interest to you whatsoever (although editor Mike White and his crack staff of writers were great at making you interested), you will still get your money’s worth. The several crime-fiction related pieces alone are worth the price of admission.

Since this is The Violent World of Parker, we’ll start with “The Four and a Half Worlds of Parker,” an invaluable and highly detailed comparison of the differences between The Hunter, Point Blank, and three versions of Payback: the once-available-on-bootleg workprint, the theatrical release, and the belated director’s cut known as “Straight Up.” The piece is reminiscent of the best of Video Watchdog, only better, because Video Watchdog would not have thrown the book, the bootleg, or Point Blank into the mix–it would have stopped with the two commercially available cuts of Payback.

If you, like me, like to track down filmed versions of your favorite authors’ books, Impossibly Funky is invaluable if your favorite authors include David Goodis, James Ellroy (also interviewed), and Charles Willeford, all of whom are served by great biographical and filmographical pieces (the Willeford piece is particularly excellent). If you’re a fan of John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee books, those adaptations, filmed and unfilmed, are covered as well.

Unbeknownst to me when I began reading the magazine, Mike White had previously achieved a measure of notoriety in the film world with his exposé of the blatant plagiarism behind the most influential modern noir film of them all, Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs. For those unfamiliar with the story, Mr. Tarantino borrowed just a leeeetle bit from the Hong Kong actioner City on Fire, as demonstrated devastatingly in Mr. White’s film, Who Do You Think You’re Fooling? Who Do You Think You’re Fooling? ought to be an extra on any deluxe edition Reservoir Dogs DVD release as it’s much more important to the story behind the film than most of the crap that usually fills extras sections, but Miramax is never going to let that one happen.

I missed the whole saga because we barely had an Internet back then, my first issue was #6, and I didn’t find the magazine again until #9. The story was recounted through issue #8, skipping #6, so while I’d heard about it, I never realized how much attention this little film actually got. Fortunately, I was finally able to read all about it in Impossibly Funky.

And there’s a whole lot more beyond crime. Detailed script reviews and analysis tell the tales of what went wrong with Alien 3 and Superman Returns, and what went right with Gremlins. Dr. Demento is interviewed, as is Midwest late-night horror host Svengoolie. And yes, you really do need 35 pages on the absolutely mind-blowing Black Shampoo, the most bizarre and over-the-top blaxploitation film ever. All of that is still just the tip of the iceberg.

Maybe when gadgets like the Kindle advance a few more generations, this sort of writing will make a comeback, but for now, the Internet has nearly killed it. Indie mags like Cashiers du Cinemart, never money-makers to begin with, haven’t a prayer these days, and the Internet favors short pieces over the longer articles and detailed analysis that Cashiers du Cinemart provided. But there was a time, and Impossibly Funky is a fine and fascinating memorial to it.

Impossibly Funky: A Cashiers du Cinemart Collection–The Trailer

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