A columnist of heart and mind

A columnist of heart and mind
Interviewing the animals at Children's Fairyland in Oakland. L-R: Bobo the sheep, Gideon the miniature donkey, me, Tumbleweed Tommy the miniature donkey, Juan the alpaca, Coco the pony

Monday, May 28, 2012

Trailer Trash

Now it can be told! Together again for the first time! It's the film event of the year!
On June 8 the Pacific Film Archives in Berkeley will present "Trailer Trash: A Mini-Movie Extravaganza," a compilation of 40 - count 'em, 40! – movie trailers from some of the cheesiest B-movies of the 1950s, '60s and early '70s.
Among them: "I Was A Teenage Frankenstein," "Queen Of Outer Space," "Blood Of The Vampire," "The Naked Kiss," "Tammy Tell Me True," and "Burn, Witch, Burn!"
Return with us now to the thrilling days of yesteryear, when movie trailers were tiny, two-minute spectacles filed with thunderous scores, thrills and spills galore, and stentorian voices booming with blustery conviction, "A love that knows no bounds!" "In a land where passion reigns!" and "All the emotions of a LIFETIME!"
"Why wade through an entire feature film when a crisply condensed version can compress ninety minutes into a pithy two or three?" says Steve Seid, the PFA's film curator.
This event stems from Seid's lifelong fascination with cinema's historical roots.
"It comes out of vaudeville and the old tent shows. Back in the day, people would travel around the country with prints, like a carney, and the pitch was as important as the picture. The less a film had to offer, the harder it had to sell itself."
No stone will be left unturned in an attempt to recreate the atmosphere of the original experience, including strategically located misters that will periodically spray the aroma of popcorn. (Food isn't allowed in the PFA theater.)
Two years ago PFA hosted a similar event called "Exploit-O-Vision," featuring films that had gimmicks attached to them, recreating the original gimmicks.
"During 'The Maniacs Are Loose,' about an ax murder in a movie theater, another person and I ran through up and down the aisles swinging axes," says Seid. "When we showed 'Polyester,' John Waters gave me a whole bunch of scratch-and-sniff cards to go with it."
And for a screening of "Earthquake," featuring a gimmicky format called Sensaround, Seid borrowed humongous sub-woofers from Meyer Sound, the premier sound equipment company in West Berkeley that supplies speakers to everyone from the Grateful Dead to the Dalai Lama.
"They were so enormous, they literally made the room shake like a roller coaster," he says.
One thing you'll notice is that the trailers sound like they were all narrated by the same guy.
"That's because only three or four people do voice-overs for trailers in L.A.," Seid explains. "They're so successful, they are chauffeured from studio to studio several times a day. They get out, do the voice-over, then get back in the limo and drive on to their next gig.
"Most of these guys have been doing it for two or three decades. So it's always the same set of voices, same vocabulary, and same emotive thrust."
But despite this continuity, Seid says trailers ain't what they used to be.
"Lots of trailers nowadays are nothing but fast cuts, and they end up summarizing the entire film. That's a dangerous strategy. You end up thinking, 'Why should I bother watching the movie?'"
The management requests that for the greater entertainment of your friends who have not yet read this column, you do not reveal the ending.