Naturally, this led to a few of those bloggers revisiting an ambitious 2009 assembly by the Independent Film Channel's website of the 50 Best Trailers of All Time. Many of the usual suspects are present there - CITIZEN KANE, PULP FICTION, THE SHINING - and a few pleasant wild card surprises - THE MINUS MAN, ZABRISKIE POINT, CORRUPTION. And in turn, this provoked furious debate among readers and professionals alike, and a followup piece was done asking people who actually cut trailers for a living to pick their favorites.
Meanwhile, back in 2008, graphic artist and sometime editor Kate Willaert challenged me to name some of my favorite trailers, and to specifically focus on those for movies that I knew little to nothing about beforehand, but were so captivating that I prioritized having to see them. Those are my favorite kind of trailers after all, something that slaps you around and says, "Watch ME, goddammit!"
Even with that narrow parameter, it's a little tough to pick the top ones. Some are not posted on the web, particularly one of my unsung favorites, Jack Smight's NO WAY TO TREAT A LADY with Rod Steiger and George Segal, though that can be found on Jenni Olsen's indispensible trailer compilation DVD HOMO PROMO. Some are not embeddable, such as Miramax's original trailer for THE CRYING GAME, which did a fantastic job of divulging very little about it's twisty plot while hiding some details in plain sight. And some, like TZAMETI (13), are just a scene from the movie presented out of context, a small taste that made you think "Holy fuck, what's the rest of that movie like?" So this is not necessarily The Best, but after careful but accelerated brainstorming, this is what I came up with, in ascending order:
I knew nothing about the graphic novels, and I didn't peg Terry Zwigoff as the type to do non-documentary film. So seeing all these now-familiar moments for the first time in early 2001 was an exciting revelation, and I was not disappointed when I saw the real thing months later, ultimately declaring it the Best Film of the Year on my infamous Top 13 list.
If nothing else, this is one of the most honest exploitation trailers ever made, for one of the most simplistic movies ever made. You are promised Stunt, and you are promised Rock, and indeed, you get a 120 decibel assault of both Stunt and Rock in Brian Trenchard-Smith's final product. Does that part of the psyche that loves big shit exploding and fist pumping need anything else?
EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC
When one sees this rapid-fire barrage of weird images backed by Ennio Morricone's satanic disco guitar, one is inclined to believe John Boorman's sequel is going to be the greatest horror film they've ever seen. But, almost everyone (except for Martin Scorsese) will tell you that it is in fact one of the worst. But damn, if that isn't some clever salesmanship going on in that trailer. At least I got taken by professionals. Not to mention it predates the coke-fueled aesthetic of Michael Bay by two decades!
This is just one of the most deliriously What The Fucking Fuck trailers I've ever seen, and as such it may be the greatest. You will be hard-pressed to figure out what Umberto Lenzi's mystery is about, but you damn well won't forget that title...no matter how much you want to.
CONTEMPT (LE MEPRIS)
And I think this is my favorite trailer of all time, even more so than Welles' extended "Let's meet the Mercury Theatre" roll call for CITIZEN KANE. Jean-Luc Godard assembled this himself, as he did with most of his early trailers, and cleverly showed you everything that was in this movie without quite telling you how it was going to fit together. I love the dueling narrators, the transposition of adjectives, and oooohhh that Georges Delerue theme. I'm surprised I've never seen another film snot copy or homage it in a subsequent trailer all these years later. Thankfully, I am not alone in my praise: Empire magazine did their own "50 Best Trailers" list in 2003 and included it, albeit only at #39.
If the presentation on this clip seems a litle odd, there is a reason. In all the other existing prints and YouTube copies of this trailer, at the 1:28 mark, the sync between image and narration goes off, because I guess they lost a few flashing frames of "LE MEPRIS" in the negative and never caught it to fix it. But consequently, the picture gets ahead of the narration when they should be matching - i.e., by the time they say "The Stairs, The Promenade, etc" we've already seen them - the narration should end with saying "Fatal..." over Bardot in the black wig, not over the title. I had bugged the powers that be at Rialto Pictures about this to no avail, but the plucky Ms. Willaert simply inserted a few more seconds of title card into the picture and now everything matches again. The minor problem was that her only subtitling option was to use the pop-up balloons. I am hoping sometime, somehow, the people at Rialto or Canal+ will take notice and make the proper fix themselves.
So, amidst the professional opinions and my biased pleasures, let me know if there are favorites none of us have acknowledged. And in the meantime...