Its memory has so much meaning, especially for fans of outsider cinema and beyond the fringe filmmaking, that it's almost become a clichι. Yet those lucky (or in some cases, unlucky) enough to have experienced Times Square and 42nd Street before it was Giuliani-ized recall a sensational cesspool of sleaze, a locale brimming with the good, the bad, and the brazen, all promising illicit thrills and uninhibited chills. So notorious was the region that its name became synonymous with a certain style of movie a no holds barred combination of sin and skin, a taboo-busting experiment in outrageousness and arousal. Since its mid-70s heyday, the Manhattan mainstay has slowly faded over the years, taken over by a family friendly atmosphere that promotes tourism over the tawdry. But if you're looking for a primer on the type of cinematic experiences one could have in a grimy downtown theater on any given New York day, Synapse has something special for you. As the third in an ongoing series of trailer compilations, their 42nd Street Forever collections bring the depraved into the digital age. This latest release focuses on the most forbidden of all Time Square stalwarts the porno film. Indeed, on one tiny aluminum disc, an entire lost world of wickedness is waiting to be discovered.
Alexandra/ All American Girls/ Aroused/ Beverly Hills Cox/ Beyond Desire/ Blonde Ambition/ Blond Ambition/ Burlexxx/ Coming Together/ Debbie Does 'Em All/ Debbie Does Dallas III/ Desire/ Devil in Miss Jones III/Devil in Miss Jones IV/ Dracula Erotica/ "F"/ Fascination For Services Rendered/ Girls on Fire/ Heart Throbs/ Hot Blooded/ Hot Lips/ I Want to Be Bad/Making It Big/ Matinee Idol/ Naked Scents/ Nasty Girls/ Nothing to Hide/The Oddest Couple/ Oriental Jade/Pasage Thru Pamela/ The Ribald Tales of Canterbury/ Scandalous Simone/ Scheherazade: 1001 Erotic Nights/ Sensations/ Showgirls/ Skin Tight/ Supergirls Do General Hospital/ Supergirls Do the Navy/ Surrender in Paradise/ Tickled Pink/ Tight and Tender/ Trashy Lady/ Ultra Flesh
One of the more fascinating aspects of this walk down wantonness lane is the number of recognizable and instantly forgettable faces that flash their fame (and other more private elements) across the screen. Of particular interest are Ron Jeremy (his aggregate weights shifts rather seismically as the titles zoom by), Harry Reems (gotta love that stash), John Holmes (on his last legs), Jamie Gillis and the infamous Robert Kerman, acting under his adult nom de plume "R. Bolla" (fright fans will remember him as the Professor in Rugerro Deodato's classic Cannibal Holocaust). On the gal side, we can see Seka (always a raincoat crowd favorite), Ginger Lynn (looking a bit haggard), Bambi Woods and a couple of films featuring the infamous All American Girls. Those unfamiliar with the sensational slut queens will get a kick out of their campy canoodling, loaded with the kind of post-Peace decade debauchery that the film-based adult industry was famous for. Along the way there are the typical bevy of "blink and you'll miss them" talents, babes and brawn who found minor fame in the genre only to fall to the industry givens of drugs, depression and death. There are also a couple of crazy casting decisions, including the presence of a balding, buttery Ian McGregor as something called "James Bomb" in For Services Rendered. This obvious spy spoof, with its Airplane! like approach to humor, does contain a few gonad snapping moments, as when our leading man drops his dignity, and his pants, for a full on sex session. It's not stimulating. It's disturbing.
In fact, for anyone used to the video age of Eros, when looks and appearance were emphasized in order to "clean up" the industry's perceived shortcomings among mainstream marketers, this entire collection will be a bastion of sensual stumbles and proclivity problems. It has to be said that many of the actresses here have that Alien from LA look about them. Another way to put it is that they appear completely coke whored and anxious for hair metal to gain its eventual foothold. The men all resemble rejects from Aramis and Polo ads (except for the recognizable gents listed above) and you can tell that plastic surgery and fashion design were way out of anyone's league. But for its time capsule qualities, for it's ability to showcase forgotten filmmakers (Henri Pachard gets a nice shout out or two), and illustrate the way old school pornography balanced legitimacy ("these are MOVIES we are advertising, not just masturbation fodder!") with lewdness (just WHERE is that greased fist going???), an overview such as this is priceless. Better still, it peeks the interest of any XXX film fan, creating a whole new realm of commercial viability for such forgotten gems as Ultra Flesh (Sci-Fi sleaze), Blonde Ambition (a slapstick comedy epic), the incredibly odd Passage Through Pamela (can you say tranny time?) and "F" (umm...huh?). Synapse deserves a dozen gold stars for bringing back these campy and carnal treats. Like their exploitation and grindhouse comps, this latest installment of the 42nd Street Forever series is a real keeper.