Trailers from Hell

The Internet, with its need for speed and appetite for reconstruction, has given movie trailers a venue befitting their fetishizing fine art. Trailers From Hell is an esoteric archive-cum-populist-geekorama—fandom being, of course, the biggest rig on the information superhighway—that collates previews from all across film history and invites fanboy filmfolk (Guillermo del Toro, Edgar Wright, John Landis) to provide commentary. The site sprang from the brain of Joe Dante, one of American cinema’s national treasures. Dante’s early years were spent cutting previews at Roger Corman’s New World Pictures. Later, his own features would artfully summon trailer-esque meta-memorializing and a sense of miniaturized moviemaking.

TFH’s open-door policy on theatrical trailers of any style or era is anthropologically admirable. No matter what the caste, it’s wonderful to watch the evolution of archaic tactics of anticipation-building: title wipes, exclamatory narrators, spoilers galore. On the minus side, listening to a bunch of dudes anecdotally opine, TCM-style about why they like famous movies is, well, lame. Luckily Dante’s penchant for cut-rate horror, drive-in exploitation, and B-moviedom in general, defines the site’s prevailing taste—as evidenced by a wealth of New World examples. Outright awesome is TFH’s treasure trove of reclamations from the visual-historical scrap-heap: adverts for long-forgotten schlock, inexplicable kitsch, and currently unavailable oddities. 

Dante himself holds forth with an erudition that conjures a hundred wayside-befallen histories of cinema. Exemplary examples include Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla (52), Candy Stripe Nurses (74), and Alexander Mackendrick’s forgotten jungle drama A Boy Ten Feet Tall (63). His encyclopedic depth-trolling is a kind of self-fulfilling redemption: watch the trailer for Dante’s first picture, Hollywood Boulevard (76), a movie about making a low-budget film almost entirely comprised of stock footage from prior NWP productions—“Hollywood Boulevard becomes its own making-of . . . with a surprising amount of naked women!”

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© 2011 by The Film Society of Lincoln Center