Elvira’s Movie Macabre and Haunted Hills on DVD
by Jason Coffman
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With the resurgence of interest in the TV horror host over the last few years, it should perhaps come as no surprise that Elvira, one of the most popular horror hosts of the 1980s, would stage a comeback. Elvira’s original Movie Macabre ran from 1981 through 1986, and while she has been in the public eye often ever since, it has been quite a while since she has hosted a television series of her own. This changed in 2010 with the debut of a brand-new Elvira’s Movie Macabre, and now the Mistress of the Dark is back at home and Entertainment One is releasing episodes of Movie Macabre on DVD, as well as Elvira’s Haunted Hills, her second feature film.
The latest discs in the Movie Macabre double feature series follow the formula that made Elvira a pop culture touchstone. Elvira introduces the features and appears in short bits between the film and commercial breaks, offering snarky commentary on the feature while she deals with some sort of issue in her castle. During the features, Elvira occasionally pops up in the bottom left corner of the screen to directly comment on the action, but unlike Mystery Science Theater 3000 she is not on-screen for the whole movie. Since the latest incarnation of Movie Macabre uses public domain films, though, there is some overlap with the films shown on MST3K— one of the double feature discs released in October includes Tormented, which was used on MST3K.
That film shares a disc with Scared to Death, Bela Lugosi’s first color film. Also released at the same time is a double feature disc of Lady Frankenstein and Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter. Some of these features have appeared on various compilation sets of public domain films, but diehard Elvira fans will certainly want to see what their favorite horror hostess has to say about them. The transfers are as good as can be expected for such fare, but the tech specs are hardly why anyone would want to tune into these DVDs. The star of the show is Elvira, and to say that the show is basically exactly the same as it was in the 1980s will tell you everything you need to know: Elvira pokes fun at the movie and pop culture, with plenty of goofy dark humor and boob jokes.
Speaking of which, Entertainment One has also reissued Elvira’s long out-of-print second feature film, Elvira’s Haunted Hills to coincide with the release of the latest batch of Movie Macabre DVDs. This “Special Enhanced Edition” includes a making-of featurette and interview with Richard O’Brien from the 2002 DVD release, and adds a feature-length commentary with Elvira (well, Cassandra Peterson, her alter ego), director Sam Irvin and some cast members and a new feaurette “Transylvania or Bust: Elvira & Company Tell All.” Elvira fans could hardly ask for more!
Entertainment One released Elvira’s Movie Macabre: Scared to Death & Tormented, Elvira’s Movie Macabre: Lady Frankenstein & Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter, and Elvira’s Haunted Hills: Special Enhanced Edition on 4 October 2011. The double feature discs include a behind-the-scenes featurette, a video of an Elvira photo shoot, “Mistress of the Dark” video by Ghoultown, a making-of featurette about the Ghoultown video, and a number of trailers for other Movie Macabre features.
Jason Coffman is a film writer living in Chicago. He writes reviews for Film Monthly and “The Crown International Files” for Criticplanet.org as well as contributing to Fine Print Magazine (www.fineprintmag.net).
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