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Elvira's Movie Macabre: The Terror / Eegah!
Proving you can never have too much of a good thing, Elvira made a comeback in 2010 when Movie Macabre was resurrected from the dead. With Cassandra Peterson once again reprising her role as the world's most famous horror hostess, Elvira, and a slew of public domain films under their belt, the brains behind this decision knew not to mess with a good thing. The result? A pretty great throwback to the classic Elvira bits that made us all fans in the first place. The same goofy humor, corny puns and cleavage enhancing wardrobe that made the 'Mistress of the Dark' a cult heroine are in place, as they should be, and as you'd expect Elvira pops up periodically throughout the movie to make a clever joke, offer some commentary, and poke fun at the various shortcomings of the movies that she shows.
Here's a look at the two movies Elvira hosts on this DVD...
Directed by Roger Corman with uncredited assists from Francis Ford Coppola, Monte Hellman, Jack Nicholson and Jack Hill, The Terror stars a young Nicolson in the lead role of a 19th century French soldier named Lieutenant Andre Duvalier who, when the film begins, has been separated from the rest of his company. Unsure how he got there, he wakes up on a distant beach where he sees a mysterious and beautiful woman (Sandra Knight) and, being understandably curious, he follows her only to wind up at a massive old castle lived in by Baron Von Leppe (Boris Karloff) and his assistant (Dick Miller of all people).
Von Leppe lets him in but Duvalier is more interested in finding out what happened to the beautiful woman he saw and figuring out who she is. Von Leppe, however, tells him that no such woman is living in the area, though Duvalier continues to see her out the window and around the castle. Complicating the issue further is a painting in the Baron's castle of a woman who looks eerily similar to the one Duvalier is after. Unsure what's going on, the old witch woman who lives nearby (Dorothy Neumann) might know more than she's letting on - but what's really happening here? Is Duvalier imagining things or is the Baron up to something?
Shot directly after The Raven (which is how Karloff wound up in the film - Corman simply through more money at him to keep him onboard once The Raven wrapped), The Terror is a pretty impressive little low budget gothic horror film. While it's not always easy to Nicholson seriously in the role of a Napoleonic era French officer, as he neither looks nor sounds the part, Karloff is as reliably creepy as always and Knight makes for a great mysterious ghost woman. The sets, left over from The Raven as well, look excellent and the lighting and use of primary colors throughout the film is consistently impressive and gives the film a weird atmosphere.
Featuring a really strong build up to a creepy conclusion that takes place in a perfectly morbid location complete with graves and fog and giant spooky trees, making it easy to overlook the fact that the story doesn't really go anywhere for much of its running time and when it does it's relying very heavily on clichés and genre standards. Not a particularly original film, it's nevertheless quite an entertaining one and certainly a very nicely shot one. Flawed or not, it gives Karloff plenty of time to strut his stuff and it's got enough going on that works that you won't mind its obvious missteps.
Director Arch Hall Sr. put his son, Arch Hall Jr. in the lead for this cheap California lensed clunker, a remarkably awful film that has rightfully claimed its place atop the heap of 'so bad its good' cinema. Lampooned previously (and oh so sublimely) by Mystery Science Theater 3000, this staple of the public domain video scene now trades jabs with the Mistress of the Dark. p>
In the film, Arch Jr. plays a gas station attendant named Tom who just wants to rock n roll all night and hang out with his milftastic girlfriend, Roxy Miller (Marilyn Manning), every day. When Roxy tells Tom that she almost plowed into a giant man on the highway one day, he and Roxy's father (played by Arch Sr.) decide to do some investigating. After spying some big footprints, Mr. Miller charters a helicopter so that he can get a bird's eye view of whatever it is his little girl insists is out there and to take him way out into the wilderness where he figures this thing must live. Once he's dropped off, wouldn't you know it, he finds himself standing toe to giant sized toe with a caveman named Eegah (Richard Kiel)!
After playing a song or two for all the swinging kids in the area, Tom finds out that the helicopter that dropped Mr. Miller off in the middle of nowhere isn't in fly-worthy condition so he gets in his dune buggy and takes Roxy out to try and find her old man before something happens to the old coot. They don't find him as quickly as he found Eegah, so they bunk down for the night and Tom serenades her with a song before bed. The next morning our two lovebirds head out to look for dad some more and Roxy gets snatched by Eegah who runs off with her to his cave where she finds her father who is seemingly pretty interested in all of this and not in the least bit freaked out to have been kidnapped by a giant caveman. Will Tom be able to put down his guitar long enough to save them?
Terrible in all the right ways, Eegah is about as bottom of the barrel as they come but no less enjoyable for it if you're in the right frame of mind. It's not often a movie combines dune buggies, rock n roll, cavemen and helicopters in on ninety minute mainline hit of celluloid weirdness, but here it is. Hall's typically clunky direction is on display and the film's miniscule budget shows throughout (Eegah lives in a cave that appears to be made out of a dirty drop cloth!). Kiel is actually well cast as the grunting caveman and not entirely unsympathetic in his part, while Arch Jr. is as dopey and as goofy as they come, singing his way through the movie with nary a care in the world. Marilyn Manning looks nice in the movie but is a bit too old to play a teenager, but hey, she's pretty enough so who cares.
As far as Elvira's jabs this time around, she fares better with Eegah than she does with The Terror probably for the simple fact that she's just got a lot more to work with for the cavemen movie, as it's quite simply horrible. Elvira's generally at her best when she's got hokier, campier material to spin and so the second feature fits her style better than the first film, but both provide her with enough fodder that her fans will dig this latest entry in the Movie Macabre line. On top of that, she still looks great and continues to deliver to her fan base just exactly what they want. There have been better entries in the line so far, but this one is solid through and through and a worthy addition to the collection.The DVD:
The Terror has been released recently on Blu-ray and looks much better than it does here where it's displayed in non-anamorphic widescreen but there are some similarities in the two transfers that are rather curious, particularly in the color reproduction, indicating the same master may have been used? The second feature, Eegah, is in full frame. For both movies the Elvira bits that take place around 'commercial breaks' and which pop up once in a while throughout the movie in the lower right hander corner of the screen are also in color and in fullframe. The generally look okay here even if they're not taken from completely remastered sources. Both are plenty watchable and if they show their age in the form of color fading and periodic print damage, so be it.Sound:
The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 track is fine. Though you'll notice some hiss here and there during the movie playback portions, Elvira's comments come through with good clarity and the levels are generally well balanced throughout both features. There are no alternate language options provided for this disc but there are English subtitles provided.Extras:
There aren't a ton of extras here but there are a few starting with a brief Movie Macabre Behind The Scenes featurette that provides a few minutes worth of footage detailing the set being put together and Elvira getting ready to perform. Aside from that, there's a few minutes worth of footage from a photo shoot, a video for the song Mistress Of The Dark by the band Ghoultown, a behind the scenes look at the making of that video, and previews for a few other Elvira's Movie Macabre titles. Menus and chapter stops are provided for both features.Final Thoughts:
Elvira's Movie Macabre: The Terror/Eegah doesn't really find the eternally busty Mistress Of The Dark trying to break any new ground, but then again, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. The audio and video quality isn't anything to write home about and the extras are the same as those that have appeared on earlier releases, but this is still a fun double feature and comes recommended for fans of Elvira.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.