DIRECTED BY: None credited
FEATURING: Roger Corman, Joe Dante, Guillermo del Toro, Ernest Dickerson, Mick Garris, Jack Hill, Larry Karaszewski, Lloyd Kaufman, Mary Lambert, John Landis, Josh Olson, Michael Peyser, Brian Trenchard Smith
PLOT: Industry professionals deliver commentaries on twenty movies as their trailers play.
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: In itself it’s not weird, though it features some occasionally weird directors discussing some occasionally weird films.
COMMENTS: Schlock movie fans who came of age in the pre-YouTube era of the 80s and early 90s remember the VHS phenomenon of the “trailer tape”: feature-length compilations of “coming attractions” that showcased just the “good parts” of some bad movies. With titles like Terror on Tape and The Best of Sex and Violence, these tapes always covered B-movies (I never saw a compilation tape dedicated to tear-jerking British coming-of-age-dramas, but there were plenty packed with grindhouse-era sexy shockers); they often featured footage from obscure, otherwise unavailable titles. They were a nice way to spend an evening when you couldn’t find something that caught your fancy at your local VHS venue, and, if you were like me, you’d jot down “must-see” titles from the most bizarre and salacious trailers (which almost always turned out to be letdowns when you saw the real thing). Director Joe Dante (Gremlins, Amazon Women on the Moon) remembered trailer tapes, too, and decided to resurrect the dormant phenomenon with a 21st century twist: he added DVD-style commentary on the films from an array of his knowledgeable Hollywood buddies. Launched as a website in 2007, the Trailers from Hell project has now annotated hundreds of films, mostly B-movies, but with a sprinkling of classics like Casablanca and even the occasional weird art film like Valerie and Her Week of Wonders. The free trailers on the website are representative of what’s available on Vol. 2—although these selections are exclusive, there’s nothing especially premium about the ones chosen to be burned to disc. Each pundit provides basic background on his or her movie, some trivia, some opinion, and a lot of enthusiasm: John Landis cracks himself up remembering how he responded with awe to the British Godzilla ripoff Gorgo as a kid. If you don’t like it when loudmouths yammer over the coming attractions, you can turn the commentary off for a true circa 1989 trailer tape experience. Films covered include several Hammer films, creature features, and the occasional overlooked mainstream film or blockbuster hit like Jaws. The trailer of most interest to weird movie fans will be Guillermo del Toro‘s reverent analysis of Dario Argento’s Deep Red (“a very strange movie made by a very strange, and thin, man… doesn’t make logical sense, but makes lyrical sense.)” Other commentaries you may want to check out are writer Larry (Ed Wood) Karaszewski’s take on Polanski‘s The Tenant, Lloyd Kaufman discussing his own Terror Firmer in his typical carnival barker style (he provides the collection’s only trailer with graphic violence and nudity), and Mick Garris on Flesh Gordon, the only-in-the-70s porn parody mixing silly sex with some remarkable Ray Harryhausen-inspired stop-motion effects (leading Garris to the odd observation, “the great god Porno and the penisaurus really [stand] out”). Trailers from Hell defies recommendation: you’re either a B-film geek who finds this stuff fascinating, or you have no idea why anyone would actually spend money and waste an hour watching experts discussing ads.
Many people will find the “extra” feature more intriguing than the main feature. It’s a remastered version of Roger Corman’s cult classic man-eating plant horror comedy The Little Shop of Horrors, presented (for the first time on DVD) in its original widescreen format. It’s unclear just why Little Shop has never been released in anamorphic widescreen before—it seems whoever had access to the original prints would have thought of putting it out a long time ago to stand out from the glut of full frame public domain copies made from old TV prints. I guess a widescreen Little Shop wasn’t considered economically feasible as a standalone release, but as an extra, it’s horribly cool.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
“…these movie-mad merry pranksters make a bunch of mostly forgotten sci-fi and horror curios sound a whole lot better than they really are.”-Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly (DVD)
DISCLAIMER: A DVD copy of this film was provided by the production company for review.