Written by: Jim Monaco, James F. Murray, Nick Pawlow, and Ron Roccia
Directed by: Jim Monaco
Starring: Nick Pawlow and Ron Roccia
Reviewed by: Brett G.
ďThe bloodletting never ends!Ē
Compilation tapes never made it to my neck of the woods when I was growing up; like many, I was left to fend for myself and make snap judgments based on box art when I was collecting video treasures at the local video store every weekend. Such an approach surely led to more mozzarella madness more so than outright classics. On the other hand, todayís budding horror fan has a wealth of information at his fingertips and need only to hit up Youtube for an assortment of horror trailers. This hasnít stopped Virgil Films from unleashing Mad Ronís Prevues from Hell, a late 80s compilation of trailers and TV spots that serves as a reminder of how this sort of thing was done back in the era of clamshell cases and dusty old mom and pop video stores.
We open on an old, desolate looking movie theater thatís adorned with various horror posters; inside, we meet our hosts, Nick Pawlow and his undead friend, Happy Goldsplatt. They tell us that the titular Mad Ron is hard at work cutting and editing his trailers. Meanwhile, a horde of zombies begins to descend upon the theater, craving flesh and blood; luckily, Mad Ron is able to oblige them with an assortment of cinematic bloodletting in the form of promotional material for 47 films from the 60s and 70s grindhouse era. Powlow and Happy pop back in intermittently to keep tabs on the undead fiends, who soon arenít satisfied by the on screen carnageÖ
Prevues from Hell is an excellent compilation thatís noteworthy for its sheer breadth alone. It kicks off appropriately with one of horrorís most infamous double features, I Drink Your Blood and I Eat Your Skin, and closes with Night of the Bloody Apes. In between, youíll be treated to previews from just about every notable horror movement from the era. Thereís everything from perennial favorites like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Last House on the Left, and Black Christmas (carrying its American title of Silent Night, Evil Night) to more unsung efforts like Three on a Meathook, Twitch of the Death Nerve (promoted here as Carnage), and Silent Night, Bloody Night. Other efforts from genre heavyweights show up as well: thereís Jess Franco (Diabolical Doctor Z), Jean Rollin (The Devilís Nightmare), Larry Cohen (God Told me To), and Dario Argento (Deep Red). Of course, no drive-in tour would be complete without The Godfather of Gore himself, Herschell Gordon Lewis, who has three blood-soaked trailers featured (Color Me Blood Red, Two Thousand Maniacs, and The Wizard of Gore).
Thereís no real method to the madness; instead, itís just a mash-up of various genres one after the other, and you really will have no idea whatís coming next. One minute you might be treated to a couple of Satanic horrors like The House of Exorcism or Beyond the Door before being thrust into the Mondo Cane-inspired Africa: Blood and Guts. Along the way, youíll hit everything else: cannibal flicks (The Man from Deep River), gialli (Torso), zombie films (Toxic Zombies, Night of the Living Dead, The Ghost Galleon), creature features (Lady Frankenstein, The Mutations), anthologies (Tales from the Crypt, The Vault of Horror), sexploitation (Wild Cat Women), and even Naziploitation (Isla: She Wolf of the SS). Indeed, thereís a little bit of everything here, and most of the previews donít hold anything back, as youíre treated to many of the filmsí signature scenes of sex and violence. Thereís a bevy of boobies and bush, plus a good helping of dismemberment and flesh eating that make this one an good party compilation that shows off some of the genre's high points.
Itís also fun to see how many of these films were promoted in their day. The vintage TV spots and trailers provide a wide array of approaches: youíve got your bombastic, almost campy announcers for some trailers, while others carry the more gravely, low key announcers intoning you to remember that ďits just a movie.Ē There are a couple of other multiple bills advertised besides the initial I Drink/I Eat combo. One pairs up The Blood Spattered Bride and I Dismember Mama, and the ad features a news reporter covering the scene at the theater where one of the audience members went insane. The infamous Orgy of the Living Dead triple feature (featuring Murder Clinic, Kill Baby Kill, and Malenka) took a similar approach by offering a free life-time internment at an insane asylum if you were driven mad by the trio of films. Horror so often is a spectacle, and studios and distributors have always attempted to capitalize on it with outlandish and hyperbolic promotion, and itís all recreated faithfully here.
The host segments tying the whole thing together are a threadbare attempt, but theyíre charming enough. The shot-on-video quality is a capsule of the late 80s horror video boom, as are the low budget gore effects and cheesy dialogue. Happy Goldsplatt is a fun, foul mouthed Cryptkeeper-like host that makes circumcision jokes and takes shots at the MPAA. These segments are also fun for the smattering of horror touchstones strewn throughout, as posters and Fangoria magazines litter the scene. The theater setup is derivative of the Wizard compilation Zombiethon, but one can hardly expect much creativity or originality from an effort like this. At any rate, itís a fun tour through a couple of bygone eras, as the multiple layers of nostalgia run thick; obviously, those who were around during the 60s and 70s will get a kick out of the vintage ads, while the 80s crowd will enjoy that decadeís trappings.
I certainly could have benefited from Mad Ronís Prevues from Hell all those years ago; two decades later, itís a bit obsolete in terms of introducing new titles, but I will say it has piqued my interest in some of the lesser known quantities sitting on my shelf. For the budding horror fan out there who wants a visceral introduction to some of the genreís most infamous and unsung efforts could do a lot worse than this one. Virgil Films has brought this compilation to DVD for the first time with an adequate set. The full frame transfer is a workmanlike effort at best, as the shot on video segments never had a chance to be stellar; the trailers and spots vary in quality, and arenít without some discoloration and print damage, but I canít imagine it being effective otherwise. The mono soundtrack is equally adequate, as it reproduces everything from the low budget synth music to the shrieks and screams in the trailers. Extras include deleted scenes, a poster gallery, ďsinister on-set hijinx,Ē a photo gallery from hell, and some behind-the scenes looks with effects artist Jordu Schell. As someone who never got a shot at seeing compilations during their heyday, I was more than happy to go to hell with this one, and I suspect others will be too. Buy it!
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