Appellate Judge Tom Becker often enjoys a refreshing bowl of trailer mix.
If you think you've seen it all…
Shock Festival was a novel by Stephen Romano in which the author imagined a universe of B-movie and exploitation actors, producers, and directors from the 1970s and '80s. Like a Christopher Guest mockumentary put to paper, Romano's book is illustrated with posters and stills from films that never existed. Romano created a history that never was but could have been.
Stephen Romano Presents Shock Festival is a "companion" DVD for that book, a collection of trailers both real and created, with a running commentary by Romano.
The trailers are spread over three discs. Disc One is "The Ultimate Shock Festival Experience," and includes come-ons for drive-in/grindhouse favorites like 1990: The Bronx Warriors, Cinderella 2000, Flesh Gordon, Sadomania, Scum of the Earth, Space Raiders, and King Kong vs. Godzilla. Disc Two gives us "The Ultimate Horror Marathon" and "Television Spectacular." As part of the UHM, we get offerings such as Snuff, Beyond the Gate, The Banana Monster, Don't Look in the Basement, and Autopsy. The Television Spectacular gives us TV teasers for such treats as Don't Open the Window, The House That Dripped Blood, The Devil's Rain, and Slithis. Also included on this disc are trailers for some exploitation films from Independent International Pictures (including The Naughty Stewardesses and Satan's Sadists), as well as an interview with IIP President Sam Sherman. The third disc consists of over 300 radio spots for films like Andy Warhol's Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde, Graveyard Tramps, and Chrome and Hot Leather.
There are two commentary tracks accompanying the Ultimate Shock Festival and Ultimate Horror Marathon trailers. One, by Dread Central's "Uncle Creepy," doesn't really add much to the experience. Creepy gives us long stretches of silence, then tosses out a few quips, generally have to do with things like what the actresses would look like naked.
Romano's tracks are far more enlightening and entertaining. Unlike the commentaries on recent trailer compilations like 42nd Street Forever: Volume 4, the commentary here is not really trailer specific; at times, Romano barely discusses what's on screen. Instead, he gives a lot of information about the history of low-budget films in the '70s and '80s and the people involved in the films. Romano's tone is conversational and his stories interesting. The phony trailers are entertaining, but there's no mistaking them for the real thing.
If there's any real quibble about the set, it's that some of the "exploitation" trailers aren't really that…exploitative. Is Cornbread, Earl and Me really an exploitation film? Is it really in the same blaxploitation universe as Jim Brown extravaganzas like Black Samurai or Black Heat? Isn't it maybe a little excessive to have Dario Argento represented three times—the trailer for Deep Red and TV spots for Four Flies on Grey Velvet and Suspiria? And films like The Illustrated Man, Rollerball, and Saturn 3 were studio productions—they might have developed reputations as exploitation crap, but they weren't created that way.
No matter. These are mere quibbles. Anyone who enjoys trailer compilations and is interested in some fairly recent exploitation-film history will want to check out this set.
In addition to the commentaries and IIP trailers and interviews, there is a mini poster for Shock Festival and a booklet featuring some of the posters invented for Romano's book, along with text by Romano about the book. Unfortunately, this text is so small and the background so busy, it renders it nearly impossible to read. Additional trailers can be found as "Easter Eggs" on the first two discs.
A worthwhile set for both the casual viewer and the connoisseur.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Bloody Earth Films
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