Courtesy of the website of the same name (check it out at http://trailersfromhell.com/index.php) comes this collection of trailers of horror, SF and exploitation films. The collection is eclectic, following no particular theme (though there are several Hammer films present), and the era covered ranges from 1941 (The Invisible Ghost with Bela Lugosi) to 1998 (Trauma’s Terror Firmer). Present are the likes of The Devil-Ship Pirates, Gorgo, Donovan’s Brain, Deep Red, Flesh Gordon, and so on. Twenty altogether.
Normally, commentaries would be dealt with below, but this case is an exception. Not only does the disc default to playing the introductions and commentaries, but these are the primary attraction of the release. The commentators are a high-powered lot: Roger Corman, Guillermo del Toro (who discusses Deep Red in both English and Spanish), John Landis, Joe Dante, Lloyd Kaufman, Jack Hill, and more. There are a couple of weaker moments here – Mary Lambert’s musings on Mothra vs Godzilla are disappointingly inarticulate, and she talks about Godzilla as a nuclear metaphor as if this were news; John Landis has a rather supercilious approach to the excellent Gorgo – but these are more than offset by the strengths. Brian Trenchard-Smith, Del Toro and Dante essentially give entire film courses in two minutes – no mean feat. This is a great, informative collection.
The print quality of the trailers varies enormously. So Last Summer looks pretty ragged and grainy, with rather muddy colours, whereas the Mothra vs Godzilla trailer is pristine (it should be noted, however, that this is the Japanese trailer, and not the American one for the Godzilla vs the Thing retitling). A mixed bag, then, but one that is to be expected – trailers don’t get the restoration attention that features do, so we should consider ourselves lucky that older ones exist at all. The transfer itself is fine, though I do have some reservations concerning the special feature, about which more below.
There is much the same kind of variation in sound quality as there is in the video, though static and distortion are minimal. The commentaries are all perfectly clear, but the volume level changes dramatically from one segment to the next. Keep the remote handy – you’ll be raising and lowering the sound every couple of minutes.
The Little Shop of Horrors: Yup, the entire movie is an extra. This isn’t a mind-blowing feature, though, since the film exists in countless public domain versions, and the print quality is pretty typical of those: watchable but very grainy. What’s different in this presentation is that it is proudly presented for the First! Time! Ever! in anamorphic widescreen. Er… Given that the film is originally in 1.37:1, this transfer actually is the equivalent of a fullscreen transfer of a widescreen film. In other words, a distortion that hacks away at the picture. How very odd.
Bonus Trailer. Joe Dante covers the Little Shop of Horrors trailer.
A couple of weak presentations and an odd bonus feature notwithstanding, this is a terrific release, as informative as it is fun.
EDIT: Well, as you can see by the comment below, I was completely out to lunch in my yammering about Little Shop of Horror‘s aspect ratio. The information I found was wrong, and so was I. Consider my face appropriately red, my position reversed, and the scores adjusted. In fact, that presentation now makes this bonus feature the definitive release of that film, and the disc even more essential.