Shout Factory presents
Elvira's Movie Macabre: Frankenstein's Castle Of Freaks (1974)
"Oh, Castle of the Frankensteins. It's so lovely. It should make a romantic setting for your wedding."- Krista (Christiane Royce)
Stars: Cassandra Peterson, Rossano Brazzi
Other Stars: Christiane Royce, Simone Blondell, Eric Mann, Michael Dunn, Edmund Purdom, Gordon Mitchell, Loren Ewing, Robert Marx, Boris Lugosi, Laura De Benedittis, Alan Collins, Xiro Papas
Director: Robert Oliver
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nudity, sexuality)
Run Time: 01h:29m:44s
Release Date: 2006-09-19
DVD ReviewBack in the before-the-boom-of-VCRs years, one had to mostly get their bad horror fix from television, generally presented in a horribly edited version made to fit a time slot. For decades there were countless costumed "hosts" who did wacky bits leading into and out of commercial breaks, and one of the more famous was from the early 1980s, in the Vampira-esque form of Elvira (Cassandra Peterson) on Elvira's Movie Macabre. Her big-wigged, big-boobed creation spewed out cornball jokes in a soft-focus, candle-lit setting, daring viewers to look her in the eye as opposed to her unnaturally squeezed together cleavage. And inbetween were her quick stabs at pun-filled humor that were often loosely themed around the plot of the obligatory bad horror movie.
Shout Factory has begun issuing Elvira collections, essentially a full-version of the Movie Macabre show with her minimal, mostly not-all-that-funny comedy, plus the unedited, standalone version of the particular horror film. For this entry it's the 1974 Italian-made Frankenstein's Castle of Freaks from director Robert Oliver, starring, of all people, Rossano Brazzi as Count Frankenstein. It's a hodge podge of vague Hammer stylings, though that is meant in the very loosest of terms, with Oliver struggling to make the presence of a staggering, resurrected Neanderthal (played by—wait for it...—someone named Boris Lugosi), a lecherous dwarf assistant (The Wild, Wild West's Michael Dunn), angry, torch-bearing villagers and some robust nudity all work somehow. And as expected, it doesn't. Perhaps it's the flashback scene midway through, with one character explaining to another, that shows footage we already saw at the beginning of the film, as if we the viewer were the ones that needed a refresher.
And even the obligatory nudity (obviously not present in the Elvira-edited version, but in the accompanying full version) from Christiane Royce and Simone Blondell, who at one point even take it upon themselves to playfully wash each other while frolicking in a steamy cave spring, cannot help make the lunacy here any more tolerable. The funny thing is that Brazzi isn't especially god awful as the count, Royce is certainly very easy on the eyeballs, but the wandering Neanderthal plot point is just too odd to casually gloss over, and that severely makes this one go lame from the opening scene, which features a particularly laughable "villagers attack" sequence.
So if the movie bites (and it does), and Elvira's flat gags have not aged well (and they haven't), there isn't much to make this worth a mention unless you happen to be a diehard Italian-made Frankenstein aficionado. To make things even less attractive, the print used is not even remotely "decent", chock full of splices, nicks and scratches, so the experience of watching a bad early 1970s horror film is made even less so. Shout Factory seemed to have had a good idea resurrecting the brief Elvira phenomenon, at least on paper, but the reality of the situation makes me think otherwise.
Rating for Style: D-
Rating for Substance: D-
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||no|
Image Transfer Review: Both the movie-only and the Elvira-induced versions are presented in 1.33:1 fullframe, and the issue of whether or not it is in the original aspect ratio is hardly important because the transfer is simply horrendous. The print has bouts of terribly washed out colors, while other scenes hues tend to smear, which when combined with the excessive splices, nicks, scratches, frequent green vertical lines and blotches make this a chore to even endure the prurient thrill of the frequent nudity of Christiane Royce (in the standalone option). The Elvira segments, from the early 1980s, appear to have been pulled from a used and abused videotape copy, and these bits don't look particularly strong either, coming off very dark and muddy.
Image Transfer Grade: D-
Audio Transfer Review: The mono presentation, full of the expected early 1970s distorted harshness that comes with most low-budget horror of the era, is evident here. One doesn't go into a film like this looking for big, rich audio, so I suppose getting a mediocre mono treatment shouldn't be that big of a disappointment. English dubs for some of the Italian cast in particular sound overly loud in comparison to other voices, and even Brazzi's English language delivery has a bit of a crackle to it.
Audio Transfer Grade: C-
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 30 cues and remote access
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Good To See You Again, Alice Cooper, Stubbs The Zombie videogame soundtrack
Extras Review: The presentation looks nice and consistent for this series, with a clear plastic case opening to show off the back of the front cover, which is adorned with a couple of Elvira images. An insert touts the other films in the series, and the flipside has another cleavage-heavy Elvira photo with an "autograph". The standalone film version runs 01h:29m:44s with ten chapter stops, while the edited Elvira version clocks in at 01h:42m:09s with 20 breaks.
The only extras are a pair of trailers, one for Good To See You Again, Alice Cooper and the other a commercial for the hip-sounding soundtrack to the Stubbs The Zombie videogame.
Extras Grade: D-
Final CommentsI had hopes for this Elvira DVD series, but the fact that my memories of her limited shtick had her being slightly more entertaining than what shows up here makes her segments seem kind of dreadful, cleavage and all. The film used for this one, a sloppy Italian Frankenstein picture with a bit of requisite nudity, is choppy mess from just about any direction, and the print used is terrible.
Rich Rosell 2006-09-19