With 13 Days of Shot On Video I’ll be reviewing a new shot-on-video horror film every weekday for the last two weeks of October. You can view all entries HERE.
Mad Ron’s Prevues From Hell is such a singular, unique film that of course it could only be birthed during the ’80s shot-on-video boom.
In fact, it’s not much of a movie at all: in reality, it’s 90 minutes of exploitation film trailers from the ’60s and ’70s hosted by a man and his zombie puppet. The trailers are film stock, but the interstitial wraparound segments featuring the ventriloquist and his dummy are pure shot-on-video awesomeness.
The movie begins when we see a group of zombies descending upon a movie theater; the marquee reads “Mad Ron’s Prevues from Hell”. While the zombies futz about in the lobby (drizzling blood on their popcorn, as zombies are wont to do), we’re introduced to a balding, bespectacled geek-type up in the projection booth. His name is Nick, and he’s a ventriloquist; his dummy — a rotting zombie — is named Happy Goldsplatt. After a little banter, they tell Mad Ron to start the first preview (er, prevue.) We see this wild-eyed deranged looking dude, slapping the reels on the film projector whilst frothing at the mouth; this is Mad Ron. Then the first trailer begins. And baby, that’s basically it for the next 90 minutes.
Mad Ron’s Prevues from Hell is honestly one of a kind — as in, there are literally no other films like this. It’s vaguely reminiscent of Terror in the Aisles, minus the history and heady psychological breakdown of horror films, but with a lot more foul-mouthed puppet.
As the trailers go on, we see the zombies ascend the staircase towards the projection booth. As they reach the door to the booth, Happy pops out and commands them back down to the theater to continue watching the trailers, and they oblige. And that’s it. It’s so wonderfully strange and unintentionally hilarious. I say “unintentional” because, while the movie does include a lot of written jokes, most of them are such groaners — the real laughs come at the pure spectacle of it all.
I have to ask an important question: who is “Mad Ron”? I did some Googling and digging to see if this character existed prior to this movie, but found nothing. I was hoping to find out that he had been some recognizable horror host from a small town in Philly or New York during the ’80s, but as far as I could find out, he wasn’t. That means the character — which is hardly a character (Nick and Happy are obviously the stars of the show and occupy most of the non-trailer footage) — was created solely for this movie. But again, why Mad Ron? Why not call it Mad Nick and Happy Goldsplatt’s Prevues from Hell?
There are some interesting little bits dealing with film politics if you’re paying attention: early on, Nick makes a comment about how awful the MPAA is, and at the end of the film, Nick and Happy discover a guy illegally taping Mad Ron’s Prevues from Hell on his VCR, and they kill him for it. Home video recording was a big no-no in the ’80s (it kinda still is, but man it was major back then) so it’s funny to see this at-the-time relevant commentary and the insanely harsh manner in which they dealt with the offender.
The best part about the movie is the trailers: tons of beautifully grainy trailers, some a little too red, some a little too teal, most of them jumpy and full of film dust. And the wonderful, hokey, and mostly ominous narration that accompanied each trailer. It’s definitely a bygone era. I tell you: watching these old gems, these were trailers. The garbage jump scares and loud music blasts that occupy a majority of modern trailers today are downright snooze-inducing compared to the wild, intense, unpredictable trailers from the heyday of ’70s exploitation. The shit they got away with was pretty insane. Mad Ron’s Prevues from Hell introduced me to a lot of movies I’d never even heard of and a lot of gorgeous trailers I’d never seen.
But wait, I haven’t even gotten to the craziest part about this movie: there’s a sequel! Yes, somehow, there is a sequel to a movie about exploitation trailers. It’s called Celluloid Bloodbath: More Prevues from Hell, and it was released in 2012 — 25 years after the original. And while I’ve not seen the sequel, the synopsis (and trailer) promise more of the same: a puppet cracking wise in between exploitation trailers from the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s.
Believe it or not, Mad Ron’s Prevues from Hell has a very active and up-to-date Facebook page, and you should definitely check it out. They have tons of great old behind-the-scenes photos from the movie set, and they’re a lot of fun to peruse. And fear not Happy Goldsplatt fans — he has his own page, too.