A grisly little film, “The Hand” is the second feature in Volume 3 of Elite Entertainment's nostalgic Drive-In series, which recreates a night at a classic outdoor venue with vintage ephemera.
Produced by England's Butcher's Film Service, a low-budget company that churned out several 60+ minute films at the time, American International handled U.S. distribution, and Elite uses the well-used American print, matted down to 1.85:1 from a slightly modest European ratio. The headroom's a bit tight in spots, perhaps an indication the original matting was closer to 1.75:1 or 1.66:1. There's some nasty splices in spots, but the film is still pretty watchable, and the mono sound mix is adequate, if a mix noisy; the Distorto 5.1 mix actually boosts the high and mid range, removing some of the muddiness of the optical track.
The best part of these Drive-In discs is the programming aspect, which allows you to essentially recreate an outdoor night at the movies. There's several menu options that allow separate access to the main features – “I Bury the Living” and “The Hand” with two Gumby shorts are in the Features & Shorts section – and twenty-one vintage drive-in promos that span the 1940s to the late 70s appear in the chapter-indexed Ads & Clips corner. The latter include snack adverts (Toddy Chocolate Malt, and the “Yum Yum” hotdogs), special senior and shut-in specials, an actual topless model (appearing soon!), and trailers for two cheesy horror flicks (of which “Blood Creature” looks absolutely amazing. This one *must* get a DVD release).
Besides the obvious nostalgia value, the Drive-In discs also preserve a decent chunk of drive-in ephemera, which alone reveal idyllic visions of family leisure time, and a goofy homespun style of advertising that actually sold products. Just remember to access the Ticket Booth menu, so you too can watch the whole program in order (with a neat animated ticket girl). Note that the DVD automatically defaults to Distorto Sound, and you have to flip to straight mono manually if you want the living room environment.
Lastly, drive-in fans might also want to check out the inlay card's mini-bio of a Virginian drive-in, and the site's link, both of which paint affectionate portraits of unique, community-based form of theatrical exhibition.
© 2003 Mark R. Hasan
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