Review Date: November 24, 2005
Released by: Synapse Films
Release date: 11/15/2005
Region 0, NTSC
Various widescreen ratios | 16x9: Yes
In the days when the movies were still a diverse and affordable venue for entertainment, New York City’s 42nd Street was the place to be for the kind of violent, bloody, pornographic and schlocky films that fans today are slobbering over on DVD. Judging by the accounts of those who lived in the city during the era and partook in its cultural scene, the neighborhood where most of “grindhouse” theaters were located was just as sleazy and seedy as the movies themselves were. Unfortunately, for most of us out there the 42nd Street experience is not something we were able to participate in. We were either too young or too geographically distant from that great metropolis. We ended up having to discover the movies through mom and pop video stores, through Japanese and Greek-subtitled bootlegs, or more recently through DVD – and it’s through DVD that the grindhouse legacy is still being preserved. A part of that preservation is this release, volume one of 42nd Street Forever
, a collection of dozens of theatrical trailers promoting the movies that most of us can only wish we had got to see on the big screen…
The collection of trailers on this release can be generally broken down and classified by the genre they fall under (and in fact many of them are informally grouped together by genre on this disc). Horror is, of course, given a pretty good representation. We have the infamous Undertaker and His Pals
(1967, d. T.L.P. Swicegood), then we have The Flesh and Blood Show
(1972, d. Pete Walker), which looks like it may not be that bad of the movie, even though the trailer itself is badly put together. Then there’s an amusing double-feature trailer for Night of Bloody Horror
and Women and Bloody Terror
(both 1969, d. Joy N. Houck Jr.). Then there’s The Butcher of Binbrook
, which is actually an alias for Graveyard of Horror
(1971, d. Miguel Madrid), a Spanish non-thriller that many American viewers seem to be familiar with via late night TV.
There are three horror trailers in particular which are interesting. There’s a trailer for Corruption
(1967, d. Robert Hartford-Davis), which features a cast-against-type Peter Cushing as a depraved killer. The trailer for Wicked, Wicked
(1973, d. Richard L. Bare) is interesting mostly as a look at a rarely-seen murder thriller that was shot in a process called “Duo-Vision” that utilized split-screen technology (though the trailer itself only presents one perspective). The most fun, though, is the double feature trailer for I Dismember Mama
(1974, d. Paul Leder) and the Spanish import Blood Spattered Bride
(1972, d. Vicente Aranda). It contains very little footage from either film, but instead features a TV reporter showing up at the theater where the pair is playing to interview people on their reactions, including a man who has been driven crazy by the films and is being hauled away by the police. There’s also The Deadly Spawn
(1983, d. Douglas McKeown), which is available in a special edition release from Synapse as well (smart promotional move there, fellas) and the Euroschlock oddity The Devil’s Nightmare
(1971, Jean Brismee).
Sex films were an integral part of the grindhouse experience, and a good chunk of this disc is devoted to them. The most interesting of the bunch is Italian Stallion
, which is actually a re-release trailer for The Party at Kitty and Stud's
(1971, d. Morton Lewis), an adult film starring a young Sylvester Stallone! The film was re-released after he hit it big with Rocky
in 1976, and the girl hosting the trailer repeatedly points out that this is an X-rated movie starring Stallone, just to make sure audiences get the hint. The trailer even features an interview quote from Stallone trying to justify why he did a porno film!
The other adult trailers include Ginger
(1971, d. Don Schain), a sexploitation title that appears to be about a buxom secret agent. Creampuffs
(1981, d. Sergio Martino) is a goofy-looking Italian sex comedy featuring Edwige Fenech. The Three Dimensions of Greta
(1972, d. Pete Walker) is a film which needs little introduction, as it is one of the most famous sexploitation titles out there. The Centerfold Girls
(1974, d. John Peyser) looks like a fairly depraved film mixing sexual hijinks and murder, while Panorama Blue
(1974, d. Alan Roberts) looks like the mother of all adult films, apparently shot in 70mm and with four-track stereo sound. There’s Hard Candy
(1976, d. Stephen Gibson), a sleazy-looking adult feature with Johnny Holmes that advertises as being in 3-D. There’s an incredible-looking trailer for a movie called Teenage Mother
(1967, d. Jerry Gross) with the tagline “Teenage mother means nine months of trouble!” Then there’s another goofy-looking Italian sex comedy called Charlie and the Hooker
(1976, d. Manuel Summers). Lastly, there’s Behind Convent Walls
(1977, d. Walerian Borowczyk), which looks like typically tacky nunsploitation.
Swedish sexploitation is also well-represented, with an exploitive trailer for The Depraved
(1974, d. Gustav Wiklund), a movie which really and truly looks like it lives up to its title. Maid In Sweden
(1971, d. Dan Wolman) is another sleazy-looking production, while of course They Call Her One Eye
(1974, d. Bo Arne Vibenius) is unquestionably the most famous of all Swedish exploitation films, and is available from Synapse under the title Thriller: A Cruel Picture
. Interestingly, all three of these movies star the gorgeous and shapely Christina Lindberg.
Of course, no cult experience would be complete without Japanese monster movies, and here we have three fun trailers. Destroy All Monsters
(1968, d. Ishiro Honda) is a Toho extravaganza that is considered the crème de la crème of the original Godzilla movies (though I can think of several which were appreciably better) due to sheer number of monsters it features. Then there’s Matango
(1963, d. Ishiro Honda), a creepy horror thriller about people shipwrecked on an island slowly turning into mutants after they eat the mushrooms that are growing there. Then there’s The Green Slime
(1968, d. Kinji Fukasaku), which is a movie with a very, very strange background. Though it features a primarily American cast it looks like an Italian space opera of the era but was shot in Japan with a wholly Japanese crew.
A trio of blaxploitation trailers also shows up. Welcome Home, Brother Charles
(1975, d. James Fanaka) looks like a fairly standard drama/crime thriller. More interesting is The Legend of Nigger Charley
(1972, d. Martin Goldman), which is an incredibly rare black western starring Fred “The Hammer” Williamson. Having viewed the film (via an atrocious-looking VHS dub), I can attest that its racial content is no more offensive than most other blaxploitation films of the era – not that it matters. The film has never had a home video release in the United States (or anywhere else in the world, as far as I know) and probably never will since one, it has that
word in the title, and two, it’s owned by Paramount. Boss Nigger
(1975, d. Jack Arnold), another western also starring Fred Williamson, is similarly obscure.
Other grindhouse genres also make token appearances. Italian-style “mondo” films are represented by Secret Africa
(1969, d. Guido Guerrasio, Angelo Castiglioni and Alfredo Castiglioni) and Shocking Asia
(1974, d. Rolf Olsen), both of which look like fairly typical examples of the genre. The biker films Werewolves on Wheels
(1971, d. Michael Levesque) and The Pink Angels
(1971, d. Larry G. Brown) – the latter of which appears to be a gay biker movie(!) – are both represented. Chappaqua
(1966, d. Conrad Rooks) appears to be an interesting-looking (and very avant-garde) drug movie. The 44 Specialist
(1976, d. Alberto De Martino) is an Italian crime thriller, while Death Drive
(1977, d. Pasquale Festa Campanile) is another Italian thriller featuring David Hess in his trademarked “David Hess the psychopath” role. This one is better known as Hitch-Hike
in the U.S. Star Crash
(1979, d. Luigi Cozzi) and Raiders of Atlantis
(1983, d. Ruggero Deodato) showcase Italian science fiction at its absolute tackiest. Then there’s a preview for a Joseph Brenner import called The Bullet Machine
(1975, d. Lindsay Shonteff), which looks like it took more than its fair share of inspiration from the James Bond films.
There’s Confessions of a Summer Camp Counselor
(1977, d. Norman Cohen), Sunset Cove
(1978, d. Al Adamson) and Super Fuzz
(1980, d. Sergio Corbucci), all of which look like fairly juvenile comedies. Death Will Have Your Eyes
(1974, d. Giovanni D’Eramo), Death Has Blue Eyes
(1976, d. Nico Mastorakis) and A Black Veil For Lisa
(1968, d. Massimo Dallamano) all look like very interesting European thrillers. Ironmaster
(1983, d. Umberto Lenzi) is a cheesy-looking prehistoric world feature, while The Rape of the Sabines
(1962, d. Alberto Gout) is a bizarrely-advertised sword and sandal epic. And of course, what trailer collection would be complete without the legless and armless cult kung fu favorite The Crippled Masters
(1981, d. Joe Law)?
42nd Street Forever
is probably not a collection you will be able to watch all at once. With over two hours of trailers the viewing experience can get repetitive if not broken up. Repeat viewings of this volume will probably be limited to certain trailers or certain groups of trailers, either for a viewer’s own personal amusement or to show bewildered friends and relatives.
Though these may all be grindhouse movies, not all of them are grindhouse trailers. Though many of them are the same trailers that played in theaters back in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, others are from more obscure sources. Graveyard of Horror
was distributed in the United States straight to TV via Independent International, and its trailer here under the Butcher of Binbrook
title looks to be either its original export trailer or one created for a different English-language territory. Toho’s Matango
also went straight to television via AIP-TV under the title Attack of the Mushroom People
, yet here is a trailer in English in its original title. There are other oddities as well. The trailers for Ironmaster
and Behind Convent Walls
are actually in French! The inclusion of previews that were presumably not shown in the type of settings this collection is meant to stir nostalgia for is slightly self-defeating. It doesn’t always feel like the selection of trailers is keeping with the spirit of the whole enterprise.
Nonetheless, it is impossible to deny that many of these trailers are ridiculously fun. The trailer for Undertaker and His Pals
freezes on a white screen midway through so that an announcer can give a rambling warning to viewers squeamish about blood and guts. “Godzilla paralyzes New York! Rodan ravages Moscow! Mothra massacres Peking!” screams the preview for Destroy All Monsters
in one of the best American trailers for any Japanese monster import. The double feature trailer for Blood Spattered Bride
and I Dismember Mama
is brilliantly conceived (though over-long and poorly executed) and is an excellent example of just how creative a film distributor could get back in the day. The previews for Legend of Nigger Charley
and Boss Nigger
provide tantalizing glimpses of two films that blaxploitation fans have waited long to see in legal, mass market releases (and whom will probably be waiting for many years more). There is a lot to be nostalgic about here. Some of them are slickly put together, others are unintentionally funny, and still others are purposely goofy. Not all of them do a good job of selling their respective films, but the best of them really do give you the feeling that you’re in another era, enjoying a unique time and place that is worlds different than anything else you’ve ever experienced.
The back cover lists the video presentation as being in 16x9 enhanced 1.78:1 letterboxed format. This is true in that every trailer is formatted to fit inside a 16x9 frame, although the exact ratio depends on the trailer. Most of them are letterboxed at 1.78:1, but the trailers for some of the 2.35:1 movies like Panorama Blue
are presented in that same ratio. There are also a few others that are closer to 1.66:1.
It is not really possible to give this release a conventional evaluation on image quality because every single trailer is a different case. They are of varying ages, produced by varying companies and struck from varying film elements. Each one is different from all the others in its own ways. However, this statement should not be interpreted as meaning that this release is of poor image quality. In fact, the presentations of the trailers on this disc are a notable step up in quality from what we’re used to seeing on DVD. They have clearly had a certain amount of restoration work done on them. Many of them are sharper and more colorful than you might expect, and the compression on this disc is expertly handled, with few instances of notable artifacting.
The most common image problem on this release is print damage, and in fact the majority of the trailers look rather beat up and worn, with lots of scratches, specks and vertical lines. There are a small number which look extraordinarily beat up and a small number which look extraordinarily clean, with the rest of them in the middle – imperfect, yet perfectly watchable.
The soundtrack is in Dolby 2.0 Mono, and like the image quality the audio is a case-by-case situation. The best of them sound great with no distortion or background noise, while the worst of them are shrill and muffled. However, just like the video most of them are in the middle in terms of audio quality – not spectacular, but good enough.
There are no extras on this release. Most companies, when in need of quick and cheap extras for their releases, simply throw down a bunch of theatrical trailers, but when your DVD is a release full of nothing but trailers it doesn’t quite work. It can’t be easy to think of or dig up supplements for a trailer compilation, but however, in the case of this release a few pages of liner notes about the history of the 42nd Street theaters or some other related topic would have been nice.
With more releases probably on the horizon, the 42nd Street Forever
series will no doubt catch the fancy of that certain group of fans who find the promotional tactics of film distributors to be of as much interest as the movies themselves. But fans in general may find this release worthy of at least a rental – with so many diverse trailers on display, it may very well help you decide what the next DVD on your shelf will be.
Trailers – B+
Image Quality – N/A
Sound – N/A
Supplements – N/A
- Running Time – 2 hours 8 minutes
- Not rated
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- Dolby 2.0 Mono