If you love cinema in that orgiastic, “explore all avenues” way that defines cult movie obsession, there’s an above average chance that you also love the art of the movie trailer. The best ones offer a way to capture the giddy rush of a beloved film in a compact, quick-high manner. Consequently, trailer compilations have always been a staple of video releases aimed at cult movie types, with companies often selling multiple volumes of their own branded line of trailers.
One of the best trailer comp lines today comes from Garagehouse Pictures, the niche label created by cinematic archivist Harry Guerro. The series is called Trailer Trauma and each volume offers a generous array of coming attractions, often accompanied by a commentary track featuring veteran cult film scribes offering scads of trivia about the films. Since the second volume, these releases have been built around themes like monster movies, ’80s horror and t.v. spots.
The latest release in this line is Trailer Trauma V: ’70s Action Attack: as the title suggests, the focus is on films featuring fisticuffs, gunplay, martial arts and more than a little machismo from cinema’s toughest decade. There are 81 trailers in total here, offering up 183 minutes’ worth of titles ranging from well-known major studio items to deep-catalog indie obscurities that have never gotten a proper home video release. They’re all presented as one big program, laid out in blocks that highlight a genre or a personality.
Certain filmmakers recur throughout the playlist. For example, you get multiple Sam Peckinpah trailers like The Getaway, Junior Bonner and Convoy: these spots are often edited in a baroque, experimental manner like the films themselves and achieve the film trailer ideal of giving you the distinct flavor of the main attraction without giving away all its highlights. You also get several Walter Hill trailers – The Driver, Hard Times and The Warriors – all of which show how Hill’s stylish, kinetic style could be boiled down to compelling, punchy trailers.
It’s also nice to see the underappreciated Jack Starrett get highlighted with trailers like The Losers, Cleopatra Jones, A Small Town In Texas and, best of all, a rare spot for The Gravy Train (a.k.a. The Dion Brothers). The ‘heads’ of the cult movie scene know that Starrett was one of the most skilled directors of his era, a filmmaker who was as adept with his actors as he was with the action, and the spots included here show off the range of his talents.
For the collectors who yearn for rare material, Trailer Trauma V: ’70s Action Attack also delivers an impressive collection of trailers for seldom-seen films. For instance, you get English-dubbed spots for the U.S. releases of the German crime flick Bloody Friday and the Terence Hill/Bud Spencer slapstick cop caper Crime Busters. You also get a fun, skillfully edited spot for the Joe Namath-starring biker flick C.C. And Company, nice-looking spots for the rare “the man they pushed too far” films Honest John and The No Mercy Man and a chilling promo for the controversial ‘hunting humans’ film Open Season. A particularly neat theme woven through the lineup are films that aren’t really action films that get promoted with deceptively edited trailers that make them look like action films: Payday and Born To Kill (a retitling of Cockfighter) are highlights in that area.
Everything included here is drawn from a genuine celluloid source: quality varies from spot to spot, something to be expected for such vintage material, but the bits of debris and occasional discoloration add to the retro fun. Most of it is impressively rich and detailed, with the occasional trailer shocking you with how good it looks. Sound quality is similar: there’s the occasional note of tinniness related to age but nothing ever becomes garbled or distorted.
One bonus is included: a running commentary for the entire program by Nathaniel Thompson of Mondo Digital and Howard Berger of Destructible Man. Both participants are veteran cine-addicts so they have no problem filling the running time. They make an interesting duo act: Thompson is quick with names and history to create a context while Berger is a rabble-rouser who brings enthusiasm (note how he responds to a Gordon Douglas film here) and personal viewing experiences to the proceedings as well as his own batch of trivia. When they hit on a subject they love, they can make an excellent case for things like the oeuvre of Peter Collinson or why Fast Company is not the outlier in David Cronenberg’s filmography it is often made out to be. Berger also comes up with a nice tribute to the talents and thespian bravery of the underrated Susan George.
In short, this is a fine addition to the Trailer Trauma repertoire and highly recommended for action fans or any type of ’70s film buff. Here’s to hoping that Guerro and company keep digging into their archives to create more of these ace trailer compilations.