Judge Brett Cullum checks out Elvira's big double features!
Our reviews of Night Of The Living Dead (1968) (published May 31st, 2001), Night Of The Living Dead (1990) (published October 2nd, 2000), Night of the Living Dead (1990) (Blu-ray) (published October 5th, 2012), Night Of The Living Dead (Colorized) (published October 15th, 2004), Night Of The Living Dead 3D (published October 29th, 2007), Night Of The Living Dead: 30th Anniversary Limited Edition (published September 7th, 1999), Night Of The Living Dead: 40th Anniversary Edition (published June 6th, 2008), Night Of The Living Dead: Millennium Edition (published May 1st, 2002), and Rifftrax: Night Of The Living Dead (published May 15th, 2009) are also available.
Cassandra Peterson appeared first in 1981 as Elvira the host of Movie Macabre, and I doubt back then anybody thought the horror hostess would become the cult icon and official mascot of Halloween the world over. She was replacing Los Angeles scare emcee Larry Vincent who starred as Sinister Seymour on Fright Night until he passed away. It was decided that a female would follow him five years later, and at first they did indeed want Vampira. Negotions broke down with her, and somehow they ended up with the busty Cassandra Peterson who decided to throw Borsch belt humor and Valley Girl slang into the Gothic Mistress of the Dark routine. It all worked like gangbusters and double D sized history was written. Movie Macabre ran on late night Los Angeles television and quickly went in to national syndication with 140 episodes running through 1987. In subsequent years Elvira branched out into making her own movies and hosting other shows such as a short lived reality search for her successor.
Yet fans missed her black roots hosting bad horror flicks. In 2010 it was announced that Cassandra Peterson would resurrect Elvira's Movie Macabre, and the first season began airing on various channels around the country on September 20th. She kicked everything off with Night of the Living Dead and continued the year by showing campy horror films found in the public domain. Elvira was back, fans were stoked, and movie makers were surprised to see the likes of Werewolf of Washington and The Terror pop back up on television screens. Amazingly enough when the show started airing Elvira looked like she hadn't aged a day, and she still had a great sense of the absurd humor that was her trademark. Thirty years later and the world may have changed, but Elvira seemed to stay the same. That's a great thing in my book, because Movie Macabre was always the best thing to catch late on a Saturday night.
It makes sense to start off the new Movie Macabre DVD collection with the premiere episode screening George Romero's Night of the Living Dead and to pair it with another zombie flick, even if it is far from the classic status of the main feature. This DVD includes the undead themed I Eat Your Skin which originally aired on Movie Macabre January 17, 2011. The two represent extremes in quality and are only linked by the idea of zombies in both plots. Oddly enough, Night of the Living Dead is far too good of a film; Peterson said she had to watch it fifteen times in a row to get her jokes right. She holds a lot of respect for that material, so it feels just a touch too respectful. But the important part of the feature is seeing her resurrect the character "back from the dead." During I Eat Your Skin, the horror hostess cuts loose a little more. The film is dreadful and far more easy to make fun of. This feels a bit more like what Movie Macabre was traditionally, complete with parody songs and comedy bits about a new weight loss diet based on the movie.
The films are both black and white and shown in a full screen ratio. The transfers are okay with the Elvira bits looking extremely clear while the features look a bit worse for the wear. The format has introductions and commercial breaks provided by Elvira, and then she pops up now and then in a corner of the screen to make a sarcastic comment or two. Technically, a flaw I found is that it is hard to jump from one feature to the other once you chose a title. You are pretty much stuck on Night of the Living Dead or I Eat Your Skin unless you remove the DVD and start it all over again. Extras include a behind the scenes look at creating the opening segment set to the tune of The Black Belles "What Can I Do?" There is also some footage of a promotional photo shoot, a "Mistress of the Dark video by Ghoultown, and finally a making-of for the video. Finally there are sneak peeks at other titles in the series. One glitch I noticed in my copy happens in the the last comedy segment after the conclusion of I Eat Youk Skin where the audio is off time or not synched properly. It doesn't kill the presentation, but seemed odd.
For a pretty low price you get the George Romero zombie classic Night of the Living Dead as well as the rather lame voodoo fright flick I Eat Your Skin. They both do well with Elvira hosting, and it's great to see Movie Macabre back on late night television. This is a nice way to welcome back the gal with the two biggest assets in horror working today. It's all in good fun, and classic fans from the '80s run will be just as pleased as new converts discovering Elvira for the first time.
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