cast: Cassandra Peterson, W. Morgan Sheppard, Daniel Green, Susan Kellerman, and Edie McClurg
director: James Signorelli
92 minutes (15) 1988
widescreen ratio 1.78:1
Anchor Bay UK DVD Region 2 retail
reviewed by Rob Marshall
TV horror hostess Elvira (Cassandra Peterson) hopes the unexpected inheritance from her late Aunt Morgana will provide enough cash to launch a genre themed show in Las Vegas. However, Elvira is disappointed to find that all she receives from her dead relative’s estate is a rundown house, a pesky poodle, and a dusty old ‘cookbook’. Taking her disappointment on the chin, as it were, Elvira cajoles some local townspeople (“Grab a tool and start banging”) into helping renovate the ramshackle property, while she fends off the attentions of her crooked Uncle Vincent (played by crusty Brit, William Morgan Sheppard), a warlock who’s after the family’s book of recipes because he knows it contains magic spells, and also tries her damnedest to push that sleazy-glam Las Vegas project back on track.
“You most certainly don’t fit in this town.
Why, you don’t even fit in that dress.”
Elvira is more like a postmodern icon that a character. She’s a fantasy female in the sense of Mae West crossed with the Wicked Witch of the West. A lover of corny, witty dialogue and cheesy, smutty one-liners, Elvira is the ultimate camp vamp. Acting against our heroine is small town old biddy Chastity Pariah (Edie McClurg), strait-laced chairwoman of the local council, who has much to say on Elvira’s arrival in town. None of her observations about Elvira are flattering, but that only ensures they are pretty hilarious, and Elvira is unfazed by any measure of criticism, anyway. She gives back as good or bad as she gets. Leading the Elvira supporters’ club, hunky pseudo-hero Bob (Daniel Greene) sees beyond Elvira’s crassly irreverent, endlessly leggy, stiletto-heeled, raven-haired image of barely restrained cleavage, and he unceremoniously dumps stuck-up blonde girlfriend Patty (Susan Kellerman, of Beetlejuice fame) in favour of a darker mistress…
“Revenge is better than Christmas.”
Perhaps the most enjoyable ‘bad taste’ highlight of James Signorelli’s uneven yet briskly paced romp, is the scene of social devolution resulting from Elvira’s cruel yet inadvertent contribution to the Morality Club Annual Picnic, which turns into a daylight orgy like a satirical flipside of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers.
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Moving swiftly on to Elvira’s subsequent arrest, on a charge of witchcraft, and a climactic sacrificial execution by burning at the stake, this film keenly parodies the various torture-horrors (Witchfinder General, Mark Of The Devil, etc) combining their occult riffs with the light-hearted banter of TV series, Bewitched, in consistently amusing fantasy comedy routines.
“Yeah. I’ll do it for 50 bucks.”
Belatedly, feature-film Elvira, Mistress of The Dark spawned a one-off half-hour TV comedy, The Elvira Show (1993), and more recently Peterson co-wrote her follow-up movie, Elvira’s Haunted Hills (2001).
DVD extras: film notes (merely a plot synopsis), and text biographies.