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Cries & Whispers

ON MONDAY, I spent 40 minutes watching the video of summer blockbuster trailers that comes with this month's Empire magazine. Look, it was the Bank Holiday, and - what can I tell you? - I've always been a trailer fan. Handing over pounds 9 to peer at a screen not much larger than my TV probably has something to do with it, but up until now I've always felt cheated if I didn't get into the cinema auditorium as soon as the doors opened. Never mind the 20 minutes of irritations that awaited me: moving to let "latecomers" take their seats, enduring commercials I'd seen far too many times already. (Does anyone else scream when they hear the words "Reef Radio"? And who are those people who go to the cinema so rarely that they still laugh at the punchline, "Say bollocks to it, and enjoy the sunshine while you still can"?) The trailers made it all worthwhile. I could never tuck into the main course of the Feature Presentation without the hors d'oeuvres of the Coming Attractions.

Since Monday's binge, I've realised that trailers aren't starters, they're after-dinner mints, and if you scoff them as soon as you sit down, you'll only ruin your meal. Or, to put it in a less annoying way, no film is improved by seeing the trailer first, and most films are made considerably worse.

For instance, a friend of mine told me that the most devilishly unexpected revelation he had ever seen in a film was not in The Usual Suspects or The Crying Game, but in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. He saw the movie on holiday in America, having heard absolutely nothing about it, and the moment when Jessica Rabbit slunk out from behind a curtain to reveal she was a woman, and not a rabbit at all, had him dropping his bucket of Diet Pepsi.

I, on the other hand, had seen so many trailers that I knew all there was to know about Mrs Rabbit months before seeing the film. I barely noticed that the movie is set up so that her identity should come as a fantastic surprise. And as almost all films are like this - they assume we will watch them with no prior knowledge, so that each scene will be fresh to us - we hardly ever see films as they're intended to be seen. We won't risk shelling out to see a movie unless we've sampled half a dozen of the best lines, two plot twists and the most spectacular special effects sequence in advance - by which time, ironically, it's no longer worth shelling out for.

The only acceptable trailers are those which use specially filmed material that isn't in the movie, such as the current Godzilla teasers which don't give away anything except that a big lizard is involved somewhere along the line. I can also forgive the trailer for Titanic. In just a few minutes it shows you everything that is worth seeing in the film itself, and saves you three hours of your time in the process.