Synapse // 2009 // 99 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker (Retired) // August 28th, 2009
The real Last Picture Show.
Is my attention span getting shorter or are these 42nd Street Forever trailer compilations getting better?
Probably a little of both.
42nd Street Forever 5: Alamo Drafthouse Edition takes us far from the one-time and well-lamented grindhouse capital to the other side of the country. The case promises "Outrageous exploitation trailers from the awesome archives of the coolest movie theater on Earth," and that movie theater is the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Texas.
Opened in the late 1990s by Tim League, the Alamo Drafthouse is a movie theater/bar and restaurant, with food and drink service while the films are showing. The Drafthouse shows first-run films as well as old exploitation fare, obscure action films, kids' films, cheap-o horrors, and a variety of off-the-beaten-path stuff. The theater -- which is actually now franchised into several locations in the Austin area -- also hosts a number of "special events," including an (almost) annual film festival hosted by Quentin Tarantino.
Even before he opened the Drafthouse, League was collecting trailers -- as well as announcements, PSAs, and the other odd bits of film that are shown before features. He has amassed over 2,000, and before all features, including current ones, a few "pertinent" exploitation trailers are played. This has been known to backfire: a lurid and grotesque trailer for sleazefest called Poor Pretty Eddie (a.k.a. Redneck County) popped up ahead of the Reese Witherspoon chick flick Sweet Home Alabama to an audience of mothers and daughters; so vile was this trailer, that some left the theater, weeping.
For this new Synapse collection, League has provided 50 trailers and ad spots. He also provides commentary, along with Lars Nilsen and Zack Carlson, who program nights at the Drafthouse. As with the previous compilation, 42nd Street Forever: Volume 4, the informative and anecdotal commentary make this edition worth seeking out.
The trailers themselves are overall pretty great and in reasonable shape. They are well organized, not just randomly thrown together like some compilations, running the gamut from cheesy kung fu adventures to some of the most bizarre looking kiddie films ever produced. The set opens with a clip of Charlton Heston from the late '60s explaining the ratings system, and from there goes straight to the trailers. League, Nilsen, and Carlson not only discuss the films that the trailers are for -- although they haven't actually seen all of them -- as well as providing trivia (such as the popularity of Oscar-nominated actor Adolph Caesar as narrator) and telling stories about the Drafthouse. It's really worth watching twice: Once to see the over-the-top trailers, and the second time to listen to the commentary. Too bad Synapse didn't subtitle the commentary.
Among the more interesting trailers: The Bodyguard (with Sonny Chiba), Machine Gun McCain (with John Cassavetes), The Secret of Magic Island, the kids' martial arts film Lucky Seven, Jean Reno's Caged Virgins (a.k.a., Requiem for a Vampire), legitimate cult films Putney Swope, Chatterbox, and Pretty Maids All in a Row, Message From Space, Karzan: Master of the Jungle, Stacey, The Devil Within Her, and Slaughterhouse Rock.
As a special feature, we get "Remember the Alamo," a 30-minute look at the Drafthouse and its history featuring interviews with League, Nilsen, Carlson, staff members and patrons, and footage of some of the theater's special events, including appearance by Sybil Danning, Bruce Campbell, and Russ Meyer. This is a really nice piece, a bit EPK-like (only with liberal use of curse words), and it really does make you want to visit Austin to see the theater. It's too bad the filmmakers insisted on using that annoying "looks like old film" streaks and specks effect throughout.
The Alamo Drafthouse seems like a very cool place, and this is yet another very cool DVD from Synapse.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 99 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* The Original Alamo Drafthouse Cinema