The good folks at Something Weird continue their amazing series of cheeseball DVD releases with this double bill. Emulating a night at the drive-in, the discs official running time is 134 minutes, but that only covers the two features. Also tossed in are what must be over an hour and a halfs worth of coming attraction trailers, Drive-In Intermission snack ads and such, and six entire short subjects.
The various items contained on this disc fall into the category of the Nudie Cutie; in other words, lots of nudity is on display (although rarely and then just barely full-frontal), but nothing remotely sexual in nature. In fact, everything is so innocuous that Id say the only item that crosses the line other than the often bountiful displays of cellulite -- is the 1954 short Back to Nature. The problem here is that the short follows what presumably is a family group of nudists, including young girls who appear to range from maybe ten to fourteen years of age. Again, theres nothing even tenuously sexual here, but watching prolonged footage of a topless underage girl can be a little off-putting, especially in this day and age. Frankly, Im a bit surprised they included this short.
On to the main attractions. Most folks will immediately be able to predict the content of The Beast That Killed Women. After all, when you proffer the phrase nudist camp to the average person, three words immediately spring to mind: Nudist, Camp, and, needless to say, Gorilla. So, as youd expect, the film features an escaped gorilla threatening the customers of a nudist camp. The only fallacy is that the beast kills only one woman. Probably the most instructive element of this picture is to illustrate how a one-hour movie featuring almost constant nudity and a bad guy-in-a-suit killer gorilla can still bore the heck out of you. Still, its pretty much of a hoot for the bad movie enthusiast.
The black & white The Monster of Camp Sunshine (Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Nature) is a tad longer, running a healthy hour and fifteen minutes. It is also, as you may have gleaned from the title, more overtly satirical. This is readily apparent from the Terry Gilliam-esque animations that accompany the opening credits. One also has to wonder about the actor identified as "Ron Cheney, Jr." Here a fat nerdy caretaker drinks a toxic liquid and transforms into a homicidal maniac. In case youre wondering, his potential victims inhabit a nudist colony. Im not saying this is a classic, but if Beast is exactly what youd expect from a film of this type, Monster proves quite a bit more.
When I reviewed Drive-In Discs #1, featuring The Screaming Skull and Attack of the Giant Leeches, I noted that the supplementary material was often of a marvelous quality, while the films themselves were horribly presented. Here, luckily, its more the opposite. Many of the Intermission shorts are somewhat tattered which arguably lends to their charm but the two films are eye-poppingly pristine. Beast is absolutely gorgeous, with the color photography looking razor-sharp and quite splendid. (Although the former does result in some occasion artifacting.) The problem is that the soundtrack is conspicuously damaged, with loud levels of hiss and static fairly omnipresent. Meanwhile, Monster, if anything, looks even better, while lacking the severe audio problems attending the first film.
As mentioned earlier, there are enormous helpings of extras here. Aside from three distinct blocks of Intermission/Snack Bar-type material, there are six complete shorts. Produced anywhere from the 1920s-60s, these run between roughly three and fifteen minutes in length. At least two of the shorts, in conjunction with Beast, feature men in really bad gorilla suits. There are also half a dozen longish coming attraction trailers, as well as a gallery of outrageous promotional artwork accompanied by equally outré radio ads. Its an amazing cornucopia of schlock.
Ken Begg, 4/23/2000