Grindhouse Nostalgia: Memory, Home Video, and Exploitation Film Fandom

(Edinburgh University Press, 2015)


Too often dismissed as nothing more than "trash cinema," exploitation films have become both earnestly appreciated cult objects and home video items that are more accessible than ever. In this wide-ranging new study, David Church explores how the history of drive-in theatres and urban grind houses has descended to the home video formats that keep these lurid movies fondly alive today.

Arguing for the importance of cultural memory in contemporary fan practices, Church focuses on both the re-release of archival exploitation films on DVD and the recent cycle of "retrosploitation" films like Grindhouse, Machete, Viva, The Devil’s Rejects, and Black Dynamite. At a time when older ideas of subcultural belonging have become increasingly subject to nostalgia, Grindhouse Nostalgia presents an indispensable study of exploitation cinema’s continuing allure, and is a bold contribution to our understanding of fandom, taste politics, film distribution and home video.



Chapter 1: A Drive-in Theatre of the Mind: Nostalgic Populism and the Déclassé Video Object

Chapter 2: 42nd Street Forever? Constructing "Grindhouse Cinema" from Exhibition to Genre to Transmedia Concept

Chapter 3: Paratexts, Pastiche, and the Direct-to-Video Aesthetic: Toward a Retrosploitation Mediascape

Chapter 4: Dressed to Regress? The Retributive Politics of the Retrosploitation Pastiche


Selected Filmography and Videography of Retrosploitation Media


"By taking fans’ nostalgia seriously, Grindhouse Nostalgia makes a brilliant contribution to understanding cult movies and fandom. Exploring historical complexities of the drive-in and the grind house, David Church builds an impressive theory of subcultural value, retrosploitation and cultural memory. The ‘new’ might not always be better, but this new study most definitely challenges and surpasses previous work in the field."

--Prof. Matt Hills, University of Huddersfield

"Grindhouse Nostalgia casts much needed new light on the very processes through which mainly 1970s exploitation has come to be imagined and reimagined as a cultural category. It also shows how this mutable and contested generic formation has been taken up in different media in different ways at different times. In this regard, the book offers something akin to a scholarly blueprint. It is one that could inspire others to consider how perceptions of cultural categories are activated across audiovisual cultures as various stakeholders shape and reshape media landscapes in selective and strategic fashion: a contribution that promises to extend far beyond the lowbrow and American audiovisual cultures considered in this particular study…destined to become a seminal work in the field."

--Media Industries

"While Church is clearly a cult fan, his analysis and argument is consistently critically engaged and attuned to the institutional and ideological complexities and contradictions of cult cinema and its varied genealogies…Drawing on extensive archival research, the first half of the book offers an extraordinarily detailed economic, social and cultural history of the drive-in and the grindhouse cinema; the best history to date of the former, and the only sustained history of the latter."

--Film Studies

"Whether the practices and the economics of the film industry or the technologies of digital reproduction and distribution, Church’s knowledge base is impressive, and the interpretation he has constructed is both comprehensive and persuasive. On the one hand, he moves comfortably between theoretically minded writers like Pierre Nora and Andreas Huyssen and ‘low-brow’ commentators like Joe Bob Briggs and the hosts of Mystery Science Theater 3000, on the other he draws broadly from fields as diverse as memory studies, reception history and fan culture. This is combined with a sympathetic yet critical-minded appreciation of so-called grindhouse films themselves, of the audiences to whom they were marketed, and of the ingenuity and resourcefulness that a current cohort of film-makers – Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Eli Roth and Rob Zombie, most prominently – have brought to bear in exploiting, as it were, the exploitation genre."

--Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television

"Grindhouse Nostalgia is a serious study of a subject rarely treated seriously, namely exploitation cinema and its continuing allure…This is a thought-provoking study, especially noteworthy in the part dealing with rape-revenge films, and deserves the attention an endurance of those with a more scholarly inclination."

--Rue Morgue

"David Church's new book for Edinburgh University a book which very ably takes its title and spins it into an entertaining and informative read. Church does what so many authors fail at, in that he lays out the exact amount of historical context required to understand the topic at hand… It's a fabulous addition to any film library."


"True exploitation-film fans will appreciate this smart, swift volume. Although technically an academic tome, it’s hardly work when the subject matter is so fun, and David Church traces the history of grindhouse cinema from its dirt-cheap roots (when what was playing was largely secondary) to its corporate co-opting today as a catchall term. While Bill Landis and Michelle Clifford’s Sleazoid Express remains the definitive depiction of the Times Square moviegoing experience, Church’s book excels in examining the scene ever since: namely, the second wave ushered by Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s big-screen Grindhouse; the subsequent coattail-riding DVD reissues of B-, C- and Z-level fare; and now the faux-retro vibe of such titles as blaxploitation spoof Black Dynamite and women-in-prison romp Sugar Boxx." +

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Jenny Holzer, "Marquees" (1993); 42nd Street, NYC