In the age of satellite TV and hundreds of cable channels on 24 hours a day, broadcasters never seem to be at a loss to fill airtime. With networks becoming super-specialized, whether it's mystery shows, nature programs or even nonstop reality programming (cue screams), the stature of local independent TV stations has been ever-decreasing for the past 20 years. As such, certain aspects of programming that were well-entrenched in independent TV and even some networks have grown gradually extinct—the venerable Saturday-morning and weekend-afternoon cartoon blocks, for example, became obsolete after all-toon cable networks joined the fray. And likewise, the dirt-cheap space filler of paid programming eliminated the need to dig up any and every curio to fill that old graveyard shift—delivering a fatal blow to such late-night icons as Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. Rock on, Shout! Factory, for breathing DVD life into the original Movie Macabre broadcasts, out this week.
Sure, actress and former Groundlings member Cassandra Peterson has found plenty of vehicles as the wisecracking, buxom, black-clad vixen over the years, but it was on Movie Macabre—which was finally axed not long after LA's KHJ-TV was sold off to Disney to become KCAL in 1989—where she really shone, with her corny dialogue, assorted guest freaks (Anyone remember sweaty obscene caller the Breather?) and, er . . . other assets. Elvira's horror showcase became the place where many of us were introduced to such cheeseball goodies as Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, low-budget masterpieces such as David Cronenberg's Shivers, and even the occasional true classic such as the original House of Wax with Vincent Price. (Oh, the mad rush to 7-Eleven to get our free 3D glasses! Those were the days, man.) Shout Factory's Movie Macabre catalog—available as single titles or double-feature sets—kicks off with some of the lower-rung entries in the series' run: nutty creature features such as Werewolf of Washington, starring a young Dean Stockwell, and such minor giallo titles as The Devil's Wedding Night. Yet it sure is a grand keepsake if you honed your horror legs watching Elvira do her thing. By the way, for all the then-adolescents who appreciated the gore but were annoyed when they clearly cut away from the nudity for broadcast: rejoice! All the boobies are back. God bless DVD.
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Also recommended this week: Beavis & Butt-Head Do America: Special Edition; The Laurel & Hardy Collection, Volume 2; Masters of Horror, Volume 9; Mission: Impossible: Season 1; Moonlighting: Season 4; The Office: Season 2; Stella: Season 1; Taps: Special Edition.