American Grindhouse (2010)

Director: Elijah Drenner

For some reason I’m greatly amused by the way this film about American exploitation cinema, or at any rate the DVD packaging of same, actually kind of operates the other way round from exploitation by not advertising any of its unexpectedly plentiful bonus features… including material shot a decade earlier for the original production, which a documentary solely about Jack Hill, the man Tarantino called “the Howard Hawks of exploitation filmmaking”.  Along the way, though, as Drenner and his crew accrued more interview footage, this was revised over the years into a general history of grindhouse, which I picked for tonight’s viewing cos it’s cult/expoitation/grindhouse challenge time at the ICM forum and I really should make an effort to actually take part, so hopefully this will inspire me some. Drenner’s particular approach is, I think, a good one, in that he looks beyond just the usual 60s/70s timeframe and considers how the exploiters of that period actually emerged from the exploiters of preceding decades (tracing exploitation as a tendency all the way back to Edison), looking at the tension that existed since the 30s between mainstream Hollywood and its less reputable counterpart and how the former’s gradual co-opting of the latter’s subject matter and techniques during the 70s eventually left it with nowhere to go. It’s a bit whistle-stop, in that it’s only 80 minutes long and it’s got to cover quite a lot of ground, with some of its individual topics really being worthy of feature-length expansion (and some of them having indeed been treated at such length), meaning it’s ultimately most useful as an introductory text for viewers not really familiar with the idea of exploitation film, let alone the films themselves, and I think it kind of skates over certain things it could’ve done more with (one limitation is there in the title, i.e. it’s specifically “American grindhouse”, with no real consideration of how foreign productions in that vein, especially the Italian giallo, played together with the American ones). Still, on that basic introductory text level, I suppose it generally does a decent job. Perfectly pleasant viewing.

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