This week sees the arrival of volumes three to five in 88 Films’ ‘Grindhouse Collection’, though perhaps ‘Video Store Collection’ would have been more appropriate. Released between 1987 and 1989, each of these three titles is likely to me more at home with the VHS generation than they are frequenters of 42nd Street, though clearly they’ve learned a trick or two from their forebears. To put it simply, they’re all knock-offs of a sort, eagerly chasing the tails of the popular movies of the day and shamelessly so. Creepozoids brazenly nabs its constituent parts from Alien and Aliens, sometimes borrowing entire set-pieces. Slave Girls from Beyond Infinity, on the other hand, combines standard space opera thrills with the basic plotline of Richard Connell’s The Most Dangerous Game (admittedly written in 1924, but a major unofficial source for low-budget movies ever since). And Dr. Alien is a dumb high school comedy that gives Teen Wolf an extra-terrestrial twist.
These being 88 Films releases, all three hail from the Charles Band stable. The label has been steadily working its way through his ridiculously prolific back catalogue for almost a year now, which means that the general approach should be familiar. Moderately budgeted and working on limited production schedules, these films nevertheless came with cheap but charming special effects and an undoubted sense of their own stupidity. There is little room here for stuffiness or pomposity, but rather an honest approach to satisfying B-movie essentials. Creepozoids, for example, merely needs to supply regular bouts of gore and rubbery effects work and little else. (Though, thanks to the presence of Band-regular Linnea Quigley, it does conspire to include an entirely gratuitous shower scene.) Slave Girls from Beyond Infinity has much the same requirements, with the first two words of its title also prompting bouts of nudity amidst the laser battles and quaint model work. Dr. Alien simply chucks in every teen movie cliché it can think of: locker room peeping toms, saucy teachers, excessive partying and even an impromptu rock concert. The difference between it and the vast majority of eighties movies about oversexed teens is that Dr. Alien knows exactly how moronic the whole set-up is and makes no bones about it. It gleefully throws itself into all those teen movie tropes, the end results being a good deal funnier than the more streamlined studio equivalents of the time.
Of course, it helps that Dr. Alien is a comedy in the first place, thereby allowing the unintended laughs to mingle easily with the scripted ones. Slave Girls from Beyond Infinity similarly sets out to be at least semi-comedic, though in all fairness its actors do struggle to make the screenplay quite as snappy as it wants to be. The healthy dose of irony to many of the lines appears to have been lost on the likes of Elizabeth Kaitan (who also pops up briefly in Dr. Alien) and Cindy Beal, but then they’ve hardly been cast for their delivery – indeed, the camera seems entirely disinterested in their faces. Creepozoids, however, despite having its tongue firmly in its cheek, offers little comparative release. It has also contrived to keep its cast locked up indoors for the majority of its running time – deadly acid rain according to screenplay, budgetary restrictions according to the actual production – which does stretch the patience, even at a meagre 72 minutes. The giant rats and H.R. Giger-‘inspired’ creature FX go so far, but Creepozoids is considerably stodgier than the other two.
With that said, all three provide their pleasures in the manner to be expected from former VHS faves. With titles like Dr. Alien and Slave Girls from Beyond Infinity, nobody is going to be expecting unsung masterpieces and that’s certainly not what they are going to get. Rather they offer up easy-going, undemanding fun that should satisfy those with an affection for this particular era in low-budget filmmaking. Those feeling short-changed by the misleading ‘Grindhouse’ tag, meanwhile, should look towards the extra features to find a bonus movie per disc which more readily live up to the name. Alongside Creepozoids you’ll find Filmgore from 1983. Accompanying Slave Girls from Beyond Infinity is 1978’s Auditions. And Dr. Alien comes with Famous T & A, released in 1982.
As with the main features, all three bonuses are Charles Band’s doings. Filmgore and Famous T & A are compilation flicks put together for the early video market, each dedicated to self-evident subject matter. Filmgore, scripted by Forest J. Ackerman and hosted by Elvira, offers up highlights packages for the likes of Driller Killer, Blood Feast and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre plus a handful of obscurer items, including Burt Young’s very first movie Carnival of Blood. Famous T & A has Sybil Danning as hostess (dressed as a scantily clad gladiator for some reason) and takes us through the nude scenes of Brigitte Bardot, Ursula Andress, Ornella Muti and some less recognisable names. The compilers have also gotten their hands on some outtake footage from Terminal Island and filmed some of their own material involving topless women and weaponry (!). Auditions was one of Band’s earliest credits and sets itself up as a mock documentary. The titular auditions are for an upcoming sex movie prompting the various contenders for its role to disrobe and couple up. Some comic turns are present to break up proceedings, but there’s no hiding the tawdry, exploitative nature of it all. A perfect piece of grindhouse, then.
These latest additions to 88 Films’ ‘Grindhouse Collection’ follow the format of the first entries. The films are presented in open matte 1.33:1 aspect ratios and come with DD2.0 accompaniment, both of which are satisfactory without being outstanding. These new discs likely represent the best the films have looked in a long while (marking an improvement over previous cheapo R2 incarnation or the old interlaced R1 editions from almost a decade ago), though they’re still a tad on the soft side. Colours are good, however, damage is minimal and the soundtracks sufficiently crisp. The bonus movies are in a considerably lesser state, appearing in interlaced form and seemingly sourced from tape masters. They remain watchable enough, though do be aware that the soundtracks are in a poor state, particular Auditions’. Nonetheless, it’s a welcome move from 88 Films to delve further into the Band back catalogue and issue some of these obscurer titles onto disc – they’d likely never see the light of day otherwise.
Those bonus features also represent the key extras on each, with the discs also finding room for original trailers, stills galleries and Full Moon trailer reels as has no become standard for 88 Films’ releases. Similarly, each disc also comes with a reversible sleeve.
The latest additions to 88 Films' Grindhouse Collection.