Remember back in the day when you’d slap a weathered VHS into your trusty behemoth of a VHS player, and as soon as you hit play you’d be presented with a static-esque black screen, and the customary anti-piracy warning, and then a series of bonkers trailers before the main event. If you were a genre fiend like myself, then odds are this was where you’d find out about all kinds of mad and mental flicks that would no doubt satiate that blood thirst you had. These trailers were a real art form, working like a cinematic Tinder where the best features were put forward with the most enticing dramatic male voice over. For many trailers, this was almost as good as the film itself.
Genre films made their money on the home video market, and the tedious nature of having to fast forward through all manner of promos made the option of watching something that was entertaining in its own right enticing. Given the high array of films that worked to push up the value of karo syrup stocks, it was expected that these trailers may want to show off the goriest or most enticing of elements. A man getting his throat cut was intriguing enough, but the promise of nudity and gore meant a certain rental. Sure, the bits in between the boobs and blood may be boring, but the promise of those R rated goods made viewing worthwhile. Throw all of that, some flashy titles, and effective music, and you’ve got yourself a superb two or three minute movie. If people complain about trailers nowadays spoiling third act revelations now, then they’d be surprised to see every kill in a slasher flick being exposed in a trailer.
Umbrella Entertainment’s dedication to providing films of all kinds is one that can’t be denied, and one that as film fans we should be eternally grateful for. The attention given to the extras on Blu-Ray’s that are loaded to the edge of the last megabite, can’t be denied. Take a look at The Man From Hong Kong or Not Quite Hollywood releases, and you’ll quickly notice that these are discs that cater to the film fans of the world. The pure history and cultural weight is undeniable. For many years now Umbrella have released trailer packages that almost work like ‘dream future release’ lists than anything else.
Their recent releases, Drive In Delirium: Hi Def Hysteria – 60’s & 70’s Savagery and Drive In Delirium: Hi Def Hysteria – Maximum 80’s Overdrive, combined together provide almost 10 hours of trailer insanity. Running the gamut of the various decades, these releases present trailers from films like Michael Powell’s essential Peeping Tom, to Hammer Horror’s equally essential Quatermass and the Pit and The Devil Rides Out, to the crazy science fiction of Blue Sunshine, the psychedelic Head, the Aussie actioners The Man From Hong Kong, Stunt Rock and Mad Max, to the buxom boob driven Russ Meyer flick Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, to eighties sci-fi classics The Thing, Robocop, and They Live. Seriously, there’s something in here for everyone.
I can’t list everything here because, as mentioned, there’s 10 hours of this stuff. But, if there’s one thing to take away from these releases, it’s the realisation that there’s a heck of a lot of talent that goes in to presenting a film in trailer form. Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now is a terrifying film for sure, and the trailer appears to spoil a third act twist, but it goes some way to giving the viewer an idea of what the film will be like. It’s a mighty hard thing to do.
Even though these discs are jam packed with trailers, there are a few elements that would have been appreciated. While it’s great to see a list of the trailers on the inner sleeve of the disc, it’d be even better if the option was to select trailers from a menu list, or at least if they were numbered. There were a few times where I’d want to skip to a specific trailer, but had to guess my way through the ‘skip scene’ function. It’s a small complaint, given that the impression the disc gives is that it’s one less for selective viewing, and more for ‘leaving on in the background while doing other things’. I can see this being a staple disc to play in the background of parties, or for those pubs that like to mess with the heads of their drunken customers by playing old soft core porn/slasher flicks in a dark room.
That’s a small complaint for what is a pretty darn great set. Given their age, there is very little visible wear and tear for these trailers, and the simple Dolby Digital 2.0 sound feels era appropriate. For a company that has been faithful to cinema of all kinds – everything from giallo to Ozploitation to Agatha Christie murder mysteries to documentaries about hiking trails around the world – Umbrella have done a stand up job of presenting a solid release. For the historians out there, it’s no secret that prior to being a workhorse of a director, Brian Trenchard Smith created some 100 or so trailers for films from the Hammer Horror and Ozploitation catalogue (amongst others of course), so it’s nice to see these trailers presented here. It’s also a reminder to those who have tired of the modern day cookie cutter Inception-horn trailers, that hey, not so long ago, trailers were a fine art that darn well worked to sell films that deserved to be seen.