Wednesday, January 30, 2008

See Acts Of Incredible Savagery

I have been a big fan of trailer compilations for a long time. Long before Something Weird Video and Sinister Cinema began selling VHS tapes packed with two hours of spellbinding coming attractions for movies I never thought I’d get to see, I recall a company called Trailers on Tape (I think) that did mail order sales. Over the years, I’ve collected several videotapes full of trailers, including compilations devoted to Elvis Presley movies, 007, horror, science fiction, martial arts and general exploitation. Someone once gave me two tapes filled with trailers for XXX features of the 1970s, but I quickly gave those away (can’t remember now where I got ‘em or who eventually got ‘em). I’ve even made some DVD-R collections of various trailers, nearly twenty of them by now. They’re fun to pop in when company is over, ‘cause they’re usually fun when caught out the corner of the eye, and you don’t have to pay much attention to enjoy them (though they’re better when you do).

Synapse just released its third DVD collection of exploitation and drive-in trailers under its 42ND STREET FOREVER banner (another company, Ban 1, also did a 42ND STREET FOREVER DVD that is also worth having). It has been awhile since I reviewed a trailer comp, not since SWV’s old DUSK-TO-DAWN DRIVE-IN TRASH-O-RAMA collection, but since this one is brand new, you might be interested in what’s on it. 42ND STREET FOREVER, VOLUME 3: EXPLOITATION EXPLOSION begins with the strange Restricted clip featuring the cute kittens that was featured in last year’s GRINDHOUSE. Then, the first of nearly fifty trailers starts…

• SUDDEN DEATH—I saw this years ago, but don’t remember it kicking as much ass as this trailer does. It’s an action movie filmed in the Philippines starring TV star Robert Conrad (THE WILD WILD WEST), Felton Perry (MAGNUM FORCE), Don Stroud and John Ashley, who produced and starred in several Filipino drive-in flicks. Conrad and Perry are “two masters with 1000 ways to kill,” and they demonstrate most of them in the trailer, which tries to sell SUDDEN DEATH as both blaxploitation and kung fu. I wonder why Conrad didn’t make more movies. He probably could have been a major drive-in star if he wanted (he was also in MURPH THE SURF and THE LADY IN RED), but he was also on television virtually all through the 1970s, which probably paid a lot more than junky action flicks. The great cast and bloody violence on display here makes me want to pull that crummy old SUDDEN DEATH VHS out of the closet.

• THE ONE ARMED EXECUTIONER (sic)—“The ultimate in action and adventure” is an entertaining and typically crazy Philippines production about a guy who has his arm cut off by the mob, then learns to kick ass one-armed and go after revenge. I’ve seen this movie several times. A trailer used to appear on old Paragon VHS tapes (like A NAME FOR EVIL), but this is a long version. I should note that Synapse has done a fine job cleaning up these old trailers, presenting them in widescreen (they look like original ratios and are probably close) with good sound. Some have scratching and speckling, but most look quite good.

• JAGUAR LIVES!—Laughingly attempts to sell its star, karate champion Joe Lewis, as the heir apparent to Steve McQueen, Clint Eastwood and Bruce Lee. Lewis was none of the above, and this international production is quite dull, despite the trailer’s focus on action and its great supporting cast, including Christopher Lee, Donald Pleasence, Barbara Bach, Joseph Wiseman, Capucine, John Huston and Woody Strode. All the good parts are in the trailer.

• ENTER THE NINJA—Cannon sets up the trailer for this big hit by explaining to America what a ninja (“the oldest and ultimate martial art”) is and punctuating it with tons of fighting action. What’s odd is that Christopher George, a well known leading man who plays ENTER’s villain, is neither seen in any clips nor mentioned along with stars Franco Nero, Susan George and Sho Kosugi. George must have been something of a draw then, certainly more so than Kosugi and maybe more than Nero and Susan George (no relation). I’d like to hear the story behind Cannon’s decision to shut Chris out, though it didn’t hurt the box office. Every ninja flick that came out of the 1980s was as a result of this film’s success.

• LIGHTNING SWORDS OF DEATH—If you liked SHOGUN ASSASSIN, you might like this Japanese action flick, which Columbia released Stateside in 1974. It appears to be the third “Lone Wolf and Cub” film, but released in the U.S. six years before New World combined the first and second films to make SHOGUN ASSASSIN. I thought it was odd to see Columbia’s name on it, as I don’t recall that studio getting too involved in picking up independent exploitation movies (though I’m certain someone will correct me).

• 5 FINGERS OF DEATH—If you don’t recognize that weird musical sting as Quincy Jones’ IRONSIDE theme, you’ll know it from KILL BILL. Tarantino was influenced by the “acts of incredible savagery” in this movie, which Warner Brothers released in the U.S. It was the first Hong Kong martial arts film to make big bucks in the U.S. and opened the door to dozens more over the next six or seven years.

• THE STRANGER AND THE GUNFIGHTER—Deep-voiced actor Ted Cassidy (Lurch from THE ADDAMS FAMILY) narrates this trailer, an unusual combination of kung fu flick and spaghetti western. Lee Van Cleef and Lo Lieh (5 FINGERS OF DEATH) star in this Italian/Chinese co-production directed by Antonio Margheriti. It’s unusual in that it’s played with a light touch, a humorous tone rarely seen in the two genres. It’s a good trailer for a fun movie. I remember seeing it at a drive-in back in the mid-1970s.

• BEYOND THE DOOR—I’ve seen this trailer for a blatant EXORCIST ripoff many times. The prime selling point may have been seeing squeaky clean Juliet Mills from the bland NANNY AND THE PROFESSOR sitcom as the woman possessed, spewing bile and rotating her head all the way around.

• DEMONOID: MESSENGER OF DEATH—A hilariously bad Mexican horror movie spawns an equally hilarious trailer, which shows Stuart Whitman pounding a nail through a rubbery hand. American Panorama, whoever they were, released this junk, which features nudity, gore, Satan, a burning man, a flying hand and Samantha Eggar.

• THE NIGHT CHILD—Another Italian horror movie with Richard Johnson (aka BEYOND THE DOOR).

• DEVIL TIMES FIVE—All (or most) of the wild killings are seen in this spot. Killer children chop, poke and trap their adult prey. Seen is the notorious shot of the child actors dragging a nude female corpse—played by the mother of two of the young actors (!)—through the snow. Narration compares it to VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED. An apparent reference in the copy to THE OMEN may mark this as a re-release.

• PATRICK—An Australian thriller that looks intriguing and perhaps similar to PSYCHIC KILLER.

• JENNIFER—AIP released this blatant CARRIE ripoff about a plain-looking teenager who uses her mind powers to get back at the rich bitches who tease her. “She’s a holy terror.” And Bert Convy is in it!

• PHASE IV—Intriguing visuals dot this intellectual killer-ant movie, the only film directed by noted designer Saul Bass.

• BUG—“The bug lives. The bug grows.” Large, meat-eating cockroaches set people and buildings (and trucks!) on fire in this dorky horror flick.

• THE UNCANNY—This killer-kitty movie looks awful, though it does star Peter Cushing (just after STAR WARS, I think), Ray Milland and Donald Pleasence. The logo is cheap and horrible.

• THE PACK—I’d like to see this one, as Joe Don Baker fights a pack of wild dogs! Probably better than the crummy DOGS, which at least had a great trailer that claimed, “See Spot run! See Spot…kill!”

• ALLIGATOR—A teaser that presents this clever monster movie as straight-up horror with no indication that it’s a sendup or mention of its stars. No wonder it was a box-office flop that blossomed later.

• KILLER FISH—I think this made MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000, a “terrifying adventure” with very fake-looking piranha and an all-star cast including Lee Majors (yay), Marisa Berenson, James Franciscus, Margaux Hemingway and Karen Black.

• SHARKS’ TREASURE—I like this eccentric adventure, which was apparently “filmed at the risk of life and limb” using actual sharks—“no trick photography, miniatures or mechanical models.” Cornel Wilde (THE NAKED PREY) was the writer, producer, director and star.

• BLOOD BEACH—Someone doing a Burt Young impression narrates like an old detective movie. I’ve never heard of anyone liking this film, and I think it’s a bore, despite John Saxon being in it and it’s having a great title. Saxon says in this monster movie about a creature pulling its victims under the sand, “Just when you think it’s safe to go back in the water, you can’t get to it.”

• HOT T-SHIRTS—I never heard of this sex comedy, which apparently has disco, women with humongous breasts, and a plot about a wet T-shirt contest to save Walter Olkewicz from losing his bar.

• CHEERLEADERS’ WILD WEEKEND—“If you think fifteen naked cheerleaders is not that exciting, ho ho on you. We’ll prove you wrong.” FLESH GORDON’s Jason Williams, ALICE IN WONDERLAND’s Kristine DeBell and BLAZING STEWARDESSES’ Marilyn Joi star.

• SUMMER SCHOOL TEACHERS—Candice Rialson is Conklin T. in this fun New World comedy, part of Roger Corman’s unofficial “3 Girls” series. Also with girl football players, dune buggies, Dick Miller, Candice topless and an O.J. Simpson joke.

• GORP—Producer “I.M. Gross” introduces this “unredeeming and offensive” trailer. I’m sure that’s the general level of humor in this comedy that at least offers a hot young Fran Drescher and a red-haired Eddie Deezen wannabe.

• KING FRAT aka KING @$#! FRAT—A guilty pleasure if I ever saw one, this unabashedly dumb ANIMAL HOUSE ripoff is introduced by actor John DiSanti (who’s gotta be almost forty) in character as Bluto-wannabe Grossout, wearing a Howard the Duck T-shirt that couldn’t possibly have passed legal clearance (he wears it in the film too). I’ve seen the film a zillion times, and the best stuff ain’t in the trailer. I can’t realistically recommend that anyone watch KING FRAT, but I love it. Best. Fart Contest. Ever.

• PRISON GIRLS—Looks to be a skanky porn flick in 3D. “Announcing a major motion picture event.” In a pig’s eye.

• 1,000 CONVICTS AND A WOMAN—Nowhere near as lurid or fun as its concept and title promise. SKIDOO’s Alexandra Hay is the woman. “White man, black man, every man.”

• CHAIN GANG WOMEN—One of exploitation’s most notorious cheat titles. Let me warn you that no chain gang women are in this film, and no women at all for about 45 minutes.

• THE PENTHOUSE—Looks somewhat similar to OPEN SEASON, also directed by Peter Collinson. Stagey-looking thriller about punks who invade the home of Suzy Kendall and her husband.

• THE HOUSE BY THE LAKE—Also known as DEATH WEEKEND, this Canadian thriller isn’t really the horror film promised, even if it did win the “grand prize at the International Terror Film Festival.” Brenda Vaccaro, Don Stroud and Chuck Shamata star.

• NIGHT CALL NURSES—“They always come when you call.” This and the following THE YOUNG NURSES and CANDY STRIPE NURSES are basically the same and follow the same formula as the earlier SUMMER SCHOOL TEACHERS. All are short (usually under 80 minutes) mixtures of sex, humor, drama, action and politics featuring three sexy young nurses, one of whom is a minority (black in NIGHT CALL and YOUNG, Latina Maria Rojo in CANDY STRIPE). I think CANDY STRIPE NURSES, with topless Candice Rialson and Robin Mattson (now a big soap star), is the best of the three.

• THE LIFE AND TIMES OF XAVIERA HOLLANDER—Actually isn’t (she sued to get the producers to change the title of this hardcore movie). WOMEN’S WEAR DAILY allegedly gives it a good review.

• THE HAPPY HOOKER GOES HOLLYWOOD—If you ever wanted to see Adam West and Richard Deacon naked in bed together (and later in drag), this is the place. Martine Beswick (also in THE PENTHOUSE) is Xaviera in this embarrassing Cannon film.

• SURVIVE!—I was stunned to see the names of Robert Stigwood, Allan Carr and Paramount Pictures on this trashy Mexican film about plane crash survivors who go cannibalistic. Yeah, it’s based on a true story—“the most shocking episode in the history of human survival.” Fakest looking snow I’ve ever seen.

• GUYANA: CULT OF THE DAMNED—The director of SURVIVE! produced this sleazy exploitation for his director son. Stuart Whitman is “Jim Johnson” in this slimy but fascinating feature that co-stars (somehow) Gene Barry, John Ireland and Joseph Cotton.

• SEVEN—Lots of explosions and hot women in this 1979 action/adventure directed by Andy Sidaris, who also made the great STACEY!, HARD TICKET TO HAWAII and PICASSO TRIGER. “Death is their way of life.”

• SCORCHY—Connie Stevens, one of cinema’s most underrated hotties, is miscast as Seattle cop Scorchy. Lot of action in the trailer, but the movie ain’t much, even if it does feature William Smith (also in SEVEN) as the heavy and a Connie nude scene. “She’s the hottest cop on the force.”

• SAVAGE STREETS—I have always liked this nasty, scummy, perverted exploitation revenge flick about teen Linda Blair who goes after the scumbags who raped her deaf-mute little sister (Linnea Quigley) with a crossbow. John Vernon, who was with Linda in the equally sleazy CHAINED HEAT, is her unsympathetic principal. The trailer gives you a good indication of what the film’s all about.

• CONVOY—No mention is made of director Sam Peckinpah or its big-name cast until the very end. The trailer is basically C.W. McCall’s hit song playing over footage of trucks smashing into things and Kris Kristofferson with no shirt on.

• HIGH BALLIN’—Jerry Reed, just off SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT, relates the plot of this Canadian action flick in which he plays virtually his SMOKEY role again. More cars smash into things. Peter Fonda is the main star.

• FROM NOON TILL THREE—Intriguingly sells the underrated Charles Bronson in a change of pace role where he plays comedy and romance.

• TELEFON—I like this fun thriller with an oddball premise. Charles Bronson is a KGB agent on a mission in the U.S. Lots of explosions in the trailer.

• LIES—Not sure what this is about, nor have I even heard of it. From 1983, it stars Bruce Davison, Clu Gulager and Ann Dusenberry and is a thriller.

• TATTOO—Looks like a pretentious bore, but I’d love to see it. Bruce Dern (perfectly cast as a psycho) still intimates that he and Maud Adams really “did it” during their love scenes.

In addition, 42ND STREET FOREVER, VOLUME 3 offers a handful of short TV spots: JAGUAR LIVES!, HIGH BALLIN’, CHAMPION OF DEATH, SENIORS, THE LAST SURVIVOR (it’s amazing this movie was ever advertised on TV), THE JESUS TRIP, NAKED ANGELS, BILLY JACK and GOLDEN NEEDLES.

The big extra is the crowded but informative commentary track by cult movie experts Edwin Samuelson, Chris Poggiali and Michael Gingold. In the spirit of disclosure, I’ll admit that Chris and I are friendly acquaintances and that I wrote two DVD reviews for Edwin’s Web site a few years ago (and Synapse head Don May Jr. is a regular at Mobius Home Video Forum, where I moderate several message boards). The commentary is enjoyable, and any criticism would likely be nitpicking (is that really Ernie Anderson voicing the SUDDEN DEATH spot?). These guys, primarily Chris, know their subject matter, have done the research, and do a nice job of imparting information in a casual manner that’s fun to listen to. I do think three guys in the booth, like on MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL, may be one too many though.

Thanks, Synapse, for the good work. Fans of good ol’ violent, sexy, bizarre drive-in trailers won’t wanna be without this one. Looking forward to Volume 4.


J. Brown said...

It becomes plainly obvious to me, after reading your post, that I have a lot of kickass cinema to catch up on.

Anonymous said...

I like Blood Beach so suck it.

Anonymous said...

Put me down as someone else who enjoys BLOOD BEACH.

"This never would have happened back home in Chicago."

John Charles

Marty McKee said...

I don't believe you bastards.

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah? Read my review in VW #39!

John Charles

Joe Kenney said...

Marty, enjoyed these reviews -- I too have all of the 42nd Street discs and have been waiting for volume 6. I mean, what's taking so long! I'm interested in your own homemade trailer DVDs. Let me know if you'd be interested in selling a DVDR or two...

Marty McKee said...

Joe, I can't find any contact info for you. Email me at pimannix at gmail dot com, and I'll burn a coupla discs for you.