Plot: What’s it about?
Do you miss the days of the drive-in cinemas? Of course a few still exist across the lands, but it just isn’t the same. You can sneak in a friend in the trunk, listen to the audio through a bad speaker, and watch some advertisements for the concession stand, but something still seems to be absent from the whole experience. I mean, you just can’t see B movie double features these days, which were a staple of drive-in theaters of the bygone days. From science-fiction films to exploitation flicks to monster movies, these low grade movies were little more than an excuse to attend, while the real action happened inside the cars. But even if the movies weren’t always the greatest ones and the popcorn was stale, it was fun to go to the drive-in and these days, it just isn’t the same. Now with the advances in home theater systems and the arrival of DVD, it seemed like the drive-in experience would never return…until now.
The folks at Elite Entertainment must have missed the old drive-in experience too, as they have started a series of releases that tries to bring back that magic. Of course, you can’t have the whole experience in the comfort of your living room, but as far as home drive-in theater goes, this is as close as you can get. The series consists of double feature discs, with the films culled from the teeming heaps of old drive-in classics. In this first volume we’re treated to Screaming Skull and The Giant Leeches, but more on the films themselves a little later on. You can watch the movies on their own, like a normal DVD, but you can also enable a special process called DISTORTO, which brings the magic of the drive-in theaters into your own home. You have to present your ticket, let your buddy out of the trunk, sit through some ads and previews, then you can watch two B level horror movies, what more can you ask for? This is as close to a drive-in as you can ask for, right down to the muddled one speaker sound system. So, let’s find out about the features, shall we…
In Screaming Skull (1958), we watch as a desperate husband attempts to drive his wife insane, but soon he finds out he could lose his mind, if he isn’t careful. As he pushes his wife closer and closer to the brink of losing it, he soon discovers that a ghost is present and that his plans might be foiled in the end. This is by no means a classic horror flick, but it is a fine choice for a drive-in double feature, so no hard feelings. The acting is so bad that you’ll laugh through the whole picture, but then again, when did that become a bad thing in drive-in flicks? This might not be a great film, but it certainly deserves a place in this series. The other half of this double feature is The Giant Leeches, which is a blast to watch and is a true drive-in classic. The story involves a lusty woman who gets caught cheating on her chubby hubby, but the real draw is the presence of the massive leeches, really men in bad costumes. This double feature is a nice slice of drive-in cinema, I think fans of such films will be delighted with this release.
Video: How does it look?
Both films are shown in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, which is a welcome touch on a release like this one. At a time when some major studio films are getting the shaft on transfers, it is nice to know Elite is taking good care of the ones it issues, kudos to them. These are low grade flicks from the late ’50s and early ’60s, so don’t expect pristine transfers here, although the images do look very solid in the end. The prints show heavy wear at times and could look better, but given the nature of this release, I am pleased with how the films look here. Now these do seem rough when compared to modern features, but these transfers are improvements for these films, so no worries in the end.
Audio: How does it sound?
The mono tracks sound good, but of course, never offer much in terms of range or crispness. As far as tracks on films like these go however, these are solid ones and I found no fatal flaws with the presentations. The elements all sounded in order to me and aside from some minor harshness, I have to problems to discuss. The sound effects come off in decent enough form, while the vocals are usually clean and easy to understand also. These might not be the tracks to show off your system with, but as far as this material, they’re more than up to the task.
Supplements: What are the extras?
As I mentioned above, you can view the films as normal, but you can also enable DISTORTO, which recreates the feel of a night at the local drive-in theater. You’ll go through all the motions, from ticket tearing to concession stand ads, as well as some humorous bonuses as well. This mode also allows the audio to come through one speaker only, just as if you were parked in a run down lot, instead of owning thousands of dollars in home theater equipment, isn’t technology grand? I love this option, as you can hear folks at times yelling at the screen, talking to friends, and even car doors opening and closing. The film’s audio comes through that one speaker, but the other cool sounds come from the other channels, which is very effective and worth a spin. This feature might not be up everyone’s alley, but I am pleased to see a studio pushing the limits of this fine format we call DVD.