42nd Street Forever: Blu-ray Edition (US - BD)
Gabe is blinded by nearly four hours of 1080p exploitation movie trailers...
Synapse Films continues making a name for themselves as the go-to place for exploitation movie trailer collections on home video. After releasing six volumes of their 42nd Street Forever collections, and one Nikkatsu Roman Porno collection, Synapse has moved onto the next generation format, and are now presenting their special brand of filth in full HD video. This new Blu-ray release is a mash-up of volumes one and two, with a few ‘new’ trailers tossed in for good measure. Things are once again cut into genre and subgenre types, starting with blaxsploitation favourites like Black Samson, Savage!, Kenner[/h], [I]The Guy From Harlem, Welcome Home, Brother Charles (aka: Soul Vengeance), Boss Nigger, Honky and Sugar Hill. Up next are general, non-race specific revenge and chicksploitation flicks, including Rolling Thunder, Act of Vengeance (aka: Rape Squad), Ms. 45, They Call Her One Eye (aka: Thriller: A Cruel Picture), Ginger and Savage Sisters, followed by WIP (women in prison), roughie and general sexploitation comedies, including Chained Heat, Delinquent School Girls, The Pom Pom Girls, The Teasers Go to Paris, The Teacher, College Girls, [I]Street Girls, The Baby Sitter, Teenage Mother, I, A Woman, When Women Had Tails, The Curious Female, The Tale of the Dean’s Wife, and The Minx. From here things briefly segue into sexploitation thrillers like The Centerfold Girls, Depraved (aka: Exposed and Diary of a Rape), Invitation to Ruin, but then take a sharp turn into sex hygiene and sex educationsploitation with Helga, The Sun, The Place and the Girls, and back into straight sexploitation comedy with Fairytales, Flesh Gordon.
Flesh Gordon gives the producers a good excuse to movie into B sci-fi/action like Star Crash and Dark Star (which is sold as a straight thriller, not a comedy), Raiders of Atlantis, Matango (aka: Attack of the Mushroom People), The Green Slime, They Came From Beyond Space, The Deadly Spawn, The Dark, and eventually into straight horror with The Evil, The Evictors, The Undertaker and His Pals, Devil’s Nightmare (aka: Vampire Playgirls), Deadly Blessing, Rabid, Eye of the Cat, Mark of the Witch, I Dismember Mama/ Blood Spattered Bride double feature (utterly obnoxious faux TV news report), Women and Bloody Terror/ Night of Bloody Horror double feature, Dr. Butcher M.D. (aka: Zombie Holocaust, a personal favourite), The Grim Reaper (aka: Anthropopagus), Dr. Tarr’s Torture Dungeon (aka: The Mansion of Madness), and Wicked, Wicked (sold mostly for its duovision projection).
The Flesh and Blood Show kicks off a series of 3D and panoramic 70mm exploitation movies, including The Three Dimensions of Greta, The Lollipop Girls in Hard Candy and Panorama Blue, which leads into a series of ‘70s softcore and hardcore trailers (no hardcore is shown), including The Italian Stallion, Maid in Sweden and Pornography in Denmark. Things then get especially heavy and grotesque with mondo film trailers like Secret Africa, Shocking Asia and Taboos of the World, then trippy and arthouse with Chappaqua, Salo: The 120 Days of Sodom. Poliziotteschi (Italian crime), Euro-spy and cockney gangster flicks are next, including The .44 Specialist (aka: Mark Strikes Again), The Bullet Machine, Death Drive (aka: Hitch-Hike), Spy in Your Eye, Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die and The Last of the Secret Agents. The action theme continues with a series of kung-fu and samurai trailers including The Crippled Masters, Shogun Assassin and Super Manchu, bikersploitation, cruising and comedy action films like The Born Losers, Hell’s Angels on Wheels (staring a young Jack Nicholson), Wind Fast, The Pink Angels, Werewolves on Wheels, Dixie Dynamite, Mr. Billion, Super Fuzz, Sunset Cove and Van Nuys Blvd.. Everything creeps to an end with the skatesploitation ‘classic’ Skatetown USA (keep your eyes peeled for a flash of young Patrick Swayze).
At nearly four hours this collection is a bit overwhelming, but these are generally the cream of the crop exploitation trash trailers, which would explain why Synapse used so many of them in their first two releases. Personally, I’m almost always bored by the teen sex comedy and fratsploitation junk that goes along with these collections, but only because I generally find the subgenres patience trying. I prefer my period exploitation a little more unintentionally funny, or funny for the sake of camp rather than bawdy jokes. Fortunately for me there isn’t a lot of time wasted on such stuff, especially not stuff from the uncommonly unfunny 1980s. The sexploitation stuff kind of blends together into a numbing wall of flesh, but I’m not one to complain too much about nude female bodies. Just make sure you know your audience before you start this thing up.
I’m going to be honest and say the quality of these trailers is generally low enough that most viewers aren’t going to notice the difference between this new, full 1080p HD Blu-ray release and the previous 480 SD DVD releases, but I assure you there are improvements, in general detail and colour vibrancy especially. There are oodles of film-based artefacts including heavy, inconsistent grain, tracking lines, dirt, blotchy stains, cigarette burns, but these are all kind of beautiful, and really half the fun of viewing the material. There’s no good reason for Synapse to spend thousands digitally cleansing these trailers if Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Edgar Wright, Rob Zombie and Eli Roth are spending thousands to artificially damage their homage trailers, right? The bigger issue is contrast and colour quality, which varies from not bad to unwatchable mud. Some trailers actually look quite good ( Ms. 45, Chained Heat, Matango, Shocking Asia), but most of the time I’m just happy to tell what’s going on, which is sometimes impossible given unrelenting darkness or extremely blown-out white levels. There’s also a noticeable lack of digital compression artefacts, and generally sharper details to boot. The bulk of the trailers are framed at 1.78:1 widescreen, which is obviously inaccurate for some films based on the head and side space, but yet again this usually just adds to the charm.
The soundtrack generally follows the picture quality, and is again a minor upgrade from standard DVD. Everything is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono, and the language is almost exclusively English with a few brief exceptions. The general quality differs from trailer to trailer with only a handful of major issues that do anything to ruin the experience. For the most part pops and crackles are present, but not exactly extreme, the mono mixes are a bit flat, but sharp enough to differentiate music, vocals and effects, and the beginnings and ending of each clip show the most overall damage. What’s nice about this release is that high-end distortion is less an issue, and the general volume levels are more consistent.
The only extra on this set is a commentary track with AVManiacs.com (formerly DVDManiacs.com) editor Edwin Samuelson, Fangoria managing editor Michael Gingold, and Temple of Schlock blog editor Chris Poggiali. These same good folks also recorded tracks for the Exploitation Explosion and Volume Four DVD releases I’ve previously reviewed, and this track is another solid showing from the well prepped and charming team. Every single trailer in this epic collection gets its own behind the scenes story and production history, which can get a little intense, but the team rarely falls too far behind, and there’s a pause button on your remote if you need to take a breather. My only complaint has to do with the sound quality of the track, which is a little rough.
The ideal environment for these 42nd Street trailer collections is not a quiet night alone, but a rowdy night with friends, fueled by junk food, caffeinated and alcoholic beverages. It’s the perfect background video because no one has to really pay attention to keep up. Just be aware that this wall of silliness (mondo movies notwithstanding) may suck attention away from quality conversation, and may induced hooting, hollering and hysterics that will wake the neighbors. This Blu-ray collection doesn’t feature a lot of new material not already available on the first two 42nd Street DVD collections, but you can now watch for a solid three hours and 45 minutes without changing out discs, and despite the rough condition of most of the footage, the HD video does look genuinely better, or at least closer to what you’d see from a genuine 35mm screening (meaning no major digital artefacts).
* Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray image quality.
Review by Gabriel Powers
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 8th May 2012
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 English
Extras: Commentary with AVManiacs.com's Edwin Samuelson, Fangoria Magazine's Michael Gingold and Temple of Schlock's Chris Peggiali
Easter Egg: No
Cast: William Devane, Fred WIlliamson, Zoë Lund, George Eastman, Linda Blair, Christina Lindberg, Etc.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Crime, Documentary, Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller, War and Western
Length: 225 minutes
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