Likable Talking Heads Documentary for Trash Film Fanatics
In the 1970's and 1980's West Germany had no grindhouses or drive-in theaters. Where was a trash film fan supposed to go? To the train station! In West Germany most of the big railway stations had theaters. These were for travelers killing time before their trains. These stations played movies around the clock. When the film ended, it started again. Viewers came and went as their train schedules demanded. At first these theaters played newsreels and other documentaries, but over time, the theaters switched to fiction films, and fiction films that could be obtained cheaply. Thus, if one wanted to see Faster Pussycat Kill! Kill! or Cannibal Holocaust in West Germany, he or she needed to check out the railway stations in the country.
As an American, I knew none of this until I watched the pleasing documentary, Cinema Perverso - The Wonderful and Twisted World of Railroad Cinemas. The documentary consists of talking head interviews with people, including directors Uwe Boll and Jorg Buttgereit, who grew up watching films at the railway stations. Along the way, the viewer is shown fast clips from some of the films that played at railway stations. Some of them, like Angels with Golden Guns and the German made Love Camp, were new to this viewer.
Although an enjoyable documentary, I did have a couple of complaints. First, I wish the filmmakers would have identified the titles for all of the film clips. I would like to see a couple of the films sampled, but I have no idea what they are. Second, the film becomes less interesting when it starts spotlighting some of the genres that played at these cinemas. Most viewers watching this documentary already know about Bruce Li, Bruce Le, and attempts to make viewers think they are watching new Bruce Lee movies. I think the screen time spent on these genre overviews could have been better spent elsewhere.
All good (well to some) things come to an end. By the mid-1980's the railway cinemas were dangerous places that only showed hardcore pornography. For those who grew up with railroad cinemas, this documentary should be nostalgic. For those of us who did not, Cinema Perverso is an entertaining look at a long gone time (before home video).
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