Elvira's Movie Macabre Double Feature: Gamera, Super Monster & They Came from Beyond Space DVD Review
Written by Steve Pattee
DVD released by Shout! Factory
Yeah, it's little old me, that gal in a wig whose talents are big! – Elvira
Gamera, Super Monster
Directed by Noriaki Yuasa
Written by Nisan Takahashi
1980, Region 1, 103 minutes, Not rated
Mach Fumiake as Kilara
Yaeko Kojima as Marsha
Yoko Komatsu as Mitan
Keiko Kudo as Giruge
Koichi Maeda as Keiichi
They Came from Beyond Space
Directed by Freddie Francis
Written by Milton Subotsky based on the novel by Joseph Millard
1967, Region 1, 99 minutes, Not rated
Robert Hutton as Dr. Curtis Temple
Jennifer Jayne as Lee Mason
Zia Mohyeddin as Farge
Bernard Kay as Richard Arden
Michael Gough as Master of the Moon
Geoffrey Wallace as Alan Mullane
Maurice Good as Agent Stillwell
DVD released September 25th, 2007
Ever since the '50s there have been horror hosts, who each week bring the lucky viewer a horror, sci/fi or cult film (more times than not, low-budget, unknown or both) and inject their own brand of humor and/or insights during the commercial breaks. When I was growing up, Baltimore had Count Gore Devol, who was the 'punny' horror host, New York had Count Zacharly, Chicago had Son Of Svengoolie…the list goes on. I lived in the DC area and, to my knowledge, there wasn't one down my way (not having cable, Baltimore was just too far up the road to get a signal). When my parents finally got cable in the late-'80s, I started watching the likes of Rhonda Shear (hostess of USA's "Up All night") and, later, "Monstervision" with the legendary Joe Bob Briggs. While I loved Rhonda for her bubbly personality and her smoking hot body, Joe Bob was legendary for his knowledge on horror films, and I caught his show as often as I remembered. But, even though she had a show from 1981 - 1987, I never caught one episode of Elvira's.
One part great looks, one part attitude and personality, Elvira (whose real name is Cassandra Peterson) was known throughout the horror genre as the hostess with the mostess, even to those, like me, who had never seen a show. Fortunately, through the magic of DVD and the thoughtfulness of Shout! Factory, I can watch what I missed out on growing up with the releases of Elvira's Movie Macabre discs — a series of DVDs, each with an episode of "Movie Macabre."
Gamera, Super Monster, the first of the two films in this double feature, is a doozey. A bunch of baddies from another planet have set their sights on Earth to be their next conquest. Luckily for us, we have Gamera, the super turtle. This Gamera is awesome. He can fly, swim, shoot fire out of his mouth and be an Olympic contender with his high bar skills. Seriously. The space jerks do everything they can to kill Gamera by throwing monsters at him to fight every ten minutes. But Gamera is a prize fighter, and not even the giant monster that shoots ninja stars out of his nose is a match for hero turtle.
There's also some silly forced subplot about three super women, but I really didn't care about them. Every time they got into costume (by doing some elaborate — and goofy — cheerleading exercise) the baddies shoot lasers at them from their spaceship effectively rendering them useless.
Gamera is ridiculously fun, in no small part due to its gaping plot holes (what kind of mother lets her 12 year old boy bring an injured woman to her house — and let her son sleep in the same bed with her!) and its amazingly bad dubbing.
Almost as great in its badness is They Came from Beyond Space. This 1967 gem is nothing but unintentional laughs watching scientist Curtis Temple (Robert Hutton) try to save the woman he loves, then the world, from hooligans from outer space. There's a little more to the plot, but nothing important. In this type of movie, plot isn't important.
As fun as Gamera and Space are, they are even more enjoyable with the injection of Elvira and her humor at each "commercial break." As mentioned, up until watching these movies, I had never seen Elvira's show "Movie Macabre." Of course I had seen her. The woman is a machine, and genius, when it comes to marketing herself. There's a very good reason — arguably two very good reasons — why she can still be a major guest at a con 20 years after her show went off the air.
The best part about Elvira is she's not a "punny" horror host. In my (admittedly limited) experience, with the exception of Joe Bob Briggs, the hosts I have seen insist on being punny (think The Crypt Keeper from "Tales from the Crypt"). And I've never liked groaners, as they live up to their name. Instead of using weak — and always obvious — puns, the valley girl-esque Elvira pokes fun at the people and discrepancies in the feature film and her breaks are always amusing on some level. The best part about her is if she does resort to a groaner or pun, she cuts the camera a knowing look because she is quite aware how unfunny it is — and that's what makes it funny. Laughter is not expected, but you end up smiling anyway because she's so damn likeable.
Both DVDs offer two ways to watch the movie — either with or without Elvira. If you bought an "Elvira's Movie Macabre" disc to watch it without Elvira, you're a damn fool because she is the reason to buy these releases.
Video and Audio:
While Gamera, Super Monster is presented in 1.85:1, They Came from Beyond Space is presented in 4:3, and it looks to be pan and scan. Both have a horrible VHS quality display with print damage galore. Space suffers more from bad video, with some scenes suffering from brutal washout.
The 2.0 audio is just as bad as video in both. There is a ton of audio discrepancies, such as pops, hisses and even dropouts.
I don't know if Shout! Factory was going for the whole midnight movie experience with their presentation — and, on some very small level, it works — but it would be nice not having to reach for the remote every five minutes to both rewind and adjust the volume.
Elvira's segments, audio wise, are fine, but there is a ghosting/halo effect around her constantly. Having never seen the show until now, I don't know if that's how it originally was, but I bet you dollars to donuts it can be easily fixed with a little bit of effort. Since she is the selling point, it would be nice to put that effort in.
While the packaging is nice (a clear case with Elvira in a couple of different poses on the flip cover), I was surprised and dismayed to see no special features. No photo gallery? No interviews? Nothing? This was quite a disappointment.
Gamera, Space Monster
They Came from Beyond Space
Elvira's Movie Macabre Double Feature: Gamera, Super Monster & They Came from Beyond Space
I really dug this double disc set, and I'm looking forward to more from the collection. I can only hope that Shout! Factory puts a little more effort into the features and, at the very least, audio because these discs deserve it.
If you are a fan of B-movie Schlock, this Gamera, Super Monster / They Came from Beyond Space Elvira double feature is worth picking up.