Monday, July 25, 2011

Late Night Double Feature Picture Shows

Ah the double feature, that wonderful staple of drive-ins and late night horror/scifi programming. Like many of the topics brought up here on the Midnight Cheese, double features are a lost art in many ways. Luckily the folks at Shout! Factory remember them and know how to put together a great DVD experience. On a whim, I snagged The Evil and Twice Dead together as a double feature, a part of the Roger Corman's Cult Classic series. I popped open a brew and greedily tore the cellophane armor from the case, then stretched out on the couch to enjoy a night of low budget horror.

Let's start there, with the cover: it sets the mood, depicting the brick wall of an 80's second run theater, with the one sheet posters plastered up very slap-dash. I don't know about you but for me the little things like this really make the over all experience that much more satisfying. Which is why when the menu loaded, I actually giggled a little. Where I was expecting a selection menu with just the titles of both films to select, I was instead treated with the visage of an old, neoned to the nines, movie house frontage. By selecting the ticket, a classic style "admit one" type ticket, you advance into the theatre. The lobby looks like exactly what you would expect to find in a place that would show a double billing of The Evil and Twice Dead. There's a snack bar on the left, by selecting that, you're given access to the scene selection menu. Similarly the rest room door on the right grants you access to the special features, not too much here beyond director commentaries and an interview with Jill Whitlow, who played Robin in Twice Dead. Interestingly she was also in Swamp Thing and Night of the Creeps, and she has some fascinating thoughts to share. The main attraction, though, is obviously the double doors at the center of the lobby. They lead into the theaters and kick off our double feature. However before we get our 'Cheese on, we're given the choice of just selecting one of the films or the "Roger Corman Experience". Sounds awesome, right? It totally is. By selecting it, both films play straight on through. But more than that, we're treated to a fully programed theater double feature experience. There are 70's bumpers announcing the upcoming attractions, several exploitation trailers, even a snack bar solicitation and there's more of them between the films.

Got your popcorn? Good. The show is underway. First up, we've got The Evil, which is the story of a doctor, Richard Crenna of Rambo fame, who purchase an enormous old mansion, which he plans to open as a drug rehabilitation clinic, with the help of his friends. So they set about cleaning up this long abandoned, built on cursed Native American land, monument to horror film set location. And wouldn't you know, before long one of our intrepid protagonists accidentally unleashes the titular evil. It's a little bit ghostly mansion, a couple parts demonic spirit with a few sprinkles of the eternal struggle between good and evil thrown in for good measure. It all works out in the end, if you believe in the standard 80% attrition rate, which I do. This is a pretty interesting movie, nothing special. It's exactly what you'd expect from double feature fodder.

After some more trailers and an enticement to procure more noshables from the united snack bar of your kitchen, our second feature kicks in. Twice Dead is the tale of an east coast family who inherits a mansion in L.A. Formerly the mansion belonged to a famous Hollywood actor, who lost his love and hung himself. Unfortunately it's now the haunt of a stereotypical late 80's, early 90's gang of punks. They resent being ejected from their hang out and begin a campaign of harassment against the family kids. There's a few problems here, but mostly the issue is that Twice Dead is schizophrenic; it doesn't know if it's a ghost story or if it's a gang revenge tale. It's both, kind of. It's also very made for TVish, very Saturday afternoon matinee. It isn't as strong as The Evil but it's also a taste of nostalgia for me, recalling USA Up All Night, which needs to come back (damnit).

It's obvious that Shout! Factory put some honest effort into the presentation here and if, like me, you pine for the schlock of yesteryear, check out this double feature DVD.

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