Filmgore and Reel Exposure
This one is going to be a little different.
Back before the days of the internet, if you were an odd and obscure movie connoisseur your hobby was a lot harder. You couldn’t just hop on your computer and type in “cult films” and be greeted with thousands upon thousands of pages listing obscure media or do-it-yourself projects that just happened to find a distributor and then find a torrent of a rare film that you could download and watch at your leisure. No, instead, you either learned stuff by word of mouth if your friends traveled in similar circles, or you had to wander out of your house and make friends with your local video rental store worker in the hopes that they had good taste and could procure new and interesting things for you to watch. Those were dark days, and required a lot of time and effort on the part of the discerning viewer. I mean, how else were you to know if the cheesy, exploitative movie on the shelf would be the cheesy, exploitative movie for you? Luckily though, some studio distributors realized this and popped out a couple ‘compilation’ tapes, which were really little more than glorified advertisements for said distributors’ various video catalogs. But hey! They gave you an idea of what you were gonna watch before you watched it, and if they were really spiffy, they threw in some host segments to help draw you into watching their trailer video. And THAT, ladies and gents, is how you end up with interesting time capsules of eras gone by like Filmgore featuring Elvira, the Mistress of the Dark herself, and Reel Exposure (AKA, The Best of Sex and Violence) hosted by John Carradine.
Both film’s hold the distinction of being directed by Ken Dixon and produced by none other than Charles Band. But while they both follow the same basic formula of “show clips, segue to host, show clips, segue to host, show clips, segue to host, rinse, lather, repeat….” they do execute them differently enough to affect your enjoyment. For instance, Reel Exposure manages to condense 28 various schlocky, risque, horrific and exploitative trailers from the 70’s and early 80’s into a 76 minutes runtime. Some I’m sure you’ve heard about if you’re at all familiar with the various genres on display (Like I Spit on Your Grave for instance), but I almost guarantee that most will be a mystery to you, and with only about 2 and a half minutes per trailer they stick around just long enough to either completely turn you off or catch your interest.
By contrast, Filmgore runs nearly TWO HOURS (don’t believe IMDB, IMDB lies) and only shows you the most violent and bloody parts from a curation of a total of 10 movies. I’m sorry, you were perhaps expecting more with 120 minutes to kill? Nope. Too bad. That’s it. That’s all you get. Ten. Which, if you cut out the brief host parts and the 5-minute intro, translates to roughly 12-ish minutes per film. But of course, some film selections are much shorter than that, so that means that some other film clips end up in a range of somewhere between 15-20 minutes. Really, once you get to that point, you might as well just turn off Filmgore and go watch the movie they’re showcasing instead. Which should be fairly easy, because unlike Reel Exposure, most of the movie’s featured in Filmgore can easily be found for free online.
But while Reel Exposure might have the better movie selection, Filmgore lucked out with the better host. In between the trailers of Reel Exposure, poor John Carradine is forced to spit out some of the cheesiest, corniest lines you can think of, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but the entire time he’s doing it the poor guy just looks sooo tired. I mean, I’ll give the man credit, he’s a damn professional and he does pull it off, but you get the feeling that he really doesn’t want to be there. Which, honestly, is probably true at this point in his career and he’s just there for the paycheck. And then his two sons David and Keith turn up and then everyone looks like they really don’t want to be there, and it feels hella awkward, like some unintentional family reunion that half of them didn’t know they were going to and the other half didn’t want them there anyway.
Then there’s Cassandra Peterson as Elvira. She too is forced to dish out cheesy, corny lines, except doing that is all part of her whole established schtick, so she’s used to it and handles it much more gracefully. She sits there with her candle, looking all eerie in the opening, then pops in and out in between and during the films to drop in a quick pun or skit, and then she’s gone again. It really works, and she’s great, like always. However, considering the 2-hour runtime, her segments are also incredibly short and sparse, so while amusing, the brief moments of levity she adds don’t feel like nearly enough.
She does look great in that jacket though…
If asked to choose which of these two films is worth watching, for me the clear winner is Reel Exposure. It’s got the greater assortment of films, including a lot you’ve probably never seen before, it clocks in at a much more manageable time, and the trailers for the Blacksploitation films at the end are absolutely hilarious. Plus, I have to give it bonus points for making even dull and boring films, like the PG-rated yawn-fest Beyond Atlantis, look like something that’s going to be action-packed and sleazy, which, I can assure you, it is definitely NOT. So while Elvira might clearly be the better host between the two, she sadly ended up with the worse-paced film. Sure, it shows you all the bloodiest bits those films have to offer, but it does it in such a plodding way that even the goriest of gorehounds would find it boring. So if you’re truly curious about that particular time in film history, try to track down Reel Exposure. It’s an interesting experience. But if you happen to be interested in any of the films featured in Filmgore…if you haven’t seen them yet, just try to go watch all the movies it showcases instead. That’s what I’m planning to do. It’ll feel a lot less like a slog that way, trust me.
Reel Exposure and Filmgore are available on a variety of streaming services.
Reel Exposure and Filmgore are also available on (separate) DVDs.