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The Hell Plaza Oktoberfest IV

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Adam Jahnke - Main Page

The Evil/Twice Dead: Roger Corman's Cult Classics (DVD)

The Evil/Twice Dead: Roger Corman's Cult Classics
1978/1988 (2010) - Shout! Factory
Released on DVD on October 5th, 2010

When Shout! Factory first announced that they would be taking over the distribution of Roger Corman's New World/Concorde/New Horizons library, my first thought was, "That's the best DVD news I've heard in years. I must have them all!" My immediate second thought was, "Wait a minute. We're talking about several hundred movies here. Surely not all of them warrant an elaborate multi-disc special edition." Evidently DVD producer Cliff MacMillan agreed with me (and would probably appreciate it if I stopped calling him Shirley). Some of the, shall we say, lower-tier titles in the Corman library have been paired up for a series of double feature DVDs, providing twice the fun without skimping on the quality we've come to expect from the line.

These aren't just random titles being slapped together on a disc. The movies compliment each other, whether it's the post-apocalyptic action of Deathsport and Battletruck, the sword-and-sorcery pairing of The Warrior and the Sorceress and Barbarian Queen or the ghostly duo of The Evil and Twice Dead.

Back in the 70s, haunted houses were a big deal, especially in the wake of The Amityville Horror. The only thing bigger was demonic possession. So what could be better than a haunted house that has the Devil trapped in its basement? If your answer to that question is, "Not a damn thing! Bring it on!", then you'll have fun with The Evil. Richard Crenna stars as a counselor who plans to turn an abandoned mansion into a rehab clinic. His team includes his wife (Joanna Pettet), a psychiatrist colleague (Andrew Prine) and several recovering addicts. You'd think the movie would play with that aspect of the story more but it's really only mentioned in passing. Anyway, Crenna may have saved their lives by getting them off drugs but he dooms them all the second he removes a wrought-iron cross from a trapdoor in the basement, thus unleashing The Evil. This is pretty standard haunted-house fare made enjoyable by nifty practical effects, a truly impressive location and a sense that nobody involved is taking any of this too seriously. It's a fun, creepy ride that offers up 90 minutes of spooky late-late-show entertainment.

The co-feature, Twice Dead, debuted ten years later and features a down-on-their-luck family moving into another abandoned mansion, this one in one of the more rundown neighborhoods of L.A. The original owner was a movie star who killed himself after his one true love left him for another man. Tom Bresnahan is the new kid on the block who becomes obsessed with the movie star's ghost but unfortunately, he and his sister (Jill Whitlow) have more immediate problems in the real world. They're continually hassled by a gang of rowdy toughs who aren't too happy about being chased off their turf. Can the kids hold their own against the street gang... and is the ghost out to harm or to help? Twice Dead isn't quite as successful as The Evil... it's an 80s movie that draws on the magnetic star power of Todd Bridges of Diff'rent Strokes in a small role, so that should give you some idea what you're in for. But parts of Twice Dead are actually pretty funny (and believe it or not, they're actually supposed to be) and the movie has enough worthwhile moments to make it an agreeable bottom half of the double bill.

After loading up the disc, the first thing you see is the exterior of a theatre. Clicking on the "Admit One" ticket takes you into the lobby. From here, you can either go to the concession stand (for scene access), the projection room (for extras) or into the theatre itself. The menu design is a clever touch that adds to the fun. In the theatre, you can choose to watch either of the movies or, for maximum enjoyment, play The Roger Corman Experience. This gives you Prevues of Coming Attractions for Kingdom of the Spiders and Death Race 2000 before launching into the feature presentation of The Evil. After the movie, there's a brief intermission with trailers for The Terror Within and Not of This Earth (the 1988 Traci Lords version) followed by Twice Dead. Extras for The Evil include an audio commentary by director Gus Trikonis, writer Donald Thompson and cinematographer Mario Di Leo, the trailer and a TV spot. Twice Dead extras include a commentary by director Bert Dragin and star Tom Bresnahan and a new interview with actress Jill Whitlow. Walter Olsen serves as moderator on both commentaries and does a good job keeping things moving and asking questions when the participants aren't sure what to discuss. Not a boatload of extras by any means but they're all pretty interesting. Both movies look and sound pretty good, a little bit rough at times but on the whole, a lot better than I was expecting.

More often than not, double feature discs are studio shortcuts to releasing movies they haven't much faith or interest in, so not a lot of effort goes into them. The double feature entries in the Roger Corman's Cult Classics line are exceptions to the rule. On their own, it's doubtful that many people would get too excited about either of these movies. But as a pair, this disc is a fun throwback to the way movies used to be. Turn out the lights, make a double batch of popcorn and stay up past your bedtime with this disc.

Film Ratings (Evil/Twice): B-/C+
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B-/B/B-

Adam Jahnke

Adam Jahnke - Main Page
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