A few weeks back, I saw a piece on Steve Habrat’s Anti-Film School that made me think about the heyday of the 42nd street movie scene in New York. As a huge fan of Steve’s writing, I asked if he’d be interested in writing an article about it for me. He graciously accepted. Here is that article, an impressive and personal look by Steve at one of the more fascinating times and places in movie history. Enjoy!
Looking at 42nd Street today, it would be hard to imagine that hustling and bustling tourist playground was once home to some of the roughest and toughest movie palaces that you would ever step foot in. That is, if you WOULD step foot into some of those now gone but certainly not forgotten movie palaces. The Deuce, as it was once called, was the neon home of all things sleaze. From the 1960s all the way into the mid 1980s, 42nd Street was jam-packed with rickety movie theaters like the Lyric, the Victory, the Anco, the Liberty, the New Amsterdam, and the Rialto I and II, theaters that were once home for steamy burlesque, strip-tease, and peep shows. With the dancers long gone and their bump n’ grind routines retired, these massive and decaying meccas turned to graphic exploitation, down and dirty entertainment for those looking for thrills that they couldn’t get from Paramount Studios or Warner Bros. No, these were dangerous films, ones that lured in junkies, pimps, prostitutes, closet perverts, adventurous couples seeking an exotic night out, and more with their anything-goes promises of X-rated sex, unblinking violence, kooky plots, and, hell, maybe even a little hip-shaking rock n’ roll. Anything can happen when the lights go down in a grindhouse. Oh, and don’t mind that faint smell of urine, I’m sure someone just relieved themselves in a soda cup and spilled it. Continue reading