The art of the movie trailer. The subtle science of audience manipulation and expectation gamesmanship. Quick edits reveal tantalizingly juicy bits, only to deny you the full course. Trailers are visual appetizers, designed to whet the appetite, leaving your craving for more. I've been out with friends and decided to have an appetizer as my main; I'm sure you have too. Sometimes the listed starters exceed the quality of the entrees. This is true of movies and their previews. They're purposefully designed to showcase the very best bits of the film, simultaneously withholding key plot linchpins. Anyone who's read Roger Corman's autobiography (How I Made A Hundred Movies and Never Lost a Dime), knows the story of director Joe Dante (then an editor for Corman) being told to simply add explosions, plane crashes, and much more, to the trailers for films for which absolutely didn't have those elements.
Our culture has developed a penchant for microscopically dissecting nearly all things pop culture, thanks largely to the Internet; so this brand of sideshow hucksterism is nearly gone. If something is in the trailer, yet not in the film, it's not only noted but also used as boiling tar to heap upon filmmakers. Still, occasionally we do get a modern film preview that promises things so diametrically opposed to the finished product that it gives us all pause (Amazing Spiderman leaps to mind). Since it does not happen frequently, we have to turn our collective gazes back to the times it did; to a time when there was a fifty-fifty chance that the trailer was a more entertaining diversion. This temporal range varies for each individual, especially when factors like genre, viewer's age, and disposition come into play.
The package that personally suits me usually originates from the 50's through the 80's. I dig trailers that really sell the sizzle; ones that drop a melodramatic serious nature like an anvil in a glass warehouse. Give me your trashy, your exploitative, your shocking, and your offensive; I relish their genuine attempt at getting me under their big top. It's likely that I developed my broad trailer pallet in the early 2000's. I attended a number of horror double bills and marathons, put on by showmen extraordinaire Exhumed Films. They always start the show with a vintage preview reel, bursting at the seems with sleaze and slash. Some are vulgar, some are profane, some are graphic; all of them are entertaining. Lucky for me, YouTube has become a Turkish Bizarre of trashy teasers. There have been nights where I've followed the a common thread from trailer to trailer, only to look up (as my iPad's battery alert begins flashing) and see that it's some time late in the A.M.
The Black Angels
For the uninitiated curious, you can get your feet wet with a few of the choice selections I've provided throughout the article. From there, check out whatever YouTube recommends to continue down the rabbit hole. For the brave and bold among you, I can't recommend enough the varied cinematic tapas offered by the 42nd Street Forever series from Synapse Films. They've released six DVDs and a special edition Blu-ray. Really, you can't go wrong with any of the offerings, but I personally recommend volume 5, The Alamo Drafthouse edition. It's by far my favorite, and includes an amazing intro to the movie ratings system by Chuck Heston (those crazy tennis shorts!). Tend foots be warned, this may open your cinematic third eye to an exploitative side of the silver screen, in which you've only dabbled before. It's totally O.K., we all started somewhere (the safety word is banana). The key is to make it a group thing; it's ten times more laughter inducing to watch the kids of Lucky Seven get their asses kicked in Kung-fu battles against adults, if you've got your cult craving crew with you (alright, it's still pretty funny alone).
There are a number of trailer compilations out there, of wildly varying quality. Be sure to read reviews before taking the plunge- many times, public domain releasing companies see these as easy cash cows, and spend next to nothing on the transfers as a result. Start with the 42nd Street Forever releases and spread your roots from there. In the meanwhile, have a taste of some of my favorite appetizers.
Dead and Buried
Saturday Shock-O-Rama Streaming Suggestions
Want to watch something schlocky right now? Try on a few of these suggestions, available right now from the listed service (most of which are FREE!).
Netflix - Cheezy Fantasy Trailers - Sword and Sandal/Compilation(2006)
Crackle - Godzilla vs. Destoroyah - Giant Monster (2000)
Hulu - Puppet Master - Horror (1989)
And if you simply can't get enough horror happenings here on Mania, might I humbly suggest checking out Tuesday Terrors? It's got all the shocking news to keep you current (and possibly help you survive until the credits roll).
Chuck Francisco is a columnist for Mania writing Saturday Shock-O-Rama, the weekly look into classic cult, horror and sci-fi. He is a horror co-host of two monthly film series at the world famous Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA (home of 1958's 'The Blob'): First Friday Fright Nights and Colonial Cult Cinema.You can delve further into his love of all things weird and campy on his blog, The Midnight Cheese or hear him occasionally guesting on eminent podcast You've Got Geek.
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