July 30, 2020  (Web Review)

Elvira: Mistress of the Dark

Arrow Films, 96 min., PG-13, Blu-ray: $39.95, Apr. 28

Reviewer rating: 2.0/4

Cassandra Peterson began her career as Elvira, the slinky black-garbed hostess of “Movie Macabre”, on a Los Angeles TV station in 1981, and her rude remarks about the grade-B movies the program featured—as well as her penchant for risqué comments, beehive hairdo and displays of ample cleavage—made her a local star. Syndication and national celebrity—including appearances on talk shows, including Johnny Carson’s, followed, so a movie was almost inevitable. This 1988 horror farce—in which Elvira leaves the TV studio and travels to the repressed town of Fallwell, Massachusetts, to collect an inheritance from her great-aunt Morgana that she plans on using to finance a Vegas act—is not a good movie by any but camp standards, but genre fans will appreciate this Blu-ray release, weighed down as it is with extras. In the ramshackle plot Elvira, initially disappointed that she has been left only her great-aunt’s dilapidated house and pet poodle, turns her attention to waking up the sleepy town, especially its docile teens, and romancing Bob (Daniel Greene), the burg’s handsome theatre owner. In the process, she runs up against Patty (Susan Kellermann), the owner of the bowling alley who has her eye on Bob, and Chastity Pariah (Edie McClurg), the puritanical town matriarch who sees her as a danger to the place’s placidity. The major threat to Elvira, however, is her great-uncle Vincent (W. Morgan Sheppard), a warlock who wants to acquire Morgana’s spellbook and will rouse the townspeople to burn Elvira at the stake to get it. In response Elvira not only learns how to use the book but discovers her own magical powers, defeating Vincent and, with his fortune, starting her Vegas act. The movie is a parade of feeble jokes, heavy-handed double entendres, chintzy special effects, and outrageously broad performances (especially by Peterson), but there are occasional flashes of wit (like the sight of baby Elvira), and in a picture like this, one is expected to appreciate the groaners. In addition to a crisp, appropriately garish, new transfer, the Blu-ray boasts a cornucopia of bonus features: an expanded “making of” featurette titled Too Macabre (97 m.), another on the effects, especially the so-called “Pot Monster” (22 m.), six image galleries (38 m.), two trailers (3 m.), and three separate audio commentaries, the first with Peterson, McClurg and co-writer John Paragon, the second with director James Signorelli and former Fangoria editor Tony Timpone, and the third with Patterson Lundquist, an actor who is also the webmaster of Elvira.com. Signorelli also contributes an amusing introduction to the movie in which he needs editing to complete his lines. Except for genre fans, not a necessary purchase. (F. Swietek)