Ray Greene wrote, directed and edited this documentary. He also narrates, and a fine guidehe is to the world of the exploitation film. He acknowledges such 30s classics as ReeferMadness, but his interest is primarily the 50s and 60s, tracing the post-WWII world of theindependent film, and ending with the 70s, as the major studios moved in on the market and theexploitationers became victims of their own success at challenging censorship laws. The filmis smart, …rticulate, and upfront about its biases. There are plenty of interviews with major figuresfrom the field: Roger Corman, Samuel Z. Arkoff, David F. Friedman, Harry Novak, and DorisWishman are very well represented. These interviews are all the more valuable in that they areamong the last given by Arkoff and Wishman before their deaths. My only little quibble withthe film is that it occasionally cheats with the visual materials. Thus, viewers might be misledinto thinking that the Vampira footage is from her TV show (but in fact is from Plan 9From Outer Space), or that the silent burlesque dance is from a peep show (but is really fromMetropolis). That aside, I could hardly imagine a smarter, more respectful, moreaccessible introduction to the field.
The sound is 2.0, but issues of Dolby surround are very much beside the point here. Thereis some original music that pops up now and then, and it sounds fine. The narration and theinterviews are perfectly clear, though the volume does tend to fluctuate a bit. Otherwise, thesound is very much dependant on the state of the material being presented.
The same is true for the picture, though by and large the clips are in as fine shape as onecould hope, given that these movies have not, generally speaking, exactly been the subjects ofloving preservation. The new footage (the interviews) has good, strong colours, there is no edgeenhancement to be seen. The aspect ratio is fullscreen, which would have been the case for mostof the films under discussion anyway.
Greene and co-producer Wade Major are aware of the irony of providing a commentary fora documentary, but they launch in anyway, explaining how the movie came together, andenthusiastically expanding on some of the issues the film raises. Three featurettes offer morefrom the principle interview subjects: Harry Novak takes us on a tour of his studio facilities,Doris Wishman talks a bit more about her career (and we see her arrive for a public appearance),and David Friendman does a couple of carnival-style spiels. “Sci-Fi: Science and Symbols” isan interview with Greene (done as he was completing the film) that, while not specifically aboutthe movie, deals with related topics. “The Atom and Eve” is a 1966 propaganda short extollingthe wonders of nuclear power, and this really has to be seen to be believed: the word “bizarre”doesn’t even begin to describe this oddity.
More audio extras are a radio interview with Greene, the songs “Your One and Only LizardBrain” and “Under the Rug” (written by Greene and performed by Johnny English), and the fullsoundtrack for the film. There are decent bios of the crew and the interviewees, and the mostfully labelled art gallery I’ve ever seen (though it is very short). The menu is scored, and there isan odd burst of static when make a selection.
I really can’t recommend this highly enough. As a one-stop-shopping way of learning aboutexploitation films, you really couldn’t ask for more. This disc is an excellent companion to suchbooks as Eric Schaefer’s Bold! Daring! Schocking! True!: A History of Exploitation Films,1919-1959.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary
- Behind-the-Scenes Featurettes
- “The Atom and Eve” Propaganda Short
- KPCC Radio Interview with Director Ray Greene
- Art Gallery
- Cast and Crew Bios
- Unreleased Soundtrack Music
- “Sci-Fi: Science and Symbols” Interview with Ray Greene