Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (1986)
By: Craig Villinger on November 16, 2004  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Simitar (Australia - (US Import) All Regions, NTSC. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1, English DD 2.0. 96 minutes
The Movie
Director: James Signorell
Starring: Elvira, W. Morgan Sheppard, Daniel Greene, Susan Kellermann, Edie McClurg
Screenplay: Sam Egan, John Paragon, Cassandra PetersonMusic: James B. Campbell
Tagline:"Here comes elvira... there goes the neighbourhood!"
Country: USA
Any person who watched television in the eighties and had a fondness for b-grade movies would certainly be familiar with Elvira (AKA Cassandra Peterson). Elvira hit the big time as host of "Elvira's Movie Macabre" on US Television in 1981, and was subsequently seen in more television shows and advertisements than I can be bothered mentioning, while here in Australia we got to know her as host of "Elvira's Thriller Theatre", which enjoyed an unfortunately brief run on Network 10 towards the end of the decade. So what caused this sudden upsurge in global popularity? Well, she had a wonderful sense of humour, a love of outrageous attire, and an attitude that appealed to the rebellious nature of teens the world over. And there was something else too…what was it? Oh yeah, I remember now – her tits! Large, firm, wonderful tits. Tits that could occupy the thoughts of a horny teenage male for hours on end. Tits that most of us would kill to get our hands on! Tits tits TITS! Ahem – sorry about that, but I really couldn't think of any other way to put it. Elvira simply has a great set of tits…and her legs aren't too bad either. Anyway, considering her popularity among cheesy movie fanatic's at the time Elvira's appearance in a cheesy movie of her own was inevitable, and in 1988 we all got our wish as she made her big screen debut in Elvira, Mistress of the Dark.

The plot, which could have been right at home in any one of the B-Movies Elvira has trashed over the years, sees Elvira playing…Elvira, a struggling TV hostess who dreams of fame and fortune in Las Vegas. After an unfortunate groping incident involving the new station manager however, Elvira finds herself out of work and desperately seeking fifty thousand dollars to make her Vegas dreams a reality, but as luck would have it, the passing of a long lost Great Aunt presents a possible solution to all of her problems. Without giving it a second thought, Elvira packs hers bags and heads to the moralistic country town of Fallwell, Massachusetts to claim her slice of the inheritance, and of course, things do not go as planned. Instead of vast riches Elvira discoveries her inheritance amounts to no more then her Great Aunt's ramshackle home, a dog named Algonquin, and a family recipe book, which her crabby old uncle Vincent had his heart set on obtaining (Evidently, old Vinnie was not in the good books of the late great Aunt, and was completely shafted at the reading of the will).

So, with her monetary problems no closer to a resolution and her car temporarily out of action, Elvira is forced stay in Fallwell until she can sort herself out, which doesn't sit too well with the local morals committee (headed by the puritanical Chastity Pariah) since Elvira's outlandish appearance has attracted the attention of the towns long repressed youth population. The girls admire Elvira because she is strong, confident, and wears make-up, while the boys admire her because of her "Gazungas". Even a few of Fallwell's older denizens begin to take notice, forcing Chastity and her tight-arsed cronies into action before this "slimy slithering succubus" can cause irreparable damage to the towns delicately maintained moral fabric! And that's just the tip of the iceberg as far as Elvira's problems go. We soon learn that Elvira's inherited recipe book is in fact an ancient tome of spells, and the reason old Uncle Vinnie is so keen to get his hands on it is because he is a three hundred year old warlock looking for the power to commit all manner of evil atrocities! So our busty heroine is forced to: (A) Avoid being burned at the stake by the morals committee, (B) Do battle with an evil uncle, (C) Endure frequent breast references, and (D) Arrange a midnight screening of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes and thus save the teenagers of Fallwell from a life of boredom and sexual inactivity.

The plot for Elvira, Mistress of the Dark is relatively simple and was probably knocked together in five minutes flat, but frankly, anyone looking for more than that has unrealistic expectations. This is a film about Elvira, and was made for fans of Elvira, so those who do not find her style of humour entertaining will undoubtedly want to avoid this one like a trip to the dentist's chair. Those who do enjoy her antics however are in for a moderately entertaining time as Elvira bounces around the screen in outfits that leave little to the imagination and delivers some incredibly corny dialogue with what could only be described as "dead-pan enthusiasm". Able assistance is provided by Edie McClurg as the formidable Chastity Pariah, and respected thespian W. Morgan Sheppard is fun to watch as the evil uncle since he plays out most of his scenes with an irritated "what the hell am I doing in a piece of shit like this?" look on his face. Sure, the jokes are lowbrow at best with double entendres aplenty ("Grab a tool and start banging") and more breast gags than any other film in history, but on the whole it is a relatively inoffensive family friendly flick which is low on logic but high on entertainment value. We may not get to see Elvira deliver an Oscar worthy performance, but we do get to see her break open a set of locked gates with her cleavage, fire a rocket launcher, kick a sleazy bowling alley patron in the nuts, and inadvertently turn a celebration of the towns high moral standards into a full-blown orgy after a revenge spell goes slightly off kilter, so at least the filmmakers have their priorities in order. The Vegas showgirl routine just before the closing credits (complete with a rapping Elvira!) was perhaps a bit too much, but by that stage my brain was functioning at limited capacity anyway so the damage was minimal.

Even though Elvira has become a major icon in the horror community Elvira, Mistress of the Dark shouldn't be viewed as a horror movie. Sure, it has supernatural themes, slime covered beasties, heavy gothic overtones, and a token fog enshrouded graveyard or two, but the comedy is what makes this one so entertaining. Well, that and Elvira's cleavage of course, and while those two highly sought after glandular organs are never revealed in all their glory (much to my disappointment when I first saw this back in the 80's) we still get a decent enough perv, and you really couldn't ask for much more from the dark mistress. She successfully manages to keep us entertained for ninety odd minutes, and that's about all I was looking for. Thanks for the mammaries Elvira!
Elvira, Mistress of the Dark is presented in its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 with 16x9 enhancement. The image is agreeably sharp for the most part while flesh tones are perfectly natural, which is of paramount importance in this case since much of the viewers attention will be focused on Elvira's exposed cleavage. Grain and dirt make occasional cameo appearances, but these minor imperfections are to be expected from such a low budget production and were never intrusive.
The default audio option is a Dolby Digital 5.1 remix which is completely serviceable with easy to understand dialogue and crystal clear sound effects, although the action is confined primarily to the front of the soundstage with the rear channels and the subwoofer rarely called into action. The original 2.0 track is also provided.
Extra Features
Sadly the extras here are about as skimpy as Elvira's wardrobe. We get theatrical and teaser trailers, both of which are 16x9 enhanced and look every bit as good as the feature presentation, and a fact filled Cassandra Peterson biography.
The Verdict
Elvira, Mistress of the Dark in a fun no-brainer which has been given a satisfactory DVD presentation by Anchor Bay, although a commentary track from Elvira herself would have been a great inclusion. Who knows – AB are quite fond of the old "double dip", so perhaps we'll see a fully loaded "Twentieth Anniversary Edition" emerge in a year or so. This NTSC release is available locally through Simitar either by itself or as a double feature with Transylvania 6-5000.
Movie Score
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