Elvira’s Movie Macabre does Christmas
by Jef Burnham
Now available on DVD from Entertainment One.
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The two episodes of Elvira’s Movie Macabre housed in this double feature DVD find the Mistress of the Dark hosting cult classic Christmas crap-fest Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964) and Monte Hellman’s directorial debut, Beast from Haunted Cave (1959). The format of Movie Macabre in these later episodes is much the same as it had been in the years prior to Elvira’s twenty year absence from the airwaves. A crappy movie is shown with the beautiful, busty Elvira introducing the film and offering up her final thoughts in scenes bookending the feature in addition to chiming in on the proceedings periodically throughout. Much of the charm of the series comes from Elvira’s constant horror-related one-liners and sexual innuendos.
One element I don’t recall being a part of the series when I watched it as a kid (but may very well have been), but is now present, finds Elvira occasionally appearing in the bottom left corner of the screen to comment, or riff, on the action in the film. With this facet of the recent series in mind, I thought it odd that she would show Santa Claus Conquers the Martians on her show since the movie had been so brilliantly riffed on on Mystery Science Theater 3000 and again by a handful of the same writers for Cinematic Titanic some years later. So what could commentary could Elvira add to such a thorough double-riffing? Not much, I say, and she obviously knew it too since the riffs are used sparingly here. Elvira appears onscreen to riff maybe a half dozen times throughout, and her comments here are, for the most part, chuckle-worthy. The riffs are more plentiful in Beast from Haunted Cave, however, and frankly, I don’t find her one-liners near as charming when laid over the film as when they are in the host scenes. And I’m not just saying that because I’m genuinely fond of Beast either, because I also recently viewed the episode showcasing Lady Frankenstein, a film for which I have no affection, and found the riffing equally problematic.
That being said, the host scenes are as enjoyable here as ever. The Santa Claus host scenes in particular are worth noting, because here, Elvira is celebrating her second favorite holiday, Christmas, quipping about the season and exchanging gifts with monsters, all while wearing a sexy Santa outfit. The episode most notably opens with an impressive stop-motion animation sequence in which an animated Elvira searches for the perfect Christmas tree and encounters a couple monsters along the way (the animation makes another brief appearance at the conclusion of the episode). The Beast from Haunted Cave episode is not actually a Christmas episode, however. The movie itself is simply set during the winter, which makes Santa Claus Conquers the Martians the real focus of this double feature. If you were considering checking out the Movie Macabre double features, this is definitely the place to start.
Special features on this disc include behind-the-scenes footage of the shooting of Movie Macabre’s title sequence, an Elvira photo shoot with Christopher Ameruso, the “Mistress of the Dark” music video by Ghoultown, the making of the Ghoultown video, and sneak peek previews.
Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.
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