Cine Outsider header
front page    disc reviews    film reviews    articles    interviews  
A love affair with trailer trash
A UK DVD review of GRINDHOUSE TRAILER CLASSICS VOL. 3 by Gort
 

After years of watching them, or perhaps being exposed to them, I'm still not sure how I feel about film trailers. They can certainly succeed in selling you a product you might not otherwise have bought, but that's also part of their problem. The best trailers are small works of art in themselves, but today they have become predictably structured beasts. Choice bits of a movie are cobbled together and climax in footage from the film's final act, accompanied by the same super-serious gravelly voice-over and music that steadily builds in intensity. In the absence of that, there'll be plenty of plot-revealing dialogue, unless it's a foreign language film, then there'll be no talk at all to avoid scaring off those who are terrified by subtitles. It's this predictability of form and structure allowed Brian McElhaney and Nick Kocher to make their hilarious but painfully accurate Trailer For Every Oscar-Winning Movie Ever.

But there's something about watching a batch of old trailers for trashy exploitation movies – a term I use with loving affection – that in some ways is more fun than the films themselves. As Kim Newman states on this very disc, this is a party collection, one to watch in one sitting with like-minded friends and a few slabs of beer. As with any such set, there's a buzz that comes from realising what film you are watching before the title is revealed, particularly if you can rub it in the faces of your slower companions. Maybe that's just me. But unless you are seriously steeped in 70s grindhouse cinema, the real fun will come from the revelation that some of these extraordinary looking films were made in the first place.

This is Nucleus Films' third collection of grindhouse trailers, and unlike their brilliant Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide, which was a companied by a killer documentary, this disc is designed to be enjoyed solely for the trailers. Picking favourites is tough and I've thus ended up briefly commenting on all 55 of them, hopefully to give a flavour of why they are so entertaining to watch. If you want to go in cold – and it is even more fun when you don't know what's coming next – then skip to the sound and vision bit below by clicking here.

the trailers

1. Act of Vengeance
Five violated women learn karate and form a "Rape Squad" to teach sexually aggressive men a painful lesson in respect. Frankly, this sounds like a splendid idea.

2. Sweden Heaven and Hell
The more liberal minded Sweden is painted as a den of immoral iniquity, where women jog naked in the snow, couples swap partners and watch porno movies, biker gangs run wild and violate the innocent, bored kids hurl themselves from the roofs of buildings, desperate women turn lesbo, and 15-year-old girls learn "the practical side of sex" (what's the impractical side?) on a "floating sex lab." Hilarious.

3. The Doberman Gang
An initially fascinating but eventually daffy sell for a personal favourite from years past. "See the Doberman Gang bite the long arm of the law!"

4. The Female Response
A pseudo-documentary about "the one moment that makes all women sisters under the skin." Looks a riot.

5. Flesh Feast
Wobbly editing and a dead serious voice-over for a 1970 trash horror starring Veronica Lake. Yes, that Veronica Lake.

6. Slash – The Blade of Death
A high octane martial arts trailer narrated by someone who sounds like he's never had an exciting moment in his life.

7. Schizoid
A cheesy sell for a smart Italian giallo that is more commonly known as Lizard in a Woman's Skin, a film in which, we are assured, someone will be "torn to shreds by terror-madness!"

8. Terminal Island
Burly men and perm-haired women are imprisoned on an island "where we dump our human garbage" and start shooting at each other. The trailer makes it look almost like Battle Royale and assures us that it's "the most exciting motion picture of the decade." Can't wait.

9. Panama Red
Hey baby, get me some Panama Red so I can get out of my brain and watch "a rare motion picture carved out of today's headlines."

10. The Touch of Satan
Demonic dealings from the past manifest themselves in modern times as "a story of witchcraft that could happen to your next-door neighbour." Ah, so that's why Janet's been dressing in black lately.

11. Black Mama, White Mama
The Defiant Ones with babes instead of dudes. The trailer itself is in rather good shape, and Black Mama is played by the wonderful Pam Greer.

12. It Came Without Warning
Youngsters are terrorised by flying, sharp-toothed rectums. At least that's what it looks like. Bloody hell, is that Jack Palance and Martin Landau?

13. The Working Girls
A dryly funny looking sex comedy. "The competition's stiff, but they can handle it." Ha ha ha.

14. The Swedish Wife Exchange Club
A brilliantly titled film that looks like a head-on collision between a softcore porno and a courtroom drama. Come on, m'lud, show us yer briefs.

15. Cannibal Girls
A soberly narrated trailer for a great little low budget 70s horror. You might want to crank the sound down if you don't want your eardrums pierced by the shrill "warning bell".

16. The Spook Who Sat by the Door
It sounds like a racist title but you expect a supernatural thriller. Oh wait, it's actually about the first black CIA agent, one who eventually organises gang members to fight against The Man. The film actually has a good rep, but the trailer makes it look like giving a badge and a gun to a Brother is just asking for trouble.

17. Superchick
The title alone had me giggling my arse off, but you wait until you clap eyes on this "super kind of woman," a mild mannered air hostess who is also a mistress of the martial arts. If the trailer is any indication, she's rubbish at both.

18. The Shriek of the Mutilated
I want to have this title's babies. Not sure about the film, though, one in which screaming people are attacked by a man in an out-of-focus yeti suit. But don't worry, it apparently has "the surprise ending of the year."

19. Deadly China Doll
"A deadly jungle of karate kung-fu combat." Which is it, you dolts? Ah who cares. It stars the fabulous Angela Mao Ying and she's brilliant in anything, even when she's been as shabbily dubbed as she has here.

20. Northfield Cemetery Massacre
'Decent' people exercise their right to bear arms against a denim-dressed biker gang. Some interesting camera angles and stylish slomo make this look classier than it probably is.

21. Nazi Love Camp 27
One of a string of trashy 70s sexploitation films set in Nazi concentration camps. Tasteful, huh? The trailer itself is preceded by a piss-funny announcement from a campy office nerd, who warns us that the trailer has been censored to avoid upsetting children. Given that there is still plenty of full-frontal nudity, this is doubtless complete bollocks, but it still plays a neat trick by inserting a title card emblazoned with the word CUT at key moments in the hope of selling the film as extreme.

22. Moonshine County Express
Three sisters inherit a hundred barrels of bootleg booze in one of a number of redneck actioners released around the time of Smokey and the Bandit. But hey, John Saxon's in it! And William Conrad!

23. Revenge of the Ninja
An alternately stylish and daffy looking martial arts actioner.

24. Police Women
Karate kicking women beat the crap out of anyone gets in their way in "a hard hitting film that takes you on a rollercoaster ride of hard hitting violence... and soft girls." Yeah, see how soft they are when they plant their heels in your goolies.

25. Invasion of the Flesh Hunters
John Saxon (we love him!) is back in a cannibalism exploiter with a hilarious title. I mean, how hard would you have to hunt for flesh on a planet teaming with animal life?

26. Linda
The sort of modern witchcraft tale where a man tells a half-naked woman "You remind me of the mysterious, irresistible sorcerers out of books on fantasy" and then fondles her breasts. The dubbing is comical too. Lots of nudity here.

27. Open Season
Peter Fonda stars in an update of The Most Dangerous Game, one that frankly looks too interesting to be unintentionally amusing.

28. The Harrad Experiment
An adaptation of a book about a college co-ed living experiment, one directed by Ted Post and co-starring Tippi Hedren and young newcomers Bruno Kirby and Don Johnson. The trailer tells you precious little about the content beyond the idea that boys and girls get to share rooms on campus.

29. Don't Open the Door
One of a number of 70s and 80s horror flicks with the word "Don't" in the title. This one features a very annoying electronic twanging for shock moments.

30. The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun
A pretty and sophisticated woman-about-town becomes embroiled in a mystery. The title sounds a little like one rejected by Jean-Luc Godard when refining his famed description of the things you need to make a movie. It's directed by Anatole Litvak, who three years earlier made Night of the Generals. It also unites Samantha Eggar and Oliver Reed nine years before The Brood.

31. The Candy Snatchers
Three hapless goons kidnap a woman named Candy and the trailer keeps cutting back to the same comical shot of the kidnappers sitting motionless in their truck, dolled up in glasses and false noses like background characters from an early Woody Allen film.

32. The Female Bunch
The Wild Bunch, but with females. Or not. One thing we do know, this lot don't give a damn about society's rules. But hell, Russ Tamblin and Lon Chaney Jnr. are in it.

33. Tarzana: The Wild Girl
One of those trailers you just wouldn't see now that is criminally unembarrassed about lumping the words "Africa" and "savage" together in the belief it will chill your middle-class whitey bones. Mind you, Tarzana is so white that you'd lose sight of her completely if it snowed. Looks jaw-droppingly cheapjack.

34. Swedish Fly Girls
"What Swedish fly girls do in this movie is not dirty or wrong under the laws of Denmark." Pity they're not Danish, then. Oh, I get it, they fly there. Naughty girls.

35. Soul Soldier
A black cavalry regiment shows that it rides, fights and loves every bit as predictably as its white counterpart.

36. Macon County Line
Real-life brothers Alan and Jesse Vint hit the road for some fun before joining the army, then run into trouble when they cross the county line of the title. One of the classier and better performed American exploitation films of the 70s. The trailer ends on one of the longest and loudest screams I've ever heard.

37. Paranoia
Carroll Baker plays a wealthy fun seeker who gets seduced and abused by a couple of unhinged swingers. The narrator is certainly excited about this one.

38. The Centerfold Girls
Bare chested glam models are terrorised by a razor-wielding nerd in a rather well edited trailer that's hampered by the usual over-sincere narration.

39. Black Oak Conspiracy
Cars, punch-ups and good old boys, and a secret that could cost you your life. Allegedly.

40. Beware of the Brethren
An utterly bemusing trailer in which we are encouraged to fear men dressed like motorcycle cops because "they prey on women." Wow, an exploitation film in which men prey on women. I'm shocked.

41. Succubare
Described at the start as "incredibly fantastic" and peppered with bright red title cards that say things like "a strange cult...love-murder" and "a weird force horror", this may be the oddest trailer here, and seems to be selling the film on the basis that it's oriental and strange and that's all you need to know.

42. The Vampires Night Orgy
Oh, I like the look of this one, if only for its offbeat camerawork and sense of other-worldly strangeness. It was released by the International Amusement Corporation, which sounds like something from an early Mel Brooks film. Might have to talk to them about the missing apostrophe in that title, though.

43. Class of '74
Four attractive female college friends make a pledge to outsmart men. Shouldn't take long.

44. Blood and Lace
Accusations, cat fights, severed hands and dead bodies in a film whose plot remains a complete mystery.

45. The Dead Are Alive!
The spirits of the dead rise and beat people with sticks. The lovely Samantha Eggar puts in another appearance.

46. The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave
I have a fondness for titles that make no secret of what the film is about, but come on... Doesn't look half bad, though.

47. Blue Sunshine
No piss-taking here. Jeff Liebermann's acid flashback horror is one of the best low-budget genre films of the '70s and the trailer does manage to give a small flavour of why.

48. A Town Called Hell
A Spanish-British revenge western with a killer cast that includes Robert Shaw, Telly Savalas, Stella Stevens, Fernando Rey, Martin Landau, Al Lettieri and Dudley Sutton.

49. The Swappers
A British film about wife swapping "that dares to tell and show it like it is behind the closed doors of respectable bedroom communities." Eh?

50. Mother Goose á Go Go
An astonishing title for a sex comedy featuring a bridegroom who faints every time he gets sexually excited and has his condition cured by a shapely doctor who sprays LSD in his face. It was apparently shot in "blushing color".

51. A Small Town in Texas
More Deep South trouble, but a cast that includes Timothy Bottoms, Susan George and Bo Hopkins should be enough to make this at least worth a look.

52. Black Gunn
I'd love to tell you otherwise, but it really is about a black guy looking for revenge with a gun. Oh lordy. Martin Landau's in it. Does that help?

53. The Loves and Times of Scaramouche
Michael Sarrazin (what happened to him?) and Ursula Andress star in a rollicking sub-Tom Jones period adventure. At one point a woman ecstatically cries "Scaramouche! Scaramouche!" like she's about to break into Bohemian Rhapsody.

54. The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here!
"The man-eating killer rats are back!" we are told (where have they been and when were they last here?). The extraordinary title sounds like an announcement made by the butler at a ghoulish dinner party. Cheap doesn't begin to describe it.

55. The Telephone Book
An intriguing single-shot trailer and an interesting tagline that assures the film is "the story of a girl who falls in love with the world's greatest obscene phone call."

sound and vision

Oh how to judge this? The trailers in this compilation have been pulled from what looks like a variety of sources, which judging from their condition ranged from film libraries to trash cans to the odd VHS tape, some of them NTSC. The best material looks good, but the contrast is variable and colour frequently drained, and a few are ablaze with dust and scratches. There are plenty of compression artefacts, but I'm working from a review disc where everything has been squished onto a single layer, so the release version should look a bit better. This is a rare occasion when none of this matters, given the nature and age of the films in question, and the doubtless rarity of some of these trailers.

The mono 2.0 sound is similarly up and down in quality and range, but once again I stopped taking much notice a couple of trailers in.

Impressively, Nucleus have provided optional English subtitles and chapter stops for every trailer here.

extra features

Kim Newman's Guide to Grindhouse (15:22)
The venerable and hugely knowledgeable Mr. Newman provides a typically enthralling and informative guide to the trailers on in this collection. If you're looking to go in cold (worth doing if you can) then I'd save this until afterwards, as there are a lot of extracts from the trailers. What Newman does really well is look beyond the surface to the trends that the films were part of and the undercurrents that ran through them, and he entertainingly recalls his own grindhouse viewing experiences. He also provides a brief intro at the start of the trailers themselves.

Poster Gallery (2:20)
A rolling gallery of posters for what looks like every film here, set to trailer soundtrack extracts. Cool.

summary

The basis for a good nostalgia-based drinking game, Nucleus's latest grindhouse trailer compilation is as much fun as its predecessors, and while the backup material is on the slim side, what has been provided is well targeted.

Grindhouse Trailer Classics Vol. 3

The 1970s, generally
124 mins

DVD details
region 2
video
various anamorphic
sound
Dolby mono 2.0
languages
English
subtitles
English
extras
Kim Newman on Grindhouse
Poster gallery
distributor
Nucleus Films
release date
5 December 2011
review posted
2 December 2011

related review
Grindhouse Trailer Classics Vol. 2
Grindhouse Trailer Classics Vol. 4

See all of Gort's review