One of the great things about watching old exploitation film trailers is that they often give you a visceral sense of the place and time that spawned their parent films. Exploitation filmmakers had to make their work with a “here and now” approach, using whatever was available at that moment to cash in on a prurient interest before a major studio and their bigger resources could catch up. Thus, exploitation film trailers are often neat little time capsules that deliver a barrage of fashion, music and cinematic stylings that take you right back to the era in which they were made.
Hanna D. – The Girl From Vondel Park is a lesser-known but still potent example of these concepts in action. This 1984 Italian film is essentially a knock-off of Christiane F., a 1981 German film that starkly portrayed the life of a teenager who drifts into hard drugs and becomes a lost soul. It was an international hit, thanks in part to a concert appearance by David Bowie and a tie-in soundtrack from the artist, and its dark, seedy portrayal of a nubile teen caught up in sex and drugs was inevitably the kind of thing that enterprising sleazemeisters would capitalize on.
Enter Rino Di Silvestro, the director behind such Euro-sleaze faves as Werewolf Woman and Deported Women Of The S.S. Special Section. He made his own take on the concept, keeping the grit but abandoning the reality of the original model to make something that plays a weird collision of Reefer Madness, juvenile delinquent melodrama, Skinemax late-night erotica and the kind of glossy style you saw in early ’80s music videos from Europe.
All of these elements are found in the film’s trailer, which also doubles as an early ’80s Eurotrash time capsule. The first forty seconds of the clip establish a trashy milieu with rundown urban locales, a predatory drug dealer, dope-dazzled junkies shooting up and sometimes dying and the title heroine, who looks like a model, lamenting the fate of the addicted. Despite being an urban kid, she looks like she could’ve walked out of an a-Ha video. The synth-and-sax music just enhances the seedy early ’80s vibe.
The next thirty seconds or so plunges the viewer into a pit of drugsploitation grime. The heroine’s glamour is stripped away as she becomes one of the addicts: dry-heaving while her mouth and shirt are both speckled with vomit, hugging a teddy bear with addiction-induced anguish and, in one of the film’s ‘money shot’ moments, getting a hypo filled with junk injected under her tongue. Suddenly, you’re hearing a romantic, synthy ballad for the next thirty seconds as you see the emotional extremes of Hanna’s life: some candlelit lovemaking with a tender beau, a brutal home life where she’s smacked around by her mother’s latest boyfriend and her sinking into a gloomy, hard-edged life on the streets as a predatory older guy closes in.
The final forty seconds take the film’s melodrama angle and go in for the kill. Suddenly, the music switches to a bit of Flashdance-style dance rock where the singer growls her lyrics as the drum machines and shrieking synths go into overdrive. We see Hanna chased by drug dealers in a sports car, enduring withdrawal and chasing drugs. Best of all, you get an over-the-top dialogue exchange where her she shouts “I want to shoot up! Don’t you understand that?” and the boyfriend vows “I’m gonna stop you. Even if it kills me!” Cue the closing title card as the synths whoop in a final, triumphant flourish.
Like its parent film, this trailer is a trashy delight. Beyond the obvious fun of the sleaze, the intense early ’80s-ness of it all is intoxicating for anyone who grew up in that decade: the rock video look, the fashions, the punk rockers and, best of all, the wall-to-wall cheap pop songs, all slathered with synthesizer. Everything about it screams ‘1984,’ offering a hit of nostalgia more potent than the junk that Hanna D. craves.
To read Schlockmania’s review of Hanna D. – The Girl From Vondel Park, click here.