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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Drive-In Discs, Volume 3
Drive-In Discs, Volume 3
Elite // Unrated // August 19, 2003
List Price: $14.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted August 23, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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Elite's "Drive-In Discs, Vol. 3" is, as you could hopefully guess from the title, the third in a series of DVDs that attempt to bring the drive-in experience to the living room. The public domain double feature this time around is United Artists' 1958 film I Bury the Living and AIP's The Hand from 1960.

Richard Boone in I Bury the Living
I Bury the Living, previously available on DVD through MGM, marked the sophomore effort of Albert Band (Zoltan: Hound of Dracula, Ghoulies II) as a director. Richard Boone stars as Robert Kraft, the head honcho of a successful department store who reluctantly accepts the role of chairman of a local cemetary. A large map on the wall details the locations of the various plots, with white pins marking purchased plots and black pins indicating those that are occupied. Though everyone in town thinks he's nuts, Kraft becomes convinced that he wields the power of life and death, capable of murdering a plot's owner simply by jabbing a black pin into the map.

The second film, The Hand, begins with three tight-lipped soldiers refusing to divulge any information about their regiment to their Japanese captors, each of whom are punished by having a hand severed. The movie then leaps into the current day, or what passed for the current day thirty-odd years ago as a wino on his last legs is discovered with pocketfuls of cash and only one hand. A pair of cops investigate who amputated his hand and why, unveiling a dark conspiracy through their ceaseless chatter.

I Bury the Living has the benefit of an intriguing premise and a decent cast, headed by Richard Boone and Theodore Bikel, despite the latter's occasionally indecipherable stab at a Scottish brogue. Although I haven't been particularly bowled over by Band's other films that I've seen, he builds an appropriately creepy atmosphere with I Bury the Living, sneaking in some interesting visual effects as its leads break down. The ending is somewhat unsatisfying, veering away from the zombie-fest the film seemed to be suggesting in its later moments, but the movie as a whole is enjoyable. I can't say the same for The Hand, where the emphasis is on a pair of indescribably chatty cops. Despite the fact that the movie runs only an hour in length, it's the most excruciatingly painful sixty minutes I've had to endure in a long, long time. Nothing happens for interminably lengthy stretches of time. N o t h i n g. I was certain there'd be a hand skittering across the frame at some point, leaping out from the shadows to exact its disembodied revenge, but no such luck.

Like the two entries in the series before it, "Drive-In Discs, Vol. 3" includes a pair of animated shorts, a smattering of vintage footage, and a unique six-channel soundtrack.

Video: Both ends of the double feature are presented at an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 and are enhanced for widescreen displays. Despite the anamorphic enhancement, both movies are at best an incremental improvement over VHS, appearing extremely soft and grainy with next to nothing in the way of the fine detail typically associated with DVD. Black levels are anemic, both movies exhibit mild wear, and ringing around edges (particularly in I Bury the Living) is heavier than any other DVD I can think of straight off the top of my head. A case could be made that this is part of the set's charm, drive-ins not being particularly renowned for immaculate presentations and all. Viewers who go in expecting pristine versions of I Bury the Living and The Hand are certain to come away disappointed, but taken in context, the shortcomings are tolerable.

Audio: The material can be viewed in two different ways, the first being expectedly unimpressive Dolby Digital mono (192Kbps). More interesting is Distorto, a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack (448Kbps) in which the original monaural audio crackles from the front left speaker. To further duplicate the drive-in experience, the other channels are reserved for scattered ambiance like the chirping of crickets, a speaker on the fritz, other cars pulling into the theatre, windshield wipers scraping away rain, and wise-ass comments from the rest of the audience. It's an interesting gimmick, one that's used extensively in the shorts and ads, but is rarely noticeable beyond some low background noise during the movies.

I'd probably see more movies theatrically if they still had promotions like these.
Supplements: The drive-in lines churned out by other studios generally consist of mindlessly assembled double-features, but Elite went to considerably more effort for their releases to better warrant the "Drive-In" label. Though each portion of the disc can be viewed individually, the most entertaining way to sit through this set begins with snagging your ticket from the counter.

Over twelve and a half minutes of footage play before the first movie, I Bury the Living, lurches onto the screen. The set begins with the "National Anthem" before moving into more promotional territory. "Shut-In" implores patrons to let a shut-in or handicapped friend tag along for their next trip to the drive-in, followed later with a suggestion that the drive-in is the perfect place to spend the Fourth of July. To help wash down the plugged "Popcorn" is an animated spot for Toddy Chocolate Malt Flavored Milk starring "Rodeo Joe". Next up is a trailer for Blood Creature, presumably the next in line for the "Drive-In Discs" treatment. The most notable from this batch of footage is the Gumby short "Robot Rumpus", which was riffed on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 a few years back. Our pal Gumby commands robots to do his chores, but the pre-programmed proletariats rise up against their capitalist master and trash his family's house.

Nearly fourteen minutes of footage precede The Hand, beginning with Filmack Studios' infamous "Let's All Go to the Lobby" clip. "It's Intermission" touts the culinary delights of the drive-in snack stand, alongside an ad for "Dutch Treats" and a plea to "Enjoy a Hot Dog". There are also promos for discounts for students and the elderly. Following the promo for the Golden Age Club is a plug for the Original Huston's Hallucinations, which offers "Girls, Girls, Girls". It's suggested that patrons "Flick a Bic" and, in "Monsters Pay TV", write their local lawmakers in the fight against pay TV and cable. In the second Gumby short, a knight from a not-too-distant kingdom seeks Gumby's assistance in locating the source of some "Mysterious Fires", and...wow, I don't want to say anymore, 'cause I don't want to spoil the shocking revelation that a dragon's to blame. Last up before The Hand begins is a trailer for The Creature from the Haunted Sea.

The last of the footage, following The Hand, is a thirty-six second reminder to "Please Replace Speaker".

From its menus to every snippet of vintage footage, Drive-In Discs, Vol. 3 is enhanced for 16x9 televisions. The 4x3 footage is pillarboxed in an anamorphic widescreen frame.

The enclosed insert lists each movie's eight chapter stops, as well as a brief article about Hull's Drive-In Theatre in Virginia. The flipside plugs the drive-in memorabilia being sold by The Drive-In Exchange, though their website just returns an AOL "Page Not Found" error as of this writing. The single-sided, dual-layer disc is packaged in a keepcase, as is the norm for Elite's DVD output.

Conclusion: I'd say the "Drive-In Discs" are probably best-suited to a rental, as I don't think the novelty would carry over particularly well to repeat viewings. The collector in me is more enthusiastic about the healthy dollop of vintage drive-in clips than either of the movies on this volume. Its fairly low $14.95 list price makes a purchase a little more palatable, and the box set collecting the first three DVDs in the series can be had online for as low as $29.99 shipped, making for a better value for those who have yet to dip their toes in the drive-in disc pool. I'd lean towards a rental, though viewers who've enjoyed previous installments or just those who want to see the old promotional footage may opt for a purchase. Rent It.

Related Links: DVD Talk also has reviews for MGM's release of I Bury the Living and the second "Drive-In Discs" volume.
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