Review Date: February 10, 2011
Released by: Synapse Films
Release date: 10/27/2009
Region 0, NTSC
Various aspect ratios | 16x9: Yes
Once more, the trailers are mostly broken down into informal groupings by genre. I’ve always felt that martial arts films, a staple of the grindhouses, were underrepresented on previous volumes, so it pleases me to say that this compilation starts off with a large handful of kung fu promos. A Life of Ninja
(1983, d. Tso Nam Lee) is a Taiwanese-filmed thriller that promises lots of violence and female mud wrestling, not to mention dubbing that’s even worse than normal. Sting of the Dragon Masters
(1973, d. Feng Huang) stars the great Angela Mao and looks like it contains some excellent fight choreography, while The Bodyguard
(1977, d. Tatsuichi Takamori) is a Sonny Chiba film that was distributed by Terry Levene’s Aquarius Releasing in the U.S., with added footage he had shot in New York City. Chiba was a big star amongst his target audience at the time and Levene clearly didn’t want them to forget that he was in the film, hence the trailer is hilariously overlaid with frantic voices screaming “Viva Chiba!” over and over.
Mad Monkey Kung Fu
(1979, d. Chia-Liang Liu) is an exuberant-looking Shaw Brothers production, while Wonder Women
(1973, d. Robert Vincent O’Neill) stars Nancy Kwan as a mad surgeon who trains an all-female army to harvest and sell organs! It was shot in the Philippines and also stars Ross Hagen and Sid Haig. Then we get a trailer for Lucky Seven
(1986, d. Chen-kuo Chao), which seems to be one of those films that could only be made outside the United States, as it features real child actors apparently performing their own dangerous-looking stunts. This one looks like a real turkey, especially with the super bad dubbing.
The Shark Hunter
(1980, d. Enzo G. Castellari) stars Franco Nero, apparently playing the role of a hippie with a death wish, as it features footage of him, sporting long hair and a headband, jumping into the ocean (while parasailing, no less!) when he sees a shark in the water below, then overtaking said shark and killing it with a knife in a brutal fight. Knowing the Italians, I’m sure they killed a real shark for the scene as well.
Sex and sexploitation films are up next. Birds Do It, Bees Do It
(1974, d. Nicolas Noxon and Irwin Rosten) is advertised as a true life documentary on animal mating rituals, billed as entertainment for a family audience, even though the narrator intones that “Due to the explicit nature of this film it will never be shown on television.” Then there’s a trailer for Let’s Do It
(1982, d. Bert I. Gordon), a raunchy looking comedy about a young man with performance anxiety. Bert I. Gordon is best known for directing giant monster movies in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s, and apparently couldn’t resist putting a monster in this one as well, as the trailers feature a (apparently unauthorized) clip from the original King Kong
Then there’s a trailer for Chatterbox
(1977, d. Tom DeSimone), an incredibly distasteful looking comedy film about a woman who discovers that her vagina can talk and sing. This one was released theatrically by American International Pictures. Then there’s Danish Love Acts
(1973, d. Erwin C. Dietrich), which bills itself as a sex tutorial for adults. Group Marriage
(1973, d. Stephanie Rothman) tackles the subject of group marriages, which were apparently popular in the 70’s, while the trailer for Violated!
(1974, d. Albert Zugsmith) is little more than a text crawl over a photo, with a narrator explaining that the scenes in the film are too shocking to show to audiences.
(1971, d. Jean Rollin) is an erotic horror film that I have not seen, but which looks fairly typical of the late Mr. Rollin’s oeuvre. The trailer for it is quite explicit, with plenty of nudity and torture footage.
Science fiction trailers are next. Message from Space
(1978, d. Kinji Fukasaku) is a Toei Star Wars
rip-off starring an unhappy looking Vic Morrow, while The Terrornauts
(1967, d. Montgomery Telly) is an Amicus production about researchers who answer what they think is a distress call from space, only to find themselves kidnapped by an alien ship. This one was written by the award winning science fiction author John Brunner. I used to own it on VHS but barely remember anything about it, except that I felt distinctly underwhelmed by the whole show. Mind Warp
(1981, d. Bruce D. Clark) is a rather graphic trailer for the New World film that is better known as Galaxy of Terror
, and yes, it does include footage of the infamous giant worm rape! The last sci-fi trailer is for Megaforce
(1982, d. Hal Needham), an infamously big budgeted bomb starring Barry Bostwick.
Action and war movies are next up. Zebra Force
(1976, d. Joe Tornatore) is a thriller about ex-soldiers forming their own anti-crime vigilante army and taking on the mob and, even though the trailer doesn’t show it, the members of the Zebra Force are white men who disguise themselves as black men to throw pursuers off their trail! Then there’s the Indonesian-produced Blazing Battle
(1983, d. Iman Tantowi), which looks like an incredibly cheesy but action packed war thriller about a group of partisans resisting the Japanese occupation of Indonesia during World War II. This is followed by a trailer for James Tont: Operation O.N.E.
(1965, d. Bruno Corbucci), an Italian James Bond spoof with comedian Lando Buzzanca. The trailer is in Italian with English subtitles.
Sonny Chiba – under his proper name of Shinichi – reappears in International Secret Police
(1967, d. Tatsuichi Takamori). The trailer for this one is clearly an export variety created by the Japanese licensor, as it’s full of nonsensically translated text cards that read things like “Collision of the two rushing cars – Death fighting in 2,000 kgs per hour!” After that is an American trailer for Machine Gun McCain
(1969, d. Giuliano Montaldo) with John Cassavetes and Peter Falk. Then there is Stacey
(1973, d. Andy Sidaris), a nudity filled trailer for a movie about a female private detective that contains the hilarious line “You should trust no one that you don’t sleep with on a regular basis.” The James Bond rip-off genre is represented again by Lightning Bolt
(1966, d. Antonio Margheriti) with Anthony Eisley. Then finally there’s Mission Thunderbolt
(1983), a Godfrey Ho-directed cut and paste job that appears to be edited out of multiple movies.
The 3 Supermen in the West
(1974, d. Italo Martinenghi) is part of the Italian “Three Supermen” comedy series, and attentive viewers will recognize Spanish actor Frank Braña (Pieces
, Return of the Evil Dead
and many other horror movies) playing one of the supermen in the trailer. Then Rock Hudson, Telly Savalas and Angie Dickinson show up in the trailer for the black comedy cult classic Pretty Maids All in a Row
(1971, d. Roger Vadim). After that is a bizarre trailer for another cult classic, Putney Swope
(1969, d. Robert Downey Sr.) that is nothing but two teenage lovers singing a sappy song about pimple treatment, which is a mock advertisement that appears in the film. Then Redd Fox shows up in a trailer for the ahead-of-its time Norman, Is That You?
(1976, d. George Schlatter) in which poor old Redd discovers that his son is not only gay, but has a white live-in boyfriend!
Redneck good ol’ boy thrillers, popular in the 70’s, get some representation here. Redneck County
(1975, d. Chris Robinson and David Worth) is an extremely graphic and dark trailer for a movie about a black singer who is raped and terrorized by white hicks. Shelley Winters and Slim Pickens are among the cast members. On a somewhat lighter note is Moonrunners
(1975, d. Gy Waldron) with James Mitchum, which has the distinction of being the movie that inspired the Dukes of Hazzard
The Fabulous World of Jules Verne
(1958, d. Karel Zeman) is a Czechoslovakian fantasy based on Verne’s work, which was released here in 1961 by Warner Bros. Visually it is an extremely beautiful production, which sought to emulate the distinctive look of the wood cut illustrations that appeared in the first editions of Verne’s novels. The trailer, though, doesn’t quite know how to sell it.
One does not normally think of children’s films as being grindhouse fodder, but back in the day there were a number of low budget producers and sleazy exhibitors who made a real living plugging cheap children’s matinee films into fleapit theaters. The Magic Christmas Tree
(1964, d. Richard C. Parish) is one such film, featuring a talking Christmas tree, a witch, a giant and a man in a seedy, ill-fitting Santa suit. It looks awful. Almost as awful looking is Pinocchio’s Birthday Party
(1974, d. Ron Merk), which splices acceptable looking stop motion fairy tales imported from overseas with live action puppet footage shot on cheesy looking soundstage sets. The Magic of the Kite
(1958, d. Roger Pigaut) is a French production partially filmed in China. From the looks of the trailer the dubbing on the English version is atrocious, and the fact that the trailer lists it with a ‘G’ rating means it must have taken quite a few years to get to this country. The Secret of Magic Island
(1956, d. Jean Tourane) is the final children’s trailer and it looks like a very interesting tale told entirely by animal actors.
Karzan, Master of the Jungle
(1972, d. Demofilo Fidani) is an ever-so-subtle rip-off of the Tarzan movies. I presume that the Tarzan character was still copyrighted at this point, necessitating a name change! Then comes The Norseman
(1978, d. Charles B. Pierce), a Viking adventure with Cornel Wilde, Lee Majors, Mel Ferrer and Jack Elam. This is followed by Sorceress
(1982, d. Jack Hill), an incredibly cheesy looking sword and sorcery film with plenty of nudity and cheesy special effects.
Horror trailers are featured next, and close out the collection. Terror in the Wax Museum
(1975, d. Georg Fenady) is a wax museum thriller featuring plenty of actors like Ray Milland and Elsa Lanchester in the final stage of their careers. Surprisingly, this was made by Bing Crosby’s production company! The Manson Massacre
(1971, d. Kentucky Jones) looks like a cut rate movie that was rushed to theaters to capitalize on Charles Manson’s trials, which had taken place from 1970-71. The Devil Within Me
(1975, d. Peter Sasdy) features Donald Pleasance and is sold as an Exorcist
cash-in, while the final trailer is for a terrible looking 80’s horror film called Slaughterhouse Rock
(1988, d. Dimitri Logothetis) that was partially filmed on Alcatraz, of all places.
This disc also features a number of concession stand promos and other assorted material spliced in between the trailers. There is an advertisement promoting the exhibition theater as scientifically cooled by air conditioning, as well as a late 60’s or early 70’s PSA in which a bearded Charlton Heston takes a break from his tennis game to explain to parents what the new MPAA ratings mean.
This volume of the 42nd Street Forever
series revolves around the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, an Austin, Texas-based theater chain that plays both first run movies and cult classics, as well as trailers for older grindhouse films. Based on what we see of the Drafthouse in the documentary included as a special feature, the newer movies attract a broad swath of Austin’s population, but the older movies attract film devotees from far and wide, with it being mentioned that some people have loved the place so much that they have even moved to Austin specifically so they could go there all the time. For those who love films with a religious zeal, it is easy to see how a place like the Drafthouse could inspire such devotion. The rise of conventional cineplexes commoditized movie exhibition, turning it into a drab experience in which you found yourself stuffed into a box, one of a dozen or so in the shopping mall or complex, staring at a screen of moderate size to watch a new movie that was often mediocre or terrible while you sat in an uncomfortable seat. I remember seeing many a Disney movie with my grandfather in crummy venues like this during my youth in the late 80’s and early 90’s.
Predictably there was a backlash against this kind of thing, and so as a result we got cineplexes with stadium seating, bigger screens and a better variety of food. But the fundamental concept of the cineplex, of being stuffed into a box to watch a mediocre movie, still applies. It’s a nicer box, don’t get me wrong, but still a box and it still represents a commoditized product. Some of the Drafthouse theaters look like boxes as well, but the appearance is probably deceiving, based on all the testimonials I’ve seen and heard. It appears to be a place that refuses to commoditize the film watching experience and thus is rewarded with great personal loyalty from its customers. There are two movie houses here in Los Angeles where I am a regular patron – the New Beverly and the Egyptian, both of which specialize in contemporary and older classics of various types – that both present an alternative to the commoditized movie experience and thus also inspire loyalty from their patrons.
The trailers on this edition are from the collections of the Alamo Drafthouse, the same trailers that they have played for their customers before shows many times. They represent years of collecting that has resulted in them acquiring trailers for obscure films from as far away as South Africa, and the selection here represents the very favorites of the programmers. This is what sets this volume of 42nd Street Forever
apart from some of the volumes which preceded it, which is that almost every trailer on this collection is great. The previous four volumes had a slightly hit or miss quality to them. Volumes one and three were better than volumes two and four, but even then you couldn’t escape the feeling that some trailer selections were included simply to increase the running time of the compilation, and that Don May and company had simply run out of prime material. There are a few trailers on this volume that evoke that feeling – the previews for Violated
and The Manson Massacre
seem particularly unappealing, both as movies and as pieces of promotional material – but not as many as in years past, and the inclusion of vintage non-trailer material, as well as of trailers in genres previously under or unrepresented, truly sets this entry apart from the others. Without a doubt in my mind, I can say that this is truly the best 42nd Street Forever
Like previous entries in the series, volume five presents these trailers in their original aspect ratios, formatted to fit within the 1.78:1 frame on 16x9 displays. The majority of the material is presented at 1.85:1, but a large handful are also in 1.66:1 and 2.35:1. Like previous volumes, quality is a mixed bag that can’t be classified with a letter grade, but the progressive scan transfers do show some impressive clean-up work. Most of the trailers are sharp and clear, although a few are soft and slightly blurry (the trailer for Norman, Is That You?
almost looks like it was shot off a TV screen by a film camera). Some are very clean and in good shape, while others are in rough shape, with plenty of nicks, emulsion scratches and specks. Colors do look pretty good for most of them, however, and overall this is a fine presentation.
The audio is presented in Dolby 2.0 Mono, and like the video, quality differs from trailer to trailer. The dialogue and narration in every piece of material is understandable and some are exceptionally clear and easy to listen to, while others sound more muffled or are afflicted by background noise.
The trailer for James Tont: Operation O.N.E.
features English subtitles that are actually removable, if a viewer so wishes.
As the principal extra Synapse provides a running audio commentary with Alamo Drafthouse owner Tim League and film programmers Lars Nilsen and Zack Carlson. The three men provide quite a few insights into this volume’s selection of trailers. It is worth noting that in many cases they admit to not having been able to see the films themselves, even though they have been running the trailers for years in some cases. On some of the films advertised they are able to provide comprehensive background on the productions and people involved (their discussion of Hong Kong schlockmeister Godfrey Ho is particularly interesting), while on others they spend more time commenting on the trailer itself.
The second extra is a called Remember the Alamo
about the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. The piece is billed as a documentary, though it’s really little more than a thirty-minute infomercial promoting the theater (I don’t mean that as a criticism, that’s just what it is). The video does a great job of selling the Alamo as a venue for movie watching in general, whether it be grindhouse films or new big studio releases. Tim League, Lars Nilsen and Zack Carslon are all on hand for interviews, where they talk about the history of the theater, their programming choices and the events that they hold. Of special interest are the stories they tell about some of the celebrity guests they’ve had there, including tales of an Alzheimer’s suffering Russ Meyer and a video of an angry Ralph Bakshi (of Fritz the Cat
fame) blowing up on stage. I’m definitely sold on this place, and if I’m ever in Austin I’m going to go there without a doubt.
It should be noted that many of the trailers have nudity or graphic violence, and in both the commentary and video the men share some interesting stories of having unintentionally shown them to inappropriate audiences, including family screenings with children! It sounds like these guys have made real asses out of themselves on numerous occasions, but they remember it all with good humor.
A set of brief liner notes about the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema is included as a final extra.
With the best trailer selection and some of the best supplements, volume five of 42nd Street Forever
is a great addition to the series, and after watching it you’ll probably be filled with an unnatural hankering to tracking down such obscurities as Magic Christmas Tree
and Lucky Seven
, preferably while gulping down some of the delicious looking food that is served by the Drafthouse. If you enjoyed the previous volumes in this series, this one is a must-have, and if you didn’t enjoy the previous volumes, this might be the one to change your mind. Check it out!
Trailers – A
Image Quality – N/A
Sound – N/A
Supplements – B
- Running Time – 1 hour 39 minutes
- Color and B&W
- Not Rated
- Chapter Stops
- 1 Disc
- Dolby 2.0 Mono
- Optional English subtitles for James Tont: Operation O.N.E. trailer
- Audio commentary
- Remember the Alamo documentary
- Liner notes