Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (1988)

Rating:

USA. 1988.

Crew

Director – James Signorelli, Screenplay – Sam Egan, John Paragon & Cassandra Peterson, Producers – Eric Gardner & Mark Pierson, Photography – Hanania Baer, Music – James Campbell, Visual Effects – Apogee (Supervisor – Peter Donen), Special Effects – Dennis Dion, Makeup Effects – Doug Beswick Productions & Steve La Porte, Makeup – Pamela S. Westmore, Production Design – John De Cuir Jr. Production Company – NBC/New World

Cast

Elvira [Cassandra Peterson] (Herself), Daniel Greene (Bob Redding), W. Morgan Sheppard (Vincent Talbot), Edie McClurg (Chastity Pariah), Susan Kellerman (Patty), William Duell (Leslie Meeker), Pat Crawford Brown (Mrs Meeker)


Plot

TV horror hostess Elvira inherits a house in Fallwell, Massachusetts in her late aunt’s will. The conservative and straight-laced Fallwell locals see her as cheap and immoral. Elvira’s uncle Vincent wants a magical cookbook also left to Elvira by her aunt and incites the locals to burn her as a witch.


Elvira (in real life actress Cassandra Peterson) attained a certain notoriety as the hostess of LA’s KHJ-tv Channel 9’s Movie Macabre segment between 1981 and 1993, which was devoted exclusively to B-genre films during which Elvira would pop up in the midst to crack bad jokes. The character became a celebrity with Peterson going on to host a label of B-movie video releases and comic-books, even a pinball game, before being spun off in this film. Elvira is like a parody of classic horror vamps like Morticia Addams and Vampira (indeed Peterson was actually sued by Maila Nurmi alias Vampira in the 1980s for ripping off her act) – but sent up as a cheap bimbo.

The film (co-written by Cassandra Peterson) is truly amazing. It is not so much a tribute to B-movies as it is to bimbodom, with Peterson decked out in two-foot tall wig, giant eyelashes, lightning bolt eyeliner, a glued-on dress that truly defies gravity, and a line-up of corny jokes that succeed in making more mileage than one ever thought possible out of D-cup innuendoes. It is hard to dislike a character that can offer up her own elegy: “Tell them I was more than a great pair of boobs – I was also a great pair of legs. And tell them I never turned down a friend – I never turned down a stranger for that matter. And when all is said and done, I only ask that people remember me by two simple words – any two’ll do, as long as they’re simple.” The film has no real pretence to be anything other than a series of obvious bad jokes, innuendoes and sight gags, something at which it at least proves entertaining. It makes a light-hearted dig at fundamentalism – the town for example is called Fallwell, Massachusetts – although it never takes its own standpoint very seriously, as evidenced by the end where Elvira is saved from the pyre and the locals come and apologise for setting her on fire. Nothing in the film though is as amazing as Elvira’s closing Las Vegas stage act, which involves a remarkably energetic display of her twirling tassels attached to the breasts of her costume.

Cassandra Peterson has appeared in the Elvira persona in a number of other films and tv series. The Elvira Show (1993) was an attempt to spin a sitcom out around her, although this never went beyond a pilot. Peterson also appeared as Elvira in the IMAX short Encounter in the Thrid Dimension (1999). Elvira’s Haunted Hills (2001) was a film sequel to this. There was also a reality tv series The Search for the Next Elvira (2007), although this only lasted for four episodes.



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