Synapse Films

In an age where a new direct-to-video torture porn title hits video store shelves every Tuesday and the new Will Smith or Will Ferrell flick opens to a half-full, half-assed audience every Friday, Synapse Films gladly answers the cries of the Grindhouse Gods once again by releasing another incredible entry in their 42nd STREET FOREVER series. 42nd STREET FOREVER: VOLUME 4 brings us 48 Prevues Of Coming Attractions, all assembled nicely into their various genres (where applicable).

The fun begins with THE SYNDICATE: A DEATH IN THE FAMILY, a 1960s Italian-made crime/mob flick featuring Helen Mirren and Barbara Bouchet that was re-released in the 1970s come the GODFATHER era. Some truly psychedelic imagery abounds through the trailer. Hopefully, somebody might track down a print of this film and release it on DVD, as it looks pretty nice.

COMBAT COPS (aka THE ZEBRA KILLER) is a racially racy film with a black-faced killer in an afro wig loose in the city. Austin Stoker plays a detective on the trail of the murderer in this film from William Girdler, the man that later brought us GRIZZLY, DAY OF THE ANIMALS and THE MANITOU.

Taking a complete 180 from the previous two titles, next up is IT CAME WITHOUT WARNING (aka WITHOUT WARNING), a marvelous-looking alien invasion flick from low-budget movie guru Greydon Clark that features Jack Palance, Martin Landau, Cameron Mitchell, Kevin Peter Hall (foreshadowing his PREDATOR role), and, if you look quickly enough, David Caruso (sans those damn sunglasses) in his first role!

A true classic that has still not been released on home video in the U.S., Cornell Wilde’s NO BLADE OF GRASS is a solid British entry in the apocalyptic genre. Nigel Davenport heads of a cast of mostly unknowns (most of whom are still that in that category).

I’m sure I don’t need to tell any of you how truly bad YOR: THE HUNTER FROM THE FUTURE is, but hey, it’s become quite the cult classic over the years (I myself am the proud owner of the old videocassette as well as the theatrical posters and lobby cards). Unfortunately, the trailer doesn’t feature any clips of the wonder theme song from the De Angelis Brothers.

Trailers for two of my personal favorites are up next: SIMON, KING OF THE WITCHES with Andrew Prine, and Lucio Fulci’s THE PSYCHIC. Neither trailer did either film justice -- which is probably why neither film really never made much of an impact.

A couple of slasher and semi-slasher titles follow next: SCHIZOID (with Klaus Kinski); Lawrence Harvey’s final flick, TENDER FLESH (aka WELCOME TO ARROW BEACH); DIE SISTER, DIE; SILENT SCREAM; and NEW YEAR’S EVIL, the latter of which has a creepy moment of a killer wearing a Stan Laurel mask.

A somewhat lengthy preview for the well-made LET’S SCARE JESSICA TO DEATH gives the viewer entirely too much (and yet, too little) information to handle (it’s still a good movie), whereas a teaser trailer for MORTUARY (which I liked back when I saw it) offers nothing more than a shot of Michael Berryman being dragged underground by a seemingly-undead cemetery resident. These previews are followed by the big, hairy, creepy, subhuman killer from HUMONGOUS and Paul Naschy’s wild THE WEREWOLF VS THE VAMPIRE WOMAN. The teaser preview for the Rock Hudson/Diane Ladd vehicle EMBRYO consists of some artwork and narration, while Ulli Lommel’s moronic THE BOOGEYMAN goes on far too long, highlighting some of the film’s more memorable (if ridiculous) moments.

Charles B. Pierce, anyone? VOLUME 4 brings us a generous serving of the B-Movie auteur: THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK, the classic tale of Sasquatch terror; THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN, the story based on a real-life murderer in the 1940s; and Chuck’s other Native American Indian epic, the Samuel Z. Arkoff-produced GRAY EAGLE.

Spinning off from the whole Native American flair from GRAY EAGLE is the seldom-seen SHADOW OF THE HAWK with Jan-Michael Vincent and Chief Dan George.

Often referred to as a Canadian version of DELIVERANCE (even by those that actually have seen it) RITUALS stars Hal Holbrook and Lawrence Dane as two physicians who, along with several other friends in the medical field, take off every year for some backwoods action. This year, though, they get more than they bargained for when a crazed individual begins to terrorize them (RITUALS was also released as THE CREEPER).

Embarrassment abounds next with several truly awful comedies: AMERICATHON, a rank-smelling cinematic turd with John Ritter and Harvey Korman starring in the tale of the United States President (Ritter) selling everything in America to raise money (hmmm, sounds like a good idea, really…fucking bailouts…); CAN I DO IT…‘TIL I NEED GLASSES? -- oh, God, what a terrible movie -- which, while shorter than the actual horrid movie itself, the trailer (which I also encourage you to skip) is just as bad; Robbie Benson’s DIE LAUGHING (not going there…not going there…); Marty Feldman’s IN GOD WE TRUST, reuniting the now-iconic comedian with his YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN co-star Peter Boyle and joining him with other now-late legends Andy Kaufman and Richard Pryor (as God); and the equally awful UNDERCOVERS HERO, which, needless to say, is not one of Peter Sellers’ crowning moments.

THE JEZEBELS (better known as SWITCHBLADE SISTERS) is an absolutely marvelous look at pure grindhouse sleaze, with suspiciously middle-age “teenage” hoodlums raising all sorts of hell (check out the roller rink shootout!). Jack Hill directs.

Moving onto the “man pushed too far” era of 1970s cinema, Bob Clark’s BREAKING POINT comes across as looking slightly WALKING TALL-eqsue and stars Bo Svenson (who starred in the second and final WALKING TALL films), the great Robert Culp, and “BATTLESTAR GALACTICA” villain John Colicos as a guy who makes the mistake of trying to help somebody. Following in the wake of BREAKING POINT are the Jonathan Demme/Peter Fonda/Scott Glenn vehicle, FIGHTING MAD; MOVING VIOLATION; the wonderfully lurid BONNIE’S KIDS (“Thank God she only had two!”); and (naturally) PART 2, WALKING TALL with (surprise!) Bo Svenson. Rounding up this magnificent bunch of trailers is THE KLANSMAN, with Lee Marvin, Richard Burton, and (yikes) O.J. Simpson!

After all of the aforementioned titles, a Blaxploitation title like MONKEY HUSTLE seems a bit out of place, but hey, this is Grindhouse stuff, kids! Yaphet Kotto and Rudy Ray Moore star.

Moving on to the action/adventure genre, THE SOLDIER is a James Glickenhaus-produced cheapie that has managed to hold up rather well over the years despite its low-budget origins and general lack of originality.

BLACKOUT (aka NEW YORK BLACKOUT) is a Canadian-made film about some thugs (led by Robert Carradine!) who terrorize an apartment complex amid New York’s now-legendary 1977 power outage. Jim Mitchum is the top-billed star…which should tell you how truly desperate they were for a star. Ray Milland co-stars.

Looking at the trailer for Peter R. Hunt’s SHOUT AT THE DEVIL, it kind of seems like a big-budgeted epic set in Africa that couldn’t quite make up its mind as to what genre it was: Lee Marvin and Roger Moore take turns in playing it straight and hamming it up in this multi-million dollar flick, which is followed by the preview for MARCH OR DIE, an ambitious-yet-mostly-forgotten Foreign Legion adventure with Gene Hackman, Terrence Hill, Catherine Deneuve and Max Von Sydow.

Next up is the oddly-placed THE LOVE AND TIMES OF SCARAMOUCHE, a PG-rated sex romp (?) starring Michael Sarrazin and directed by none other than Enzo G. Castellari.

Taking a few steps back to the Dumb Comedy section, 42nd STREET, VOL. 4 next presents us with trailers for HOG WILD (a biker comedy starring Michael Biehn and future “SCTV” alumni Tony Rosato); THE HARD HEADS (a painful-looking redneck comedy also released as THE GREAT LESTER BOGS and featuring Alex Karras and Dean Jagger); and THE CHICKEN CHRONICLES (an even more painful-looking comedy with Steve Guttenberg, Ed Lauter and Phil Silvers).

Rounding up this excellent assemblage of hits and misses is the Crown, Int’l. movie BEST FRIENDS with Richard Hatch (note the lack of any onscreen titles - which must have surely helped box office receipts); and sport pieces OUR WINNING SEASON (hey, look -- it’s a young Dennis Quaid! Say “Hi!”, kids!); Cathy Lee Crosby in COACH (also with Michael Biehn as well as Keenan Wynn); and Joseph Sargent’s bizarre gymnastic/sci-fi thingy, GOLDENGIRL, starring Susan Anton (and her luscious figure), James Coburn (sporting a bad hairdo), Curd Jürgens and Robert Culp.

Anyone expecting glamorous-looking previews has another thing coming: these are grindhouse trailers, folks, and those scratches, cigarette burns and abrupt cuts are what make them special. That said, 42nd STREET FOREVER: VOLUME 4 looks good to me, with every trailer either correctly presented, squeezed, windowboxed and/or matted into an anamorphic 1.78:1 widescreen format. An English Stereo soundtrack comes through just fine.

Bonus Materials for 42nd STREET FOREVER: VOLUME 4 boasts a fun audio commentary throughout the whole compilation by AVManiacs.com editor Edwin Samuelson, Fangoria editor Michael Gingold, and film historian Chris Poggiali. The trio has a fun time and are full of information about most of the titles included in this release. It’s interesting to note that they refer to the subtitle of this release as COOLED BY REFRIGERATION, although the DVD cover does not go out of its way to really emphasize such. A wonderful insert contains the box art in a true 42nd Street style poster, complete with folds, creases, and even an NSS number at the bottom right.

Some TV Spots are also thrown in for good measure: BLACKOUT, JACKSON COUNTY JAIL, SUPERCHICK, THUNDER AND LIGHTNING, THE JUNKMAN, all of which are 1.33:1 ratio but are windowboxed in a 1.78:1 format.


(Adam Becvar aka Luigi Bastardo - luigibastardo@gmail.com)