42nd Street Forever: XXX-Treme Special Edition
Synapse Films // Unrated // $29.95 // March 27, 2007
Review by Bill Gibron | posted March 24, 2007
Highly Recommended
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The Product:
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.

The Plot:
What we have here is a collection of 47 vintage trailers, ads for adult films spanning the late '70s and early to mid '80s. All are over two minute in length, and many go on much longer. Containing sex scenes and plot details, these XXX rated offerings leave nothing to the imagination. As you will see once the quality is considered, the collection here is the equivalent of a modern adult industry DVD compilation. In alphabetical order, here are the movies we see marketed for our discreet enjoyment:

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

The DVD:
Need some self-love support but don't feel comfortable heading over to your local adult novelty emporium? Have a hankering for some hardcore, but just can't bring yourself to join one of those high priced pay for play sites? Do the modern versions of X-rated monkey business, with all their plastcine porters and looking glass skies (read: fake breasts and freakishly sized man meat) fail to fulfill your lust for old fashioned smut. Well, step right up my friends and feast your erotica-starved eyes on this little under the radar beauty. Thanks to Synapse Films, the premiere purveyor of everything and anything seedy, scary and/or sexy, you can have your two plus hour porno compendium and avoid the stain of being a public pervert. Indeed, for the sake of "history" and a look at "vintage" vice, you can overload your DVD player with more pops, poon and peter than found in a rap star's home video stash. Sure, there are some nostalgic factors to be taken into consideration. After all, almost all the participants here maintain their original personal pelts (read: they're all hairy down there) and there's not a bottle of Nair in sight. Similarly, the carefully controlled make-up and appearance of today's overly groomed erotic actor is replaced with lots of blemishes, occlusions, and the occasional flawed physique. True, we don't have to put up with bad body art, enumerable piercings, and the frequent flaccidity of a suitcase pimp, so the tradeoff seems pretty equitable.

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.

The Video:
Okay purists. Stop reading right now. Go grab a copy of the Kingdom of Heaven 4 Disc Special Edition, load it into your high-end machine, and float away on a cloud of reference quality digital reproduction. All others, get ready for a random selection of emulsion scratches, crash editing cuts, dirt, grain and any other age-oriented element that can effect an image. Synapse has done a decent job with this transfer, keeping the colors sharp and the contrasts well defined. The 1.78:1 anamorphic presentation is welcome, but it will baffle a few fans, since there are 1.33:1 trailers that use the weird "black box" dynamic to fit within the widescreen parameters. For their rarity and disposability (who ever thought that, 30 years after, there would be a market for hardcore pornography ads?), this is a first rate DVD package.

The Audio:
Sadly, it's straight Dolby Digital Mono throughout the entire sound mix of 42nd Street Forever XXX-treme Special Edition. Even the signature wa-wa pedal music that plays behind most of the fornication is flat and tinny. Of special note is the frequent narration that accompanies these come-ons. They are hilarious, loaded with sleazy innuendo laced lines that will have you giggling in inadvertent delight.

The Extras:
Another minor minus regarding this release is the lack of any added content. While over two hours of steamy sex is perhaps "reward" enough, some individual information on each film (director, stars, year, etc.) would have been nice. It doesn't lessen the overall viability of the set, however.

Final Thoughts:
While it seems silly to point it out once again, let's make one thing perfectly clear – there is all manner of penetration, pop shots, and multiple positions on display as part of 42nd Street Forever: XXX-treme Special Edition. Even though what's being offered is a collection of two to five minute trailers, each one of these ads packs a potent pornographic wallop. As far as a rating, it is clear that only a Highly Recommended will do. In fact, there are so many reasons to relish this release – the nostalgia factor, the naughtiness dynamic, the need for nookie, etc. – that denying its inherent charms would be like dismissing the entire Pussycat Club concept of erotica. Long ago when the earth was green, when lunches were liquid and conventions gave suburbanites an excuse to screw around, this is how the world of wantonness looked. It may not always be pretty – or clean shaven – but it still evokes a time and place where all fetishes could be featured and all desires quelled. There will never be another Times Square, but we can thank modern technology – and this DVD - for keeping its seedy spirit alive.

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