Elvira Mistress Of The Dark DVD review

Elvira is waiting to see you on DVD. Anthony took up her invitation...

If there’s one thing American TV should be proud of spawning, it’s the B-movie horror host. As camp as the films they heckled, the likes of Sinister Seymour, Vampira and Dr Gangrene lit up the late-night schedules with corny flicks and cornier jokes.

Elvira, Mistress Of The Dark is arguably the most famous of these frightful figures, becoming as much an icon of cheesy cinema as the schlock-horror stars she roasted on Los Angeles TV show Elvira’s Movie Macabre.

Vampishly attired in a figure-hugging black dress, drag queen make-up and trademark beehive, Elvira in her 80s prime was a sight for sore eyes. Even with just one movie on the bill, the viewers still got to enjoy a double feature courtesy of their buxom hostess.

If you thought that joke was funny, dare I say, titillating, even, then I assure you that you will love every second of Elvira’s big screen début.

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I have to declare that for the first five minutes I wasn’t getting it at all. The OTT ribald wit was making my Are You Being Served! alarm scream in, well, alarm. Then it clicked: the key to understanding the film that is, not the alarm.

Pretend it’s a Carry On…  And so I did. And I enjoyed it.

Basically, imagine that Elvira is Barbara Windsor, and Gerald Thomas and Peter Rogers have decided to make her the film’s anchor, not Sid. Now take Kenneth Williams and divide him into the prude, reactionary townsfolk of Fallwell, Massachusetts.

These straights, led by the deliciously named Chastity Pariah (Edie McClurg – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Planes, Trains And Automobiles), really get their unmentionables in a twist when Babs, sorry, Elvira, drives into their lives to collect an inheritance from late Great-Aunt Morgana.

Expecting moolah and lots of it, Elvira is somewhat deflated when, instead, she gets lumped with her relative’s crumbling house and a cute poodle. Her dream of a Las Vegas show, which comes with a $50,000 price tag, is threatening to become a nightmare.

With nowhere else to turn, Elvira has to set up home in depressingly dull Fallwell. Still, she does her best, giving her poodle a goth-punk make-over, getting the town’s repressed teenagers to help spruce up the ramshackle residence and making moves on equally-repressed hunk Bob (Daniel Greene).

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In no time, the hostess with the most-est (and the measurements to prove it) is stirring things up quite a treat. Unfortunately, an after-curfew taster of her Vegas act at the local cinema ends with a tar and feathering and things only get worse thanks to Great-Uncle Vincent Talbot (William Morgan Sheppard).

Morgana’s nefarious brother is gunning for his great-niece because she was left a cookbook in the will. Not any ordinary cookbook, mind. A magic one.

Turns out Morgana was a powerful witch, just like Elvira is, even is she doesn’t know it. The cook-come-spell book is the McGuffin of the film and drives the plot to its fiery denouement as Vincent literally triggers a witch hunt in his bid to obtain the book and ultimate power.

Elvira, Mistress Of The Dark is a simple film busting with double-entendres, slapstick and entertaining set-pieces, such as the romantic supper that conjures a deliberately cheap rubber demon and the town picnic that turns into an orgy thanks to the magical equivalent of Viagra.

Actress Cassandra Peterson (who also co-wrote the screenplay) keeps things moving along briskly as the likeable, wisecracking Elvira and the whole thing is so delightfully 80s in its aesthetic (released in 1988) and playfully subverted as to have genuine cult appeal.

By the time the credits rolled, I had put Elvira up there with other comedy-horrors of the era such as Dead Heat and Transylvania 6-5000.

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It’s not subtle, it’s not sophisticated, but it’s a great way to waste 90-odd minutes. The only downside is that the film came too early to benefit from the 3-D boom, thatwould have been an eye-popping experience.

Extras-wise, there are a few biographies, including Cassandra Peterson’s (you may be interested to know she self-financed a sequel to the film in 2001, Elvira’s Haunted Hills) and film notes. No trailer though, or deleted scenes.

The Movie:

The Disc:

Elvira, Mistress Of The Dark is out now and available from the Den Of Geek Store.


3 out of 5