The premise of Shout’s “Trailers From Hell!” series is similar to shows like VH1’s “We Love the 80s,” except it features prominent film folks talking about (mostly cheesy) movies’ trailers, rather than snarky comedians mocking scrunchies and skinny ties. It really isn’t something that has enough replay value to warrant a purchase, so you may want to rent this one before committing more money to owning it.
However, if an anamorphic widescreen copy of Roger Corman’s “Little Shop of Horrors” (albeit with pretty much no restoration done to the print) is important to you, then you may want to plunk down a few bucks, because that’s included too. The trailer is included too, of course, and Joe Dante introduces it and does a nice commentary, explaining how the quickie film wound up becoming a cult hit that eventually spawned a major theatrical remake, a Broadway show, and countless off-Broadway and regional theater productions. It’s also notable for featuring one of Jack Nicholson’s early roles.
The other 20 trailers in this collection offer a wide variety of quality, from “Jaws” to the schlocky “Godzilla” rip-off “Gorgo!” to the taut thriller “Seven Days in May” (starring Kirk Douglas) to the bittersweet early indie film “Last Summer” to the sci-fi porno “Flesh Gordon,” which interspersed some quality special effects among the shots of naked ladies (John Dykstra and Rick Baker were among the visual effects heavyweights who worked on it). The participants introduce the trailers and provide optional commentaries over them; you can watch each trailer individually or select “Play All” and see them one after the other.
Film fans will appreciate the wealth of historical information imparted along the way, such as Josh Olson’s claim that John Williams used a variation of the “Jaws” theme during an early “Gilligan’s Island” episode (Williams did indeed work on the show, but a quick Internet search didn’t dig up corroborating evidence of Olson’s claim, so I don’t know if he’s trying to create an urban legend). Roger Corman gets to talk about two of his movies, “Premature Burial” and “Ski Troop Attack,” while Lloyd Kaufman dishes the dirt on his flick “Terror Firmer” (unsurprisingly, he reveals that the title, a play on the phrase “terra firma,” was confusing to many people). Guillermo del Toro talks about the horror film “Deep Red” in English and then again in Spanish, for some reason; he doesn’t do that when talking about “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”
Overall, some of the participants seem better prepared than others, which seems typical of commentaries in general. Some sound like they scripted their thoughts in advance (that’s not a knock; it’s nice to hear something prepared) while others fumble about a bit and leave us with some dead air. I’d say, though, that most of them do a good job with their turn in the “Trailers From Hell!” hot seat.