Blu-Ray Review: 42nd Street Forever

Synapse's grindhouse trailer compilation finally arrives in HD with 'unexpectedly beautiful and brain-melting combinations.'

Devon Ashbyby Devon Ashby


If you’re on the prowl for a condensed dose of highly calibrated Psychotronia, Synapse has got your back this month with their anticipated Blu-ray reissue of the consolidated 42nd Street Forever trailer compilations previously released in briefer installments on DVD. Synapse’s new Blu-ray features nearly four hours of chopped up and reconfigured action, Blaxploitation, softcore, Mondo and gore movies from the golden era of mind-bending low-budget sleaze quickies, including immortal gems like Shocking Asia, I Dismember Mama, Welcome Home Brother Charles, Starcrash, Rabid, and Ms. 45.

42nd Street in New York between the late ‘60s and early ‘80s had degraded into a wasteland of dilapidated, formerly legitimate movie palaces reduced to exhibiting lurid low-budget oddities to milling crowds of shifty roustabout pimps, drug lords, and curiosity seekers that populated the area. The divine results of this accidental miasma of unscrupulous filth was a wealth of disparately sourced, energetically bizarre cinematic spectacle filled with graphic sexual sadism, hard-bitten criminality, suppurating viscera, deformed homicidal mutants, Kung Fu, explosions and race riots, often conjoined together to form unexpectedly beautiful and brain-melting combinations.

42nd Street Forever exhaustively catalogues a representative range of filmic examples from the time and place its title referentially encapsulates, arranged with a loose narrative flow that segues from genre to genre, riffing on similar themes until they exhaust themselves, then segueing into adjacent ones. Selections range from Blaxploitation movies like Sugar Hill and Black Samson to gut-churning gore exercises like Dr. Butcher M.D. to a smattering of softcore trailers for hardcore porno films like Panorama Blue. Also pointedly included are modern low-budget highlights that memorably toured 42nd Street while still in their infancy, like early John Carpenter sci-fi Dark Star and Cronenberg’s Rabid. Grindhouse movies themselves are an acquired taste, but you have to be blessed (or cursed) with guts of iron and a heart of stone to sit unmoved before a reel of inexpertly distilled highlights underscored by alternating modulations of blaring contemporary funk and synth.

The Blu-ray contains over 80 trailers total, with titles handily indexed for easy reference, plus an epic and educative commentary session by Z-grade genre experts culled from the prestigious ranks of Fango, Temple of Schlock, and The selected amalgam is not fully comprehensive, although it does include a sizeable portion of installments from previous 42nd Street releases rounded off with some fresh offerings. A great intro for Grindhouse virgins, and a worthwhile upgrade for previous fans.