If you’re of a cer­tain age and into fol­low­ing cult movies, chances are you’ve bought plen­ty of ‘zines.  Before the inter­net changed com­mu­ni­ca­tion with­in sub­cul­tures, the­se self-made pub­li­ca­tions were the way to get infor­ma­tion on your under­ground hob­by of choice with­out any of the filtering/softening-down that often comes with main­stream pub­li­ca­tions.  In fair­ness to the pro­fes­sion­al pub­lish­ing world, hon­esty and direct­ness didn’t auto­mat­i­cal­ly pave the way for great­ness in a ‘zine.  Plenty of the­se under­ground pub­li­ca­tions are more inter­est­ing for their atti­tude or what they uncon­scious­ly reveal about their writ­ers than the actu­al qual­i­ty of the writ­ing.

That said, there were a hand­ful of cult movie ‘zines that beat the odds and man­aged to offer young, hun­gry minds the best of both worlds: inci­sive, qual­i­ty writ­ing deliv­ered with a no-bull­shit atti­tude.  For instance, Psychotronic is per­haps the pro­to­typ­i­cal exam­ple of this kind of cult movie ‘zine.  A lesser-known but just as wor­thy ‘zine is Cashiers Du Cinemart, a ‘zine that Mike White began to pub­lish in 1994.  Said ‘zine auto­mat­i­cal­ly car­ried a cer­tain cachet because White is the editor/critic behind Who Do You Thing You’re Fooling?, the infa­mous short film that com­pared sce­nes from Reservoir Dogs and City By Fire in a side-by-side style.  However, there was much more than rab­ble-rous­ing to this ‘zine and its cult of read­ers know this well.

Unfortunately, zines have a lim­it­ed reach when it comes to cir­cu­la­tion and not every­one has got­ten to sam­ple the Cashiers Du Cinemart style of film crit­i­cism.  Thankfully, this prob­lem has come to an end with the pub­li­ca­tion of Impossibly Funky!, a book-length com­pendi­um that draws its con­tents from the magazine’s 12-year his­to­ry.  Even bet­ter, it’s more than just a col­lec­tion of reprints — in fact, White and his con­trib­u­tors have gone back to expand and/or rework sev­er­al of the pieces it con­tains (this explains the appear­ance of “13.2% all new stuff” on the cov­er).

Things begin with an intro­duc­tion from H.G. Lewis and an amus­ing, unortho­dox fore­ward from Film Threat founder Chris Gore — in which explains the rea­sons he owes Mike White an apol­o­gy that he has not yet given.  After that,  Impossibly Funky! imme­di­ate­ly dives into White’s Tarantino-relat­ed con­tro­ver­sy.  In the space of a few arti­cles, White reveals how his Reservoir Dogs-cri­tiquing short led to mul­ti­ple attacks on his char­ac­ter — and they didn’t come from Tarantino or any relat­ed par­ties.  Instead, his fel­low film­mak­ers and film crit­ics were the ones who turned on him.  The arti­cles are a fas­ci­nat­ing read and offer a lesson in the dan­gers of speak­ing truth to pow­er (and how mercenary/cannibalistic the film-crit and film-fes­ti­val worlds can be).  The sec­tion clos­es on up note with “Tarantino In A Can,” a fun­ny piece that dis­cuss­es the fre­quent use of bath­rooms as an impor­tant set­ting in Tarantino’s work.

The next sec­tion of the book is devot­ed to a series of fea­ture arti­cles.  Often the sub­jects are authors whose hard-boiled work served as the sub­ject mat­ter for films of vary­ing qual­i­ty — David Goodis, Charles Willeford and James Ellroy are amongst the authors whose work and lives are explored with a detail wor­thy of a con­ven­tion­al print pub­li­ca­tion.  White and com­pa­ny obvi­ous­ly have a spe­cial sym­pa­thy for the­se oft-mis­un­der­stood writ­ers and the work in the­se arti­cles does them jus­tice.  Other arti­cles in this sec­tion cov­er every­thing from con­tro­ver­sial Japanese direc­tor Shuji Terayama to a dou­ble fea­ture of Dixie Dynamite and The Great Texas Dynamite Chase.  Perhaps the most inter­est­ing is a piece on the super-obscure The Big Crime Wave, an indie com­e­dy that sounds like one of the great unseen cult movies.

The third sec­tion is devot­ed to a series of arti­cles on scripts and the devel­op­ment process.  Included are explo­rations of the tor­tured script­ing-and-rewrites process behind such films as Alien 3, the Planet Of The Apes remake and the ill-fat­ed attempts at reboot­ing Superman that led to Superman Returns.  Using the both pro­duced and unpro­duced drafts, each arti­cle presents an effec­tive cri­tique of how care­less­ly Hollywood treats prop­er­ties with proven track records and how even the most tal­ent­ed writ­ers can get lost in the devel­op­ment machine.  It’s  also worth not­ing that Cashiers Du Cinemart has always been a ‘zine that doesn’t fall into the under­ground pub­li­ca­tion trap of auto­mat­i­cal­ly sneer­ing at films for being main­stream — and the­se pieces accord­ing­ly bal­ance their satir­ic wit with a love for the good films Hollywood can make when it wants to.

The fourth sec­tion of the book is ded­i­cat­ed to inter­views with every­one from Bruce Campbell to Monte Hellman.  Of par­tic­u­lar inter­est are the Keith Gordon inter­view, which gets into the dif­fi­cul­ties of doing chal­leng­ing mate­ri­al in the mod­ern film mar­ket, and the Guy Maddin inter­view, which is notable for the eccen­tric play­ful­ness of its sub­ject.  The fifth sec­tion deals with thought-pieces on the sub­ject of Star Wars.  It’s arguable that no cult film­mak­er ever betrayed his fans the way George Lucas did with his dis­mal pre­quels to the orig­i­nal Star Wars tril­o­gy — and White and crew do a good job of skew­er­ing them from a fan’s-eye per­spec­tive.

The six­th sec­tion of the book is devot­ed to Black Shampoo, a lesser-known blax­ploita­tion opus that holds a spe­cial place in Mike White’s heart.  Fittingly, it offers lov­ing tes­ti­mo­ni­als to the film as well as inter­views with sev­er­al key peo­ple involved in its mak­ing: direc­tor Greydon Clark, com­posers Gerald and Gary Lee and stars John Daniels, Tanya Boyd and Skip E. Lowe.  This sec­tion is where the ‘zine qual­i­ty of true-believ­er obses­sion shi­nes through: a sub­ject that would bare­ly rate as a foot­note in oth­er pub­li­ca­tions gets a lov­ing and exten­sive explo­ration here.  It’s also inter­est­ing to get a glimpse into the lives of the peo­ple who par­tic­i­pat­ed in the film and the dif­fer­ent ways they deal with their cult-flick infamy.

The last set of arti­cles is enti­tled “Life” and offers a few pieces about the lives of the writ­ers, the most inter­est­ing being White’s chron­i­cle of his career as a movie-the­ater employ­ee.  It’s a clas­sic zine-style piece, offer­ing a sym­pa­thet­ic but hon­est por­trait of a work­ing-class gig from the worker’s point of view, and it will give the read­er a new appre­ci­a­tion for the work done by the kids at your local mul­ti­plex.

It all adds up to a qual­i­ty read for cult movie peo­ple, par­tic­u­lar­ly if your taste runs the gamut from mul­ti­plex fare to obscuro-indies.  Impossibly Funky! also offers a nice way to soak up the vin­tage ‘zine vibe for those who remem­ber it fond­ly as well as those weren’t around for it.  Like the mag­a­zine that spawned it, this tome is an under­dog that deserves your sup­port.