Edited by Andrew J. Rausch

Publisher: BearManor Media


Grindhouse” was a slang term for burlesque theaters in New York City, and was later applied to theaters which featured low-budget, so-called exploitation films, exploiting the public’s appetite for sexual titillation, gory violence and other subjects that major motion picture studios would not or could not provide. Those who didn’t live in larger cities with theaters devoted to such fare could usually find them at their local drive-in theaters.

Grindhouse films didn’t attempt to appeal to the cinephile, nor would they be considered for Oscars or other forms of industry recognition. Theirs was a pulp/tabloid approach to telling their stories. Most were lucky to even get ads placed in family newspapers considering their pitches to shock, terrify or reveal forbidden, taboo practices on celluloid. The films were marketed to the ids of moviegoers and, of course, they couldn’t live up to their claims, but the only way you would know that was by purchasing a ticket. Small wonder that some of the earliest grindhouse film promoters began their careers in the carnival circuits.

In Gods of Grindhouse, we meet some of the colorful characters who produced, directed and promoted these movies. Some are well known, such as Russ Meyer and Roger Corman, who created the Poe-based series of Vincent Price horror movies in the sixties, along with a movie about a man-eating plant (featuring a young Jack Nicholson), filmed in just two days (and a night), whose later incarnation as a big-budget musical achieved mainstream success.

For the most part, however, the filmmakers profiled in “Gods of Grindhouse” are not household names, nor are their films likely to appear on a cable channel near you. These are niche films, after all, and although mainstream horror movies have gotten bloodier and grislier over the years, the grindhouse films were not sanctioned by major studios nor provided with lavish budgets and A-list actors. Interview after interview reveals the challenges these filmmakers faced, not just in completing their pictures, but in getting them shown to the public as well.

This collection of interviews is most likely to appeal to hardcore fans of the genre, or to budding independent filmmakers. They would likely be keen to learn how these pioneers overcame financial and distribution obstacles, as well as their views on the pros and cons of direct-to-video and internet marketing of their product, both old and new.

There are, however, plenty of interesting and amusing stories from an era when it was still possible make a movie on a shoestring budget and get it into theaters across the country and beyond. This was guerilla filmmaking, and these dispatches capture an interesting tributary in film history, one rarely acknowledged or appreciated by mainstream tastemakers.

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