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Elite Entertainment presents
Drive-In Discs Volume Two: The Wasp Woman/The Giant Gila Monster (1960)

"I've got three words for you! Drop dead! Twice!"
- Maureen (Lynn Cartwright)[from The Wasp Woman]

Review By: Dan Lopez   
Published: September 07, 2001

Stars: Don Sullivan, Fred Graham, Lisa Simone, Susan Cabot
Other Stars: Bruno VeSota, Fred Eisley, Barboura Morris.
Director: Ray Kellogg, Roger Corman

Manufacturer: Henninger Interactive Media
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild violence)
Run Time: 02h:15m:28s
Release Date: July 24, 2001
UPC: 790594374921
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
D+ D+B-C C+

DVD Review

Elite steps into the ring for round 2 in their Drive-In Discs series, and this time around, we must battle it out with The Wasp Woman and The Giant Gila Monster. Why am I using boxing metaphors? I have no idea, but it seems fitting given the creature rumble in store for anyone popping this disc into their player. In keeping with the theme of this series, the presentation is designed to immerse the viewer into a drive-in atmosphere, complete with advertisements and vintage shorts. Are you sitting comfortably? Good, then we'll begin. And no hanky panky in the back seat!

First up on the disc is the agonizingly slow-paced, Roger Corman pain parade, The Wasp Woman. Now, I often get Wasp Woman and Leech Woman confused, mainly because they're almost identical films, but be assured, Wasp Woman is the true Corman pic. In any case, the concept is quite simple: when a woman discovers that a special concoction of wasp jelly can make those nasty, facial wrinkles disappear, she decides to let her cosmetics company put it out. Of course, the jelly ends up slowly turning her into a sinister, bloodthirsty, wasp woman! A slight design flaw, admittedly, but you have to admire what the woman will do for good cosmetics; after all, she does take the wasp-stuff intravenously.

The film is among Corman's slightly more 'professional' films, and lacks the zero-budget atmosphere of some of his other projects. This works in his favor, though, since now we don't have to look at a cardboard wall used 10 times over as different "rooms," and other usual Corman watermarks. It's a fun movie, though, especially for its over-written script that features weird, unexpected injections of dialogue. Unfortunately, some of the special effects are bad enough to cause unwanted laughs, but I guess that's part of the appeal. If anything, it will teach everyone a valuable lesson about what kind of make-up to avoid. If you're interested in more along the same lines, try out The Leech Woman, which I don't think is on DVD yet.
Rating for style: C- / Rating for substance: D+

After some cartoons and other goofiness, it's time to meet The Giant Gila Monster, from director Ray Kellogg; not the Corn Flakes guy, but the fellow who also brought us The Killer Shrews. Set in a small, Southwestern town, the story follows a young lad who likes to sing catchy tunes while he bends out fenders and fixes dents in an auto shop. Meanwhile, a giant gila monster (that's pronounced "hee-la") is making his way around, snacking on teenagers. Since most of the first people that see the monster are drunkards, no one believes the wacky stories, but eventually the monster causes enough problems that even the sheriff must take notice! The movie takes a big side-track into the stories of the local music scene and a little, crippled girl, but be assured, the gila monster chomps some people.

Things really get dicey though, when the monster has the gall to interrupt a local barnyard party, complete with radio disc-jockey! So, our hero, the guitar playing, Elvis-wannabe, sets off into the night to retrieve enough dynamite (conveniently stored at his home) to blow the gila to wherever good gilas go. Gila Monster is probably most infamous for the fact that so much of the film has nothing to do with the Gila Monster part, but rather those weird subplots. It's also heavy on the music, so if you don't like late 1950s' Rock-'n'-Roll, you're in for big trouble. Actually, even if you like the stuff, you might still run for cover. Regardless, the movie is great for some laughs and its weird obsession with knees (which you'll understand once you've seen it).
Rating for style: D+ / Rating for substance: D+

Rating for Style: D+
Rating for Substance: D+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The video quality is much better than the previous volume, and the films here are actually watchable to the degree that anyone wanting to own these films would do good to buy the disc. While they're not perfect, they're clean and extremely well rendered for old, black-and-white. Unlike the previous Drive-In Disc entry, they don't look like bad VHS, but rather actual transfers of actual prints. Both films are matted to 1:85:1 (as they would have been for drive-in projection) and are anamorphically enhanced rather nicely. Giant Gila Monster is softer and slightly lower quality, but neither have any substantial complaints, other than age.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
English (Distorto)yes

Audio Transfer Review: Sadly, I must report that the 5.1 "Distorto" mix on this disc is almost not worth bothering with. While the first volume of Drive-In Discs was disappointing, the mix was at least functional and humorous for the first film. Here, the mix is almost completely silent, with the exception of some activity right at the beginning. Designed to immerse you in the environment of a real drive-in theater, the 5.1 track really doesn't do the job. While there are some very bad jokes made at the advertisements by some of your "car mates" at the beginning, things go very quiet for most of the film other than crickets chirping. It's pointless, boring, and lacks any kind of real audience participation or immersion factor. Because of this, the purposefully awful sound quality of the film gets really annoying. So, I'm sad to report that the best course of action is sticking to the original mono soundtracks which are about what you'd expect.

Audio Transfer Grade: C


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Screaming Skull, The Giant Leeches
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Original Filmack Studio animations (advertisements, intermission sequence).
  2. Betty Boop and Popeye cartoons.
Extras Review: It bears saying, before I get into anything else, that I had significant problems getting the disc to function properly. I mention this because it's the first time ever, in over hundreds of discs played, I've ever had the issue come up. Using the "Play Movie" or "Buy a Ticket" options to start full playback, crashed my player completely. This was made more maddening by the 2-minute intro to the disc that cannot be skipped in any way. I had no problem viewing everything through chapter stops and the separate menus, though.

Moving onto the actual supplements, though, the disc attempts the drive-in presentation by using original advertisements and such, along with two cartoons. I discussed this in detail in my review of the first volume of Drive-In Discs, and I direct you to that review for the reason that this volume is not different in any substantial way. While the Betty Boop and Popeye shorts are different, the ads, intermission timers, and everything else are exactly the same. The only difference are one or two new cautionary statements from the management. This is, as you might imagine, extremely disappointing. I liked the first volume, but I didn't expect a repeat of the same cartoons and advertisements. Regardless, everything is accessible from a special menu if you do not want to watch the whole, drive-in presentation.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

As much as I hate to say it, Drive-In Discs #2 is a huge disappointment, especially given the fact that it's nearly identical to the previous disc, other than the main features. The Something Weird/Image collaboration drive-in discs (like Violent Years/Girl Gang) are MUCH better, despite the lack of "Distorto" 5.1 audio. I would like to see Elite put a bit more effort in variety and archival fascination (i.e., different ads and shorts) in future volumes.


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