Archive for March, 2009

ARCHIVE REVIEW: Grindhouse Trailer Classics 2

Posted in Ramblings, Sites of Interest with tags , , , , , , , , on March 31, 2009 by Andrew T. Smith

Here is a review I wrote last year for Julian Knott’s excellent ZetaMinor that ended up, for reasons of time, not being used. 


grind4

Film legend tells of the Grindhouse, a low rent breed of cinema where the rules of mainstream moviemaking did not apply. ‘Exploitation’ films shown in these venues were designed to lure in select audiences with niche interests. From admirers of the female form, to urban black audiences keen to see the latest Blacksploitation flick or martial arts enthusiasts eager to catch an imported kung fu movie, a lot of genre needs were catered to in these unprestigious venues.

grind5

With the recent release of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’ big budget cinema tribute to the Grindhouse a whole new wave of film buffs have come to discover the many delights (and occasional horrors) that were offered during the heyday of these theatres during the 1960s, 70s and 80s. This disk represents the second offering of Grindhouse Trailers presented for your viewing pleasure by Nucleus films.

grind12

The 55 trailers included in Grindhouse Trailer Classics 2 are Night Call Nurses, The Tigress (Ilsa, the Tigress of Siberia), Sister Street Fighter, Kung Fu, Chain Gang Women, Black Shampoo, The Undertaker and his Pals, Jailbait Babysitter, Violent Professionals, The Cheerleaders, Cuthroats Nine, The Black Gestapo, Sacrifice, Dolemite, The House that Screamed, Dr Minx, Don’t Go in the House, Cinderella 2000, The Hunchback of the Morgue, Criminally Insane, Foxy Brown, Bloody Pit of Horror, The Pink Angels, Nightmare, The Depraved, Don’t Look in the Basement, The Arena, Naughty Stewardesses, Snuff, The Twilight People, The Worm Eaters, The Virgin Slaughter, Mean Mother, Tender Flesh, Ilsa, the Wicked Warden, Death Dealer, Invasion of the Blood Farmers, Deep Red, Mighty Peking Man, Asian Monster, Blood Orgy of the She Devils, The Bodyguard, Virgin Witch, Women in Cages, The Exterminator, Don’t Answer the Phone!, Raw Meat, Street Law, Flesh Gordon, Vampyres, Rabid, House of Psychotic Women, The Girls Who Do, The Driller Killer, Nurse Sherri, Chinese Hercules and Invasion of the Bee Girls.

grind8

This eclectic mix ranges from the disgusting (The Worm Eaters offers exactly what the title suggests), to the hilarious (The Pink Angels, Jailbait Babysitter) and from the well made (Foxy Brown, The Exterminator), to the sleazy (The Depraved is a particularly disturbing example of the darker side of what the Grindhouse had to offer; a film in while the entire plot involves around the pursuit and abuse of a young girl). Regardless of the artistic merit of the films advertised here – you either enjoy this type of thing or you don’t ‘get’ it at all-the trailers offer a fascinating insight into just what kind of films would sell, or at least what filmmakers thought would sell, in the 1970s. While the collection as a whole still stands as a fun overview of Grindhouse cinema it suffers in comparison to Nucleus Film’s first volume. While there are a few excellent trailers on offer here there are very few standouts among the trailers in comparison to the the earlier disk. 

grind3

Video and Audio

All of the trailers are presented in anamorphic widescreen and are a mixed bag in terms of print quality. While one would never wish to view complete films in such grainy, soft focus prints as are presented here there is something about the theatrical trailer that lends itself to a slightly worn transfer. With the inclusion of a coming attractions card and film ‘leader’ at the top and tail of most of the trailers Nucleus Films are clearly sending out the message that this disks intention is to recreate the Grindhouse experience at home.

What is not so forgivable however is that this two hour presentation is crammed onto a single DVD5 and the bit rate suffers as a result at an average of 3.81Mbs. The video is also unfortunately interlaced. While the image is always watchable a number of the trailers, particularly those sources from lesser quality prints, suffer as a result.

NOTE: See the comments section of this post for a reply from Nucleus Films regarding DVD encoding. It would seem release copies differ from review copies in that they are given breathing space on a comfortable DVD9. 

Audio is presented in dual channel mono and is reasonably clear throughout. Some trailers may sound slightly muffled but is fair to assume that many of these instances are a result of the recording techniques used during the production of these low budget films and not the fault of the DVD reproduction. 

grind11

Extras

The disk opens with a trailer for Bloodbath at the House of Death, recently released on DVD by Nucleus Films.

Into the Grindhouse (10m26)

An interview with Grindhouse historian Stephen Thrower, the author of the book Nightmare USA. Thrower tells the story of his own experience of discovering the genre and why he feels this strand of filmmaking deserves critical attention. Despite the short running time of this featurette Thrower is also able to offer a decent overview of the advertising strategies used in the many trailers on this disk.

Grindhouse Poster Gallery (1m49)

A gallery of Grindhouse posters with musical backing. Chaptered.

‘Also Available’ Trailers

A selection of trailers for titles that are available from Nucleus films.

Bloodbath at the House of Death (2m34s) NOTE: This is a different trailer to the one that opens the disk.

Gwendaline (2m12)

Fausto 5.0 (1m35)

Death Ship (2m45)

London Voodoo (2m)

grind10

Summary

While still fascinating to watch the overall impression I got while viewing Grindhouse Trailer Classics 2 was that the best of the collection available to Nucleus Films had already been used in volume 1. Still, for 118 minutes of vintage material, some interesting yet limited extras and pretty packaging a fan of the Grindhouse stable can’t really go wrong considering the disk can be picked up for under ten pounds online.

BUY from Nucleus Films. Or don’t. I can’t make you do anything you don’t want to.

Advertisements

PLUG: Filmed In Supermarionation

Posted in Sites of Interest with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 22, 2009 by Andrew T. Smith

detail_books32

I know this is my second plug in a row on an otherwise infrequently updated blog but I can’t help it if my friends are talented.

“They were the worlds that launched a generation of childhoods; a rocket powered blend of action, adventure and explosions. They were worlds where cars could fly, horses could talk, and where it was better to avoid anything marked ‘atomic engine.’ They were the worlds of Supermarionation. 

Filmed in Supermarionation: A History of the Future is the story as you’ve never heard it before, of the puppet empire that rose from the Slough Trading Estate in the 1960s and created television shows such as Thunderbirds, Stingray, Captain Scarlet, Fireball XL5 and Joe 90. Starting right at the beginning with a two-line advertisement, and finishing on the day the puppet studios closed in 1969, the book charts the rise and fall of the A.P. Films / Century 21 Organisation’s ‘Supermarionation’ films. 

The book features a wealth of new information, including many previously unseen photographs, and is based on hours of interviews with cast and crew, newspaper articles and previously unpublished paperwork. 

Paperback: 208 pages 9″ x 11.5 

Publisher: Hermes Press; illustrated edition 
Full colour, glossy paper 
Language: English 
ISBN-10: 1932563237 
ISBN-13: 978-1932563238″

I’ve been lucky enough to read Stephen La Rivière’s Filmed In Supermarionation: A History of the Future through various stages of its development and can say with confidence that Gerry Anderson fans are in for a treat. Stephen has devoted a substantial chunk of his life to writing the definitive history of Supercar, Stingray, Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet et al and his great efforts show through in the final work. Detailed, comprehensive, witty and at times surprisingly moving, I have no hesitation is recommending Filmed in Supermarionation to anyone.

To find out more and order copies of the book you can visit the author’s website www.filmedinsupermarionation.co.uk

Plug/Review ‘The Charlie Hall Picture Archive’

Posted in Ramblings, Sites of Interest with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 17, 2009 by Andrew T. Smith

charliehallfrontcover

DISCLAIMER: My name is listed in the acknowledgments section of this book and the author is a friend of mine. Nevertheless I believe my review would be equally as favourable if this were not the case.

Despite a list of acting credits as long as your arm, Charlie Hall is not a name that is instantly recognisable to any but the most ardent classic film fans. Born in Birmingham, England in 1899, Hall emigrated to America in his twentieth year. As a trained carpenter he found work behind the scene in New York film studios before eventually finding himself in front of the camera. Today he is best remembered for his appearences as a foil to the ever popular Laurel and Hardy during their hayday at the Hal Roach film studios in the 1930s.

It is to Laurel and Hardy fan Dean McKeown’s credit that, when he purchased a batch of photographs from the personal collection of 1930s character actor and comedian Charlie Hall, he felt no desire to horde historic artefacts to himself.  Instead he immeadiatley set to work assembling this book as a means of sharing the images with interested parties world wide. Hundreds of photos are presented uncropped in this 170-page, large format soft-back book and are given context by Dean’s well researched text. 

img043

Beyond simply collecting film stills (although there are many fine examples of these), The Charlie Hall Picture Archive delves into the actors personal snaps. Many of the photographs were taken during a visit from his mother, who still lived in England. Mother Hall was given a full tour of her son’s new home and fans of classic Hollywood film making are bound to pleased with the visual record of the city that has been preserved in these informal snaps. The fact that Hall kept such a detailed record of her visit perhaps hints to the fact that he regretted not seeing her more during his adult life and the book is all the more worthwhile for this kind of insight. 

 You can order The Charlie Hall Picture Archive at this website along with a range of attractive postcards that present a selection of the images from the book in a higher print quality suitable for framing. If you’re at all interested and can afford to then I urge you to invest in a copy as such a worthy venture as this deserves to succeed in not only reaching as many people as possible but also in rewarding it’s creator. 

http://www.charliehallpicturearchive.com/