42nd Street Forever
It’s hard to overestimate the importance of DVD for film fans. Aside from being technologically inferior, it costs more to produce a VHS tape, meaning that more have to be produced to make a profit. And given the popularity of the format, it sometimes looks as if every film ever made by anyone anywhere in the world will sooner or later crop up in your local HMV. Some films are so bad that you feel like cursing the day DVDs were ever invented, but that would be churlish for anyone interested in the backwaters of cinema. Who would have thought we’d ever reach the day when films ranging from The Godfather to Cannibal Holocaust to Street Trash all get special editions?
So, in a way, this DVD should not be a surprise. 42nd Street Forever isn’t a film. It’s a two hour collection of exploitation film trailers. Yes, the good people at Synapse Films decided there was an audience out there who would actually want to sit down and watch over one hundred and twenty minutes of trailers – trailers for sleaze, sleaze and yet more sleaze.
Sadly enough, one of my friends thought I was one of the target audience, and gave me this as a Christmas present. Even more sadly, he turned out to be right.
(But then, he’s one of the target audience himself. Takes one to know one.)
I admit, I had a blast watching this, often for entirely the wrong reasons. Almost every film advertised looks inept and incompetent, if not on occasion downright dishonest. And for most of the trailers, you can’t imagine seeing anything like them in cinemas today. I haven’t seen much exploitation cinema, and I learnt some valuable lessons that will put me in good stead when I finally film my script.
1) Your film’s title should be direct. I didn’t know before that there really is a film called Women and Bloody Horror.
2) If you want people to see your film, tell them it’s too shocking to watch. The trailer for Corruption states that no women will be allowed to watch the film alone, whilst the makers of Women and Bloody Horror will give your family $2,000 if you die of fright watching it.
3) Pretend your film is educational. Teenage Mother is about… oh, have a guess. All parents should watch the film with their children, says the trailer. Never mind that the trailer also gives us a long, lingering shot of a supposed fifteen-year-old in a bra.
3a) Even better, why not pretend the film is a documentary about other cultures? Then you can be as gratuitously offensive about those weird furriners as you want! Shocking Asia, for example, wants us to believe that the Japanese are all sadistic perverts.
4) Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds. If the on-screen title is The Butcher of Binbrook, but the narrator calls the film Necrophagous, who cares?
5) Porn films don’t have to be sexy. It is also to your advantage if you can pretend your softcore flick is the most cultured film in cinema with a straight face. Yes, even when it features couples getting it on in front of really bad rear-screen projections of roller-coasters. Bonus points if the soundtrack is Thus Spake Zarathrustra.
I’m guessing that Panorama Blue did not in fact become a classic.
6) Nobody cares about men dying. It has to be women. Women who have trouble keeping their shirts buttoned. So states The Centerfold Girls.
7) The past is truly another country. Can you imagine a film today being called Boss - um, Boss… Boss Ni…
No. My 21st century sensibilities won’t allow me to write it. Let’s just say it’s a western with a black hero and leave it at that.
8) One of the softcore sex comedies is called Hard Candy. Time has not been kind to this title, as film enthusiasts now will most likely think of the dark psychological horror of the same name about paedophilia. Oops!
8) Winning an award at the Venice Film Festival won’t stop your film looking a bit sleazy, especially if you sell it as ‘Hey! Look how many drugs I was doing a couple of years ago!’ Sorry, Chappaqua.
9) If you’re making a family comedy there are certain words you should never, and I mean never use in the title. The Rape of the Sabines fails this test, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Roger Moore would now like us to forget all about it.
10) Suspense is overrated. If you’ve made a horror film, it’s perfectly fine for your trailer to show every single death scene – oh, hang on. I already knew that.
11) I have seen a trailer for an Italian sex comedy made by Sergio Martino. It’s called Creampuffs and features nuns. It drove me to drink.
12) Your film’s plot can be about anything at all. If you want to film a story about a couple of under-aged choirboys becoming obsessed with a church-going prostitute, go ahead. (Charlie and the Hooker - if you couldn’t guess, it was filmed in Europe) Or if you want to film a guy without legs and a guy without arms becoming kung-fu masters – well, actually that sounds awesome.
12a) Be aware that some countries are rather more offensive than others. In English, the kung-fu film is called The Crippled Masters. But apparently the French title translates as The Kung-Fu Monsters. Charming.
13) American films actually seem the most dull on the DVD, in general. So my advice is to shoot your film in Italy.
14) Come to think of it, I have decided there is nothing more horrible in the entire world than a sex comedy. Confessions of a Summer Camp Counsellor made me want to bleach my eyeballs.
15) Don’t worry about any kind of subtext whatsoever. If you want to make your heroes gay bikers, then do so. If you then want to make them all transvestites who use women’s toilets – thus alienating the 1970’s audience further – go for it! To be honest, on the evidence of the trailer, I’ve no idea what to make of The Pink Angels…
16) No budget? No problem! You can still rip off Star Wars, as Star Crash amply demonstrates. Yes, it is indeed Italian. How did you guess?
17) Once upon a time, people wanted to see Sylvester Stallone naked. I have to admit, I have a lot of difficulty understanding this.
18) If you can base smut on a classic author – say, Stendahl – great! That’s what Walerian Borowczyk did with Behind Covent Walls. At least in the trailer the nuns look like they’re having fun, and the music’s nice.
(Yes, I’m aware that some of Borowczyk’s fans will be incensed with me calling his work ‘smut’. But I suspect a lot of people will try out his films for precisely that reason.)
So, there you have it. My film will be Lesbian Ladyboy Vampires from Sex-Drenched Bangkok, based on the works of Elizabeth Gaskell. Nobody over the age of seventy will be allowed to see it alone, because they may have heart attacks from fright. It will feature nuns. And Roger Moore. Now, who wants to fund it?