The Need for Sleaze
Bill Landis Talks, Shows Grindhouse Cinema
In the Eighties Sleazoid Express, edited by Bill Landis, was the leading publication for exploitation, trash, and low-budget films, covering a shockingly diverse range. Sleazoid inspired imitators, unintentionally cultivated a library of books, and was responsible for video/DVD releases of some of the sleaziest films ever made. By 1985 it was gone, but its influence continued unabated. Now Sleazoid is back (revived by Landis and Michelle Clifford, his wife), and the Alamo Drafthouse Downtown celebrates by hosting a screening of Pets (an "S&M soap opera ...") and The Candy Snatchers ("Violence Beyond Last House on the Left") on Feb. 23. Landis will be there introducing the films and signing copies of his new book, Sleazoid Express: A Mind-Twisting Tour Through the Grindhouse Cinema of Times Square.
In 1977, I saw Caged Heat at the drive-in and became obsessed with exploitation/drive-in/low-budget films. Information on these movies was incredibly difficult to find. I got my hands on a copy of Sleazoid Express, an offset printed publication out of 42nd Street in NYC, sometime in 1980. Sleazoid passionately tackled all low-budget cinema with intelligence but not prejudice. Porn, soft-core, deeply sick Italian cannibal movies, Blood Sucking Freaks, snuff films, Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS, blaxploitation, sex-change epics, wack French vampire movies, gay films, Andy Warhol, anything that played or could play on 42nd Street -- high, low, and in between. Offering smart reviews and perverted critical perspectives, Sleazoid covered films not covered anywhere else, as well as those that were. Larry Buchanan (Poor White Trash), Kenneth Anger (Lucifer Rising), Andy Milligan (The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here!), John Waters (Polyester), Abel Ferrara (Ms. 45), and Herschell Gordon Lewis (Two Thousand Maniacs!) were treated seriously. John Carpenter, Brian De Palma, Roger Corman, Bruce Lee, the Shaw Brothers, Andy Warhol, Ed Wood Jr., and Tobe Hooper were all gleefully discussed without wasting anyone's time making silly distinctions. Typical fare saw articles like "Portrait of the Director as Scum of the Earth," on Jess Franco (Night of the Blood Monster, Barbed Wire Dolls) or "The Auteurs of Sadomasochism" on writer/producer Bob Cresse and director Lee Frost (Mondo Freudo, Mondo Bizarro, Love Camp 7). Where else could you find serious critical thinking on I Spit on Your Grave, Night of the Bloody Apes, Bloodthirsty Butchers, Guyana -- Cult of the Damned, Strange Behavior, and The Love Butcher? Sleazoid brought the street odors of 42nd Street theatres to the critical dialogue on low-budget films, saving the critics from themselves. No academic niceties considered, Sleazoid, thank god, covered the kind of raw crap that gave the genre its bad name. Welcome back!
The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema and BookPeople present the Sleazoid Express Double Feature, including a screening of Pets (7pm) and The Candy Snatchers (9:45pm), as well as a lecture and booksigning by Bill Landis on Sunday, Feb. 23, at the Drafthouse Downtown (409 Colorado). Admission costs $9 for the double feature, $6.50 for a single feature. For more information, visit www.drafthouse.com.