Drive-In Discs, Vol. 1 (Part 1)
It’s a shame that most kids born today will never know the joy of a visit to a drive-in theater. During the Baby Boom years of the 1950s and ’60s, there was an “ozoner” in every community, but skyrocketing real estate values have drastically decreased their number over the last few decades. There may be more drive-ins today than there were ten years ago, mostly built in Southwestern states, but for many, the drive-in theater is only a memory from our pop culture past.
The folks at Elite Entertainment have decided to do something about that, using the technology available on DVD to simulate the drive-in experience as much as they can with this, the first entry in their Drive-In Discs series. Some of the films selected so far for the series have already appeared on DVD quite a few times because digital rights have been left uncovered and multiple labels have jumped in to rush out cheap disc releases, but Elite seems to have taken more care with their transfers.
Other labels have included drive-in intermission clips and trailers along with double features on DVD – most notably Something Weird Video – but Elite has gone the extra mile in preserving drive-in history. They’ve invented “Distorto”, a 5.1 Surround sound track in which the film’s mono soundtrack is distorted and limited to the left channel, with appropriate drive-in “atmosphere” filling in on the other speakers. All you need now is to set up your home theater out in the driveway, under the stars.
Viewers have the option to watch different parts of the disc separately, or have the entire program play through. One clip, the best countdown clock ever, can only be accessed separately for some reason. There is also a non-Distorto soundtrack – a good decision, especially since Distorto seems to work much better in an advanced home theater environment.
Elite’s collection of drive-in spots is impressive. I’ve seen quite a few tapes made up of these spots, but they have some here I’ve never seen. The program begins with “Our National Anthem,” then continues with an announcer’s admonishment that “public displays of affection will not be tolerated.”
The first feature is Attack of the Giant Leeches, a Gene Corman production about giant leeches in a murky swamp who suddenly decide to make human flesh their new food supply. Corman regular Bruno VeSota (Dementia) plays a perturbed store keeper in the Florida swamplands who catches his young wife with her lover and forces them at gunpoint into the murk. The leeches move in, kidnapping the pair for their private blood bank. Yvette Vickers (Girls Town, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman) is at her bad girl sexiest as the trashy wife – it’s a wonder that she hasn’t left the swamp behind forever and run off to Hollywood. All this southern-fried melodrama is almost enough to make you forget about the monsters. Game warden Ken Clark moves in to investigate.
It’s all a bit more chilling than you’d expect. Especially disarming are the scenes in the underwater caves, as victims are kept at death’s edge for periodic snacking by the loathsome leeches. Director Bernard Kowalski is often overshadowed by Roger Corman’s own directorial efforts, but he does a fine job here.
Continued in next post…