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Old 10-17-2006, 11:28 PM
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42nd Street Forever: Volume 2





Reviewer: Jeremy
Review Date: October 17, 2006

Released by: Synapse Films
Release date: 10/31/2006
MSRP: $19.95
Region 0, NTSC
Widescreen 1.78:1 | 16x9: Yes


Movie trailers are taken for granted in the DVD age. As a DVD reviewer, I've spent my share of time whining about how such and such a release only has a theatrical trailer as an extra. It is nowadays expected that a company must, if nothing else, at least find a trailer for its releases. But how many of us really sit down and study what the trailers teach us about a specific film? The marketing styles used by trailers are valuable to those interested in broad commercial trends, but more so than that, they are also a valuable tool when trying to answer unsolved questions about a film's history. In the course of my work for this website, I have often used trailers to investigate questions about whether something may be overmatted, whether there may be an alternate dub track, or what company distributed a film in a given country or territory, and when it was that they did it. In cases of obscure films where there is little formal literature written about them, this can be a source of invaluable information.

It is for this reason that Synapse's 42nd Street Forever series is invaluable, presenting a collection of material that otherwise would find itself either unseen or dispersed across dozens of other DVD releases. Oh yeah - and they're fun too!

The Story

inline ImageLike those of its predecessor, the trailers on this release can mostly be catalogued by genre. The most well represented of those genres is sexploitation, and a huge chunk of the trailers here fall within that category.

What we would probably term as "classic" sexploitation is well covered here. I, a Woman (1965, d. Mac Ahlberg) comes off as just about as stereotypical a Scandinavian sex film as you can get. Then there's a grim-looking underage prostitution picture called Street Girls (1975, d. Michael Miller).

inline ImageThe Babysitter (1969, d. Tom Laughlin) is promoted as a story about a teenage girl's affair with a much older man, and it looks sleazy as all hell. In fact, the only way it could look sleazier would be if it was promoted the same way as Invitation to Ruin (1968, d. Kurt Richter), which looks to be filled with sexual torture and contains one of my favorite lines in recent memory - "No, not hookers. They draw the line at some point. Not my girls - anything goes."

College Girls (1968, d. Stephen C. Apostolof) looks to be about as explicit as a movie could get before the 'X' rating became widely used. Which is not necessarily saying much. This unfunny looking college sex comedy features loads of bare breasts, but, rather amusingly, the 60's-era censorship code still mandated certain standards, meaning that the sex scenes feature the men humping with their boxer shorts still on!

inline ImageThe trailer for Helga (1967, d. Erich F. Bender) claims to show the "intimate love story of a young girl, her man, and her child, from the actual moment of conception thru the actual birth of their baby." I doubt it goes that far, but it's impossible to tell since the trailer also says that the footage of it is "Not shown now because there may be young children in the audience". I assume that whatever it is that they're not showing must have at least been pretty raunchy for the mid-60's. How do I know? Because long ago I realized that any movie with the names Helga, Inga or Olga in the title is guaranteed to be filthy.

The somewhat more innocent "bubblegum" sexploitation of the 1970's also makes an appearance here, with The Pom-Pom Girls (1976, d. Joseph Ruben), Pick-Up (1975, d. Bennie Hirschenson) and the by-the-looks-of-it mind numbing Delinquent Schoolgirls (1975, d. Greg Corarito). Then there's also the bizarre-looking sci-fi spoof titled The Curious Female (1970, d. Paul Rapp).

inline ImageBlaxploitation films, which only had a token presence on the earlier volume, are much better represented here. Black Samson (1974, d. Charles Bail) and The Guy from Harlem (1977, d. Rene Martinez Jr.) look to be nothing special, while the western Take a Hard Ride (1975, d. Antonio Margheriti) looks marginally more interesting, since it appears to be both a blaxploitation film and a spaghetti western, all in one. The interesting looking Kenner (1969, d. Steve Sekely) also makes an appearance.

...Tick...Tick...Tick (1970, d. Ralph Nelson) is the story of a black sheriff in a small southern town. With a cast that includes the great Fredric March, the film looks potentially respectable enough that its trailer seems out of place here.

inline ImageSugar Hill (1974, d. Paul Maslansky) was one of blaxploitation's frequent ventures into the world of horror filmmaking, and fans will find this trailer of particular interest. The film is about a woman who avenges the murder of her boyfriend by calling up an army of voodoo zombies. Not surprisingly, it was released by American International Pictures, but unfortunately it remains unavailable on DVD.

inline ImageThose who love 50's monster movies will get several treats. The Monster of Piedras Blancas (1959, d. Irvin Berwick) is the story of a town on the California coast terrorized by a hideous sea monster. The trailer deceptively tries to pass the film off as having received an endorsement from the popular Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, which it didn't, and which reportedly caused headaches for editor Forrest J. Ackerman when disappointed and angry fans wrote to complain about the movie.

There's The Hideous Sun Demon (1959, d. Robert Clarke), which is a werewolf-in-reverse story about a scientist who is exposed to radiation, causing him to turn into a lizard monster whenever the sun hits him. And speaking of lizards, The Giant Gila Monster (1959, d. Ray Kellogg) is a well known cult favorite about the rural Texas countryside being terrorized by a normal sized gila monster that is photographed to make it look really, really big (something that still fails to make it look menacing, since gila monsters, while poisonous, are just too lethargic and innocent looking to be scary). This public domain film is available from many different DVD labels, but the best is probably the Image Entertainment release from a number of years back.

inline ImageWe are treated to a trailer for a tacky British production called The Woman Eater (1958, d. Charles Saunders) about a mad scientist who acquires a flesh-eating tree from South America, a tree which can produce serum for reviving the dead just as long as it is fed a steady stream of female victims. I used to own this one on VHS...with used to being the key phrase here.

For those familiar with Godzilla, be sure to check out the trailer for Gigantis the Fire Monster (1955, d. Motoyoshi Oda). It features Godzilla and his regular sidekick Angurus, but the former is not called by that name anywhere in the trailer or the movie. Since Godzilla was not an established household name in 1959 when Warner Brothers imported the movie, they were able to get away with changing the name to give audiences the impression that it was an all new monster.

inline ImageMore traditional modern horror is represented by a slew of trailers from the 70's. AIP's somewhat bizarre reworking of Edgar Allen Poe's Murders in the Rue Morgue (1971, d. Gordon Hessler) puts in an appearance, as does the atmospheric but forgotten The Evictors (1979, d. Charles B. Pierce). Then we have the stereotypical-looking The Evil (1978, d. Gus Trikonis) and the much more interesting The Dark (1979, d. John Cardos).

Have you ever heard of Deadly Blessing (1981, d. Wes Craven). Though it's one of Craven's most obscure films to date, the trailer does make it look rather interesting. It features a young Sharon Stone in the cast, as well as the great Ernest Borgnine as an Amish preacher!

inline ImageTraditional science fiction is not completely neglected either. Check out the trailer for The Clones (1973, d. Lamar Card and Paul Hunt), which is interesting. Having been made many, many years before the idea of cloning a living animal became so commonly discussed in the news and entertainment media, the trailer has to go out of its way to explain to the audience what cloning is and why they should be concerned about it. Then there's also the 50's throwback Mission Mars (1968, d. Nicholas Webster), with Darren McGavin and Nick Adams.

inline ImageThose interested in expanding their viewing of spy movies will find a cluster of trailers here. Spy In Your Eye (1965, d. Vittorio Sala) comes across as the standard European James Bond imitation, as do Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die (1966, d. Henry Levin and Arduino Maiuri) and Trunk to Cairo (1966, d. Menahem Golan and Raphael Nussbaum). All three look generic, but are probably not as painful as The Last of the Secret Agents? (1966, d. Norman Abbott), a dreadfully unfunny looking spoof.

Biker movies have been a hallmark of exploitation filmmaking since the 60's, and this release gives us several of them. Hells Angels on Wheels (1967, d. Richard Rush) is the most famous of the ones presented here, primarily because it stars a young Jack Nicholson, and is from the time period right before he became an international superstar in the 70's. Here he isn't even mentioned by name.

inline ImageWe also get peeks at Born Losers (1967, d. Tom Laughlin) and The Hellcats (1967, d. Robert F. Slatzer), both of which are much less notable. The latter's only claim to fame is that it went on to be featured in an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Then we have the better looking Dragstrip Riot (1958, d. David Bradley), which looks to be a black and white precursor to the modern biker film.

Then we get two Vietnam-era war films, the war/blaxploitation hybrid Savage (1973, d. Cirio H. Santiago) and Savage Sisters (1974, d. Eddie Romero), both of which were shot in the Philippines.

During the 1970's, the American film industry was in the process of hatching what we would now consider the modern action-comedy, and Synapse throws in some examples of this. Mr. Billion (1977, d. Jonathan Kaplan) was Italian star Terence Hill's big moment in the Hollywood spotlight, though it's little seen today and Hill is still much better known for earlier movies like My Name Is Trinity.

Trailers for Dixie Dynamite (1976, d. Lee Frost) and Stingray (1978, d, Richard Taylor) also fall into this category.

inline ImageIn a related subgenre, racing/automobile movies are represented here. We get peaks at the cult favorite Van Nuys Blvd. (1979, d. William Sachs) and the absolutely unknown Burnout (1979, d. Abraham Meech-Burkestone). Then there's also a documentary called Dirt (1979, d. Eric Karson). Now, on a collection full of monsters, perverts, wenches, evil spirits and angry 70's black men, a documentary about off-road racing just seems completely out of place, don't you think?

inline ImageSome well established cult films also show up here. The delirious Ms. 45 (1981, d. Abel Ferrara) puts in an appearance at the very beginning of the compilation. Then we have the trailer for Rabid (1977, d. Davis Cronenberg), which does a poor job of selling the film, though the included scenes of Montreal under martial law made my Canadian roommate take interest. Then we have a trailer for a little masterpiece called The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974, d. Tobe Hooper) that I do hope you all are familiar with. The well respected but much more obscure Rolling Thunder (1977, d. John Flynn) also shows up, and yes, that is a young Tommy Lee Jones that you see in the trailer.

inline ImageBack in the days before Hollywood became so dominant in the world film market that European movies had trouble getting exhibition in their home countries, the prolific Italian film industry was able to be an international contender with a variety of genres, including "sword and sandal" films based on Roman and Greek history and mythology. We are given four trailers to satisfy those who are curious about them. Amazons of Rome (1961, d. Carlo Ludovico Bragaglia and Vittorio Cottafavi), Revolt of the Slaves (1961, d. Nunzio Malasomma) and The Revenge of the Gladiators (1964, d. Michele Lupo) all look pretty generic. What doesn't look generic, however, is Samson and the Slave Queen (1963, d. Umberto Lenzi). Now, Samson is a figure from biblical times, someone who was regarded to be a prophet by many and to possess tremendous physical strength. The legend of Samson has nothing to do with the character of Zorro, a fictional creation of writer Johnston McCulley whose stories take place in 19th century California in the days when it was still part of Mexico. So that brings us to the logical question of how on earth are both characters in this movie?! Apparently the answer lies with American International Pictures, who changed the name of the hero from Maciste (a mythic character seen in many Italian films, but one without any strong basis in actual mythology) to Samson, thus introducing one of the most bizarre cinematic anachronisms I've seen in awhile.

inline ImageAnd lastly, there are also some oddball movies that just don't belong anywhere else. There's When Woman Had Tails (1970, d. Pasquale Festa Campanile), a stone-age comedy that also appears to be a take on the tale of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves". We're treated to a trailer for the cult martial arts favorite Shogun Assassin (1980, d. Robert Houston). The most...well...unbelievable though is Skatetown, U.S.A. (1979, d. William A. Levey), a roller disco movie that features Scott Baio and Patrick Swayze.

Compared to the selection of trailers on last year’s 42nd Street Forever release, the selection on display here isn’t quite as entertaining. Part of the problem may be that there are fewer interesting films on display here, and even fewer with interesting trailers. With volume one, we were given a great cornucopia of unique films with unique, well edited trailers. This time around we don’t get that kind of variety. With volume one, we got a great trailer for a gay biker film called The Pink Angels. With volume two, none of the biker film trailers can stand head and shoulders with that piece of work. With volume one, we saw a trailer for a re-issued porn film called Italian Stallion, a trailer that went out of its way to repeatedly point out that this was an X-rated movie starring Sylvester Stallone. But again, here there is simply nothing else that can match it.

inline ImagePerhaps this is a problem that is going to become more and more apparent if Synapse chooses to continue with this series. The world of exploitation filmmaking is vast, yet in the end relatively finite. Sooner or later you will simply run out of first rate product. We are already seeing it happen with DVD releases of exploitation films proper. American classics like Halloween, Friday the 13th and Texas Chainsaw Massacre have all been released multiple times. All of the classic (or at least, infamous) Italian horrors are now readily available. Most of the best sexploitation features have been tossed out onto disc by Something Weird and other labels. The number of important films which have still yet to make a DVD appearance grows smaller all the time.

This second volume of 42nd Street Forever is worth watching, but the selection of trailers isn’t quite up to par. But let’s hope that Synapse can still get together enough decent material for a few more volumes before the well is pumped dry.

Image Quality

The entire compilation is given a 16x9 enhanced 1.78:1 presentation. Unlike the first volume, where there were trailers in wider or narrower dimensions, here everything really is letterboxed at 1.78:1 (except for a few of the sword and sandal trailers, which look to be 1.85:1 or even slightly wider).

inline ImageAny fan who knows anything about film preservation and low budget exploitation productions knows that one of the big reasons why so many of them looked dupey on VHS was that they were often improperly stored over the years, or were otherwise neglected and abused. It is because of this that a big part of my job at this site is to make banal statements about how this or that movie has never looked better. But it is true that we're now used to impressive restorations, as the revolution in digital telecine technology makes it possible to revitalize even some of the worst looking films.

Now, in the case of film trailers, it's a little bit different. I've seen a decent number of the previews on this release on other home video editions, and though it's obvious that quite a bit of clean-up work was done by Synapse, perfection is still elusive. We're talking about films of differing ages, budgets and countries. We're also talking about different companies that cut the trailers together (though many of them seem to be films from either the AIP or Crown International catalog), with different distribution patterns. It's therefore impossible to give this release a normal letter grade for the video quality because there is so much variation. Some trailers look great. Others don't. There are over fifty trailers on this compilation, and each one is its own specific case.

Sound

Ditto on the audio. Everything is in Dolby 2.0 Mono, and everything is of varying audio quality. But at least all the dialogue and narration in every single trailer is understandable.

Supplemental Material

No extras on this release. But if you want a really good description of what the 42nd Street grindhouses were really like, read the liner notes on Shriek Show's Zombie Holocaust release.

Final Thoughts

If you picked up volume one and enjoyed it, the slightly less enjoyable volume two should still be of interest. On a set like this, audio and visual quality are of only secondary importance, and the inevitable flaws in the presentation of these trailers should not dissuade any interested consumer from picking up this disc.

Rating

.
Trailers – B

Image Quality – N/A

Sound – N/A

Supplements – N/A




Technical Info.
  • Running Time – 2 hours 1 minute
  • Color and B&W
  • Not rated
  • 1 Disc
  • Chapter Stops
  • Dolby 2.0 Mono

Supplements
  • No extras

Other Pictures

 


Last edited by Jeremy; 10-02-2008 at 01:05 AM..
 

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