Trailers From Hell is the brainchild of director Joe Dante, new media entrepreneur Jonas Hudson, graphic artist Charlie Largent and producer Elizabeth Stanley, with a mission of showcasing classic previews (with commentaries from well known filmmakers) with a particular emphasis on horror, sci-fi and exploitation. Last year, TRAILERS FROM HELL!, Volume 1 was released independently as a DVD-R featuring comments from five different directors, and this follow-up is being distributed by Shout! Factory and features another 20 vintage coming attractions with commentaries and introductions by a much larger number of participants.
TRAILERS FROM HELL!, Volume 2 immediately kicks off its talking head introductory format with Australian Brian Trenchard-Smith (DEAD END DRIVE-IN) who gives us his spin on the brilliance-on-a-budget that is early Bray Studios Hammer with DEVIL-SHIP PIRATES starring Christopher Lee. He then continues on about STRANGLERS OF BOMBAY, concentrating on the film’s sadistic nature which was pretty shocking for the time (despite a British “A” certificate) and how the trailer divulges a great shot of Marie Devereux’s not found in the final film! Director Ernest Dickerson (TALES FROM THE CRYPT: DEMON KNIGHT) furthers the discussion on early Hammer with THE QUATERMASS XPERIMENT (aka THE CREEPING UNKNOWN). Dickerson mentions how he likes Brian Donlevy in the lead (despite screenwriter Nigel Kneale’s well-publicized disapproval) and justifiably raves about Richard Wordsworth’s excellent “silent and tortured” performance.
Guillermo del Toro (PAN’S LABYRINTH) is on hand for Dario Argento’s masterpiece DEEP RED, a film which he describes as the “very fiber of who Argento is” (his introduction and commentary are then repeated over the same trailer again, this time in Spanish). Guillermo also comments on the 1956 version of THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME with Anthony Quinn, a favorite of the director due to numerous Sunday afternoon TV airings (not to mention Gina Lollobrigida encouraging in his understanding of “the birds and the bees”). Joe Dante gives us a nice perspective on DONOVAN’S BRAIN, a TV staple which was ripped off in a number of other films, and he mentions how its themes of “capitalism run amuck” is what separated it from the usual alien invader programmers. Dante also gets to tackle the oldie-but-goodie THE INVISIBLE GHOST, the first of Bela Lugosi's nine low budget efforts for poverty row studio Monogram. Dante, like many of us who enjoy the film, compliments it on its resourceful direction, as well as its mood and atmosphere, and rightfully praises the non-stereotypical performance of black actor Clarence Muse as the butler.
The great drive-in filmmaker Jack Hill comments on his own PIT STOP, and how the title was changed from THE WINNER as to not confuse it with the film WINNING. Hill (who did an excellent commentary for the film on an early Anchor Bay DVD) also mentions how the race car feature hardly played due to black & white films being phased out at the drive-ins, and that some fans think it’s his best work. The always jovial John Landis then describes GORGO as the “loudest” of Eugène Lourié’s dinosaur trio, and you can tell it was not only a childhood favorite of his, but now a guilty pleasure (as are most men-in-rubber-monster-suit epics to us adults). Screenwriter Josh Olson (A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE) begins to set things up as if he’s going to talk about some obscurity, but it turns out to be… JAWS. He also is assigned Don Siegel’s THE LINEUP, a 1958 black & white noir which is Eli Wallach’s second film.
Writer Larry Karaszewski (ED WOOD) tackles the rarely seen acclaimed 1969 drama LAST SUMMER starring Barbara Hershey, Richard Thomas and Bruce Davison, and then Roman Polanski’s THE TENANT (“Nobody does it to you like Roman Polanski”), the trailer of which barely shows a frame of the actual film (Karaszewski mentions how Paramount disliked it). Troma’s Lloyd Kaufman covers his own directorial effort, TERROR FIRMER, which he describes as a “nightmare to make”, while Mick Garris (SLEEPWALKERS) tackles FLESH GORDON, appreciating the sophistication of the film’s special effects in spite of its naughtiness. On the British-made 1950s low rent sci-fi flick FIRE MAIDENS OF OUTER SPACE, he notes how it inspired the spoofing in AMAZON WOMEN ON THE MOON and expresses, “Not much of a monster, not much of a movie”. PET CEMETERY director Mary Lambert expresses her childhood fondness for Godzilla and Mothra during the Japanese trailer for GODZILLA VS. THE THING, and producer Michael Peyser describes the “sense of protest against the government” in John Frankenheimer’s SEVEN DAYS IN MAY, a top notch 1964 political thriller scripted by Rod Serling.
Last but not least, is the man responsible for many of the adolescent movie-going experiences of of this DVD’s participants: Roger Corman. Corman chats about the only Poe film he made without Vincent Price -- THE PREMATURE BURIAL with Ray Milland -- how he produced it outside AIP, and how they ended up distributing the film anyway after buying out the Pathe lab. SKI TROOP ATTACK is a ten-day black & white cheapie which was shot back to back with Gene Corman’s (Roger’s brother) production of BEAST FROM THE HAUNTED CAVE. Corman recalls playing the leader of the German ski troop after the original actor was injured (I guess that’s one way to be resourceful).
As mentioned, all the trailers have an on-screen introduction, and then a commentary throughout their brief running time (the trailers can also be played without commentary). With the concept that “any movie can be great at 2 ½ minutes”, it’s nice to see the array of different movie-making talent discussing an eclectic mix of films, with their entertaining comments being scholarly, sentimental and satirical. The entire program of black & white and color trailers are presented both full frame and widescreen (non-anamorphic), most of which appear perfectly presentable, with some being of slightly lesser quality, depending on where they were sourced from.
The big added bonus here is the presentation of Corman’s quickly shot (two and a half days?), impossibly no budget and legendary LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS (1960). We all know and have seen the story of young skid row resident Seymour (Jonathan Haze), a flower shop worker who becomes a minor celebrity and slave to an ever-hungry, constantly growing vampire plant named Audrey II. The film also stars Mel Welles as shop owner Gravis Mushnik, Jackie Joseph as Seymour’s undemanding sweetheart Audrey, Dick Miller as a dude who eats carnations sprinkled with salt, and of course, Jack Nicholson as a masochistic dental patient. Although LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS is a PD staple that’s literally been done to death on both VHS and DVD, the big difference here is that it’s presented anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) for the very first time and the print source is impressive. Aside from occasional light lines present, the black & white image looks very nice. Detail is sharp, facial images are nicely defined and never washed out, black levels are appropriately deep, and the mono audio is also satisfactory. The original trailer is also included, and Joe Dante is present for an optional commentary. (George R. Reis)
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