Of the many trailer compilations released over the past couple of years, there have been some really sterling collections. It’s hard to put together a bad sampling of trailers, as the art form of editing theatrical previews, especially during the heyday of exploitation distribution, ensures that even bad films will look like can’t-miss entertainment! Gary Huggins’ marvelous TRAILER TRASH and Ban 1’s adult-themed SMUT PALACE INSANITY have been the film trailer comps to beat in the DVD world. Now, the fourth 42ND STREET FOREVER installment (the third under the Synapse banner) quickly joins those two as one of the finest trailer collections ever assembled. While many have attempted to capture the spirit of 42nd Street and the seedy underbelly of cinema projected in grindhouses in America’s most notorious neighborhood, this baby comes the closest to paying tribute to the type of film that were major marquee attractions. Running the gamut from chop-socky to Italian horror, sexploitation to 1980s trash, plus an adult title for good measure, this is the first mandatory purchase of 2008 for DVD Drive-In readers.
SUDDEN DEATH – Precluding this preview is the popular Canadian “Restricted” bumper that was recently featured in Rodriguez-Tarantino’s GRINDHOUSE. And we’re then thrown violently into the EXPLOITATION EXPLOSION with the Filipino actioner SUDDEN DEATH! Bad-ass Robert Conrad, with a perfect hairdo that never looks too mussed, shoots guns, flings fists, and talks jive alongside Felton Perry. Robert must have considered this a family vacation, since he dragged alongside daughter Nancy to co-star here, too. Plus Don Stroud and John Ashley! Grenades and explosions aplenty, a helicopter chasing a speed boat, and more hand-to-hand fight scenes than you can stomach, SUDDEN DEATH is the perfect trailer to open the disc!
THE ONE-ARMED EXECUTIONER – The films of Bobby A. Suarez must be seen to be believed! Thankfully Dark Sky Films is supposed to be raiding his vaults soon to startle adventurous consumers with the likes of CLEOPATRA WONG, DYNAMITE JOHNSON, and this wonder. The narrator throws out the names of the “stars”, who no one has heard of, guaranteed. The title character wears a replica of Bruce Lee’s GAME OF DEATH yellow track suit years before Tarantino resurrected it for KILL BILL VOL. 1. Machine gun fire, explosions, gunfights, love turned violent (with Jody Kay, a Roberta Collins look-a-like), and more outrageous Filipino-lensed action! This trailer may be better than the film, but you be the judge when the DVD of this one comes out.
JAGUAR LIVES – Joe Lewis! Uh…who? He was supposed to be the next Clint Eastwood, Chuck Norris, and Bruce Lee all rolled into one, or at least according to the trailer. This world karate champion only did one other sorta major exploitation film, FORCE FIVE, before his star completely faded. He should have stuck to stunt work, which kept him going for several years; he has no charisma or screen presence, and is outshone by the rest of the cast, which is a dream come true: Christopher Lee as a suave villain, Donald Pleasance as a monocle-wearing madman, Barbara Bach in her slumming pre-Ringo days, sultry Capucine (a true cult icon if there was one!) as a femme fatale, Woody Strode looking regal and John Huston in another bad career move in front of the camera! Natch Joe Lewis does his own stunts, which makes for some interesting action, but this is more of a cult curiosity than a great action film.
ENTER THE NINJA – The first in a trilogy that still defies belief, this trailer doesn’t do the film justice at all. It’s hard to wedge all of the eye-popping action and plot developments into three minutes, but the Cannon Group sure try to. Franco Nero, in a strange starring role, is the White Ninja, and what is Susan George doing here as the love interest? Only co-star Sho Kosugi, as the Black Ninja who is Nero’s chief competition, appeared in all three NINJA films (he was the hero in the follow-ups, but plays a great villain here). Christopher George’s shrugging-shoulders death scene has become the stuff of YouTube legend! Why is this not on DVD when its sequel, REVENGE OF THE NINJA, already is? Blame MGM! Perhaps this one and the third film, NINJA III: THE DOMINATION (surely one of the most unexpected and wildest exploitation items of the mid-1980s), will see the light of day as a Midnite Movie double feature someday.
LIGHTNING SWORDS OF DEATH – Of the films in the marvelous Lone Wolf and Cub series imported from Japan, this is the only one that was released on its own. Strange, because it’s the third film in the series (BABY CART IN HADES); the first and second films (SWORD OF VENGEANCE and BABY CART AT THE RIVER STYX) were edited into SHOGUN ASSASSIN, which ended up being more popular than this release! Thankfully you really don’t need to see the first two films to understand what’s going on here, as assassin-for-hire Ito Ogami treks the land with his baby son in a cart, becoming involved in a rather convoluted tale of female slavery, samurais, and vengeance. If you don’t have them already, be sure to pick up all of AnimEigo’s beautifully remastered discs of the entire series, all available in a convenient boxed set!
FIVE FINGERS OF DEATH – This is it, the film that sparked the chop-socky craze in America! Before Bruce Lee, before Jackie Chan, before Sonny Chiba, the original superstar of Asian imports was Lo Lieh, now a cult name among aficionados of the genre, but no household name like those who came after him. The film was distributed by Warner Brothers, who perhaps picked it up from the Shaw Brothers in anticipation of its lavish Bruce Lee star vehicle ENTER THE DRAGON the following year. Whatever the case, this became a smash hit! It’s a rather simple story of two rival martial arts schools, but the action sequences are beautifully choreographed and still exciting all these years later! You should recognize the sting from “Ironside” (later sampled in KILL BILL VOL. 1) used here first! Recently released in an ultimate version by Dragon Dynasty/The Weinstein Company as KING BOXER, so avoid all of the plentiful bootleg discs available.
THE STRANGER AND THE GUNFIGHTER – Who had the bright idea of mixing the dying genre of spaghetti westerns with the budding popularity of kung fu films? This one reminds me of the Hammer horror-martial arts hybrid LEGEND OF THE SEVEN GOLDEN VAMPIRES, but a tad more restrained with its cheese factor. Lee Van Cleef and Lo Lieh, the two superstars of each other’s respective genres, co-star in a search for gold. You also get a trio of Eurocult lovelies in Femi Benussi, Erica Blanc, and Patty Shepard here! Carlo Savina’s recognizable score has been recycled in countless films over the years.
BEYOND THE DOOR – Ovidio Assonitis, a popular cash-in producer (who rode the BEYOND THE DOOR name for all it was worth in the U.S., branding two unrelated films as sequels), claims this film was written before THE EXORCIST was made, and that he was trying to get the rights to Blatty’s book before Warner Brothers outbid him. In any case, this is one of the goofiest exorcism films of the 1970s. It makes ABBY look like high art! Juliet Mills gives her all as an innocent pregnant woman who finds herself and her baby possessed by Satan! Mixing the Friedkin film with Polanski’s ROSEMARY’S BABY isn’t necessarily a potent cocktail, but it’s sure fun to watch! With some of the most outrageous dialogue you’ll ever hear, this cult classic is coming soon in its ultimate version from Code Red DVD.
DEMONOID – If you thought Oliver Stone’s THE HAND was a little too classy, then by all means dive into this monstrosity! Topless women are killed by Satanists, Samantha Eggar overacts up a storm, Russ Meyer starlet Haji is bloodily dispatched, and priest Stuart Whitman tackles a possessed hand with a dagger and a blowtorch. The trailer gives away much of the movie, including key death scenes, but it’s still one wild ride!
THE NIGHT CHILD – If you ever wanted to see Nicoletta Elmi in her defining lead role, this is it. The red-headed child actress so familiar from Bava’s TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE and BARON BLOOD, Argento’s DEEP RED, and Aldo Ladi’s WHO SAW HER DIE is granted her most challenging and interesting role. She plays yet another possessed girl of the 1970s. The dubbing is beautifully mishandled, Richard Johnson looks appropriately embarrassed, starlet Evelyn Stewart looks tired and haggard, and Nicoletta acts up a storm, screaming, acting seductive, violently thrashing her family members, and screaming some more! “She’s just a child! She’s just a child!” A must-see!
DEVIL TIMES FIVE – This is the only one of the four Code Red discs currently released that is worth picking up, with supplements aplenty and a nice transfer. One of the earliest modern killer-children horror films, this is a notch above the rest for featuring popular blaxploitation kid star Tierre Turner (BUCKTOWN, FRIDAY FOSTER) and future teen idol Leif Garrett among its gang of murderous tykes. Some of the death scenes in this one are truly horrific, and one, while not overly graphic, is disturbing because it features young Dawn Lyn throwing piranhas into a bathtub containing an actress who just so happens to be her off-screen mother! The trailer gives away almost all of the murders in the film, so proceed with caution. Highly recommended film!
PATRICK – This was recently announced as coming from Synapse, but the previously released Elite version may be hard to top. In any case, the movie is a bore. The trailer, on the other hand, does a great job selling this Australian import! Patrick, after killing his mother and her lover in the bathtub, is a comatose hospital patient who begins to lash out to his new nurse, who has problems of her own with her paramour. It’s all quite stupid, and waaaay too long, but enjoy the trailer, for it features most of the key moments to be found in this celluloid sleeping pill.
JENNIFER – In the wake of CARRIE, a number of exploiteers saw paydirt in the concept of a high school girl with mind control powers using them to avenge herself against her tormentors. Lisa Pelikan inherits the Sissy Spacek role as Jennifer, an outcast at an all-girls private school who has the power to control snakes, which she naturally uses to right the wrongs done against her. Interestingly, the trailer shows not one snake. How was this movie sold?? The poster featured Pelikan looking like Piper Laurie’s crazed mother in CARRIE covered with snakes. This isn’t that great of a movie, but well worth checking out for those whose interest is piqued by the trailer. Pelikan may be one of the more underrated actresses of the period; she did lots of TV movies and guest spots, but at the end of the day, she still became the female lead in GHOULIES. Such a shame…
PHASE IV – Recently announced as coming to DVD from Legend Films (licensed through Paramount), and it’s about time! A group of scientists begin speaking to ants, and discover their plans to take back the earth. Given the pretty silly plot, this is a beautifully crafted little thriller that actually attempts to infuse true-life science into the killer bug genre. The trailer edits together many of the most artful moments while also taking great advantage of the up-close-and-personal shots of the ants and their mandibles.
BUG – Of the many killer bug movies of the 1970s, this is one of the better examples of the subgenre. It’s no KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS, but does feature a number of horrific scenes and the use of giant Madagascar hissing cockroaches (perhaps the ugliest species of roach) certainly helps this film dig under your skin. The fire-spewing bugs erupt from the earth after an earthquake and terrorize a desert town, graduating from cattle and kitties to human beings in their quest for food. The film takes a turn for the pedestrian when the focus shifts to Bradford Dillman’s descent into madness studying the bugs in the final quarter of the film, but the surprisingly violent, fiery attacks (for a PG film) are what make this worth watching, and the trailer makes sure to highlight all of them. Patty MacCormack, the original BAD SEED, is one of the screaming women set ablaze, and you may recognize pretty Jamie Smith-Jackson from TV movie cult classics like GO ASK ALICE and SATAN’S SCHOOL FOR GIRLS (she’s currently married to drive-in heartthrob turned “Rookies” star Michael Ontkean). Available on a budget-priced disc from Paramount, and well worth the cheap price tag!
THE UNCANNY – Peter Cushing, a welcome addition to every film he appeared in, is the top-billed star of this forgotten killer cat film. Or so the trailer would have you think. It’s actually an anthology a la Amicus with three stories featuring cats: the theft of an elderly woman’s will and her subsequent murder sparks revenge courtesy of her precious pet felines, and a hammy actor is haunted by his wife’s cat, seemingly intent on avenging her mistress. The third story, of a bratty little girl who tortures a cat, isn’t shown in the trailer at all, likely because it’s the weakest. The great cast also includes Samantha Eggar looking prettier than ever, Ray Milland, Donald Pleasance, the incredibly untalented Chloe Franks and Susan Penhaligon (PATRICK).
THE PACK – This trailer was recently shown on Ban 1’s GRINDHOUSE UNIVERSE disc, and it’s just as entertaining this time around. A group of dogs left behind by their owners group together to attack humans in a tourist town. Joe Don Baker is the no-nonsense hero (when wasn’t he?). This is probably the best killer-dog movie of the 1970s, with lots of slow-motion terror scenes and intense chases. Warner Brothers’ VHS tape can be found affordably, but they should get around to releasing it on DVD already!
ALLIGATOR – Lionsgate’s surprise DVD release of this title last year is a highly recommended purchase! Screenwriter John Sayles concocted a great script about a pet alligator flushed down the toilet and roaming the sewers of New York after mutating to giant proportions, and it was brought to life by future CUJO director Lewis Teague to create one of the great monster movies of the 1980s. This film is head and shoulders above others of its type because it has a sense of humor about itself, an element quite welcome in Sayles’ other familiar horror scripts (THE HOWLING, PIRANHA). Another fun, recommended film!
KILLER FISH – Surely some of the worst underwater monster special effects of the genre! Antonio Margheriti really phoned in this one, even recruiting some major stars to pick up a quick paycheck: Lee Majors, one year off “Six Million Dollar Man” and two years before “The Fall Guy”, Karen Black, whose star really plummeted after being the “It” girl of Hollywood for most of the 1970s, Margaux Hemingway in her first film after the disastrous LIPSTICK, BARRY LYNDON star Marisa Berenson, and familiar character actor James Franciscus. What the hell are they doing here?? Surely one of the weirdest and most embarrassing mix of celebs and piranhas ever created!
SHARKS’ TREASURE – Released as yet another cash-in on JAWS, this is in fact a sort of pulpy adventure starring faded 1950s star Cornel Wilde (still fit enough to do one-handed push-ups at 60) who, along with Yaphet Kotto, goes searching for an underwater treasure. He bumps into escaped convicts, led by Cliff Osmond (SWEET SUGAR) and his blonde naïf male lover (!). The homosexual themes are surprising for a PG film, and while they’re certainly handled pretty well, are out of place in this very disjointed feature. Worth tracking down for the curious, but don’t expect anything earth-shattering.
BLOOD BEACH – The concept behind this one (something under the sand will pull you under before a shark in the water can) is unique, but the execution isn’t that successful. John Saxon investigates the murders of teenagers on the beach that are being sucked under the sand by an unseen monster. There’s great footage of L.A. beaches circa 1981, and it’s a surprise to see Burt Young here, too, and Priscilla Barnes before she became a regular on “Three’s Company”. The highlight is probably the scene of a rapist being castrated as he drags himself across the beach towards his victim.
HOT T-SHIRTS – One of Chuck Vincent’s earliest attempts to cross over into mainstream cinema found him cashing in on the popularity of sex comedies like MEATBALLS and H.O.T.S. In fact, the lead is a dead ringer for the token “fat guy” from MEATBALLS, Keith Knight! You can spot one of Vincent’s favorite leading men, Randy West (BON APPETIT, THAT LUCKY STIFF), and his co-star in those films, Kelly Nichols, in a quick blip in this trailer, but Vincent had yet to feature Samantha Fox and Veronica Hart (the other ROOMMATES) in his legitimate films. The plot concerns a bar in danger of closing saved by a much-publicized wet T-shirt contest. I am surprised that with Vincent’s connections to the adult film world still going strong around this time, there aren’t more porn queens in wet T-shirts on display. At least Debralee Scott shows up!
CHEERLEADERS’ WILD WEEKEND – This is one misleading trailer! Sold as a sexploitation cheerleader romp, Bill Osco’s drive-in opus is in fact a hostage crisis drama with some T&A thrown in. Most of the film reminds me of TRIP WITH THE TEACHER, but with many more girls and an impromptu nude beauty contest thrown in. A busload of cheerleaders from different high schools en route to a cheering contest is hijacked by a gang of hoodlums intent on a large ransom. FLESH GORDON star Jason Williams wrote the script and stars as the ringleader. Robert Houston shows up as one of the kidnappers developing a romance with one of his captives, and even provides some surprise nudity here. The movie was released in 1979 but was shot possibly as early as two years before, which would mean he was in this around the same time as THE HILLS HAVE EYES (which co-starred Janus Blythe who’s credited here, but I couldn’t spot her). The most recognizable cheerleaders would have to be Kristine DeBelle (Osco’s one-time girlfriend and star of his ALICE IN WONDERLAND), Marilyn Joi, the buxom black beauty of countless exploitation films of the 1970s, and Lenka Novak, memorable as “Linda Chambers” in the “Catholic High Schoolgirls in Trouble” segment of KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE. A lot of fun if you can find a copy!
SUMMER SCHOOL TEACHERS – Of all the “group of girls” films that came out of New World in the 1970s, this is the most light-hearted and fun of them all. Directed by the innovative Barbara Peters, we follow the late, great Candice Rialson, Rhonda Leigh Hopkins, and Pat Anderson as they trek to the big city to work as substitute teachers for a local high school’s summer school program. Hopkins works as a math tutor and finds herself involved in the life of a violent-tempered student, and Anderson teaches her art class about the beauty of nudes while encountering sexism from a potential beau. All three of the girls are appealing and beautiful choices for the leads, and while Hopkins and Anderson both appeared in COVER GIRL MODELS and Anderson did some supporting work in other exploitation films of the period, neither of them moved onwards and upwards as they should have. Rialson is clearly the most talented and memorable of the lot, as the chipper, athletic female coach encouraging her gaggle of female students to develop a girls’ football team, challenging school resident coach Dick Miller (an odd parallel to their fun starlet-agent relationship in HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD a year later), and finding a romantic partner in the unlikeliest of places. I dare you not to fall in love with her here! Fans of hers always wondered what happened to her, and infrequent interviews in publications like Femme Fatales and Celebrity Sleuth did little to alleviate fears that maybe her disappearance from the public eye was an ominous sign. It was a major shock to the system discovering she had in fact passed away, quietly and away from the industry that simply couldn’t accommodate her, in the spring of 2006. RIP Candice. Be sure to watch for Tara Strohmeier as Candice’s sister back home in the opening scene. It’s a damn shame this one is not available on DVD yet, languishing in the hands of Buena Vista after their acquisition of the New World library.
GORP – This trailer looks to be ripping off THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW with its opening featuring a close-up on a woman’s garish red lips introducing the preview. Another silly sex comedy with a cult following, this is another summer camp movie inspired by MEATBALLS, with plenty of sight gags, beautiful girls, silly characters spouting puns, and plenty of tasteless humor to please those looking for a simple good time. The food fight is on a par with that of REVENGE OF THE CHEERLEADERS!
KING FRAT – Like GORP, this outrageous college comedy has developed a cult following over the years thanks to home video, but its appeal escapes me. A poor man’s ANIMAL HOUSE, none of these cookie cutter characters are remotely likable and the resulting mayhem surrounding their adventures in sophomoric gags and pranks creates one of the most monumentally unfunny films ever made! But the trailer’s a pip, with a show stopping fart contest, a couple stuck having sex, and promises of more outrageous scenes that can’t be shown in this G-rated trailer. The one bright spot may be SUPERVIXENS star Charles Pitt in the Tim Matheson role; John DiSanti as ‘Grossout’ (aka Belushi’s ‘Bluto’) is too old for the part, but drops trou frequently and is at least pretty animated.
PRISON GIRLS – The trailer and IMDB listing for the film don’t even begin to scratch the surface of the number of sexploitation starlets seen here: in addition to Uschi Digart, Candy Samples, and Robyn Whiting, you also get Barbara Mills, Maria Arnold, Marsha Jordan, Christine Murray, Peggy Church, Linda York, and Malta!! It’s a virtual who’s-who of 1970s sex film stars! That said, don’t be fooled into thinking it’s a good film. Even the director, Tom DeSimone, has nothing to say about it! Technically inept and basically a series of vignettes following a quartet of female prisoners allowed out on a weekend furlough for good behavior (?!), there’s a very tasteless rape scene involving poor Maria Arnold and a gang of bikers and their bitches, Uschi sleeping with her fugitive boyfriend (she also has dialogue in her actual voice), an artist painting the bodies of Candy, Peggy, Linda, and Malta, and Barbara in a romantic interlude with who appears to be her real-life husband Frank. It’s doubtful the film would even work in its original 3-D exhibition format, but anything’s possible. While touted as an R-rated feature, it’s really more of an X, with very graphic sex and nudity. The fact that DeSimone also later went on to direct two other women-in-prison films (THE CONCRETE JUNGLE and REFORM SCHOOL GIRLS) is a pure coincidence.
1000 CONVICTS AND A WOMAN – The late great Alexandra Hay, a striking blonde who some may remember as Jackie Gleason’s hippie daughter in SKIDOO, crossed the Atlantic to star in this British sexploitation thriller. Hay died young at 49, but she is one of the true unsung starlets of cinema, as evidenced here in this trailer featuring her seducing a gaggle of men just for the hell of it! Somehow this has never shown up on home video anywhere in the world, to my knowledge, but the pressbook and poster aren’t hard to find at all. Recognize Harry Baird from FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE, THE TOUCHABLES, and THE OBLONG BOX?
CHAIN GANG WOMEN – Shot under the more appropriate title THE CHAIN, the late Lee Frost’s crime drama is enlivened by appearances by Barbara Mills and Linda York (who appeared in their best film, THE LOVE GARDEN, together the same year), but anyone drawn into the film by the trailer will be disappointed. I personally think it’s one of Frost’s most entertaining films, and certainly better than BLACK GESTAPO or CHROME AND HOT LEATHER from around the same time, but I’m probably alone there. Frost throws in his trademark no-holds-barred fights, with realistic stunts, and a revenge plot makes this a drive-in classic. Too bad word of mouth about this one is so negative. Give it a try!
THE PENTHOUSE – Another impossibly obscure British import that looks like great entertainment! Suzy Kendall and her married lover find their penthouse love nest invaded by a trio of psychopaths, including Martine Beswick as “Harry” (a very butch woman with a tight bun and glasses). The film is based on a play, and you can tell by the limited locations (it all basically takes place in the apartment), and with a minimal cast, it’s good that the group of five actors have talent to spare! When will this one see the light of day on DVD?
THE HOUSE BY THE LAKE – Brenda Vaccaro is surprisingly very proud of this film, but judging by the exploitive title and trailer, one wonders why. A model and her boyfriend drive to the country for a weekend getaway at his beautiful rural mansion, but their good times are ruined when a group of hooligans invade the home, kill him, and rape her and leave her for dead. This being an exploitation film, she naturally seeks her revenge. Of the plentiful rape-revenge movies that unspooled in the wake of LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, this one is usually considered to be the best. It is certainly very slickly-made, with two very talented leads and a great sense of dread aided by powerful cinematography and a wonderful isolated location. The storyline is similar to I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, but while that film has gained notoriety, HOUSE BY THE LAKE (or DEATH WEEKEND) is rather obscure. Definitely check it out!
NIGHT CALL NURSES – This, the third NURSES film, is probably my second favorite after the marvelous original STUDENT NURSES. Directed by Jonathan Kaplan during his 1970s tenure as one of the most reliable exploitation directors in Hollywood, we follow the adventures of beautiful brunette Patti Byrne, blonde Alana Stewart (yes, the former wife of George Hamilton and Rod Stewart), and feisty black Mittie Lawrence in and out of the hospital. Patti joins a bizarre encounter group (including BURY ME AN ANGEL star Dixie Peabody and AND WHEN SHE WAS BAD star Lyllah Torena as members), Alana finds romance with a rambunctious truck driver, and Mittie aids a framed political activist. Plus you get Dennis Dugan in drag, an elderly flasher, memorable wisecracks, and an endearing sense of fun so infectious in New World films like this. Previously available on DVD from New Concorde, but since the disc is out of print, you may have to pay high prices for it. Well worth your time and money! In fact, since the DVD looks to simply be a slightly more bright tape master just pick up the old Charter tape used.
THE YOUNG NURSES – Of the NURSES films, this is the second worst (the all-time dog of the litter is PRIVATE DUTY NURSES, a humorless affair with a trio of forgettable starlets and no sense of direction or purpose). That said it’s still a lot of fun. Kimberly Hyde (also in CANDY STRIPE NURSES) plays a nurse named Peppermint who screws her patients, but the three leads keep their sex out of the hospital. More focus is shown on the nurses doing their job, and they’re all brought together in a common thread of a murderer preying on innocent victims on the beach. The same plot device was used in STUDENT TEACHERS the same year! As with the other NURSES films, though the DVD’s are out of print and rather pricey, pick up the old VHS tapes used and you’ll get the basic same transfers for much less cash.
CANDY STRIPE NURSES – This is the NURSES film that remains the most popular, thanks in no small part to the casting choice of New World treasure Candice Rialson as one of the leads. It’s really no better than the other films of the series, but Candy is certainly the winning factor here. She plays a promiscuous candy striper who sleeps with doctors so they’ll do her homework, and meets her match when she becomes involved with a British rocker Owen Boles. Kimberly Hyde (of YOUNG NURSES and THE CHEERLEADERS) and Elana Casey provide some laughs as Owen’s arm pieces. The other two nurses, future soap star Robin Mattson and Mexican cinema superstar Maria Rojo, are almost forgotten, but their storylines are just as intriguing. Mattson uncovers a college basketball game controversy when she becomes romantic with steroid-driven muscle stud Rod Haase, and Rojo takes it upon herself to clear the name of a Mexican patient accused of robbing a gas station. The scene of her pulling a gun on a sleazy fat rapist and proclaiming, “You wanna do it? OK, let’s do it, but this better be good!” is highlighted in the trailer. Tara Strohmeier shows up once again in a cameo as a high school student. As with the other NURSES films, either pay a lot for the New Concorde DVD or go for the less-expensive VHS tape, the transfer is almost the same.
THE LIFE AND TIMES OF XAVIERA HOLLANDER – Before Xaviera Hollander approved, enterprising Larry G. Spangler (best-known for his Fred Williamson blaxploitation titles) decided to adapt her bestselling book “The Happy Hooker” as an adult film. The production values are exceptional, especially considering this was just at the cusp of porno chic and before budgets really ballooned in the late 1970s, and not one hardcore scene is ever shown here, which makes me wonder if this trailer was for the proposed R-rated release or the preview was made to be shown in a legitimate movie house. Video-X-Pix has released this on DVD and it’s a recommended purchase.
THE HAPPY HOOKER GOES HOLLYWOOD – Of the three “official” HAPPY HOOKER films, this is the most outrageous, and thus the best. Martine Beswick, a long way from playing SISTER HYDE, is Xaviera Hollander, the titular character whose bestselling autobiographical novel is being optioned by a movie studio desperate for a box office smash! Phil Silvers was somehow conned into playing the head of the studio. Beswick disrobes often, including in a few rather graphic sex scenes with “Batman” himself Adam West, and gives cop Dick Miller a freebie as a donation to the police force! Xaviera’s stable is filled with familiar, beautiful faces, including three castmates from H.O.T.S. (Playboy lovely Susan Lynn Kiger, breasty brunette Lisa London, and blonde model K.C. Winkler), as well as blaxploitation starlet Tanya Boyd (BLACK SHAMPOO, more recently a number of soap operas) and Alexandra Morgan (THE FIRST NUDIE MUSICAL). Lindsay Bloom, a drive-in starlet turned character actress still not given her full due (also in H.O.T.S.), shows up as West’s jealous girlfriend. Available as part of the three-movie set THE HAPPY HOOKER COLLECTION, a wonderful surprise release in 2007 from MGM/20th-Century Fox.
SURVIVE – Rene Cardona began his career of cashing in on real-life newspaper headlines or Hollywood blockbusters with this violent, cheaply-made screen version of the true story of the Uruguayan Rugby Team crash-landing in the Andes and turning to cannibalism to survive. The crash landing is well-done and rather shocking, as are the inevitable cannibal scenes. It’s available on DVD in its original full-length Spanish-language version, which some have complained is not as good as the cut English-dubbed version released by Paramount in the U.S. It should be noted that the film was approved by those who survived the ordeal, before Hollywood decided to adapt the story with the big-budget dud ALIVE.
GUYANA: CULT OF THE DAMNED – The king of cash-ins, Rene Cardona Jr., decided to tackle the timely news story of Rev. Jim Jones and the ill-fated People’s Temple trek to Guyana, where almost 1000 people took their lives as part of a mass (forced?) suicide. All of the names were changed, but the story remains the same. I first saw this movie on a Sunday afternoon on FOX a couple years ago (a very surprising programming decision!), and despite its bad reputation, thought it was a quite entertaining and well-done exploiter. Stuart Whitman, at this point very active in foreign exploitation films, does resemble the real Jim Jones (though his performance is a little more over-the-top than Rev. Jones ever was during his “sermons”), and the recreation of the real events that took place surrounding Congressman Leo Ryan’s fateful visit to the Guyana camp are still quite powerful. With more slumming actors like Gene Barry, John Ireland, Bradford Dillman and Joseph Cotton! The TV movie GUYANA TRAGEDY, starring Powers Boothe, gets the gold star for a better performance from Boothe and being just that bit more professionally-done, but this came first and is not nearly as bad as many would have you believe. VCI’s disc is the full-length uncut version, and like Cardona’s SURVIVE, some fans believe the shorter version is superior.
SEVEN – While this is an unpopular opinion, I believe the late Andy Sidaris only made two great exploitation films, and they were his first two narrative features: STACEY and SEVEN. While STACEY was a relatively tame but really entertaining little GINGER-inspired tale starring Playboy’s Anne Randall and the alluring Anitra Ford, SEVEN is a whole ‘nother story. How amazing is this movie? So amazing the original VHS release demands top dollar today, and it’s worth every bloody penny! William Smith has one of his five best roles as a gun-toting, musclebound superhero assigned to take out seven of the most dastardly villains in the world whose goal is to take control of the island state of Hawaii. Goofy? Yes, but the action is great! Smith enlists the help of six additional agents, and the action, sex, humor, and fast-paced fun never stops! Shot on-location in Hawaii, you’ll witness assassins on roller skates and performing the hula, the famous shooting-the-swordsman gag before it was lifted for RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, gorgeous Barbara Leigh (THE STUDENT NURSES) battling it out with any bad girl that gets in her way with her lesbian lover Susan Lynn Kiger by her side, and explosions aplenty! Words cannot describe the pure joy of sitting through this exhilarating adenture! It’s also quite something to have two Susan Lynn Kiger trailers on this disc, but you can never get enough Susan. Not the best actress, but one of the most stunning natural beauties to appear in exploitation films and the pages of Playboy, Kiger’s career may have been derailed when it came to light that she had appeared in a cheap porno flick called HOT NASTIES (released as DEADLY LOVE) before her star took off. Don’t bother with that tripe and check her out in ANGELS’ REVENGE, H.O.T.S. and the abysmal HOUSE OF DEATH (at least she looks good in that one).
SCORCHY – Has Hikmet Avedis ever made a truly great exploitation film? No, but he came close with a few, like this ill-advised Connie Stevens vehicle. Stevens looks particularly miscast here as Scorchy, a gun-toting undercover cop. Her cupie-doll voice and unbelievable undercover get-ups are ridiculous, and she just looks silly trying to act tough; she does look good nude, though, even in her 40s. William Smith adds some much-needed action movie cred. At least SCORCHY is kind of fun in a sleazy, soapy sort of way, but don’t go out of your way to see it.
SAVAGE STREETS – This may be the ultimate exploitation trash film of the 1980s that didn’t feature women in prison. Linda Blair, in perhaps her career low, plays a high school student (huh?) whose deaf-mute sister Linnea Quigley is raped by three goons, who also throw her best friend over a bridge as icing on the cake. She takes a bath, dresses in skintight leather, and seeks vengeance with her trusty crossbow. Yeah, it’s that crazy. Parts of the film play like a skuzzy teen sex comedy, a catfight results in one girl having her top ripped off in a classroom, some cast members show up and then disappear (indicating a gap in shooting the film because funds ran out), John Vernon cameos as the tough-as-nails principal, the acting all around is strictly amateur hour, and the excellent rock soundtrack was released to LP. Look for it! This was recently announced as coming soon from BCI/Eclipse, and I can’t wait to see what they do with this anti-classic!
CONVOY – One of the most unlikely 42nd Street films, this did in fact play a number of grindhouses throughout the city (perhaps to cater to the number of interstate truckers that went in and out of Manhattan). If you never got tired of the B.W. McCall hit song “Convoy”, then you’ll love hearing the entire damn song throughout this trailer as you watch Kris Kristofferson play a trucker who recruits his CB radio buddies to aid him in a battle with a vendetta-driven sheriff in sort of an updating of an old western. Can you believe Sam Peckinpah directed this one? Well, considering the state of his career in 1978, maybe it’s not so surprising he made a movie based on a one-hit wonder. But you can’t judge a book by the cover, as CONVOY has a middle-American good old boy sense of values, a memorable performance by Kristofferson, an even more memorable supporting turn by Ernest Borgnine who looks to be having the time of his life, and of course plenty of action and big ol’ trucks. Yee-haw!
HIGH BALLIN’ – Another trucker flick starring Jerry Reed (ugh) and Peter Fonda, who looks like he’d rather be sharing the screen with good ol’ buddy Warren Oates (who definitely would have been a better choice for the lead!), as two truckers being pursued by a gang of ruffians hired to push them out of the trucking business. This doesn’t look to have the same kind of wide-spread appeal as CONVOY, but Fonda’s always cool and there are some cool car crashes and stunts on display.
FROM NOON TILL THREE – After DEATH WISH, Charles Bronson became an action hero on a par with Clint Eastwood (though Bronson had been making films since the 1950s and even had some sizable hits in the early 1970s). Just remember that when watching this equivalent of PAINT YOUR WAGON, a film that finds him co-starring with real-life Jill Ireland as a pair of mismatched lovers in the Old West. It’s a romantic comedy starring CHARLES BRONSON! Does it get more surreal than that?? It’s great to see the couple having fun in a film like this, but Bronson fans will be left speechless at seeing their icon bow to a woman.
TELEFON – Bronson returns! This time, he’s directed by Don Siegel, a wonderful director known for his collaborations with Clint Eastwood. Behind a non-descript title is a taut, brilliantly-executed spy thriller about citizens who have been unknowingly brainwashed by the Soviets to kill when they are called on the telephone and hear Robert Frost’s poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”. Lee Remick is the love interest and target of the deadly phone call, and the interesting cast also includes always-good Donald Pleasance, Tyne Daly (pre-“Cagney and Lacey”), Jacqueline Scott (EMPIRE OF THE ANTS), Patrick Magee (“The Avengers”), and familiar TV face Sheree North (best-known to modern audiences as Kramer’s mom on “Seinfeld”). As is so typical of his moviemaking style, Tarantino borrowed from this film by using Frost’s poem in a similar triggering fashion in DEATH PROOF. After TELEFON, Siegel went back to using Eastwood as his leading man. I wonder why he chose Bronson for this film in the first place?
LIES – Why have I never heard of this one? This intriguing thriller follows an actress hired to impersonate an heiress who is sent to an institution and becomes part of a bizarre plot to gain a sizable inheritance by driving her crazy. It’s filled with twists and turns and good performances by a cast made up almost entirely of character actors looking for their time to shine. This kind of sort of non-descript 1980s thriller played 42nd Street all the time, and died painful deaths gathering dust on video store shelves. Too bad because there are often some gems to be found by those who bother to look. LIES looks to be one of these!
TATTOO – Did Bruce Dern and Maud Adams really do it? Who cares, the movie’s a so-bad-it’s-good camp classic without the outrageous publicity surrounding their love scene. It’s sort of like LIPSTICK meets THE COLLECTOR tossed into a blender with a tattoo needle. The film features one of Bruce Dern’s most interesting psycho performances and since Maud Adams could never be accused of being an actress, she disrobes whenever possible to distract from her wooden thespian abilities. It’s hard to believe 20th-Century Fox was responsible for this bad taste flick, but they very proudly proclaim their involvement in the trailer. Get it now!
All of the trailers are presented at 1.78:1 enhanced for widescreen TV’s. While this isn’t the ideal disc to test out your spiffy new TV, it would make an ideal platter to pop on at your next party to spotlight your 16:9 TV. The previews all look as great as they’re going to look, and in fact, many look better than their home video incarnations (!). There are still a good number of print jumps, speckling, lines, and various other instances of debris, but nothing too distracting. The audio for all of them is clean and crisp.
The sole supplement on a disc comprised entirely of supplements is an audio commentary featuring popular cult film journalist Chris Poggiali, Fangoria alumnus Michael Gingold, and DVD Maniacs webmaster Edwin Samuelson. I was wary of this addition to the disc, as a commentary over a bunch of trailers could either be terrible or be quite informative. Thankfully this commentary is the latter, as all three guys try to jam pack as much info as they can into the brief window of a trailer’s running time! It’s a really great, fun listen and even when the guys begin to sound a tad tired of the break-neck pacing of providing narration for an endless stream of previews (who could blame them??), there are still good anecdotes shared right up until the final second of the program. This isn’t to say there aren’t some errors here and there, but they’re so few and far between it’s easy to forgive them!
There’s not one bad trailer on here. Not a one, and they all look fantastic to boot. This is truly a top-notch, exceptionally constructed compilation that you will watch over and over again. The facts-packed commentary is simply rich, tasty icing on the top of a delicious, guilty pleasure cake. The best DVD of 2008 thus far! (Casey Scott)
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