Richard Gasparian is probably best-known, if for anything, for his work as a timing director on The Simpsons and various other cartoons (Recess, King of the Hill, Family Guy et cetera), but it will be a major injustice if that doesn’t change soon. The 33-years-in-the-making Housesitter: The Night They Saved Siegfried’s Brain is clearly Gasparian’s masterpiece. Way back in 1987, with no credits to his name, writer-producer-actor Gasparian and writer-producer-director Robin Nuyen somehow managed to scrape together the means to film what I can only assume was a personal vision: a bizarre mash-up of 80s slasher, drive-in B-movie, self-aware comedy and love letter to the 1950s. Then it, presumably, sat on a shelf somewhere for three decades, before getting a Frankenstein-like jolt of life, with the sound finished at Skywalker sound, one anachronistic yet amusing subtitle added, and other such post-production effects.
Gasparian, in the first of just four acting credits in his career (the other three being bit parts in two TV shows and a film), plays the Elvis-obsessed medical student Andy. Early on in the film, Andy demonstrates a method for transferring brains from one subject to another, but loses the respect of his professors when his demonstration goes wrong. He loses the respect, that is, of all his professors but one, for Dr. Crosby realises that Andy has perfected the mad dream that Crosby himself never could, and is now able to build his “brain pyramid”. That night, Andy attends a house party in a Gothic mansion dressed in full Elvis regalia, as Crosby stalks the night collecting brains.
So far, so trashy. But the real genius of Housesitter lies in its ballsy, devil-may-care approach to comedy. There are some brilliant, self-aware nods to such campy sci-fi classics as Bride of Frankenstein and They Saved Hitler’s Brain – the mad professor’s lab is in perma-black-and-white, while every other location is colour – but there’s also some pure surrealism (a talking Elvis doll), some disorienting use of the technical properties of film (they foley the cats with barks and the mice with miaows), some Sam Raimi-style blood-and-guts black comedy, some terrible puns, some slapstick, some moments of sheer goofing off, and I’m sure there are many others I’ve forgotten even to mention.
Serving now as not only a 1980s homage to the 1950s, Housesitter is also a time capsule of the 1980s, finally opened in the 2020s. Epitomising the type of film you might have seen while half-drunk, long ago on late-night cable or a well-worn VHS, Housesitter deserves your full attention right now, on glorious Blu-Ray.
Housesitter is available On Demand and on Blu-ray October 2 from Leomark Studios.