Monday, 21 May 2012

Mad Jester Reviews...

So it's been one hell of a few weeks. One of the major pains in my ass lately was when my computer died on me while I was in the middle of a freelance editing job. That sucked. But I got through it, finished the edits, and now I wait for my new laptop to arrive. Sadly, the blog has suffered for it, and I apologize readers. My posting has been sparse.

But I have a review for you guys from Mad Jester while I wait for my new computer to arrive. Enjoy!



When the Wheel of fortune spins,
An ancient game of chance begins.
But who could know- or guess- the rules,
Adrift upon the Ship of Fools?

Hello, gentle readers. I've decided to let you in on a special treat this time; a film you may not have heard of, and if you have, it likely was not in glowing terms. Nevertheless, it stands as one of my all-time favourites. It could well fall into so-bad-it's-good territory for some, but for me it's just plain brilliant. I refer, of course, to the 1994 horror-comedy masterwork from our friends at Nomad Productions, a film near and dear to my withered black heart: Funny Man!

Our tale begins with Max Taylor (Benny Young), a young and thoroughly scummy record producer, playing in a high-stakes poker game against- among irrelevant others- Mr. Callum Chance (played by the one and only Christopher Lee), a man of no small means and no great mental stability. When Chance's luck turns on him, he puts up his million-dollar ancestral home in Northern England- a sprawling mansion with a beautiful garden, a long history... and a permanent resident with a deadly sense of humour. Once Taylor, his bitchy wife, petulant daughter and somewhat-slow-witted son move in, the game begins- a homicidal jester-demon known only as the Funny Man (Tim James) is summoned, and begins to kill off the Taylors with no small amount of glee and jocularity.

Some short time later, we get a fresh infusion of victims in the form of Max's brother Johnny (Matthew Devitt), delivering some things Max was keeping in storage, and a crew of oddball hitchhikers- Chris Walker as 'the Hard Man', George Morton as 'the Crap Puppeteer', Rhona Cameron as Thelma Fudd (think Velma from Scooby Doo, only not as bright), and Pauline Black as 'the Psychic Commando' (more on her later). They arrive late in the evening, expecting to be greeted by Max & Co., and when he fails to appear, they of course begin exploring the house. Ah, well, more grist for the mill.

While the others are content to simply traipse about looking for the Taylor clan (who are, except for Max himself, room temperature by the time they arrive), the Psychic Commando decides to call the Funny Man out, in an attempt to banish him from the house- she'd been getting "bad vibes" the entire way to the house, and wants to rid the grounds of the evil that's lurked thereat from time immemorial. She descends into Funny Man's own little pocket of the spirit world- the village of Sod's Law, population 1- and engages in the showdown she desires; it even looks, for a while, like she wins, as Sod's Law is in flames and the Funny Man retreats (with a cry of "I'll be back! Probably!"). But you just can't keep a good jester down, or an evil one for that matter, and he returns to take his revenge on the afro-sporting kook who set fire to his house while he was out having a bit of a laugh.

The appeal of this film (such as there be) lies primarily in the charm of our eponymous killer: he's equal parts Freddy Krueger and Bugs Bunny. The kills themselves aren't especially impressive (some border on the ridiculous, in particular Thelma's), but Funny Man breaks the fourth wall frequently and with great relish. He'll turn a knowing wink to the camera before tucking in to the business at hand, and drop a pithy comment when he's done. He's got a corny joke for every situation, a new costume every time you turn around, and seems to realize that his violent outbursts are as much for our amusement as his. In his own words, "You just can't whack a good bit of family entertainment!"

By no means is this film a cinematic triumph; the pacing is somewhat jerky, the audio quality isn't spectacular (which, coupled with the thick North England accents and slang, makes the dialogue hard to follow in places), some of the acting is lackluster and the cheesy synth-music dates itself hard. This is a B movie, and no mistake. But for all that, I fell in love with the title character (gee, a fellow who calls himself Mad Jester likes a character who's a mad jester? The mind boggles!), the kills are campy good fun, and the subplot (if you follow it, which can be hard) is a good one- a brother betrayed, a dead dream resurrected, and a career posthumously celebrated.  It's a perfect Bad Movie Night selection, even if you don't have a thing for murderous psychopaths in jester's motley.

One thing is certain: by the end of the film, everyone's received their jest desserts. (Yeah, I'm sorry for that one. I'll show myself out.)


  1. I think I might actually like this movie. :)

  2. Please, by all means, give it a shot! It's a lot more entertaining than its budget lets on.


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