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Blu-ray Review: Drive-In Delirium

THE COLLECTION  5/5

“Parents strongly cautioned.”

DRIVE-IN DELIRIUM: ’60s & ’70s SAVAGERY: Take an eye-popping, jaw-dropping, mind-boggling and trouser-bulging trip back to the “gory days” of big screen exploitation with this collection of the most astounding trailer trash ever to engulf the Age of Aquarius and the Disco era in cinematic up-chuck! (Buy it directly from Umbrella Entertainment here.)

DRIVE-IN DELIRIUM: MAXIMUM ’80s OVERDRIVE: The ultimate mausoleum of movie madness has been desecrated once again, unleashing a stupefying serving of delightfully depraved and garishly gory trailer trash from the defining decade of Decadence! (Buy it directly from Umbrella Entertainment here.)

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More and more, film trailers are starting to feel like a forgotten or under-appreciated art form. Granted, they are still the number one tool for studios to market their films, and along with posters, have barely changed in their concept since they were first used nearly a hundred years ago. But like films themselves, there are good ones, great ones, and baffling ones. In some cases the trailer is the best thing about the film they are summarizing, whether because it succeeds in making you believe the film is better than it actually is, or because it thankfully provides all the best bits in a nice little package that would otherwise make for 90+ minutes of dullness and/or despair. Third party distributors who release films owned by other studios who themselves can’t be bothered to muster their own, at least, know the value of the original theatrical trailer. Even the grimiest and most despicable and forgotten film will include this as the release’s lone supplement. It’s the one thing that remains nearly constant. Meanwhile, even on studios’ own releases of their biggest tentpole films, the trailers are rarely found in the special features. It’s as if studios view their own commissioned trailers for their own releases as nothing more than a commercial. Once it has done its job and gotten people into theaters, then in their eyes it’s no longer useful.

Trailer compilations have been a regular but not common part of the home video market (the first that comes to mind would be the multiple compilations released by Something Weird Video, which would include trailers for many of their own licenses, such as the filmography of H.G. Lewis, Frank Henenlotter, and more). And they’re easy to appreciate for multiple reasons: to test your knowledge as a cineaste and gauge how many films you’ve seen; to appreciate the art of the trailer and examine in what different ways they can be constructed; for a healthy boost of nostalgia; and to expose yourself to films you may have never seen, nor perhaps even heard of. It’s this one that serves as the most important, and the one which made me want to evaluate this two-volume release from Umbrella Entertainment. (Peter Cushing’s Corruption, based on the surprisingly dark and bleak trailer for a film from the 1960s, is now firmly on my radar, along with several giallo titles I’ve somehow missed.) Between the first volume, released as ’60s & ’70s Savagery, and the second, Maximum ’80s Overdrive, Drive-In Delirium presents over ten hours(!) of vintage trailers, many plucked from the horror and exploitation genres for the first volume and the horror and action genres for the second. And, conveniently, each trailer is presented as its own chapter stop, allowing you to skip with ease to the trailer you want to see. (Personal shout-outs to Invasion U.S.A. and John Carpenter’s The Thing, which remains my favorite trailer of all time.) The inner artwork on each release also provides a comprehensive list, in their presentation order, of every trailer on the disc.

In going through each collection, it becomes more noticeable that the state of cinema during those particular decades reflect their times, the cyclical nature of ideas and concepts, and what audiences wanted to see. In the ’60s, sexy swingers, spies, and gothic horror was the name of the game. In the ’70s, the gothic horror continued, but made room for exploitation pics like Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 and the undervalued Ed Gein-inspired cannibal tale Deranged. And if you fully immerse yourself in the experience offered by these collections, certain trailers might elicit an appreciative “yes!” as your favorite films are represented. (Seriously, I fist-pumped the inclusion of the original Taking of Pelham One Two Three in the first volume.) Added to the effect of the presentation are the opening intros with a handful of hilariously dated commercials (“Nine out of ten doctors smoke Camel cigarettes”), the intermission, and the closing message from a long-dead man signing off for the night. This wasn’t just a slew of trailers thrown together — it was treated as an experience, with a beginning, middle, and end, and it’s part of the reason why these collections are so damned awesome.

PICTURE & SOUND  4/5

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Many, but not all, of the trailers released in this two-volume set have been remastered for high-definition. Given the patchwork nature of their presentation, obviously some are going to look and sound better than others. Some will boom, some will sound flaccid. Some will look in pristine condition, and some will look like they’ve had their fair share of spins through the projector. Overall, though, none of them look particularly dire, though some definitely betray their age and the care that went into preserving them. Although Umbrella certainly utilized the capabilities of the Blu-ray disc to present these trailers as best as they could, it’s more that the storage capacities on each Blu-ray disc has allowed for much more trailer content than previous releases of this nature, making this the most comprehensive trailer compilation to date. 

THE SUPPLEMENTS 2/5

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Each release comes with a trailer for the release, along with a poster art gallery for many of the featured trailers.

 OVERALL 5/5

drive-in_delirium_blu-ray_1If you’re a fan of trailer compilations, you’re not going to find anything better. If you’re a cineaste with a love for the bygone era of your favorite films, this two-volume set (but sold separately) will be a rewarding walk down memory lane. And if you’re a budding cineaste who needs to see and learn about more, more, more, you have found the perfect tool. Umbrella Entertainment’s Drive-In Delirium will be your gateway drug to a far better world of films that are more horrific, grimy, titillating, fantastic, and explosive than you could have ever imagined. These releases could not come more highly recommended.

THE DISTRIBUTOR

Umbrella is a 100% Australian owned and operated distributor of filmed entertainment that specialises in a wide range of content for theatrical exhibition, home entertainment, TV broadcasting and online download platforms. Since its inception Umbrella has amassed a catalogue of over 1,500 titles and has one of largest collections of remastered classic Australian films and TV programs on DVD in the country.

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Written by

J. Tonzelli is a writer, film critiquer, and avid Arnold/Van Damme/Bronson enthusiast who resides in rural South Jersey. He is the author of "The End of Summer: Thirteen Tales of Halloween" and the "Fright Friends Adventure" series, co-authored with Chris Evangelista. He loves abandoned buildings, the supernatural, and films by John Carpenter. You can read some of his short fiction at his website, JTonzelli.com, or objectify him by staring at his tweets: @jtonzelli. He apologizes for all the profanity.