Produced by: Joe Dante, Elizabeth Stanley, and Jonas Hudson
Featuring: Joe Dante, Roger Corman, Lloyd Kaufman, Guillermo Del Toro, and more
Reviewed by: Brett G.
Any movie can be great in two minutes!
The cult crowd is arguably the most ardent group of cineastes out there. Theyíre fiercely loyal to the little films that have been mostly neglected by the general population, almost to the point of a parental protectiveness. The guys and gals behind Trailers From Hell are obviously among that bunch, and the rest of us (including fellow cult fans alike) reap the benefits of their fan-boyish celebration of the B-side of cinema. Their latest trailer compilation feels like a distant cousin to the old compilation tapes that once enticed video store patrons with snippets of the wackiest, goriest, and sleaziest parts of films. Trailers From Hell takes a similar approach by insisting that ďany movie can be great in two minutes,Ē and they not only compile trailers, but also bring in different authorities to tell us why these movies are great (even when they arenít!).
Volume 2 is an eclectic collection; it isnít all horror, but youíll see the likes of Deep Red, The Premature Burial, The Invisible Ghost, Gorgo, The Tenant, Terror Firmer, The Creeping Unknown, and Jaws. Other selections come from all over the place, such as the Hammer pirate film cycle (Devil Ship Pirates) and the drive-in car movie circuit (Pit Stop). The commentators include well known film-makers such as Brian Trenchard-Smith, Ernest Dickerson, Mary Lambert, John Landis, Joe Dante, Lloyd Kaufman, Jack Hill, and even Guillermo Del Toro.
Trailers from Hell really is just a collection of trailers--thereís no through line like youíll find in many of those old compilations, which created some sort of frame story and gave you some silly reason for watching its clips. If you watch the trailers here with the commentaries enabled (and you definitely should), each one is introduced by the commentator before giving way to the next segment. This doesnít really matter though because you shouldnít look at this as just an excuse to watch a bunch of cool trailers; sure, thatís no doubt fun and part of the appeal, but the real meat is in the actual commentaries. Think of it as quick-hit film reviews for the YouTube generation, as the commenters are able to pack in quite a bit of information in a couple of minutes. Youíll get everything from production backgrounds, historical contexts, insightful criticism, and even interesting tidbits of trivia (for example, did you know that Christopher Lee witnessed the last ever public execution in France?).
Obviously, some are more interesting than others, but there really isnít a dull segment in the bunch. Del Toro is especially insightful not only about Deep Red, but Argento in general, particularly the directorís insistence to make films that might not make ďlogical sense,Ē but ďlyrical senseĒ instead. Another highlight is screenwriter Josh Olsonís commentary on Jaws; thatís a movie thatís had a million things said about it, but he takes an interesting approach by noting writer Carl Gottleibís impact on the film. He also manages to find a connection between Spielbergís film and Gilliganís Island thatís pretty fascinating; I will say this--anything thatís able to tell me something I didnít already know about Jaws has to be worth seeing.
But donít mistake this as just some dry, academic run at talking about the filmsí technical merits (and lack thereof), as nostalgia is a key mode too. Most of these guys are looking back fondly on these movies that impacted their childhood; itís fun to see the likes of Del Toro gush over stuff like the 1956 version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame and discuss its importance to him. A lot of the guys sort of gently mock the stuff theyíre discussing too; John Landis is especially humorous in his take-down of Gorgo, which he calls ďone of the greatest British films of all time.Ē Perspective is always important when dealing with nostalgia, and I like that most of these guys are able to keep it. Even Hill, Corman, and Kaufman are able to do so when discussing their own work; Kaufman especially is as loquacious and self-denigrating as ever, but heís also got a million interesting stories to tell (you wonít be surprised to discover that one here involves a penis).
Cult fans will appreciate the sort of respect that accompanies all the gentle nudging. They love this stuff just as much as we do, and it shows. And even without the commentaries, youíll likely enjoy the eclecticism of the choices, as Trailers from Hell manages to not only mash up genres, but also eras. Prepare to see the likes of Spielberg, Polanski, and Frankenheimer bumping up against Poverty Row cheapies, 50s monster movies, and coming-of-age teen dramas. Some of this stuff would have been too classy for the grindhouse, but Trailers from Hell creates that same sort of gonzo patchwork of that recent revival movement. Shout Factoryís DVD is pretty well done; the main segments are presented in full frame to account for the varying aspect ratios for the trailers. The picture quality for the actual previews also vary, but they all look decent at the worst. The most important thing is that the commentaries are loud and clear. The lone extra is appropriate: a pristine, anamorphic presentation of Cormanís Little Shop of Horrors. The ethos behind Trailers from Hell is pretty simple: to get the word out on underappreciated movies. In this, they succeeded--itís compelled me to dust off a few titles Iíve neglected over the years and also seek out some others Iíve yet to track down. Buy it!
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