10/1/09

B.L.O.G. Presents: Elvira, Mistress of the Dark

Hello, folks, and welcome to the first post of October. With all these great horror films to come, how could I not start off this month with the most curvaceous of all horror hostesses? So that’s what this week, Beautiful Ladies of Genre turns it’s ogling eyes toward, Cassandra Peterson, better known as….

Ahh, yes, Elvira. I think you would be hard pressed to find a male horror fan who had not wanted to be hard pressed by Elvira. I know I’m no exception. My first contact with Elvira probably came from her Coors beer commercials in the ‘80’s, but I always wondered about the woman behind the wig. That being said I was generally too mesmerized by her gazongas to remember to look up anything about her. Since I’m starting off this month with a look at her first film, I managed to pull it together long enough to focus and get some factual information for you.

Here’s just a few of her accomplishments before Cassandra Peterson became the Mistress of the Dark. In 1969, just after graduating high school, she traveled to Las Vegas and became the Guinness Book affirmed youngest showgirl in Sin City history. She dated Elvis Presley who encouraged her to become a singer, which she did traveling to Italy to front a band called I Latins Ochanats. While in Italy, she met Fellini who gave her a bit part in 1972’s Roma. Returning to America, she joined the influential comedy troupe The Groundlings where she met up with another future costumed character, Pee Wee Herman a.k.a Paul Rubens. She posed for photos in several men’s nudie magazines, and maybe even appeared on the cover of Tom Waits’ album Small Change. (I say maybe because she doesn’t deny it, but she doesn’t recall posing for the photo either.)

It was in 1981 that everything changed for Miss Peterson, and after getting a job as a horror hostess for an L.A. based television station, she was charged with coming up with a character. She had two ideas, a take off of Sharon Tate’s look from The Fearless Vampire Killers or a sexy punk/vampire look. The latter became the producer’s choice, and with a black beehive wig and a skintight black dress Elvira was born. It didn’t all go smoothly though. Peterson was hit with a cease and desist order by Maila Nurmi, better known as Vamipira, for infringing on her likeness. Fortunately the courts didn’t agree with Nurmi stating that a “likeness means the actual representation of someone else’s appearance, not a simply a close resemblance.” With the legal wrangling behind her, her show became a success, and it quickly lead to Tonight Show appearances, the beer ads, and even her own motion picture.

You might wonder how we got three paragraphs in and haven’t got around to the movie. Well, that’s because there’s just not that much to say about it. Written by Peterson, John Paragon (a frequent collaborator of both Peterson and Paul Rubens), and Sam Egan, the film follows Elvira as she gets fired from her horror hostess job, inherits the estate of long lost aunt Morgana Talbot, and she goes off to a small puritanical town called Fallwell to collect her inheritance. Once there, she stirs up trouble by inciting the youth (especially the young boys hormones) and crosses her Uncle Vincent Talbot (William Morgan Sheppard) when she won’t give up Morgana’s cookbook (read: spell book). Somehow she finds time in this for romance with the local movie theater owner, Bob Redding (Daniel Greene), but no amount of sex appeal can keep the townsfolk from forming a torch wielding mob with the intention of burning Elvira at the stake for witchcraft.

Director James Signorelli had only one movie credit to his name, the 1983’s mediocre Rodney Dangerfield film Easy Money, when he climbed into the big chair. Though, to be fair, he served as cinematographer on Gordon Park’s 1972 film Superfly. More telling of Signorelli’s career had been his connection to Saturday Night Live that began in 1977. While he is credited as the director of classic skits such as “Little Chocolate Doughnuts”, the comedic timing of Elvira, Mistress of the Dark has more in common with Wayne’s World 2 than The Blues Brothers. I suppose its to be expected that the humor in an Elvira movie would revolve around her bosoms, possibly because they have their own gravitational pull, but the jokes got a little stale after a while. Though there were still sight gags a plenty, and the punk rock poodle she styled made me laugh every time I saw it.

Thankfully, the film really shined when we got to spend a little time with the puritanical townsfolk. A stellar cast of character actors shine in their respective roles. This is especially true of a couple of performers namely Edie McClurg as Chastity Pariah, the town gossip, and Kurt Fuller as Mr. Glotter, the lecherous real estate agent. If you don’t think you recognize the names, then you will surely recognize the faces. These two are the best kind of character actors. They are familiar faces who always bring something new to each role. Also popping up in Elvira, Mistress of the Dark was Daniel Green who is better known to readers of The LBL as Paco Quarack, the cybernetic, arm wrestling assassin in Hands of Steel. Greene proves he can deliver lines if called upon to, but the one scene where he appeared to be sweaty all I could think about was his turn in the Martino classic.

Now I’ve hammered on this film a bit, but that’s not to say that I don’t like it. When it came out on video in 1989, it was a repeated rental, and a thirteen year old boy was probably the target audience for this film. Taking that in mind, the flick did provide quite a few genuine laughs, but Elvira’s double entendre humor is just more suited for short doses than a full length picture. So, while the film is not great, it is at least good. Still I might have had as much fun watching It Conquered the World (the film Elvira is hosting as the film begins) as I did watching Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. So there you have it, my thoughts on Elvira’s first foray into film and the first film in October. Join me back here as the month get’s even more terrifying tomorrow and until then in the words of today’s B.L.O.G, “Unpleasant Dreams.”

Bugg Rating


Here's a short video where Elvira explains further the origins of her character.

11 comments:

  1. As much as I adore Elivra, I never did see this. I believe all the reasons why are confirmed in this review. lol

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  2. Great article and review. I gotta admit - ELVIRA, MISTRESS OF THE DARK is one of my Halloween faves to watch this time of year. I think it's because I had such a HUGE crush on her when I was younger during the 80s that nostalgia kicks in anytime I watch this film. I own it both on VHS and DVD and I never get tired of it. In fact, me and my cousins quote lines from this film every once in a while. I think it's a better film than you make it to be. It's supposed to be stupid and silly, even though I think the ending takes itself a bit too seriously at time. And that end scene with her boobs - *drools*. But I see where you stand on it and totally respect where you're coming from. It's nothing but a guilty pleasure. To see it as anything other than that would be missing the point.

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  4. I think this movie is at least a 3 bug. When he's wrong it's my job to tell him.

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  5. Oh yeah, this is a great and fun slice of dorky horror radness. Most of the jokes are of the eye-rolling "bad" variety, and the "horror parts" are pretty damn forgettable, but Elvira's "gazongas", as you so expertly put it, definitely make the world worth saving. The one sequence where's she's lying around at home in some black t-shirt? Pure, lecherous dreaminess.

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  6. I did NOT know that about "Small Change". But, if wikipedia says so, that's good enough for me.

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  7. Yeah, it's a great guilty pleasure...and far superior to Elvira's Haunted Hills - which I have trouble sitting through.

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  8. I just had Haunted Hills recommended to me today. I'm told it's hilarious!

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  9. It was extremely interesting for me to read that article. Thanx for it. I like such topics and everything that is connected to them. I would like to read more on that blog soon.

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  10. Keep on posting such articles. I like to read articles like that. By the way add more pics :)

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  11. She's always been a beauty since i was young. We need to see more of her ..

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