If you’re a regular reader of DVD Drive-In and haven’t been to the website Trailers From Hell (www.trailersfromhell.com), well you should head there right now. Trailers From Hell is the brainchild of director Joe Dante, new media entrepreneur Jonas Hudson, graphic artist Charlie Largent and producer Elizabeth Stanley. The mission of Trailers From Hell is to showcase previews of coming attractions from vintage movies, with a particular emphasis on horror, sci-fi and exploitation, so naturally, we’re all over it. The angle here is that the hundreds of playable trailers found on the site are accompanied by commentaries by an extensive list of diverse filmmakers, and you can now take home a slice of that with this initial DVD release, THE BEST FROM TRAILERS FROM HELL!, Volume 1.
THE BEST FROM TRAILERS FROM HELL! contains five different film directors (aka “gurus”) doing on-camera introductions and voice-over commentaries to a number of different genre trailers from the late 1940s through the late 1970s, all which help to emphasize how much the art of the preview is all but lost today. All of the five participants’ segments are spread out through the running time with Joe Dante (THE HOWLING, GREMLINS) handling duties on CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, THE TINGLER, BLOOD AND ROSES, and EARTH VS. FLYING SAUCERS; John Landis (AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON) is on hand for CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF, GREEN SLIME, PRIVATE PARTS and MIGHTY JOE YOUNG; Mick Garris (THE STAND) reminisces on RABID, THE VALLEY OF GWANGI, HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM and SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN; Eli Roth (CABIN FEVER) handles SQUIRM, THE BIRDS, 3 ON A MEATHOOK and FORBIDDEN PLANET; while Edgar Wright (SHAUN OF THE DEAD) does the chores for PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE, CORRUPTION, THE SENTINEL and SILENT RUNNING.
The trailers mentioned above are playable with or without the commentary, with the latter option found on the "choose a trailer" menu section. With the concept that “any movie can be great at 2 ½ minutes”, the novelty here is the comments from the five participants, who do a good job of moving things right along while always being entertaining with their thoughts, factoids and film-going experiences. Thankfully, this is not of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 on-the-spot insult/mocking variety, but rather a nice mix of intelligent and sometimes heartfelt observations, with some humor added into the mix (especially from Landis) when appropriate.
Probably the most memorable remarks stem from an affinity that one of the directors has with a particular film that he’s discussing the trailer for. Along with sharing his cinematic knowledge, Dante will bring up fond memories of seeing EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS and CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (the theater he saw it turned him off Reese’s Peanut Butter cups for good) as a boy, as well as how William Castle’s THE TINGLER and later meeting Vincent Price influenced his 1993 film MATINEE. Eli Roth and Edgar Wright (whose faux trailers for “Thanksgiving” and “Don’t” respectively, were the best thing about 2007’s GRINDHOUSE) are of a different generation than the other directors here, and it’s fun to hear them talking about first encountering some of these films on television or staring at their box covers at the local video store. Even with a few errors in the comments (on SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN, Garris notes that actress Yutte Stensgaard appeared in “Carry On” movies, probably confusing her with Valerie Leon), the disc on a whole is a enjoyable ride, and is highly recommended to cult film buffs and movie geeks alike.
The assortment of black & white and color trailers are presented both full frame and widescreen, most of which appear perfectly presentable, with a few occasional ones being a bit battered, as would be expected with vintage 35mm film. Extras include a full feature: the black & white horror oldie (and PD favorite) THE VAMPIRE BAT (1933) presented here in quite a sharp looking print despite the expected blemishes. The film of course stars Lionel Atwill, Fay Wray, Douglas Fairbanks and Dwight Frye, and this print runs around 62 minutes. The other extras are two amusing scare-themed vintage cartoons: Foster & Bailey’s “The Haunted Ship” (1930, B&W) and Ub Iwerks’ “The Headless Horseman” (1934, color).
Anyone interested in ordering a copy should click HERE. (George R. Reis)
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