Grindhouse Trailer Classics 2

Grindhouse Trailer Classics 2

Although Synapse in the US has beaten them to the punch with their own line of Grindhouse trailer compilations under the 42nd STREET FOREVER banner, Nucleus has put their own spin on Grindhouse trailer compilations by targeting a second market. The concept, as it has been explained to me, is to play these trailers at parties without sound while rocking on to music. Indeed, I’ve been told that DJs have used the first disc as visual background to their performances (Nucleus has innovatively provided us with subtitles for the trailer dialogue and vocal hyperbole). The trailers are all enhanced for 16:9 viewing (actual aspect ratios vary) and have been digitally cleaned up (looking better than their presentations on other trailer compilations or the DVDs of their respective films). Most of the trailers have been sourced from 35mm and 16mm elements belonging to private collectors though some have been meticulously reconstructed using footage from the films themselves while the frames with onscreen text have been cleaned up (unlike earlier reconstructions that cut between excellent footage from the films to scratchy on-screen hyperbole). A generous 55 trailers are included along with some contextual supplements.

At least in America, party-goers (not always synonymous with Eurocult freaks) may indeed be bewildered by trailers for BLOODY PIT OF HORROR, CUTTHROATS NINE (which, even in trailer form, bespeaks its reputation as “An adventure in violence that will rip your heart out”), and HUNCHBACK OF THE MORGUE (the trailer itself is a rarity; having only popped up before in lesser condition as an extra on some SWV/Image DVDs) but trailers for NIGHT CALL NURSES, the Ilsa sequel THE TIGRESS (ILSA THE WICKED WARDEN is present here to as WANDA THE WICKED WARDEN), BLOOD ORGY OF THE SHE DEVILS, AXE! (as THE VIRGIN SLAUGHTER), SISTER STREETFIGHTER, and BLACK SHAMPOO (“Give him sass and he’ll kick your ass”) should be more familiar especially to younger viewers whose introduction to the concept of the Grindhouse began with Quentin Tarantino (despite his sponsored releases of THE BEYOND, CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, and MIGHTY PEKING MAN; the trailer for the latter film is present here and probably looks better than it does on Miramax’s OOP 4:3 DVD). Not having seen the GRINDHOUSE TRAILER CLASSICS VOL. 1, the reviewer can’t help but wonder how such ubiquitous titles as DOLEMITE with its classically quotable dialogue (looking far nicer than the film itself probably looked when new), SNUFF’s “Warning” trailer, and FOXY BROWN (“A trick with drive who don’t take no jive”) didn’t make it to the first disc (the fact that these trailers are largely culled from rare film sources instead of other discs and videotapes may explain this). Less familiar to me but very much in the Grindhouse vein in terms of title and content are THE CHEERLEADERS (Nucleus even bothers to subtitle the cheesy theme song), JAILBAIT BABYSITTER, THE NAUGHTY STEWARDESSES, DR. MINX (“Half clad, all bad!”) and the extremely un-PC THE BLACK GESTAPO. WOMEN IN CAGES and CHAIN GANG WOMEN cover the WIP bases. The dull-looking (content-wise) GIRLS WHO DO is the only German sex comedy. CHINESE HERCULES is also a new one for this reviewer

It may seem strange to go through the trouble of scrubbing away the Grindhouse grime these trailers have accrued but some – as represented in other collections or discs of the films themselves – have become so degraded by murk, scratches, and had their contrast dulled by being sourced from Nth generation tape sources that their inclusion always seems merely obligatory. Compare the impenetrably dark 4:3 trailer of Scavolini’s NIGHTMARE on some of the recent Code Red DVD releases to the 16:9 restoration seen here (forget the blood reds, the killer’s royal blue dress shirt really pops in the TENEBRAE shot). The short US trailer for Dario Argento’s DEEP RED while still bearing a vertical scratch or two and cropped to 1.85:1 is given a much more respectful treatment here than it was given as a TV spot supplementing the international trailer on Anchor Bay’s release. SISTER STREETFIGHTER’s widescreen trailer has been popping up on various BCI “Grindhouse” discs but here it’s anamorphic and the reconstruction of motion footage from the film and replacement of the still frame text breathes new life into an over-familiar “coming attractions” experience (ditto for THE BODYGUARD). THE UNDERTAKER AND HIS PALS looks better than it has any right to (I doubt any DVD release of the film itself will come close to looking like this unless Marc Morris puts himself through the torturous experience of cleaning up the entire film frame by frame). FLESH GORDON’s trailer also looks better than I thought the film could look. Hats off too for the VIOLENT PROFESSIONALS (“Nobody’s deathwish”) trailer.

The disc has its share of rarities such as the exquisite reconstruction of AIP’s trailer for Narcisco Serrador’s THE HOUSE THAT SCREAMED. HUNCHBACK OF THE MORGUE’s US trailer sells the film quite well but the cosmetic enhancements maintain the film’s gritty and grotty look while making details more legible than they looked on All Season’s VHS tape (including better views of the monster). Umberto Lenzi’s THE MAN FROM DEEP RIVER is presented here in a rare trailer under the alternate Joseph Brenner US release title SACRIFICE! (featuring library music used in the US version of Sergio Martino’s TORSO and very recognizable narrator who did the Brenner trailer for SHOCK WAVES). The same music is heard again in THE DEATH DEALER (the alternate Joseph Brenner US release title to Umberto Lenzi’s ALMOST HUMAN which Brenner also released in the states under its original title).

Given these reconstructions, one laments that the current DVD releases of some of these films – legit or not – do not look this good. The nice looking trailer of the horrid Independent International nudie-musical CINDERELLA 2000 is far more colourful than Sam Sherman’s cropped fullscreen master supplied to RetroSeduction Cinema for their disc release. The cropping of the open matte and not that carefully composed BLOOD ORGY OF THE SHE DEVILS actually results in some nice-looking compositions. The restored colour palette of TENDER FLESH (aka WELCOME TO ARROW BEACH) suggests that Lawrence Harvey directing and acting in his last film had something loftier in mind than the trailer narration suggests (“Makes the killing in SNUFF look like amateur hour!”). VIRGIN WITCH’s trailer (“In a circle of sin, the devil initiates the VIRGIN WITCH”) also looks slightly more colourful than the Anchor Bay UK release.

Some of the reconstructions, however, are not so accomplished. INVASION OF THE BLOOD FARMERS alternates between sharp, dimensional footage from the film and flat, dull footage whenever text appears. The footage for THE EXTERMINATOR looks great but the title which zooms in on a black background does look like its been replaced rather than restored as the zoom is too smooth. The TV spot for HOUSE OF PSYCHOTIC WOMEN combines 1.66:1 cropped footage from a new transfer of the film (could be the BCI release or the Tripictures disc) with the faded text screens. THE DRILLER KILLER and NURSE SHERRI fare better because the films themselves look awful.

On the other hand, there are also some that are welcome in any form. The trailer for the Lee Hessel US release of Jose Ramon Larraz’s VAMPYRES (“Very unnatural ladies”) certainly strikes a different note from the British trailer which better represents the film’s atmosphere. The trailer for BLOODY PIT OF HORROR is always entertaining and here it looks better than it has on Image’s and Alpha Video’s DVD releases where the scratchy trailer matched the film’s transfer. THE DEPRAVED has not been completely scrubbed of its scratches but the image looks considerably more lifelike than the source seen on Synapse’s 42nd STREET FOREVER. CRIMINALLY INSANE’s widescreen trailer looks about on par with E.I. Independent Cinema’s DVD release and may also be a reconstruction. DON’T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT has been cleaned up as much as it can here but is still grainy as the original film yet the quality of the audio on this one really stands apart from those of the other trailers. The scope trailer for Aristide Massacessi-shot THE ARENA looks soft but it’s a welcome sight since none of the DVD releases of this film have been letterboxed.

Stephen Thrower contributes a 10 minute interview called “Into the Grindhouse” contextualizing the Grindhouse concept for British audiences but the supplement might also be useful for American audiences who are only aware of it through Tarantino and co. Posters for all of the films are included in a still gallery. Additionally, trailers for the Nucleus Films DVD releases of BLOODBATH AT THE HOUSE OF DEATH (“Look out, a bat!”), DEATH SHIP, FAUSTO 5.0, GWENDOLINE, LONDON VOODOO, and the first GRINDHOUSE TRAILER disc are included. All of the menus are accompanied by sound-bytes from the trailers (the main menu makes use of narration from THE DEPRAVED).

So, where’s the VIDEO NASTY’S TRAILER COLLECTION?

(Eric Cotenas)