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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Filmmaking > Schlock! (Documentary)

Schlock!  The Secret History Of American Movies


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: C+     Program: B



Despite its pretentious subtitle, which can be taken issue with, Schlock! (2001, not to be confused with the directorial debut of John Landis) looks inside the alternate exploitation cinemas that were founded as the Classical Hollywood studio system (and the accompanying censorship that it brought with it) began to collapse as TV and their movie chain domination shifted to their disadvantage.


At first, writer/editor/director Ray Greene takes a scholarly stance at questioning what kind of cinema we do and do not value.  Whether you would agree with what he has to say or not, it begins to build the idea of an alternate cinema of some kind on the rise.  Oddly, Greene suddenly drops this approach mid-way through the program, ruining some of its credibility as a documentary.  Still, despite that big flub, the well laid-out array of rare interviews (including the last interview with James Nicholson from American International Pictures).  Censorship battles are discussed, though the impressive one over Flesh Gordon is ignored (see the DVD review elsewhere on this site).


When the films begin to get into the later 1960s, Greene gets lost between real moviemaking and an exploitation film as exploitation film, especially evident in his insane misinterpretation of John Schlesinger’s Midnight Cowboy (1969), but by then, even novices know about the XXX sex film industry and Horror genre breakout by then, so the rest of the tale Greene tells us is all about decline.  It also shows the assimilation of certain exploitation film qualities into mainstream cinema, even if Vietnam’s effect is mostly unaddressed.


The image is from the analog tape the program was sourced from, which is mostly full frame, but has a few letterboxed moments (if not always accurately so).  Some footage is old, but this is decent for a documentary for the most part.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 is a mix of stereo and mono, also what we could expect from such a patch-worked program.  The extras are pretty good, including a commentary by Greene and producer Wade Major, additional interview segments, a radio interview with Greene, the amusing “exploitation art gallery”, biography info. On the principals, unreleased soundtrack music (you have to hear it to believe it), and the very amusing short industrial film The Atom & Eve.  This is a color propaganda film that mixes sex with nuclear energy, as several smaller energy companies in the New England area merge with the benefits of nuclear power focused on as one of the reasons.  It is also featured in the feature.


Overall, this is not as impressive as it could have been, but it is still more than substantial enough that everyone should check it out.  This Schlock is worth your time.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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