Mad Ron's Prevues From Hell:
Good ideas have been going bad for a long time, (New Coke, Thalidomide) which is probably cold comfort for those new to this 1987 collection of bloody horror trailers. Who doesn't love a trailer-collection DVD? To quote Sara Lee, "nobody." Well Mad Ron apparently had his eyes on creating a whole lot of nobodies, because not only is this DVD reissue bad in the present, it looks to have been pretty bad in 1987, too.
Containing a splattering of extras, this release is otherwise boilerplate; cut together a bunch of nasty trailers (the good part - sort of) and cement them with a wraparound segment filmed especially for the collection. The trouble lies in two places. One, despite the edition of DVD extras, the AV quality of this disc seems to indicate that it was minted not from a fresh transfer, but from an old VHS cassette, with all that that implies - a soft, washed-out image, poor sound and a good old fullscreen presentation. If you've still got the cassette and means to play it, you're golden. If not, chalk up another point for the DVD, as the original VHS appears unavailable anywhere.
Problem number two comes wrapped in the only other legitimate plus for this release. It's a kick-ass collection of sleazy, bloody horror trailers, 47 in all. But surrounding that ass-kicking is one of the worst ever narrative conceits; while drooling Mad Ron (chained to the projectors) strings together previews for a theater full of idiotic zombies, ventriloquist Nick Pawlow and his zombie dummy Happy Goldsplat deliver comedy so rancid you'll want to shred your sensory organs with the skeletonized hands of a dead vaudevillian. Yes, the makeup effects for this wraparound were done be none other than Jordu Schell of Avatar fame, but that's sort of a silly connection to make considering the distance between the two projects. And no mistake, Pawlow and Goldsplat generate a truly sub-par rapport, irritating, unfunny and far too lengthy. A dead puppet making dick jokes wasn't funny then - it's become a Superfund candidate for the new century.
Then again, we mustn't forget the previews:
I Drink Your Blood / I Eat Your Skin
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Three on a Meathook
The Corpse Grinders
The Undertaker and His Pals
Love Me Deadly
Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things
The Maniacs Are Loose (aka The Thrill Killers)
The Blood Spattered Bride / I Dismember Mama
The Ghastly Ones
The Wizard of Gore
Beyond the Door
The Devil's Nightmare
The House of Exorcism (aka Lisa and the Devil)
Tales From the Crypt
The Vault of Horror
Horror of the Zombies (aka The Ghost Galleon)
Revenge of the Living Dead / Curse of the Living Dead / Fangs of the Living Dead
The Diabolical Dr. Z
Africa Blood and Guts (aka Africa Addio)
Night of Bloody Horror
Silent Night, Evil Night (aka Black Christmas)
The Mutations (aka The Freakmaker)
The House That Screamed
Blood and Lace
Two Thousand Maniacs
Night of the Living Dead
God Told Me To
Horror on Snape Island (aka Tower of Evil)
Wildcat Women (aka Black Lolita)
Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS
Man From Deep River
The Last House on the Left
Carnage (aka Twitch of the Death Nerve)
Color Me Blood Red
Mad Doctor of Blood Island
Silent Night, Bloody Night
Bloody Pit of Horror
Night of the Bloody Apes
That's a whole lot of horror, and in truth the grotty quality of these previews, with lots of grain, film damage and other sundry issues, does indeed make the 'grindhouse' experience more authentic. Of course discerning grindhouse disciples, those who entered such establishments at their own peril, are looking at the experience with blood-colored glasses. Regardless of druggies, pickpockets, hustlers and vermin, a crappy looking print is still a crappy looking print. So with other releases like 42nd Street Forever and the like going for more of an archival thing, you'll excuse me for not being thrilled by quality that wouldn't have thrilled me in 1987 either. Or I suppose I could spill a bunch of soda and popcorn on my floor, then vomit on the floor, tear a hole in my seat-cushion, invite a transient in to sleep in the corner, invite some skank in to solicit me for a hand-job, and roll Mad Ron's Prevues From Hell. (But I still ain't gonna pay attention to Nick and Happy.)
This fullscreen, 1.33:1 ratio presentation shows its age. The wraparound segments were apparently shot on consumer grade video equipment from the late '80s, meaning those segments look no better than your old home movies - soft, soft, soft, with washed out colors and low black levels. The trailers themselves also appear to be pretty much as they were on the original VHS release, that is, they too are often pretty soft, washed-out, grainy and sporting print damage. It ain't archival stuff, that's for sure, but you can't deny the stench of authenticity. I guess we've just gotten a little too used to HD around my house.
I will venture a guess that we are listening to Digital Stereo, which doesn't fare too much better than the video component, but is certainly passable. All of Nick Pawlow's lowbrow jokes are audible, as are the delightfully sleazy come-ons accompanying each trailer.
First off are ten minutes worth of Promotional Trailers for Mad Ron's Prevues From Hell - an odd bit of micro-meta if I've ever seen it, and eight minutes of Sinister On-Set Hijinx - the raw, camcorder-shot BTS/Bloopers variety of stuff fresh off of a 23-year-old VHS cassette, so the quality is really not great. A four-minute auto-navigation Hellacious Movie Poster Gallery displays some lovely examples of the kind of poster art we don't see any more, and under three minutes of Morbid Deleted Scenes consist of a ragged-but-bloody trailer for Blood Feast and a short TV spot for Legend of the Wolf Woman. A five-minute auto-nav Photo Gallery From Hell provides more BTS of the still variety, and Fiendish Behind The Scenes footage is ten minutes of just that, also from an old VHS source, so quality is low. There are also two pretty-darn-inconsequential Easter Eggs to be found.
A good Horror Trailers DVD may seem hard to find, yet they do crop up (see Stephen Romano's Shock Festival for instance). This collection literally comes straight from 1987, with a sloppy, bloody slate of preview goodness hampered by mostly poor AV quality - on a par with an actual VHS or Beta cassette you'd find at a flea market - and a gory but tragically slow and insipid wraparound featuring a theater full of hungry zombies and a lame ventriloquist. Points are earned on the rarity scale - you can't find the original VHS release of this collection online anywhere as far as I can tell, and it truly is a fabulous collection of bloodthirsty old-school trailers, it's just that they look awful and zombie ventriloquism is something that should never be done. Nostalgic horror-heads will find this worth a sawbuck - maybe - but even then, it might be better to Rent It before making your final decision.
- Kurt Dahlke
~ More of Dahlke's DVD Talk reviews here at DVD Talk I'm not just a writer, I paint colorful, modern abstracts, too! Check them out here KurtDahlke.com