Elvira's Movie Macabre Double Feature: Maneater of Hydra & The House That Screamed DVD Review
Written by Steve Pattee Pattee
DVD released by Shout! Factory
The name of the show, as I'm sure you know, is "Movie Macabre". – Elvira
Maneater of Hydra
Directed by Mel Welles
Written by Mel Welles, Ernst R. von Theumer and Stephen Schmidt
1967, Region 1, 100 minutes, Not rated
Cameron Mitchell as Baron von Weser
George Martin as David Moss
Elisa Montés as Beth Christianson
Rolf von Nauckhoff as James Robinson
Matilde Muñoz Sampedro as Myrtle Callihan
Kai Fischer as Cora Robinson
Hermann Nehlsen as Prof. Jules Demerest
Mike Brendel as Baldi, the manservant
Ricardo Valle as Alfredo
The House That Screamed
Directed by Narciso Ibáñez Serrador
Written by Narciso Ibáñez Serrador based on a story by Juan Tébar
1969, Region 1, 110 minutes, Not rated
Lilli Palmer as Mme. Fourneau
Cristina Galbó as Theresa
John Moulder-Brown as Luis
Mary Maude as Irene
Cándida Losada as Mlle. Desprez
Tomás Blanco as M. Baldie
Pauline Challoner as Catalina
DVD released on September 25th, 2007
After enjoying the hell out of the first "Movie Macabre" series I watched (Gamera, Super Monster and They Came from Beyond Space), I expected Maneater of Hydra and The House That Screamed to be of the same type of schlocky fun. I was only partially right.
In Maneater of Hydra, a group of tourists take a tour of the mysterious Baron von Weser's island. A genius scientist, von Weser (Cameron Mitchell — TV's "The High Chaparral") has been doing some wacky experiments on flowers for some time. Eventually the guests start dying horrible deaths and, of course, are stuck on the island with no hopes of escape.
Maneater of Hydra is bad. The major problem is you don't see what's killing the people until the last few minutes of the film (a giant man-eating tree), just the looks on their faces when they die screaming. There are many other issues with Hydra — such as pacing problems, over and under-acting (although this could be the fault of the actors' dubbing the lines) and just silly plot points. The best parts about Hydra are Elvira's "commercial breaks" and Kai Fischer. Fischer's Cora Robinson is a dirty, dirty woman, and it's amusing to watch her flirt with men as if hubby wasn't even there.
The House that Screamed, on the other hand is quite good. So good, it doesn't seem to belong in the same the breath as Hydra, much less in the same package. Also known as The Boarding School, The Finishing School and La Residencia in its native Spain, Screamed is well shot, has a great score and some genuinely creepy moments. Taking place in an all-girls boarding school (hence the alternate titles), Screamed features a great performance by Lilli Palmer as Mme. Fournneau, the tough-as-nails head mistress. Girls are disappearing from her boarding house, five in as many months, but instead of telling the parents, she keeps it under wraps saying it's nothing more than the girls running away. That isn't it, as you well know, and the film does a fine job of getting to the meat of what exactly is happening to these girls. While the ending isn't exactly shocking (as much as it wants to be), it still works because of the performances. That gives it even more kudos because Screamed is dubbed in English, and it barely hurt the movie. (I say that having never seen it in its original Spanish, so it could very well be that much better.)
In Hydra I eagerly looked forward to Elvira's appearances to lessen the pain of watching that mess of a movie, yet I almost found her appearances during Screamed intrusive. Almost. Because as good as Screamed is, there are still, like most movies, laughable scenes in it. The best one, hands down, is when the girls were taking their weekly shower. I was curious to see how it would play out as I don't know if Shout! Factory used the original TV edits or the unedited movie. I still don't know, because while the girls definitely took their showers, they did it with their clothes on. Definitely not as hot as I would have hoped. As you can imagine, Elvira had something to say about that particular scene.
Watching Maneater of Hydra with Elvira's "breaks" is a perfect example of her talent. Without her commentary, I would have given up on the flick long before it was over. But since you can't exactly fast foward to Elvira's parts, as she may make a joke you will miss, she makes sitting through Hydra is a little less painful. And even though The House That Screamed is certainly more than simple schlock, Elvira's anecdotes are welcome with that one, as well.
Video and Audio:
Hydra's 4:3 pan and scan presentation is ass. There is a huge abundance of print damage through the entire duration and it's one of the hackiest pan and scan jobs I've ever seen. There are numerous scenes where people are talking, but the camera stays focused on the center of the screen, so all you get is a shoulder and an elbow. Colors, well, just forget about them. If they aren't dull they are damn near black and white. I'm all about experiencing a movie (like print damage on a grindhouse movie can work), but when your video looks like a third generation bootleg, maybe you should consider spending five minutes on it.
Screamed has a marginally better picture. Presented in 2:35:1, colors are flat, as well, but not nearly as bad as Hydra. Blacks are hazy and grayish, and there is noticeable print damage on it, too. It's more of a VHS quality, though, rather than bootleg.
The audio on both needs work, but it suffers in Hydra more. Some scenes in Hydra are downright un-listenable. Yet the audio is more of a disappointment in Screamed because I know a good mix on it can really up the creep factor.
Like the first "Movie Macabre" feature I reviewed, this has no special features, either.
Maneater of Hydra
The House That Screamed
Elvira's Movie Macabre Double Feature: Maneater of Hydra & The House That Screamed
Maneater of Hydra and The House That Screamed aren't what I was expecting in this "Movie Macbre" double feature, but I enjoyed them nonetheless. Elvira saved Hydra from being a complete suckfest, while Screamed was a movie more than enjoyable on its own. This is worth a rent, if for Screamed alone.