Review Date: February 26, 2007
Released by: Synapse Films
Release date: 1/29/2008
Region 0, NTSC
Various aspect ratios | 16x9: Yes
There was a time when theatrical trailers were considered such throwaway items that studios didn’t even bother to copyright them (something which has allowed legitimate companies to release compilations of trailers for films which are otherwise still owned). But in the 1980’s, something strange started happening as old horror movie trailers began popping up on VHS compilations, something that continued and expanded in the DVD era. New scholarship was devoted not just to the movies themselves, but also to the methods of salesmanship employed when they were first released. And, as drive-ins closed and Hollywood’s output stagnated, there was a corresponding increase in nostalgia for the bygone years of movie viewing. But while attempts to recreate every aspect of the drive-in experience have proven futile, the ability to preserve one specific, memorable aspect of the experience – the trailers that promoted everything from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
to UFO: Target Earth
– has had much success. With its third volume of the 42nd Street Forever
series, Synapse inches closer and closer to the creation of its own franchise. Will this one be a winner or a letdown? Keep reading and find out.
Like the previous volumes, the trailers on this disc can be broken down into general groupings. First up are the kung fu and martial arts previews, starting with the Don Stroud/Robert Conrad vehicle Sudden Death
(1977, d. Eddie Romero) and the wacky-looking One-Armed Executioner
(1983, d. Bobby A. Suarez), both of which were shot in the Philippines. This is followed by Jaguar Lives!
(1979, d. Ernest Pintoff), which features an amazing B-movie cast – Christopher Lee, Donald Pleasance, John Huston, Barbara Bach and Woody Strode. The most notable thing about the trailer though is the way it tries to build its "star" - the newcomer Joe Lewis - into a major action hero on the rise. The ploy didn't work, and Lewis' IMDb entry only lists three other movies to his name. Next up is Enter the Ninja
(1981, d. Menahem Golan), which stars Franco Nero, an Italian actor better known for his spaghetti westerns and crime thrillers. After this comes a trailer for Lightning Swords of Death
(1972, d. Kenji Misumi), an entry in the Japanese Lone Wolf and Cub
series. Then we have Five Fingers of Death
(1972, d. Chang-hwa Jeong), a Shaw Brothers kung fu flick that holds the distinction of having started the martial arts movie craze in the United States. The film's star, Lo Lieh, returns in a trailer for The Stranger and the Gunfighter
(1974, d. Antonio Margheriti), a martial arts/spaghetti western hybrid also starring Lee Van Cleef.
The runaway success of The Exorcist
in the early 70's led to a wave of imitations and rip-offs which get plenty of representation here. There's Beyond the Door
(1974, d. Ovidio G. Assonitis), an Italian rip-off featuring one of my favorite actors, Richard Johnson, and which also rips off Rosemary's Baby
. Then there's the infamously bad Demonoid, Messenger of Death
(1981, d. Alfredo Zacarias), as well as another Italian production called The Night Child
(1975, d. Massimo Dallamano), also starring Richard Johnson. Following on the possession/supernatural/demonic children theme is Devil Times Five
(1974, d. Sean MacGregor), the Australian thriller Patrick
(1978, d. Richard Franklin), and the Carrie
(1978, d. Brice Mack), which curiously doesn't mention the main hook of the movie, a heroine with the ability to control snakes.
The nature-run-amuck genre is well represented by trailers for the intellectual killer ant movie Phase IV
(1974, d. Saul Bass) and the William Castle-produced Bug
(1975, d. Jeannot Szwarc). There's also trailers for the Peter Cushing killer cat movie The Uncanny
(1977, d. Denis Héroux), the killer dog movie The Pack
(1977, d. Robert Clouse), the cult favorite Alligator
(1980, d. Lewis Teague) and the not-so-cult-favorite Killer Fish
(1979, d. Antonio Margheriti) featuring Lee Majors and James Franciscus. There's an interesting trailer for a movie called Shark's Treasure
(1975, d. Cornel Wilde), which brags that "no trick photography, no miniatures, and no mechanical models were used." This claim is accompanied by shots of what appear to be real sharks being shot with real spears, leading me to assume that it's not one of those movies where we can expect to see a "no animals were harmed in the making of this motion picture" tag over the end credits. There's also a trailer for Blood Beach
(1981, d. Jeffrey Bloom), a lame Tremors
precursor that is more notable for it’s Jaws
-era promotional hook (“Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water...you can’t get to it”) than anything else.
The 1970's ushered in an era of goofy, sexually charged comedy movies which are on display in the form of trailers for Hot T-Shirts
(1980, d. Chuck Vincent), Summer School Teachers
(1974, d. Barbara Peters) and Gorp
(1980, d. Joseph Ruben), which features a young Dennis Quaid and Fran Drescher in its cast, and has the distinction of being the last film released under the American International label. There’s also King Frat
(1979, d. Ken Wiederhorn), an Animal House
-style fraternity comedy that looks absolutely god-awful. On a personal note, I was in a fraternity while in college, and nothing in this trailer looks even remotely like anything I saw or did during my time as a brother. But the most interesting of these trailers is the one for Cheerleaders Wild Weekend
(1979, d. Ken Werner), which makes the movie look like a goofy sex comedy when it's really much more of a kidnapping thriller.
Then, moving on to the more rougher areas of sexploitation, there are trailers for the X-rated Prison Girls
(1972, d. Tom DeSimone), the British-made 1,000 Convicts and a Woman
(1971, d. Ray Austin) and Chain Gang Women
(1971, d. Lee Frost). There's also trailers for the sexually charged thrillers The Penthouse
(1967, d. Peter Collinson) and The House by the Lake
(1976, d. William Fruet).
Another popular genre of sexploitation is known as "nurseploitation", and we get previews for the sleazy looking Night Call Nurses
(1972, d. Jonathan Kaplan), The Young Nurses
(1973, d. Clint Kimbrough) and Candy Stripe Nurses
(1974, d. Allan Hollweb).
Ever hear the name Xaviera Hollander? Well, she was an Indonesian-born woman who came to America, only to become a call girl. She eventually founded the most popular brothel in New York City in the early 1970’s. After being busted by law enforcement she was forced to leave the United States, writing a book called The Happy Hooker
about her experiences. This DVD contains trailers for two adult films based on the book, an unauthorized hardcore adaptation called The Life and Times of Xaviera Hollander
(1974, d. Larry G. Spangler) and the authorized and softcore The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood
(1980, d. Alan Roberts).
In the 1970's there was an upswing of interest in disaster movies, and also in docudramas of real life calamities and disasters, prompting Mexican director René Cardona Jr. to make several films in the subgenre whose trailers pop up here. The first trailer is Survive!
(1976), based on the real life 1973 incident in which a plane carrying a Uraguayan rugby team crashed in the Andes, with the survivors eventually forced to resort to cannibalism in order to survive. The second trailer is for Guyana, Cult of the Damned
(1979), a depiction of the 1978 tragedy in Guyana in which cult leader Jim Jones (here named “Johnson”) led over nine hundred people to death in history’s largest mass suicide. Cardona’s exploitive movie features Gene Barry, Stuart Whitman, John Ireland, Joseph Cotten and Bradford Dillman in the cast.
Cheesy 70's action movies make a comeback with trailers for the AIP release Seven
(1979, d. Andy Sidaris) and the female spy thriller Scorchy
(1976, d. Howard Avedis) featuring an uncomfortable looking Connie Stevens. Then, moving on into the 1980's, we get a trailer for the Linda Blair revenge flick Savage Streets
(1984, d. Danny Steinmann). Then it's back to the 70's with two trucking action movies, the Sam Peckinpah flick Convoy
(1978) and the less well known High Ballin'
(1978, d. Peter Carter).
The collection closes with a number of trailers for 'B' movies put out by more respectable big studios, including the United Artists release of Charles Bronson and Jill Ireland's western From Noon Till Three
(1976, d. Frank D. Gilroy), the MGM-produced Cold War thriller Telefon
(1977, d. Don Siegel), 20th Century Fox's Tattoo
(1981, d. Bob Brooks), as well as the obscure 1983 thriller Lies
(1983, d. Jim and Ken Wheat).
In October 2006, upon screening the second volume of 42nd Street Forever
, I noted that I had not enjoyed the selection of trailers on that compilation as much as I had enjoyed the selection on the first volume, and speculated that Synapse might be running out of good trailers from the finite world of cult filmmaking. Well, it is my pleasure to report that volume three is every bit as enjoyable as that first volume.
What makes the difference between volume two and three is that the trailers on this edition are better organized, and more care seems to have gone into their selection. Volume two suffered from having too many forgettable trailers of forgettable movies, films like Trunk to Cairo
, Born Losers
and Black Samson
, films which neither appeared interesting nor were they promoted in any significant or entertaining fashion. Although this third volume still features a number of forgettable trailers for movies like Seven
, they are far fewer in number. What’s more, here in volume three Synapse has given special attention to several subgenres which were underrepresented in previous volumes, particularly the martial arts genre. By starting off the collection with martial arts trailers, and including amongst their numbers the important Hong Kong film Five Fingers of Death
, Synapse has given much needed acknowledgement to the important role that the martial arts genre has played in the American exploitation film market.
Ultimately, Synapse can’t hope to keep up the selection of entertaining trailers forever. As vast as it is, the world of cult filmmaking is ultimately still limited. Let’s just hope they can still crank out a few more entertaining volumes like this one before the game is up.
The packaging states that the trailers are letterboxed at 1.78:1, and this is true in that all of them have been formatted to appear within the 1.78:1 anamorphic frame. In reality, the trailers are in a variety of aspect ratios, ranging from 1.66:1 to 2.35:1. The most common ratio seen here is actually 1.85:1.
Like the previous 42nd Street Forever
volumes, it’s impossible to assign an accurate letter grade to the presentation because each trailer is its own unique case. Some of them look extremely rough, others look quite polished. Most give evidence of having been remastered, with strong colors and a pleasing level of detail.
The sound, in Dolby 2.0 Mono, is also unclassifiable. Some trailers sound fine, others sound hissy and crackly.
In breaking with the precedent of the first two volumes, Synapse has here provided a few noteworthy extras to this release. The most important amongst these is a running audio commentary between Fangoria
editor Michael Gingold, film historian Chris Poggiali and Edwin Samuelson of the AVManiacs website. The commentary is very informative and often extremely funny, with the three men never at a loss for words on any of the films mentioned, and they often drop fascinating bits of information about a given film’s distribution history, or where it fits in its genre cycle. The men also mention that they will be doing an audio commentary for a fourth volume of the 42nd Street Forever
Also included are seven minutes of original TV spots. There are spots for High Ballin’
and Jaguar Lives!
, both of which are promoted slightly differently compared to their theatrical trailers. There are also spots for the Sonny Chiba flick Champion of Death
(1975, d. Kazuhiko Yamaguchi), the college comedy Seniors
(1978, d. Rodney Amateau), the biker films The Jesus Trip
(1971, d. Russ Mayberry) and Naked Angels
(1969, d. Bruce D. Clark), the cult classic Billy Jack
(1971, d. Tom Laughlin) and the Joe Don Baker vehicle Golden Needles
(1974, d. Robert Clouse). There’s also a TV spot for something called The Last Survivor
, which is really Ruggero Deodato’s Jungle Holocaust
Another excellent release from Synapse that ups the standard for quality by adding in the excellent audio commentary. With a good selection of trailers, this disc is a must-have for anyone who enjoyed the first two volumes of 42nd Street Forever
Trailers – B+
Image Quality – N/A
Sound – N/A
Supplements – B
- Running Time – 1 hour 41 minutes
- Chapter Stops
- English 2.0 Mono
- 1 Disc
- Audio commentary
- TV spots