Review Date: November 1, 2009
Released by: Synapse Films
Release date: 1/27/2009
Region 0, NTSC
Various aspect ratios | 16x9: Yes
For this fourth volume Synapse has again organized the trailers by genre, starting with crime thrillers. The first selection is for The Syndicate: A Death in the Family
(1969, d. Piero Zuffi), an Italian film. “First The French Connection
, then The Godfather
” intones the trailer’s narrator. The film, of course, predates both those productions so clearly there was some lag time between its production and subsequent American release. After this we get a reissue trailer for Combat Cops
(1974, d. William Girdler), a racially charged movie that was called The Zebra Killer
on its original release. According to the commentary it was a box office disappointment under both titles.
A significant amount of horror and science fiction trailers are included, starting with the fan favorite Without Warning
(1980, d. Greydon Clark), here titled It Came Without Warning
. As is often noted, not only is the concept similar to Predator
, but the monster in both films is played by Kevin Peter Hall. Sadly the movie has been MIA on American home video since it was made. Similarly absent from home video is No Blade of Grass
(1970, d. Cornel Wilde), an apocalyptic thriller about a virus that destroys grasses, thus wiping out the world’s food supply.
The deliriously campy Yor, the Hunter from the Future
(1983, d. Antonio Margheriti) is another Italian fan favorite. Hard to believe there was ever a point in my lifetime when a movie like this could play American theaters from a major distributor – in this case, Columbia Pictures. Unfortunately this hasn’t gotten a DVD release yet either, but it is followed by a preview for Andrew Prine’s Simon, King of the Witches
(1971, d. Bruce Kessler), which is on disc from Dark Sky Films.
The American trailer for Lucio Fulci’s The Psychic
(1977) is included, as are trailers for the slasher film Schizoid
(1980, d. David Paulsen) with Klaus Kinski and the Laurence Harvey-directed cannibal flick Welcome to Arrow Beach
(1974), which is notorious for having multiple versions with multiple running times. This particular trailer is under the title Tender Flesh
Die Sister, Die!
(1972, d. Randall Hood) is a vaguely Hammer-esque looking film. The trailer included here doesn’t really disclose much of the plot and none of the commentary track participants have seen it, so I’ll copy and paste the plot summary from the IMDb: “A man hires a nurse to care for his ailing but nasty and shrewish sister. What he really intends to do, however, is to convince the nurse to join him in a plot to kill her.” The trailer is followed by one for Silent Scream
(1980, d. Denny Harris), a slasher film featuring Barbara Steele and Cameron Mitchell with a very convoluted production history. After this there’s New Year’s Evil
(1980, d. Emmett Alston), another fan favorite in the slasher genre that is well remembered by viewers who encountered it from Paragon Home Video back in the VHS days.
The unconventional supernatural tale and late night TV staple Let’s Scare Jessica to Death
(1974, d. John D. Hancock) gets an overlong trailer, followed by a deceptive preview for the Edward L. Montoro-produced slasher flick Mortuary
(1983, d. Howard Avedis), which features a young Bill Paxton. This is followed by a trailer for the MIA from the DVD scene Humongous
(1982, d. Paul Lynch), about a group of people shipwrecked on an island who find themselves up against a gigantic killer freak. Then we have a preview for the American release of Paul Naschy’s Werewolf Shadow
(1971, d. León Klimovsky) presented under the much more famous title of The Werewolf vs. the Vampire Woman
. There is also an ultra short teaser for the Rock Hudson vehicle Embryo
(1976, d. Ralph Nelson).
Uli Lommel’s The Boogeyman
(1980) gets a trailer that shows off some of its more gruesome an inane aspects. Site trivia for all reading this: in 2001 Dave forwarded me a screener from Anchor Bay featuring the Uli Lommel double feature of The Devonsville Terror
and The Boogeyman
. I dutifully wrote a review, e-mailed it to Dave and then sent the disc back to him so he could do screenshots (me being temporarily deprived of a DVD-ROM enabled computer). It was never posted. So Dave, eight years later, what ever happened to that review?
There are a handful of trailers from Charles B. Pierce, the director of some well regarded 70’s drive-in fare. The most famous Pierce effort is, of course, The Legend of Boggy Creek
(1972), which was also his first film as a director. Not only do we get a trailer for that, but also for the eerie Town That Dreaded Sundown
(1976) and the much less known Native American tale Grayeagle
(1977), featuring Ben Johnson and Jack Elam. And while we’re on the subject of Native American films, the Grayeagle
trailer is followed by one for Shadow of the Hawk
(1976, d. George McCowan and Darryl Duke), a pitifully obscure thriller starring a young Jan-Michael Vincent and Chief Dan George. The final horror trailer is for Rituals
(1977, d. Peter Carter), a Deliverance
-inspired flick from Canada featuring Hal Holbrook.
Moving on we get a selection of trailers for crappy comedies from the 70’s and early 80’s starting with Americathon
(1979, d. Neal Israel). Set in 1998 - otherwise known as “the year America ran out of gas, oil and cash!” – it tells the story of a bankrupt USA whose president initiates a telethon to save the country from foreclosure. The film has a bad reputation despite a great cast that includes John Ritter, Harvey Korman, Meat Loaf, Jay Leno and Elvis Costello. Since this compilation was presumably put together in the first half of 2008 before the average citizen or government official knew there was an impending catastrophe, I’m going to assume that Don May is either a brilliant economist or just very lucky. Either way the Americathon
trailer left me feeling more depressed than anything else.
The trailers for the raunchy comedy Can I Do It ’Till I Need Glasses?
(1977, d. I. Robert Levy) and the teen comedy Die Laughing
(1980, d. Jeff Werner) didn’t help cheer me up. The latter is a described on the IMDb as a comedy "comprised of short sexually suggestive skits” and is apparently a sequel to a movie called If You Don't Stop It... You'll Go Blind!!!
. The former is about an aspiring musician who comes into possession of a monkey carrying a top secret formula that dastardly people are after.
In God We Trust
(1980) stars Marty Feldman, who also directed. Although the film itself doesn’t look particularly amusing the trailer itself made me chuckle since it features footage of Feldman (filmed specifically for the trailer) talking to an angry God and telling him about the hilarious new movie he has made. This is followed by a preview for the Peter Sellers WWII comedy Undercovers Hero
(1974, Roy Boulting) in which he plays six different roles (in case you’re wondering, the IMDb says his characters are Général Latour, Major Robinson, Herr Schroeder, Adolf Hitler, The President and Prince Kyoto). This is followed by a strangely placed trailer for The Jezebels
(1975, d. Jack Hill), which is of course more commonly known as Switchblade Sisters
The massive success of Joe Don Baker’s Walking Tall
in 1973 ushered in a predictable wave of “one man against the world” movies in which lone, strong protagonists fight against overwhelmingly powerful criminal conspiracies. Bo Svenson stars in both Breaking Point
(1976, d. Bob Clarke) and Part 2: Walking Tall 2
(1975, d. Earl Bellamy), winning the latter role because Baker chose not to return for a sequel and because the real Sheriff Pusser, who was originally signed to play himself in the sequel, died in a mysterious car accident. And then there’s the Roger Corman-produced Fighting Mad
(1976, d. Jonathan Demme) starring Peter Fonda as a man who returns to the family farm, only to have to avenge the death of his brother when strip miners murder him in an attempt to get the family to sell their land. Along similar lines are Moving Violation
(1976, d. Charles S. Dubin) with Stephen McHattie and Eddie Albert, about a young couple on the run from corrupt law enforcement.
Tiffany Bolling appears in a trailer for Bonnie’s Kids
(1973, d. Arthur Marks), which carries the memorable tagline “Thank God she only had two!” Robin Mattson, Leo Gordon and Scott Brady also appear in this one. The Klansman
(1974, d. Terence Young) is a handsome-looking production of William Bradford Huie’s novel about the Ku Klux Klan with a great cast – Lee Marvin, Richard Burton, O.J. Simpson, Cameron Mitchell. Racial issues are explored in a somewhat less serious film called Monkey Hustle
(1976, d. Arthur Marks), a blaxploitation film starring Yaphet Kotto. The trailer doesn’t do a very good job of selling the film or even explaining what it’s about. The Soldier
(1982, d. James Glickenhaus) is an international spy/military thriller. The trailer actually makes the film look impressive and features some amazing stunts, but according to the commentary it’s actually not very good. Blackout
(1978, d.) is a fictionalized version of the 1977 blackout that affected New York City with Robert Carradine and Ray Milland.
Lee Marvin returns, along with Roger Moore, in a very overlong trailer for Shout at the Devil
(1977, d. Peter Hunt), a World War I action caper released here by AIP. The production values on display are amazing. Reportedly the film was criticized because much of it was filmed on location in South Africa, which was then an international pariah because of its apartheid policies. Another period military action epic is March or Die
(1977, d. Dick Richards), produced by the one and only Jerry Bruckheimer. The plot of this one concerns the French Foreign Legion in post-WWI North Africa and stars Gene Hackman and Terence Hill. Many years ago my father bought a used 16mm TV print of this and we watched it together. I remember being somewhat underwhelmed, despite some fabulous action sequences and some great interplay between the two leads. While we’re in the historical vein we get a trailer for The Life and Times of Scaramouche
(1976, d. Enzo G. Castellari), a historical comedy with Ursula Andress that looks anything but humorous.
The Canadian biker comedy Hog Wild
(1980, d. Les Rose) gets a trailer, as does The Hardheads
(1974, d. Harry Thomason). After that there’s The Chicken Chronicles
(1969, d. Frances Simon), a nostalgia piece inspired by American Graffiti
set in 1969, and featuring an aging Phil Silvers.
The compilation ends with some forgettable trailers, including the lame looking Best Friends
(1975, d. Noel Nosseck), which, unusually, includes no titles to identify the film’s title! After that there’s another nostalgia piece called Our Winning Season
(1978, d. Joseph Ruben) with Scott Jacoby and Dennis Quaid. Then there’s an overlong trailer for something called Coach
(1978, d. Bud Townsend) with Cathy Lee Crosby and Michael Biehn. Finally the compilation ends with Goldengirl
(1979, d. Joseph Sargent), a science fiction/sports drama about a beautiful superwoman who competes for the American team in the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow. Of course, the American team didn’t actually compete in Moscow. It was boycotted because the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in December 1979. This one was released in June of 1979 though, saving the producers the embarassment of having to put out a “topical” movie for a topic that never happened.
Despite being an enjoyable addition to Synapse’s 42nd Street Forever
series, I found it impossible but to feel a little let down by the selection of trailers on this latest volume. Simply put, there are too many trailers here that seem out of place in a collection devoted to grindhouse exploitation films. There is a legitimate difference between lower budget ‘B’ films from big studios and the more schlocky, more exploitive type of low budget films which usually appeal more to fans. It is not that there is no place for trailers from larger ‘B’ movies like March or Die
or In God We Trust
, it’s just that for me they are given too many seats at the table compared with the real exploitation films. The same can be said for less exploitive fare from indie companies specializing in schlocky films, like AIP (Our Winning Season
) and Crown International (Coach
). A handful of trailers for these kinds of movies is fine. What I don’t like though is how they dominate the latter half of this collection.
Although the vast world of cult movies is ultimately a finite one, it simply is not true that there is no more good material out there to mine after the first three volumes. Horror and science fiction films from the 1950’s have barely gotten any representation in the 42nd Street Forever
collections, and in fact volume three gave quite a bit of representation to various subgenres that this volume ignores. Where are the martial arts trailers? Spaghetti westerns? Softcore sex films? Hammer films? Juvenile delinquent films? 60’s biker movies? What about the gialli that were starting to appear on American screens in the 1970’s? Or what about the output of companies like Independent International Pictures? Volume four of this series doesn’t fail to entertain, but it also doesn’t provide the same sleazy experience and feel that we became used to with the previous three volumes.
The trailers are presented within a 1.78:1 frame with 16x9 enhancement. Not all the trailers are actually presented at 1.78:1, however. A surprisingly large number are in other ratios, especially 1.66:1. The trailer for Legend of Boggy Creek
even appears to be pillarboxed at 1.33:1.
Overall quality is on par with previous editions of the 42nd Street Forever
series. Although it is impossible to give this disc a true letter grade (due to the fact that every single trailer is its own unique case with varying levels of clarity, color and damage), it certainly seems that a fair amount of restoration has gone into them and overall the visuals here are quite good looking, especially considering that most of them were probably struck from actual film prints that had played at the drive-ins and grindhouses way back when.
Again, each trailer is its own separate case. The Dolby 2.0 Mono soundtrack is adequate. The narration on most trailers comes through clear and understandable. The dialogue on some trailers is a little bit trickier to hear, depending on the film. Some trailers have very noticeable background noise, others not at all. It’s hardly perfect audio, but if you’ve ever sat through previous trailer compilations you know what to expect.
Extras here are the same as the last volume of the 42nd Street Forever
collection – a commentary with Fangoria
editor Michael Gingold, film historian Chris Poggiali and Edwin Samuelson of the AVManiacs website, and some TV spots.
The commentary covers a number of facets, including the production and distribution history of a number of the films, the talent involved, alternate titles, and an explanation of what some of the more obscure films are actually about. It’s a fun and informative track, though it is somewhat undermined by the fact that there are a number of trailers for films that one or more of the commentary participants haven’t seen.
The TV spots included are for Blackout
, Jackson County Jail
, The Junkman
and Thunder and Lightning
Volume four of 42nd Street Forever
is a good but not superb entry into Synapse’s now long-running DVD series. The somewhat lackluster selection of trailers provides fewer surprises and less enjoyment than in some of the previous entries, but the above average commentary track restores some value to this edition. If you enjoyed volumes one through three, check this one out.
Trailers – B
Image Quality – N/A
Sound – N/A
Supplements – B-
- Running Time – 1 hour 45 minutes
- Not Rated
- Chapter Stops
- 1 Disc
- Dolby 2.0 Mono
- Audio commentary
- TV spots