When I pitch the concept of the Grindhouse Trailer Classics series to my rental customers the idea tends to elicit vague stares of minimal comprehension. In fact one guy that rented a volume returned it with his verdict being that they “did a great job of making them look like the Tarantino movie”. After I spent the next five minutes explaining that they were real films that all appeared in a variety of fleapit cinemas on 42nd Street New York, I needed a crane to pick his jaw up from my counter.
The notion of the Grindhouse is one that we struggle to understand in this country – but having been so far away from that era of cinema viewing it’s understandable. For many of us our vague interpretation of the subject does indeed stem from the Tarantino / Rodriguez movie, though ironically that was split up into two individual features prior to crossing the Atlantic with the ‘Grindhouse’ name only ever appearing on a special edition blu-ray.
Immense credit is certainly due then to Marc Morris and Jake West who continue to release such a compendium of rarities to an unsuspecting British public. Every few years they succeed in making us all envious of growing up in middle-England suburbia as opposed to living round the corner from The Rialto in Manhattan, and subjecting ourselves to midnight showings of films like Snuff Bottle Connection and Maraschino Cherry.
Grindhouse Trailer Classics 4 opens with the ‘classic’ Samuel Z. Arkoff flick Little Cigars and quickly gathers a lascivious head of steam with ‘horrific tales of white slavery’ (!) in the movie Women For Sale. The ultimate goal for a trailer, irrespective of the era it hails from has always been for the film company / distributor to convince you to go and see the movie. That said, the way these Grindhouse trailers are pitched, specifically the raspingly leery voiceover are an undoubted highlight of this trailer reel.
“Mama’s dirty girls…”
“Sultry sisters in sin…”
“The turn-on trio…”
“They change men from soft pussycats to hard animals…”
“They fight dirty and they love dirty…”
“Academy award winner Gloria Graham stars as Mama… “
All of the above lewd dialogue is packed into ONE single trailer for Mama’s Dirty Girls – and how about that Oscar orientated punchline just to add a little credibility! Before we mock the outrageous too severely though, it’s important to add that many of the movies trailered in Volume 4 are really good films! Often I read about the whole Grindhouse era being shrugged off as some short-lived period of cheap and seedy cinema going, but it’s worth remembering the quality of some of the pictures that wound up playing 42nd Street. To name a few examples from this edition of GTC there’s the superb Shaw Brothers flick The Hammer of God aka The Chinese Boxer, underrated horror in Curtains with John Vernon and Deathmaster with Robert Quarry. Let’s not forget top level Blaxploitation with Willie Dynamite or some sublime Paul Naschy in Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror.
Critics moaned with Volume 3 how “they’re struggling to find anything new” (an oxymoron surely) and “it’s just more of the same” – but surely if you romanticise this era, which is something I’m often guilty of, then that criticism is music to your ears. Volume 4 does indeed provide us with more shockingly outrageous movies than we would likely be subjected to in a lifetime were it not without this series. It also makes us pine longingly for movies like The Hitchhikers or Too Hot to Handle to finally get a release on DVD or blu-ray in the UK. It makes you wonder though, with the British home video market having come so far that companies are managing to break even releasing product like Troma and Full Moon, whether one day we could accommodate a Grindhouse specific niche label. We can dream I guess, but for now Nucleus Films’ regular compendium of trailers quenches our thirst for these films like a Bloody Mary from a smoke brown tumbler.