Monday, January 30, 2012

Advanced Demonology Book Club

This week's pick!

Sleazoid Express
By Bill Landis and Michelle Clifford
Fireside Books, 2002

Years ago, a friend once gave me a spiral-bound, Xeroxed collection of Landis’ seminal trashfilm fanzine, Sleazoid Express, which obsessively detailed his adventures into the twilight world of rough trade and gutbucket b-movies at various Times Square grindhouses. It was one hell of a read. No one had ever written movie reviews like these before, where you were actually afraid for the reviewer’s life, as he went shoulder to shoulder with the petty thieves, low-rent pervs, and slumming junkies that crawled around these apocalyptic theaters like mutant man-roaches. Suddenly, a trip to the movies seemed more like a combat skirmish, a living distillation of all the zero-budget sleaze on screen, dropped right into your lap for a buck or two a pop.

Ultimately, the grindhouses fell to Guliani’s Times Square gentrification, and the pursuit of bad movies moved to the calmer waters of living room couches, where you could watch the worst of humanity in relative safety, without the fear of darkness-cloaked pick-pockets or aggressive tranny hookers. I mean, unless you invite them over. But before you get too comfortable, check out Sleazoid Express, which lifts the rock on Times Square and allows you to see all the ugly little secrets that hid beneath it. The book compiles pieces from the original zine as well as newly written articles.

Landis and Clifford take us on a block by block tour of the defunct theaters, detailing the idiosyncrasies and criminal tendencies of each, and then gives us a historical and anecdotal run-through of the movies they showed. Everything from the infamous Ilsa series to Andy Milligan’s numerous forays into Long Island-lensed, penny ante junkfilm is covered, and all the rampant perversity and lowlife dirty tricks involved in their creation and screening are described in Landis’ signature hardboiled prose, making for an authentically harrowing trip back to the “Deuce”. Along the way, he uncovers a few obscurities that only grindhouse vets would readily remember, and in the case of sick fuck slavesploitation flick “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, that’s probably for the best. It’s still great fun to read about, though, and if you have any interest at all in the sordid world of pre-video sleaze- or in the even more sordid world of real-life, Times Square denizen sleaze- than “Sleazoid Express” is a must-read. You’ll want to wash your hands afterwards, but you’ll love how dirty they get along the way.

- Ken

PS: Bill Landis RIP. 


  1. I agree this is an amazing book. His depiction of seeing "Fight For Your Life" with a black audience is worth the price alone.

  2. I got to read this. Fight For Life blew my mind, I wondered how audiences in theaters reacted to it when it came out.

  3. Excellent compendium. Am pulling this sucker off the shelf constantly to reread.