I really love Mad Ron’s Prevues from Hell. A horror trailer compilation released in 1987 with a thoughtful selection of 47 vintage clips. Such a bloody party tape wasn’t anything new in the VHS era at that point. Wizard Video had The Best of Sex & Violence hosted by John Carradine, Filmgore hosted by Elvira, and Zombiethon. Continental Video had Terror on Tape hosted by a too-buzzed-to-be-embarrassed Cameron Mitchell. These tapes are fantastic nuggets of video shop nostalgia, how could they not be, but they were all slyly designed to sell (or garner rentals of) the titles in each respective studio’s catalog. Prevues from Hell, hosted by puppeteer Nick Pawlow and his zombie friend “Happy”, was different being released as a one-off on VHS and Betamax by Off the Wall Video. An obvious labor of love.
Months ago, Virgil Films and Off the Wall, the force behind the original release, announced an official DVD release. I pre-ordered it straight away and totally forgot about it until a package was plopped at my stoop yesterday. Immediate disappointment ensued upon popping the disc in last night. This disc sports a god awful transfer of the feature.
Now, before I go on, I wasn’t expecting a presentation on par with Synapse Film’s fantastic 42nd Street Forever series. Just a decent enough transfer, maybe even transferred from the original master tape, especially considering they had access to material from the creators themselves. Yes, the wrap-around segments were shot on video and the trailers are beat all to hell, but so what? That’s no excuse for the poor quality of this DVD.
It’s the same mentality I described in this article. Virgil Films/Off the Wall probably figured most people will perceive this title as looking like shit, so what’s the point of spending any extra time or money on transferring the feature onto digital disc with care? The problem is that simply throwing something onto DVD isn’t going to automatically make it superior to prior video releases. In fact, Mad Ron’s Prevues from Hell looks substantially worse on this 2010 release than it does on the twenty-three year old tape.
The amount of combing and digital artifacts in this presentation is just ridiculous. It’s like the studio digitized a tape copy in the fastest and cheapest way possible. Probably not far from the truth. The best quality comparison are those dusty DVDs in envelopes consisting of titles that have sadly fallen into public domain at the Dollar Tree. If I sound harsh it’s because I’m sick of tiny studios investing more in promoting their releases than the actual releases themselves. The indie DVD business climate absolutely sucks right now, but there’s something to be said about doing right by the main feature first with everything else coming after in priority.
Sure, this release has a website, several new video ads on YouTube, a Facebook page, and mentions on all the big horror news sites. But when the smoke clears, fans of this little nifty relic are left with a DVD with no advantage over the original tapes and slew of bootlegs. The extras are a wash as well. There’s some behind the scenes stills and footage, but the lack of retrospective insight makes this material mostly pointless. You also know there’s a problem when the included newly-created trailers for Prevues from Hell actually look better than the feature. My advice is to wait until this release of Mad Ron’s Prevues from Hell can be found cheaply if you’re still interested. If you already own a copy, of pretty much any quality, stick with it instead.
…and strangely, this fantastic trailer isn’t on the DVD…
Fifteen bucks for this…?