My DVD Shelf: "42nd Street Forever, Vol. 4"
Subtitled as "Cooled By Refrigeration," this is the latest installment in one of the best ongoing series being released to DVD right now. Synapse Films has been putting these out for the last three years now, each one packed with about two hours worth of movie trailers from the classic age of exploitation. If you can't imagine sitting through two hours of crazy trashy wild trailers, these discs may not be for you.
For me, though? These are total movie nerd crack. These are the closest thing I've found to capturing the pre-show experience whenever I go to the Alamo Drafthouse. Tim League loves to program old trailers and commercials and whatever ephemera he thinks might appropriately tie in to whatever he's showing, and the result is a pretty potent cocktail of weird. I love that if you watch a ton of these trailers in a row, they all start to blend together into one giant bizarro movie that features more crazy genre conventions, bare titties, bloody bodies, and freaky creatures than any one film could ever contain. It's intoxicating.
Up till now, I've just been watching the discs for the trailers, and I didn't see much point to the commentaries. My buddy Scott admonished me the other day, though, saying I was only getting part of the experience. "Those commentaries are awesome," he told me, urging me to give one a try. So after I mainlined all forty-something trailers, I started over with the commentary playing.
Sure enough, I've been missing out. Fangoria editor Michael Gingold, AVMANIACS editor Edwin Samuelson, and Chris Poggiali bounce off of each other for the full two hours, and the amount of anecdotal information they provide on every film is amazing, especially when you consider that they've only got three minutes or so for each film. Check out the notes I made as I watched the start of the disc:
THE SYNDICATE: A DEATH IN THE FAMILY. Helen Mirren and Barbra Bouchet in the first film, a long lost Italian film. It was rated X originally, but played TV a lot in the '80s.
COMBAT COPS. William Girdler. Talk about the multiple titles and multiple cuts.
Gingold's excited about this next one. ALIEN ENCOUNTER/IT CAME WITHOUT WARNING/WITHOUT WARNING (1980 release by Filmways) Jack Palance. Martin Landau. Greg Cannom's flying suckers and the giant alien played by Kevin Peter Hall. Not released anywhere on video ever.
NO BLADE OF GRASS. Another movie never on video. It's a post apocalyptic British movie. Totally different than stuff like MAD MAX.
Everyone seems excited by YOR HUNTER OF THE FUTURE. They're delighted by the fact that it's Columbia that released it proudly. Gingold tells the story of a review for the film with the headline "Up Yors".
SIMON: KING OF THE WITCHES, talking about Andrew Prine, a former race-car-driver-turned-film-director. It's a trippy trailer. Talk about seeing it on USA Groovy Movies for the first time.
The trailer for THE PSYCHIC, which is basically just the poster art. Then a bit of quick footage. For some reason, this film busted Fulci at the box-office for a while, which makes no sense. It's a great Fulci film.
SCHIZOID. Not the Fulci one. This is the Canon Films version. Klaus Kinski plays the leader of a group therapy group, and one of them rightly asks, "Who would be in a support group run by Klaus Kinski?"
That's only the first twelve minutes, but it gives you an idea how conversational and informational it is, a great combination. I'm definitely going to go back now to watch the commentaries on the earlier volumes. In the meantime, special thanks to Don May Jr and Jerry Chandler from Synapse for their ongoing dedication to one of the most enjoyable concepts in DVD publishing right now.