Grindhouse cinema refers to a particular type of film that emerged in the 1960's and 1970's in the United States. It is characterised by low budgets, gritty storytelling, and a focus on sex, violence, and other taboo subjects. The origins of Grindhouse cinema can be traced back to the early 20th century, with the advent of travelling vaudeville shows and burlesque theatres that would show short films in between live performances.
In the 1930's and 1940's, the popularity of these short films led to the rise of independent movie theatres that specialised in showing B-movies and exploitation films. These theatres were often located in urban areas and catered to working-class audiences looking for cheap entertainment. They would often feature double or triple bills of low-budget films, with titles such as "Teenage Zombies" and "She-Devils on Wheels."
The term "Grindhouse" itself comes from the fact that many of these theatres were located on "grind" streets, which were areas known for their seedy, often illegal activity. These theatres were also known for their run-down, grimy interiors and sticky floors, as well as the fact that patrons could come and go as they pleased, allowing them to watch a film multiple times if they so desired.
Grindhouse cinema really began to take off in the 1960's, with the rise of exploitation films that catered to niche audiences such as bikers, hippies, and horror fans. These films were often made on shoestring budgets and relied heavily on shock value and provocative content to attract audiences. Titles like "Blood Feast" and "The Wild Angels" became cult classics among Grindhouse audiences, who appreciated the films' edginess and willingness to push the boundaries of what was socially acceptable.
In the 1970's, Grindhouse cinema reached its peak, with the release of films like "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre," "I Spit on Your Grave," and "The Last House on the Left." These films were often extremely violent and sexual in nature, and many were banned or heavily censored in certain parts of the country. Nevertheless, they proved hugely popular among Grindhouse audiences, who appreciated the films' willingness to shock and provoke.
The decline of Grindhouse cinema began in the 1980's, with the rise of home video and the proliferation of multiplex theatres that focused on mainstream Hollywood releases. Many Grindhouse theatres were either closed or converted to pornographic theatres or adult bookstores, and the era of the Grindhouse came to a close.
However, the legacy of Grindhouse cinema lives on today, with many contemporary filmmakers paying homage to the genre through films like "Grindhouse" and "Machete." Grindhouse cinema may have been rough around the edges, but it was also a vital part of American film history, a reminder of a time when movies were made for audiences who craved something different and daring.