Sunday, October 12, 2008

ELVIRA: Mistress of the Dark

Ever re-watch a movie that you thought you loved and discovered that maybe you didn't love it after all. ELVIRA: MISTRESS OF THE DARK is that kind of movie. I remember seeing it shortly after it was released in 1988 (directed by James Signorelli) and thinking, "Hey, this is actually better than I thought it would be." 20 years later, I'm thinking, "Hey, this is NOT actually even as good as I thought it would be the first time I saw it, when I thought it was gonna be bad!". Well, having said, it's not terrible. It does have it's comedic moments, mostly supplied by great character actors like Edie McClurg (most famous as Mrs. Poole on THE HOGAN FAMILY) and Pat Crawford Brown (now known as Ida Greenberg on DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES).
The story concerns the curvaceous Elvira (Cassandra Peterson), a local TV horror hostess who dreams of playing Vegas. After she is fired from her job, she learns that the casino that she booked needs $50,000 upfront before they'll let her perform. Within minutes, news that her Great Aunt Morgana has died and has possibly left her an inheritance, gives her (and us) hope that she will make it to Vegas. 
Buxon beauty Elvira drives cross country in her awesome convertible to Fallwell, MA (tee-hee), the most conservative town this side of Harper Valley. Once there, she meets the locals - all prim, proper  and highly bigoted. What follows is an unending series of  breast and penis jokes. Our busty goth gal soon discovers that she has a Great Uncle Vincent (which would have been great if Vincent Price played the part), who despises her as well. Turns out, the full-figured Elvira inherits her great aunt's decaying Mansion on the Universal backlot and a mysterious book of "recipes." Uncle Vinnie, who inherits nothing– is not amused.
Her creepy uncle goes to all sorts of extremes to get the book out of Elvira's possession, including hiring sleazy Jeff Conaway and some other goon to abscond it. Various subplots involving bosomy Elvira's crush on the local hunky movie theater owner (could he wear his jeans any tighter-or higher?), her "new wave" makeover of  Aunt Morgana's dog Algonquin (poor thing!) and her titillating friendship with the local teens all play out as silly as can be expected. The voluptuous vixen is fun to watch at times, but her wisecracking "valley girl" schtick wears thin pretty quickly. McClurg's Chastity Pariah has a few great lines when a local outdoor fair turns into an orgy thanks to our little chesty witch.
Along the way, our ample heroine learns that she's inherited some magical abilities and can now use them to great effect. The climax of the film is the best part, as she is about to be burned at the stake by the townsfolk. I will not spoil it for those who have not seen it. Suffice to say, she makes it to Vegas in time to performing a Cher-meets-Divine dance number that includes some outrageous pastie twirling. Overall a very mixed bag, but fun to watch if your expectations are very low...low-cut and lowbrow.
Using my old "Huh?" scale - I'd give this one a 5 outta 10.
Cassandra Peterson herself gets a perfect 10 in my book. Her commitment to causes such as gay rights and animal welfare have earned her legions of fans outside of the horror movie world. Playing the same character in all sorts of media (TV, films, radio, music, theme parks, video games, comic books, etc.) for over 25 years, she has created a larger-than-life persona that continues to entertain new audiences internationally and there doesn't seem to be an end in sight. Check out her website for her latest appearances.

1 comment:

shannon zeta-jonez said...

I'm sorry this is one of the best comedic parts ever. The way Elvira delivers a line is shear genius. the deadpan delivery is perfect. yes the supporting cast is impeccable. Bob is a great dumb hunk, the female newscaster at the beginning, even the gas attendant that gets blown up. not to mention the soundtrack. I still enjoy this movie. It's still as quotable today as it was, when it was released. When someone asks you a question and the answer is obviously yes just quote E and say,"does a chicken have a pecker?" and watch the reaction of your friends or whomever. It's always a good laugh for all. That's not to say Elvira has all the good lines, they do share some with the rest of the cast. With a good script, pacing, editing, and special effects all with a budget of $1, what more could you ask for? Elvira and cast give it there all and it delivers like Domino's. I think you just weren't receptive to the power, that is Elvira Mistress of the Dark.