“There Go The Goddamn Brownies!” – Joe Dante Talks The ‘Burbs

As a part of Toronto’s Fan Expo, Rue Morgue Magazine runs the Festival of Fear, and they invited Joe Dante up to present a 35mm print of his severely underrated, but nevertheless, cult-classic Tom Hanks comedy, The ‘burbs. Dante talks about shooting on the Universal backlot, set visits and defecation by Michael Jackson’s pet monkey Coco, the amazing talents of Bruce Dern and the eccentricities of Brother Theodore, how much of the screenplay was improvised by the performers (“That’s about a 9 on the tension scale, Rube.”) due to the ongoing writers strike at the time and of course, the Alfred Hitchcock and Looney Toons references on the film. A top shelf event all around.

Kurt Halfyard
Resident culture snob.


  1. That was definitely a great screening.

    While on the subject of Fan Expo, I have a video playlist set-up on my blog’s YouTube channel. I already have a 5 minute highlight reel up and I’m in the process of preparing extended Q&A clips from Don Coscarelli, the Soska Sisters, Colin Baker, and Ron Perlman. Those will be up in the next couple days.

    • Small update – The Don Coscarelli Q&A videos are now uploaded (and in the playlist), the rest are uploading as we speak and should be online by this afternoon.

      UPDATE 2: The whole playlist is online now.

    • God that list makes me want to stick the film on right now!

      It sounds like Arrow Video in the UK ‘accidentally’ dropped a hint at Frightfest that they are set to release a new home video version of The Burbs in their forthcoming lineup. This likely means a top-notch transfer (please be Blu-Ray) and a stack of extra features.

      • There are lots of deleted scenes that have never seen the light of day. You Europeans are always ahead of us North American’s on releasing quality editions of Joe Dante’s work. I hope that is true, and would happily import the BLU, because Universal doesn’t seem all the interested in releasing the film here, despite a pretty healthy cult following for the film. Not the least of which being the Row Three folks.

  2. Of all folks, Jonathan Rosenbaum on Joe Dante:

    “Director Joe Dante is the perfect refutation of the idea that popular American comedies have to be simple. His movies are never pretentious or difficult to follow, but embedded in each of them are a sophisticated understanding of popular culture and an awareness of the multiple stances and positions that are possible within the confines of supposedly simple genre movies.

    Gremlins offered an ambiguous cluster of proliferating beasties to illustrate a cautionary moral fable about magic; it also managed to be an amoral satire of the same facets of the American dream exalted in the fable. Innerspace postulated the injection of a miniaturized Navy test pilot (Dennis Quaid) into the body of a hypochondriac (Martin Short), leading to simultaneous and parallel narratives as each character’s progress influenced the other’s.


    In ideological and aesthetic terms, this translates into an ability to make different movies for different audiences at the same time. Expedient rather than cynical, Dante nearly always contrives to give his audience at least two movies to choose from: in Gremlins one can enter either the idealized Capra universe or the irresponsible realm of the monsters who seek to undermine it; in Innerspace one can identify with the adventures and attitudes of either the pilot or the neurotic.”


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