..

DRIVE-IN DISCS COLLECTION

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars & Directors:  Various
Audio:  “Distorto” 5.1, Mono
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:  Elite Entertainment
Features:  See Review
Length:  Unspecified
Release Date:  August 19, 2003

“Let’s all go to the lobby,
Let’s all go to the lobby,
Let’s all go to the lobby,
To get ourselves a treat!”

Program ***

Remember the drive-in?  I do.  Those gigantic screens, the rows and rows of cars, those little crappy speakers hanging on your car window, the hundred-plus yard hike to the snack bar, the teens making out in the front seat…actually, that latter wasn’t me.  I was the six year old kid hunched impatiently in the back while his parents enjoyed some lame-o flick like Ode to Billy Joe.

It’s a movie experience that’s almost vanished from the landscape.  Sure, some drive-ins still exist, but not the way we remember them.  Advanced technologies in digital surround sound make those little mono speakers even more pitiful than ever, and people just don’t seem to want to sit around in their cars as much anymore.

Ironic and fitting, however, that Elite Entertainment would utilize those same advancements in sound in order to preserve the classic drive-in experience!  Their three disc set Drive-In Discs Collection (the three discs are also available separately) utilizes 5.1 capabilities not to remaster the sounds of the movies, but to put you back behind the wheel as you sit parked in front of the screen with the sounds of fun and activity all around.  It’s called “Distorto” – the latest in low-fidelity technology.  More on that further down.

These discs are packaged for maximum fun.  Each contains a double feature of B movie schlock from 1958-1960.  But the movies themselves aren’t the attraction.  The overall experience is where you get your entertainment dollar’s worth!

In addition to the bustling sounds, each disc is presented as a full drive-in experience.  From the Star Spangled Banner to the classic ads for popcorn, sodas and hot dogs, everything you remember about the good old movie-going days is here.  There’s plenty of goodies, including hilarious coming attractions (my favorite is for an early Roger Corman flick Creature From Beneath The Sea), cartoon shorts from Popeye, Gumby and Betty Boop, countdown clocks, helpful bits of information (like not to drive off with the speaker still hanging on your window) and more.  My favorite was a public service announcements warning against cable television:  write your Congressman and urge him to save free TV!  What a trip.

The movies are all perfectly cultivated for drive-in double bills; each runs from 61 to 78 minutes in length, each is black and white, and all are appropriately low budgeted and frequently howlingly bad!  Disc One pairs up The Giant Leeches with The Screaming Skull, while Disc Two features The Wasp Woman (the biggest chuckle for my money) and The Giant Gila Monster, and Disc Three rounds out with I Bury the Living and The Hand.

Take the films by themselves, and you’ve got nothing much to get excited about.  But insert them into a fully packaged and cleverly cultivated presentation of nostalgic drive-in fun, and you’ve got a great time.  These are the perfect discs to watch with a crowd, provided you have that popcorn popping and those ice cold colas fizzing.  Any one of these discs would make for the perfect accompaniment to your Halloween party, too!

I commend Elite for their commitment to fun on DVD.  The Drive-In Discs Collection is a work of pure genius…or maybe madness, but who’s speculating?

Video **1/2

Considering the age of the pictures and that these aren’t the kind of films that are going to merit restoration, Elite still did a fine job with their anamorphic transfers.  Some movies look better than others; I thought the final disc with The Hand and I Bury the Living to be the best of the bunch.  Sure, I could point out a bit of dirt here, a scratch there, but come on…it’s all part of the vintage styled fun.

Audio *** (“Distorto”)

When I first read about “Distorto”, I thought it was an amusing idea for a gimmick, but it would get old quickly.  I was wrong.  This clever use of 5.1 audio to bring the drive-in experience to life is not only a fun listen, but preferable to the simple mono movie audio (also included, for purists).  Face it, there’s not a lot lost by simply channeling the film’s soundtracks to the front left speaker…the sound is still clean and clear.  The ambient noises, from the car engines to the footsteps to the occasional bits of dialogue make for a true to life experience.  There’s even a brief summer rain shower on Disc Three!  The sounds are up during the commercials and intermission bits, but down for the movies, so you don’t have to worry about your film experience getting disrupted. 

Features:

The cartoons, coming attractions, and drive-in interstitials seem kind of like features to me, even though they’re incorporated into the programming.  We won’t offer a rating in this category…judge for yourselves if you think they constitute bonuses.

Summary:

Relive the good old days of drive-in fun without the car fumes or the overpriced snacks.  Elite’s Drive-In Discs Collection is an amusing, clever use of DVD technology to bring back a time when movies were low-tech.  I promise you’ll have a good time watching these.  HEY…who stole my Zagnut bar??