42nd Street Memories is a 2015 documentary film about the notorious New York City street that came to be the location of the famous “grindhouse” theaters.

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This documentary tells the background to the area and how it became famous, and then infamous:

“The story behind the rise and fall of New York’s 42nd Street. The cinemas, the films, the people, the crime and the rebirth of the block as “New 42nd Street” – this is the document of the world’s most notorious movie strip.”

Made in 2015, until recently, the only way to see this excellent documentary was to buy the Grindhouse Releasing special edition BluRay of the Italian slasher exploitation film Pieces. Which, of course, I own.

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However, now it is now available for free on Tubitv and I wanted to share it with you all. You can find it right here.

The documentary features interviews with many exploitation filmmakers about the salad days of 42nd Street and the films that played in those theaters. A lot of personal anecdotes and stories told by directors like Frank Henenlotter and Joe Dante make for some great entertainment.

The street itself is the site of some of New York’s best-known buildings, including (east to west) the headquarters of the United Nations, Chrysler Building, Grand Central Terminal, New York Public Library Main Branch, Times Square, and the Port Authority Bus Terminal.

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The decline started in 1946, when the streetcars on 42nd Street were replaced by less efficient buses.

Nicknamed the “Deuce”, 42nd Street inspired the book Sleazoid Express, a travelogue of the 42nd Street grindhouses and the films they showed. It describes the cinema patrons as:

“…depressives hiding from jobs, sexual obsessives, inner-city people seeking cheap diversions, teenagers skipping school, adventurous couples on dates, couples-chasers peeking on them, people getting high, homeless people sleeping, pickpockets…”

It went on to talk about the people outside the theaters and in the surrounding area in just as glowing terms:

“Phony drug salesman … low-level drug dealers, chain snatchers … junkies alone in their heroin/cocaine dreamworld … predatory chickenhawks spying on underage trade looking for pickups … male prostitutes of all ages … transsexuals, hustlers, and closety gays with a fetishistic homo- or heterosexual itch to scratch … It was common to see porn stars whose films were playing at the adult houses promenade down the block. … Were you a freak? Not when you stepped onto the Deuce. Being a freak there would get you money, attention, entertainment, a starring part in a movie. Or maybe a robbery and a beating.

For much of the mid and late 20th century, the area of 42nd Street near Times Square was basically considered unsavory. Today it has undergone development and something of a renaissance into a tourist trap.

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I thoroughly recommend this documentary movie to any fans of Cinema history and grindhouse in particular. Check it out.

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