Grindhouse Trailer Classics volume 3
Kim Newman introduces Nucleus Films’ third GRINDHOUSE TRAILER CLASSICS volume, which still manages to surprise viewers with quite a few rarities among the fifty-five trailers that make up this roughly one-hundred minute collection.
A cool trailer for Luigi Scattini’s SWEDEN: HEAVEN AND HELL (“the sex capitol of the world”) is the only thing in the collection remotely mondo, but it ends up falling comfortably in with the “sexual exposé” sub-genre of trailers for SWEDISH FLY GIRLS, SWEDISH WIFE EXCHANGE CLUB, the American THE FEMALE RESPONSE (“one moment that makes all women sisters under the skin”), the British THE SWAPPERS (“the new version of the good neighbor policy”), and THE HARRAD EXPERIMENT (which, shockingly, features no nudity and is long on dialogue scenes). The narration for the trailer of Stephanie Rothman’s film THE WORKING GIRLS also gives the impression of an expose (and is misleadingly suggestive of the type of work they do), which can also be said of THE CLASS OF ’74 (“they’d rather teach than learn”).
Giallo trailers are pretty scarce here, offering up a nice AIP trailer for Lucio Fulci’s A LIZARD IN A WOMAN’S SKIN with wavy opticals and a colorful rendition of the film’s alternate US release title SCHIZOID – which also sports the hyperbole “torn apart by terror-madness” as well as the warning for viewers with schizophrenic tendencies – National General’s R-rated release of Armando Crispino’s THE DEAD ARE ALIVE (“there’s no place to hide when the dead are alive!”), a rare and entertaining one for Umberto Lenzi’s PARANOIA (ORGASMO) with Carroll Baker and Lou Castel, and an atmospheric one Phase One trailer for THE NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT OF THE GRAVE that sells it as a ghost story. Antonio Margheriti’s CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE pops up as INVASION OF THE FLESH HUNTERS, Almi Cinema’s recut R-rated version (following their original X release as CANNIBALS IN THE STREETS), which thoroughly fails to highlight Giannetto de Rossi’s gut-blasting of Giovanni Lombardo Radice spoiled in the Italian and export trailers (and also the sole bit of footage used in the to-the-point Japanese promo). The AIP trailer for Ivan Reitman’s CANNIBAL GIRLS is also here to help represent the cannibal genre.
Blaxploitation is scantly represented here with THE SPOOK WHO SAT BY THE DOOR – about the CIA’s first black agent – the Civil War-era SOUL SOLDIERS, and the Columbia Pictures pick-up BLACK GUNN. SLASH: BLADE OF DEATH (“the mighty weapon that put the force of an army in the hands of a girl”) and the MGM pick-up DEADLY CHINA DOLL (“She’s on a manhunt, and she’s a man-eater!”) represent the martial arts along with the later Cannon release REVENGE OF THE NINJA, but they also fall into the tough gals territory along with the “super-bad, super-bodied” SUPER CHICK and POLICE WOMEN (“Tough enough for any man!”). BLACK MAMA, WHITE MAMA occupies the “tough chick” and WIP categories, as does Stephanie Rothman’s TERMINAL ISLAND to an extent. The latter also fits into the rape/revenge category, although less so than ACT OF VENGENACE, a slick R-rated AIP entry directed by Robert Keljchan, who had previously essayed the COUNT YORGA films and SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM.
Rape-revenge elements also figure into Peter Collinson’s OPEN SEASON, in which Peter Fonda, John Phillip Law, and Richard Lynch hunt Alberto de Mendoza and Cornelia Sharpe for sport out in the wilderness (although the film also has some rape revenge elements as well). In MOONSHINE COUNTY EXPRESS Susan Howard, Claudia Jennings, and Maureen “Marsha” McCormick inherit a cache of moonshine and battle their father’s killers; however, the presence of John Saxon’s as a hot rodder running ‘shine for the gals ties the film into to the “good ol’ boy” films included here like MACON COUNTY LINE and its follow-up BLACK OAK CONSPIRACY, A SMALL TOWN IN TEXAS, as well as the NORTHVILLE CEMETERY MASSACRE (which also fits into the biker genre) which pits a gang of bikers against a corrupt cop.
Drugs are scantly represented here with PANAMA RED (“the perfect smoke”), Jeff Leiberman’s bizarre BLUE SUNSHINE, and Jack Harris’ MOTHER GOOSE A GO-GO in which former Mickey Mouse Clubber Tommy Kirk needs LSD to consummate his marriage. The exorcism craze is covered not with one of the many Italian or fewer Spanish EXORCIST rip-offs, but with a cool English-dubbed trailer for Jess Franco’s LINDA (aka LORNA THE EXORCIST) – which features full-frontal nudity and the ballyhoo “behind the erotic beauty of a woman hides the rotten stench of hell” over a shot of one of the crabs emerging from Jacqueline Laurent’s pubic hair – and the American west coast oddity THE TOUCH OF SATAN (currently only available on DVD with the “Mystery Science Theater 3000” treatment).
Euro-westerns were slim pickings in the grindhouse era, and the Spanish A TOWN CALLED HELL with Telly Savalas, Martin Landau, Robert Shaw, and Stella Stevens is the only representative (even rarer at this time – outside of softcore parodies – was the jungle epic, specifically TARZANA – WILD GIRL, which appears to be a very low point for Italian exploitation hottie Beryl Cunningham). Slashers did not come along until the early eighties, but body count films anticipated the genre here with AIP’s brutal BLOOD AND LACE and CENTERFOLD GIRLS – in which exploitation stalwart Andrew Prine stalks and slashes calendar girls – and the British BEWARE THE BRETHREN (aka THE FIEND or BEWARE MY BRETHREN).
The grueling THE CANDY SNATCHERS is the epitome of the grindhouse, but hard to group as far as this collection goes, as is Greydon Clark’s “star-studded” alien predator pic IT CAME WITHOUT WARNING! (“and now it’s coming for you!”). The Spanish VAMPIRES NIGHT ORGY and the Chinese SUCCUBARE can at least be grouped together as foreign monster movies, and their somewhat similar themes of strangers wandering into mysterious villages peopled by different types of ghouls. LADY IN THE CAR WITH GLASSES AND A GUN – a French/British adaptation of the Sebastian Japrisot novel with Samantha Eggar and Oliver Reed – and Nelson Lyon’s THE TELEPHONE BOOK about a girl “who falls in love with the world’s greatest obscene phone call!” are the unclassifiably arty stragglers in the collection. Lastly, what would a seventies trailer comp be without something from Michael Findlay (SHRIEK OF THE MUTILATED, directed by Ed Adlum), Andy Milligan (THE RATS ARE COMING! THE WEREWOLVES ARE HERE!), Al Adamson (THE FEMALE BUNCH), S.F. Brownrigg’s DON’T OPEN THE DOOR as one of the line of unrelated “Don’t” films.
As can be expected, image quality on this dual-layer trailer comp varies from trailer to trailer (as do aspect ratios and audio quality). Most surprising are the trailers for Stephanie Rothman’s TERMINAL ISLAND and THE WORKING GIRLS, which were only available in worn VHS-sourced versions to Code Red for their DVD releases. Since the discs in the GRINDHOUSE TRAILER CLASSICS collection are intended as party discs, Nucleus has also included optional English subtitles for the films (spoken dialogue is differentiated from the trailer narration by italicization). It’s a nice touch for general viewing as well, but I did not notice any trailers in which the audio quality might actually required subtitles to be intelligible.
The disc’s major extra is a fifteen-minute “guide to the Grindhouse” by critic Kim Newman. Newman hastens to remind viewers that Britain did indeed have grindhouses, although he can only allude to some of the unsavory rumors about the London ones since he did not experience them until the eighties before video usurped the viewing medium for such films. His talk does a fair job of finding encompassing themes to bring together the trailers in this more varied third volume, attributing the label of “whitesploitation” to the string of chick power and good ol’ boy (in that young white viewers envied the oppressed protagonists overthrowing the man in blaxploitation flicks – represented in this collection by THE SPOOK WHO SAT BY THE DOOR about the CIA’s first “negro” agent, the Columbia Pictures pick-up BLACK GUNN, and Civil War-set SOUL SOLDIER). Newman muses that the trailers are often better than the features, whether thoroughly misrepresenting the film (for instance, the Etruscan zombies viewers may have been anticipating of THE DEAD ARE ALIVE, or the skull-faced ghoul of THE NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT OF THE GRAVE) or the deliberately censored trailer for NAZI LOVE CAMP 27, in which the narrator promises that the actual screening will be fully uncut (this film and Veronica Lake’s unfortunate swan song FLESH FEAST represent Nazisploitation on this set). Newman does, however, cite THE DOBERMAN GANG as a film in which the trailer makes the most of its high concept of “clockwork canines.” The three “Also Available” menu screens of trailers encompass all of Nucleus’ releases thus far (as well as three upcoming surprises: THE PLAYGIRLS AND THE VAMPIRE, DEAD OF NIGHT [DEATH DREAM], and CHILDREN SHOULDN’T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS), as well as their “Naughty” line, which includes CRUEL PASSION/JUSTINE with Koo Stark as an upcoming release (the Naughty trailers were not viewable on my check disc, however). A poster gallery rounds out the package.