I'm sure that there are film historians who would argue that movies have lost much of their glitz and glamour and that today's features are all about noise and action. The same could be said for movie trailers. Today's previews are often full of quick-cuts and random images, accompanied by popular music and corny one-liners. Despite the vague nature of these previews, they often still manage to give away the movie's entire plot. In the end, modern trailers are typically just longer, louder commercials.
But, in the middle and late 20th century, trailers, especially those for low-budget films, were an event. For many of these B-movies, it often seemed that more work went into the trailer than into the film itself. These previews used large, brash on-screen words to get the audience excited about the film. While today's trailers (sometimes) attempt to keep the story vague, older trailers would give the audience a blow-by-blow account of what was going to happen. The trailers would often include snippets of shocking or provocative images. Synapse Films has now gathered 47 of these mini-movies onto a DVD entitled 42nd Street Forever, Volume 1, the title being a nod to the area of New York City which used to be the home of exploitation films. This collection proves that the trailer can often be better than the film being advertised.
Following is a listing of the trailers included on this DVD. It would be ill-advised to do an in-depth critique of each trailer, so I will simply list the name of the film, whether or not the trailer piqued my curiosity (demarked with a "YES" or "NO) and then I've added the thoughts which immediately came to mind while watching the previews.
1. The Undertaker and His Pals: YES (This is a classic trailer which pauses, going to a completely white screen, warning the audience of the grotesque images which are about to be shown, and urging the squeamish to cover their eyes. Classic.)
2. Flesh and Blood Show: NO (Despite nearly constant nudity, this trailer is boring. "What's under the stage?" I don't know...maybe the cast's clothing.)
3. Women and Bloody Terror/Night of Bloody Horror: NO (What is this movie about, besides women being hit? "$2000 cash if you die while watching this film". What am I going to do with $2000 if I'm dead?)
4. I Dismember Mama/Blood Spattered Bride: YES (Oh yeh! This trailer tells nothing about the movies, but it's got a fake newscast about a man who went crazy at the Bijou Theater while watching the double-feature. Incredibly cornball, but fun.)
5. Corruption: NO (See Peter Cushing go nuts! Hear the ad-line over and over and over! This trailer made me want to walk home alone.)
6. The Butcher of Binbrook: YES (Now I know the name of the movie that I saw on "Shock Theater" in like 1977 at my grandmother's house. "Necrophagus!" Gory fun!)
7. Ginger: YES (Was she doing a breast self-exam? That ain't sexy.)
8. Italian Stallion: NO (Yes, this is the legendary Sylvester Stallone porno. Apparently cue-card reading is a lost art form (and that wasn't from Stallone).)
9. Creampuffs: NO (They say that laughter is universal. Apparently poorly-dubbed Italian comedies challenge that notion.)
10. The 3 Dimensions of Greta: YES (Hair-raising violence. Glasses not included.)
11. Hard Candy: YES (Ugly people having sex, plus a special appearance by a jar of circus peanuts disguised as medicine. Now that's production design.)
12. The Centerfold Girls: NO ("How far is it from beauty to ugliness?" I dunno...a mile and a half?)
13. Panorama Blue: YES (More like "Panorama Bluescreen". "The World's Mightiest Adult Film!" What? Does it beat up other adult films?)
14. Wicked Wicked: YES ("Filmed in Duovision" which I learned meant that the entire film is split-screen. The trailer gives away the ending.)
15. Teenage Mother: NO (Arlene Sue? Really? Somebody got a girl named Arlene Sue pregnant? Tries to sell itself (?!) as an educational film.)
16. Charlie and the Hooker: NO (Sounds like a wacky new sitcom on Fox. This is an Italian drama and the trailer is very hard to follow.)
17. Matango: YES (From the director of Godzilla comes mushroom people. That looks like fun, Gus.)
18. The Green Slime: YES (The one trailer in this collection which made me sincerely say, "I want to see that movie!" Everything blows up and there is even a "Green Slime" theme song. Awesome!)
19. Destroy All Monsters: YES (Godzilla leads this rubber-suit monster-mash. This trailer almost seems too normal for this collection.)
20. The Crippled Master: NO (I'm fairly certain that even Trey Parker, Matt Stone, and Seth McFarlane would cringe while watching this. It's just wrong.)
21. Werewolves on Wheels: YES ("The most unusual and exciting horror/motorcycle film yet made!" And, man, is that a crowded genre!)
22. The Pink Angels: YES (A gay motorcycle gang. "They rode a lonely road marked detour through a straight world.")
23. The Depraved (AKA Exposed): YES ("Banned in 23 countries". I want to see a list. "...had to wait for the permissive 1970s." So, the movie was in the 1960s going "Come on, make me already!")
24. They Call Her One Eye: NO (Yes, this is the film that served as one of Tarantino's inspirations for Kill Bill, but the trailer is dull.)
25. Maid in Sweden: NO (This simply goes nowhere. There is too much talking, too many creepy, skinny Euro guys, and no maids at all.)
26. Behind Convent Walls: NO (Full frontal nudity + French text + classical music = a mess.)
27. Secret Africa: NO (It's like National Geographic comes to life...and then goes insane.)
28. Shocking Asia: YES (This one wants to be about cultural oddities, but it's really about sex.)
29. Chappaqua X: NO (Drug trip movie. Drug trip trailer.)
30. Welcome Home Brother Charles: YES (An incomprehensible mess of extreme close-ups, lame voice overs, and the picnic table depository. Awesome.)
31. The Legend of Nigger Charley: NO (And not just because of the title. This is just a 30-second teaser and it's sorta pointless.)
32. Boss Nigger: YES (And not just because of the great theme song. I had no idea that there were blaxploitation westerns.)
33. The 44 Specialist: NO (If you like John Saxon or lots of squibs, then this is for you.)
34. The Bullet Machine: YES (So, he makes bullets? A crazy looking British action film with lots of sex.)
35. Death Drive: YES (David Hess takes hostages. Someone alert the media.)
36. The Raiders of Atlantis: YES (Is this a real movie? Was that the car from Grease?)
37. Star Crash: YES (Someone get the MST3K guys on the phone. 60's FX in the 70s...what a great idea.)
38. Confessions of a Summer Camp Counselor: NO (Well, it's good to know that there were movies like Porky's long before Porky's.)
39. Sunset Cove: YES (Sex-comedy romp which is very, very 70s.)
40. Superfuzz: YES (One of the greatest movies ever made. "Supa, supa")
41. Death Will Have Your Eyes: NO (But will it have a storyline?)
42. Death Has Blue Eyes: NO (I thought that death had my eyes. My eyes aren't blue. Is there a psychic killer in this movie?)
43. A Black Veil for Lisa: YES (A black eye for the viewer. "A honky-tonk carnival". Really?)
44. Ironmaster (Foreign Version): YES (The trailer for this nutty caveman movie is in French, but I think I get the idea. Beaucoup rock throwing.)
45. The Rape of the Sabines: NO ("Made acceptable for the entire family". You do know that "rape" is in the title, right?)
46. The Deadly Spawn: YES (Toothy goodness. Watch red stuff flow.)
47. The Devil's Nightmare: YES (Just give him some water and send him back to bed. Well, now I know how everyone in the movie dies.)
As you can tell, 42nd Street Forever, Volume 1 is packed with all kinds of oddities and Don May and company deserve kudos for putting together this package of over two hours of obscure trailer. Obviously, there is a diverse group of titles here. And that's the package's one flaw; the selection is too varied. It's great that this collection gives us entries ranging from soft-core porn to horror to action to sex-comedies, but this variety won't hold the interest of every viewer. Personally speaking, the sex stuff held no interest for me, as I would have rather seen more horror trailers. It can easily be said that there is something for every exploitation film fan in 42nd Street Forever, Volume 1, but there's probably not enough of your favorite genre to justify wading through every trailer on this DVD.
42nd Street Forever, Volume 1 comes to DVD courtesy of Synapse films. All 47 trailers in this collection have been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. It's great that the presentation here is anamorphic, but there's no guarantee that the original aspect ratio of every trailer was 1.78:1. Some do look somewhat squeezed. The quality of the trailers varies from rather new looking to some which are riddled with scratches, bad splices, and green lines. (This will simply be charming to some viewers.) Despite the quality of the source material, the visuals are always bright and sharp.
All of the trailers are in Dolby Digital mono. There's not much to say about that other than the fact that the audio is clear and well-balanced. Due to the condition of some of the previews, there are some pops and some hissing to be had here.
There are no extras on this DVD. It's a DVD of movie trailers, what else do you want?
Fans of movies that lie somewhere outside of the norm will most likely get a kick out of 42nd Street Forever, Volume 1, as it offers a mind-blowing array of trailers from bad and obscure films. While not every trailer here thrilled me or even held my interest, the overall journey was fun. Now, I've got to find a copy of Green Slime.