Beginning with scenes from the recent stage production of Reefer Madness: the Musical, writer/director Ray Greene's documentary takes an affectionate and intelligent glance at the history of exploitation films. The film that the aforementioned stage musical is based on, REEFER MADNESS (1938), is a great place to start, as early efforts of this sort that warned against drug use and pre-martial sex embodied enough ballyhoo to plant them in the true roots of exploitation cinema.
SCHLOCK! succeeds in presenting an all-around tasteful account of exploitation, and a number of top players in this arena (some no longer with us) have been sat down for interviews. Fifties horror hostess Vampira and founding Famous Monsters editor Forrest J. Ackerman represent the monster craze of the 50s, while the late Samuel Z. Arkoff, Roger Corman, and actor Dick Miller discuss the origins of AIP. Major key figures in the exploitation/sexploitation area, such as the late Doris Wishman, Harry Novak, and David F. Friedman (most outstanding here) go into details about "nudies," "roughies," "gore" and the like. Several film historians are also seen and heard, and subjects range from propaganda films to mondo movies.
For fans of this kind of cinema, SCHLOCK! will most likely have the viewer fully focused from start to finish. Nothing new really is learned, but that's only because we've been spoiled by so many books on the subject, interviews in magazines, DVD commentaries, and additional documentaries of the sort. Those who are novices or beforehand oblivious to the subject will most likely get a nice education. Thankfully, the filmmakers take the subject seriously, and it all works inclusively well, mainly because it only focuses on independent American movies made before the rating system was commenced in the late 60s. Shot on videotape, the documentary uses lots of film snippets (mainly of the Something Weird Video variety), trailers, stills, ads, and Box Office magazine clippings to tell its story. Expectedly, lots of public domain films are discussed, but at least justifiably so. In the case of THE TERROR, we are treated to a trio of comments from director Corman, star Miller, and even mainstream director Peter Bogdanovich who of course incorporated scenes from it in TARGETS. Herschell Gordon Lewis and Russ Meyer are suspiciously absent from the interview chair, but the reason for this is explained in the commentary.
The feature itself is enough to
warrant a recommendation, but the disc also has a fair share of extras. There
is a running audio commentary with Ray Greene, co-producer Wade Major, and several
other participants who pop in briefly. The film's three-year making-of history
is discussed, and there are some great anecdotes about the interviewees, including
a story about why Russ Meyer was not included. There is also extra interview
footage of the sassy Doris Wishman, a look at Harry Novak at his home/office
(always a treat), and Dave Friedman reenacting a carnival barking on location.
A 60s era nuclear propaganda short (entitled "The Atom And Eve"),
part of which is seen in the feature, is included in its entirety. There's also
a radio interview with Greene, bios on the cast and the filmmakers, a still
gallery, and the full soundtrack can be played as a separate entity. (George
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