Nowadays, movie trailers are APPROVED FOR ALL AUDIENCES. Sometimes, the studios will get a little risque and toss a red band trailer with a few f-bombs at you. But back in the days of grindhouse horror, they didn’t have to regulate a damn thing. (Which means that some of these contain nudity. They are clearly marked NSFW. This is your early warning.) This led to some of the most ridiculous trailers in cinema history.
1. Three on a Meathook
From the name alone, you can assume that this is a corny Texas Chainsaw Massacre knock-off. And it mostly is, with some maladjusted dude killing ladies and hanging them on meathooks because that was what you did in movies back then.
But where it gets weird is the insane voiceover. Some choice lines (though this is like half of it, because it’s just that crazy):
“The twilight areas of a life destined to be spent in shadow and agony.”
“Holding a black light to the dreams of childhood.”
“A stolen life, pawned to a godless oblivion.”
“The only ones left to mourn, the last witnesses to the execution, suspended in time by a puppeteer with blood on his hands, little broken dolls that go on dancing after the music is stopped.”
It sounds like Rod Serling dropped an assload of peyote, then showed up to the wrong recording booth to do the narration for a completely different trailer.
2. Blood-Spattered Bride & I Dismember Mama (NSFW)
This is actually a trailer for a double feature of two films – Blood-Spattered Bride & I Dismember Mama. They’re both stupid, but that doesn’t matter, because the trailer barely shows anything from either. What’s insane is the ridiculous trailer, wherein a fake reporter is covering a man “going berserk” at a theater showing the bill. This begins with two cops hauling the man and explaining that they have a specific law against going berserk at this particular theater, because that’s an important legislative matter.
But that’s followed up with some local yokel types, and then a creepy, bespectacled man giggling like a broken weed-whacker for half a minute straight. That’s not an exaggeration. Finally, a hippie woman extols the virtues of the “Upchuck Cup” (in a stereotypical hippie manner) given to all patrons. Also, it turned her on, because that’s something you say on TV.
And faking people going nuts was a thing in old horror movie trailers, like this one for a triple feature called Orgy of the Living Dead. This guy really tries to sell the madness. Oh, and the filmmakers have even insured you against insanity! Bonus.
3. The Wizard of Gore
As if having the tackiest name in film history wasn’t enough, The Wizard of Gore also had a bananas-ass trailer, which is basically just a guy performing torture porn as magic tricks for a few minutes before decapitating himself, which also happens to turn his head into a papier-m?ch? version of Col. Mustard from Clue. That’s some illusion!
If you don’t catch the last 30 seconds or so, the entire film would seriously appear to just be an insane guy in a magician’s outfit doing a re-enactment of Hostel.
Also known as Twitch of the Death Nerve, which is kind of a weird title since I don’t think we have a “death nerve”, but hell, I’m no doctor. Modern audiences complain about trailers that tell you absolutely nothing about a movie, but it turns out that’s nothing new.
In this old Mario Bava trailer, there’s a lot of LSD and not much of anything else. It’s basically just a lot of colors and trippy music for three minutes. At least they knew their audience. Don Draper himself probably couldn’t come up with advertising this ’60s.
5. Bloody Pit of Horror
This is apparently a movie about a man who tortures women while wearing the most ridiculous costume in history. It’s like if The Phantom (the old serial one) went to a BDSM bar on his nights off, but still didn’t want anyone to recognize him. Also, he’s called The Crimson Executioner, which sounds about as scary that costume looks, so good synergy there, guys. It’s apparently based on the writings of the Marquis de Sade, but I don’t recall him writing anything about a leftover He-Man villain who wears Mr. T-sized bling.
6. Night of the Bloody Apes (NSFW)
Speaking of shitty costumes, there’s Night of the Bloody Apes, which has makeup and wardrobe so fucking bad that the Oscars eliminated those categories for ten years as a period of mourning. It stars an ape-beast that’s just a dude with a really horrible mask. Like, it’s not even a good bad. It’s a “you didn’t even try” bad. And he makes cat noises.
Then it has a female luchador wrestling some people for no reason. Apparently, she figured heavily into the plot of the original, non-American version of the film. Also, the whole thing is interspersed with footage of a real open-heart surgery, because apparently they wanted something that wasn’t bullshit in this trailer, but went way too far in the opposite direction.
Plus, the narrator says “orgy” a really uncomfortable number of times. (Three times. Three times is what it takes.) I kinda wanted him to tremulously mutter it in hushed tones one more time at the end. “…Orgy.”
This is a movie about a doll who comes to life. You’ve seen that before. What you haven’t seen is a magic dummy movie where Anthony Hopkins plays the performer and voices the dummy. In an American accent, no less. And the dummy looks like Anthony Hopkins.
This trailer gives douche chills so hard, it can burn off a cheeseburger’s worth of calories. It’s a shame, too, because it’s apparently not a bad movie.
8. Four Flies on Grey Velvet
Speaking of movie trailers with weird dolls, this one is a fairly normal looking Italian horror film, except it also includes a doll who looks uncannily like Woody from Toy Story with glowing red eyes. You’d never, ever guess how horrifying that is until you actually see it.
Even if puppets/dolls/etc. don’t freak you out, it’s eerie seeing a trailer from forty years ago that has a character who looks almost exactly like one from a major part of many young people’s childhoods.
The trailer also tells you exactly nothing about why the doll is in the movie.
9. Snuff (NSFW)
In this instance, the trailer isn’t quite as insane as the story behind it. Like, the trailer itself is weird. The narrator keeps insisting that life is cheap in South America and so that’s why they filmed it there, and I guess we’re just supposed to accept that as a fact. There are a few brief flashes of people in blackface, which is always weird. Some ladies shoot a little girl who just kinda half-assedly falls over. That kind of stuff.
What the trailer doesn’t get across to a modern audience is that Snuff was already kind of famous (it’s hinted at in the opening crawl) because the filmmakers added a scene to the end of the American version that showed a woman apparently being killed for real. It was fake, of course, but it stirred up a load of controversy. The production company hired fake protesters and wrote fake press releases complaining about it before it even came out. So, of course, what the trailer was implying is that the movie was full of people who died for real. (No one died except for the concept of truth in advertising.)
Previously by Asher Cantrell: