Written by: Various
Directed by: Various
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman
55 Great Movie Trailers to Rip Your Guts Out!
It’s sort of ironic that the grindhouse—once a seedy, often overlooked underbelly of American cinema—has almost become overexposed in recent years and has even been (often misguidedly) calcified into a certain aesthetic. Yet in some ways, it’s not ironic that this movement has practically been commoditized since it was bred on pure exploitation, with films being churned out by the dozens in order to make a quick buck. The struggle between art and commerce has arguably never been more fascinating; to be conceived as nothing but product, so much of the grindhouse’s output stands as deeply weird, personal material.
To truly see this intersection at work, one needs to look no further than the marketing for these films, which have practically become a genre unto themselves: in many ways, they’re a perfect marriage of art and business, as there’s a true artistry to the way these films were peddled to audiences. With Grindhouse Trailer Classics, Intervision has assembled some “choice cuts” from all corners of the exploitation circuit in order to provide a glimpse into an era that’s been somehow glossed over.
The compilation is a pure, concentrated blast from the past: unfolding without any sort of frame story, it unleashes 55 trailers spanning about a decade that takes films from early 70s brain-mashers to some of the earliest offerings from the 80s. Kicking off in grand fashion with one of the circuit’s most notorious double features (I Eat Your Skin/I Drink Your Blood), it proceeds to cover multiple bases; while a majority of the trailers hail from the horror genre, other exploitation genres are represented as well, including Blaxploitation, women-in-prison, Naziploitation, sexploitation, and even some of the grungier martial arts flicks of the day. There’s no real rhyme nor reason to how it unfolds, an approach that perhaps replicates what it may have been like for grindhouse patrons who may have had no clue what they were in for on a weekly basis.
Of course, the effectiveness and relevance of this collection is relative to one’s familiarity with the films highlighted here. Veterans will likely need little introduction to a majority of its offerings, as it features so many familiar (and notorious) titles. However, those who aren’t as experienced could do much worse than to consider this a handy tour guide as they move through the genre: its horror cuts highlight everything from must-see heavyweights (The Last House on the Left, Zombie, I Spit on Your Grave, God Told Me To) to under-seen treasures (Eyeball, Autopsy, Don’t Open the Window, Zombie Holocaust). Other genres dig a little bit deeper: for example, sexploitation romps like Deadly Weapons and Wham, Bam, Thank You Spaceman reveal just how odd these films could be, while the vengeful female subgenre is well represented by the likes of They Call Her One Eye, Switchblade Sisters, and The Doll Squad.
There’s a little bit for everyone here, provided they’re the sort who has no qualms about treading through some of the weirdest, grimiest movies ever made. The sheer breadth and variety on display here is a nice snapshot of what the genre has to offer; while it’s not quite comprehensive, it’s hard to argue that it doesn’t remind us of the grindhouse’s various flavors in less than 130 minutes. I particularly enjoyed the inclusion of Blaxploitation flicks (including Fight For Your Life!) and the martial arts stuff. A compilation can be considered effective if it compels me to pluck at least one movie from my shelf, and this one can boast that because I’m eager to check out Master of the Flying Guillotine after witnessing its incredible trailer.
I suspect the uninitiated will have their eyeballs scorched accordingly by the rest of the trailers. Above all, Grindhouse Trailer Classics picks out some of the most astonishing bits of movie marketing ever conceived. Each and every one of these feel like they’re previewing some of the greatest movies ever made—even those that fail miserably to live up to the hype (I’m looking at you, Three on a Meathook). Even folks you have seen most of these flicks can glean some enjoyment from seeing their best bits unfurl in a continuous burst, plus it’s always compelling to see just how much was invested in their marketing. For example, the I Dismember Mama and Blood Spattered Bride twin bill features a notorious ad insinuating viewers might go insane from watching, while the aforementioned I Eat/I Drink double feature goes out of its way to make the latter seem absolutely awesome without even really mentioning the former (presumably because it’s awful—talk about a film whose reputation was surely bolstered by its place on this marquee). I do wish the compilation managed to feature more gimmicky trailers like that, though it’s not like they’re not abundant and easily accessible these days.
For the most part, Grindhouse Trailer Classics satisfies the basic requirements of such a collection: it’s quick, it’s fun, and works as both an introduction and a nostalgia trip, depending on your level of exposure. Intervision even tosses in a poster gallery and a featurette with cult host Emily Booth, who provides a nice Cliff’s Notes rundown on the grindhouse circuit. In less than twenty minutes, Booth traces the rise and fall of the grindhouse and interestingly notes how it still lives on through genre films and even blockbusters (her observation that Jaws was essentially an exploitation film masquerading as an A-movie is spot on). The other big draw here is that all of the trailers are presented in anamorphic widescreen; the quality does vary depending on the source material, but it’s worth noting that this isn’t just a haphazard assemblage of shoddy VHS rips. As such, it’s easily recommendable, especially for folks looking to dip their toes into the murky exploitation pool. Those looking for a nostalgia trip will only be missing the filthy floors, the vagrants, and the general sensation that one is cheating death by venturing down 42nd street. Buy it!
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