The Adventures of Electra Elf: The Complete Series (2004 - 2008)
By: Paul Ryan on January 4, 2011  | 
DVD
MVD (USA) | All Regions, NTSC | 4:3 | English DD 2.0 | 560 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: Nick Zedd
Starring: Saint Rev Jen, Faceboy, Karen Sneider, Andrew J. Lederer, St Francis McNerdz
Screenplay: Nick Zedd, Saint Rev Jen
Country: USA
External Links
IMDB Purchase YouTube
Gentle reader, in the four-and-a-half-years that I've written for Digital Retribution, your humble reviewer has had to slog through his fair share of junk. Don't get me wrong, I love me my junk when there's something – anything – that makes it entertaining, fun, or at the very least, watchable. I've had a whale of a time with the so-bad-it's-good insanity of The Room, the dimestore gothics of Andy Milligan and the gee-whiz corn of serials Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe and Zombies of the Stratosphere. The other side of this coin is that there have been a few truly terrible titles that I have really struggled to get through, such as The Monster and The Ape, Chariots of the Gods and Zarkorr! The Invader. However, as tough as these were to watch, none can match the five-hundred-and-sixty-fucking-minutes of utter torture that is The Adventures of Electra Elf: The Complete Series.

A collaboration between underground film luminary Nick Zedd (of such works as Geek Maggot Bingo and Police State, and profiled in the doco Llik Your Idols) and poet/artist/writer/zine publisher Saint Rev Jen (aka Reverend Jen Miller), The Adventures of Electra Elf (or to use the on-screen title, Electra Elf and Fluffer) is a half-hour series made for New York public access television. Unlike most community television, this is a scripted, narrative-based show, and that's the hardest kind of program to do in that field. Made for pocket change with nonprofessionals, Miller and Zedd produced 18 half-hour episodes, plus one double-length "origin" story, over the course of four years. On the surface, that's an impressive feat, but when you actually watch the show, it's a different matter entirely...

Speaking of surface, the notional premise is this: By day, Jennifer Swallows (Miller) is a reporter for dodgy magazine Art Star Scene (or, nyuk-nyuk, A.S.S.), and her talking pet chihuahua Boobie (Miller's real life dog Rev Jen Jr) is a canine fashion model. However, when crime strikes, Swallows er, swallows a powerful drug called Elf S.D. (geddit?) and transforms into flying, lycra-clad, elf-eared superheroine Electra Elf, while Boobie dons a little cape and becomes Fluffer. Defending the New York suburb of Hummerville from giant maggots, undersea kings and time-traveling robots, Electra Elf and Fluffer are the sworn protectors of the innocent and the oppressed.

Now, if this was a short-form cartoon in the Adult Swim vein, or a recurring skit in a sketch comedy show, The Adventures of Electra Elf might work as a parody of superhero genre motifs. At least, it would have if that's what it was really about, but it's not. If you've seen any of Nick Zedd's films, you'll know that the guy has a militantly anti-corporate, anti-authority mindset that frankly, comes off slightly paranoid. Miller, though more playful in her approach, is of a similar worldview. Ergo, what the show is really about is heavy-handed political preaching. Every single god-damned episode is frontloaded with shrill, obvious rants about big business, the political landscape (don't forget, this was during the Bush Jr administration), patriarchy, conservatism, homophobia, and so on. Now, I'm not a right-winger by any stretch, but I've been around enough political theatre in my lifetime to know that if you prioritise a "message" over actually entertaining your audience, then all you're doing is preaching to the converted. And if you make your messages as crude, aggressive and unsubtle as they are here, even the converted will tune out.

Two whole episodes are solely dedicated to political rants, without any actual involvement from the titular characters. "Triumph of the Ill" is merely a filmed campaign speech by Green Party mayoral candidate Christopher X. Broduer, with a few shots of Miller and the dog edited in, while "No Plague Like Home" is an extract from an internet radio show by a real-life conspiracy-theorist named Vox, and is 28 minutes of screaming, ranting, paranoid 9/11-was-an-inside-job/Illuminati/Government-is-putting-tracking-devices-in-your-bodies bullshit, set to stock footage, screensaver-level graphics and so on. There's no depth or complexity to any of the alleged "politcal satire" here, just soundbites, generalisations and characters based on real-life figures with "funny" names (Rush Limbaugh becomes "Rush Lintball". Stop, my sides...). The plots of most episodes don't even fill the 28-minute running time, often bookended with lame skits, mock ads and the odd music video. It's amateurish, infantile and painful, and that's just the writing.

As for the production values, well no-one expects top-notch tech credits from community TV, but unless you're a fan of shoddy chromakey, homemade CGI, scratchy audio, blurry stock footage, and fuzzy video, you'll find the show as harsh on the eyes and ears as it is on the mind. Yes, the shoddiness is supposed to be part of the joke, but the overall execution is so crushingly inept that the "joke" gets lost in the overall crumminess. With the bulk of the cast recruited from the New York underground arts scene, only a fraction of the "actors" actually achieve the right campy tone in their performances. Miller herself is kind of endearing, as is the vocal work of Karen Sneider for Fluffer, but much of the cast appears to be reading off cue cards, and it's never clear if that's deliberate, or they're just shocking actors. Recurring cast members Lloyd Floyd (a vocal actor in many video games) and Claudia Gross (as ongoing villain Luciferia) actually seem to know what they're doing far more than the main cast, but their agreeably over-the-top efforts are totally wasted here.

Ultimately, with The Adventures of Electra Elf, you've got a show which reeks of absolute contempt for its audience, along with contempt for the genre it pretends to be gently parodying. It's satire by people who don't know what satire is, and absolutely atrocious in every conceivable way.

Video
Being made for public access television, the picture quality is what it is. Shot on cheap videotape, the vision ranges from reasonably clear to muddy and noisy. Softness is apparent throughout all episodes, and anything involving greenscreen is littered with fringes and distortion.
Audio
Similarly, the audio is as good as its source material. Most of the time you can make out what's being said, but there are also instances of poor sound recording and heavy distortion.
Extra Features
Yes, there's bonus stuff. Yes, there's a lot of it No, none of it is really worth your time.

Stan Lee Audition: Why this tour of Saint Rev Jen's apartment is so titled, I have no idea, but that's what it is. She seems nice enough out of character, and owns a truckload of Troll Dolls (as seen in the epsiode "Maggot on a Hot Tin Roof").

Red Letter Day: A special fan-mail episode where Electra Elf answers viewer questions, all of which seem to have been written by the makers of the show. I say "seems to be" because at this point I was still wondering if the entire program was some kind of meta-prank, or just plain shithouse.

Filler-Up: Just under ten tedious minutes of mirthless bloopers and outtakes.

Behind the Scenes: Twenty-three minutes of boring, camcorder-quality backstage footage, glimpses of Zedd directing and a look at Jen's open mic night. That's right, even the making-of featurette is padded with irrelevant filler.

Jared's Xmas: This is listed on the back cover as an "Xmas Episode",but has very little to do with the show itself. Apparently it's a crossover with another public access program (The Jared Whitham Show, since you asked) and only features Electra Elf at the beginning and end. What's in between that involves some blah sketches, musical numbers and so on. Honestly, by this point, I'd just stopped caring and wanted to finish the damn DVD, so you'll forgive me for the lack of detail.

BCAT Interview: A text piece from the Brooklyn Community Access Television program guide, this is an interview with Nick Zedd about the show and its Smash-The-State/Subvert-The-Dominant Paradigm/Soundbite-Slogan-Soundbite goals. Zzzzzzz...

Photo Gallery: Because you're just dying to see all the low-grade photos that were taken during production, here's a seven-minute slideshow of them. Kill. Me. Now.

MNN Commercial: A 60-second promo for the Manhattan Neighborhood Network, which aired the show.

Booklet: Yes, of course there's a goddamn booklet. It's four-pages long and appears to be in the format of the actual A.S.S. Magazine (which Miller edits in real life). It's also another interview with Zedd, who talks up the show with po-faced sincerity, and claims to have studied Bruce Lee movies for the show's horrible fight choreography. And maybe he did, with his eyes shut...
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Okay, I really, truly tried to give this series a fair go. With such limited resources to work with, the fact that Zedd and Miller turned out a scripted, narrative-based show for community television is a genuinely admirable feat. But that is the only thing to admire with The Adventures of Electra Elf. After almost nine-and-a-half hours of shrill, poorly-made, poorly-acted, poorly-everything slop, I was ready to chuck this four-disc set into a shredder. Beyond followers of Zedd's work, - and I guess, friends and family of the cast and crew - I can't imagine anyone choosing to subject themselves to more than a single episode, let alone this entire DVD release.

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