Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Trailers From Trailers From Hell

I am a Gen X child of the 80s and 90s, which meant that I spent a lot of time watching cable when it consisted of B-grade movies and 70s TV reruns. I stayed up late on the weekend to watch USA Up All Night and its treasure trove of trash, but also random monster movies, westerns, Kung Fu Theater, World War II flicks, and lesser Clint Eastwood films. (The Gauntlet and Coogan's Bluff anyone?). My whole family did Tae Kwon Do for a few years, and my dad would watch any random martial arts movie and dissect the fighting style, especially impressed with Chuck Norris and Bruce Lee. (He reached black belt.) Mystery Science Theater 3000 was such a revelation because the characters were riffing on bad movies the way me and my friends and my family did, just a lot funnier. Once I left college and was too poor for cable, my consumption of trash entertainment was replaced by pretentious foreign film rental. In recent years, however, I have been going back to the entertainment that nourished me in my youth. Three of my favorite recent documentaries are Not Quite Hollywood, about Australian "Oz-ploitation" films of the 70s and 80s, Electric Boogaloo, about schlock purveyors Cannon Films, and The World Of Roger Corman, about America's greatest B-movie producer.

As luck would have it, I learned about Trailers From Hell, and amazing website where B-movie film-maker experts like Joe Dante, John Landis, and Allison Anders offer commentary on the trailers for all kinds of great B-movies. I can sit down and lose hours looking at it. Fans of the genre should check it out. Here are some trailers from the site that I like, either for the movie, the commentary, or both.

Bloody Mama 
Shelly Winters as a murderous, gun-toting 1930s bank robber? Yes please! Roger Corman himself gives the commentary on this trailer. Also notice the very young DeNiro in the trailer.

Taste The Blood of Dracula
I love Hammer horror films, which are all spooky castles and Gothic moods with the blood mixed in, rather than the main attraction. Christopher Lee was the greatest Drac ever, period. I think the fact that he (purportedly) had killed men at close range as a member British special forces in World War II gave him special insight into the character.

Monster Squad
I loved this movie soooooo much when it came out. I dare not watch it again lest my happy childhood memories be disturbed, because I am sure my adult eyes will find it ridiculous. "Wolfman's got nards!"

The Car
This movie has haunted me for decades. It's about a killer, possibly possessed car that goes around running people over. I remember watching it with my dad late at night and being scared out of my mind, and being sent to bed before it was over. I woke up the next day and immediately asked my dad how they managed to stop the car.

Beneath The Planet Of The Apes

Bad sequel, but as John Landis points out, interesting in its badness. Charlton Heston delivers a performance that's insanely sweaty and over the top even by his standards. I'll never forget the moment when the mutants pull off their faces, which is serious nightmare fodder.

I Was A Teenage Werewolf

One underrated effect of the postwar teen culture was the proliferation of the "I Was A Teenage..." movies. My favorite thing is that the titular werewolf is Michael Landon. Yes, that Michael Landon. I remember seeing him as a guest on Carson one time, and Johnny showed a clip of this after he came out to embarrass him.

The Terror

Maybe the most infamous Corman film, because it had multiple directors and no discernible plot, until a completely contrived speech by Dick Miller at the end (in a Nu Yawk accent transported to old England) attempted to tie everything together. It still made money, which is more than you can say for a lot of Hollywood blockbusters.

Viva Las Vegas

Elvis movies are schlock personified, and mostly unwatchable. This one is different, mostly because of the unstoppably vivacious force of nature that was 1963 Ann-Margret. She practically bursts through the screen, and seems to inspire Elvis to wake the heck up and match her energy.


A baby alligator gets flushed down the toilet, then emerges a decade later from the Chicago sewers as a massive, man eating monster. I remember seeing this on TV and loving it as a little kid. Little did I know, the writer, John Sayles, would later go on to be a respected independent film maker.


Last but by no means least, this is the best of all of the rip-offs of Jaws, and a movie I still can't believe my parents let me watch. Also written by John Sayles and directed by future Gremlins director Joe Dante, it's the rare film that shows children getting killed. The sequel was actually directed by James Cameron!


Oblio said...

OK, so a couple of my all-time fave movies are on this list, 'The Car' and 'Alligator', both films I saw when they were first released in theaters. I agree with John Landis that 'The Car' is dumb, but like he also says, it's a GOOD dumb and a truly hair-raising story that takes Old Scratch, Native-American mysticism and human frailty and mixes up a frothy cocktail of scary. I have a 1/18th-scale die-cast of 'The Car' on display in my home and it ALWAYS gets a big reaction from visitors.

BTW, 'The Car' was opening at a theater across the street from (then) Grauman's Chinese Theater where we waited in line for 6 hours to see 'Star Wars' during the week it premiered there.

As for 'Alligator', it's another B-movie horror that takes the relationship between Robert Forster and Robin Riker's characters and makes something outta nothing. The constant jokes about his thinning hair are a joy, and the monster just keeps on eating shit up. I'd also say that 'Lake Placid' rates up there pretty high with me as far as monster alligators, great characters and excellent dialog go. Plus, BETTY WHITE CUSSING UP A STORM.

Thanks... another brilliant post!!!

Werner Herzog's Bear said...

You're welcome! I need to actually watch The Car from start to finish. It really captivated me. Robert Forster is a goddamned national treasure, too.

Oblio said...

Oh yeah, watch 'The Car' again uninterrupted and it will snag you for sure. Some really great dialog in there, James Brolin is a brooding and human Sheriff Wade, and John Marley's character is a splendid spice that leaves the film too soon, but a necessary plot development. Ronny Cox's alcoholic officer is also a really sharp look into the soul. One of my favorite bits is when abuser Amos is brought screaming into the police station by Officer Chas, who proceeds to grab him by the neck while muttering "SIT... UM... DOWN." LOLOLOL