Welcome back to 80s Bits, the weekly column in which we explore the best and worst of the Decade of Shame. With guest writers, hidden gems and more, it’s truly, truly, truly outrageous.
Elvira: Mistress of the Dark (1988) follows the story of the horror hostess Elvira “the girl with the enormous ratings” and how she became a Vegas stage sensation. Coincidently at the same time as being fired from her TV show Elvira receives news of her Aunt’s passing, her presence being required for the reading of the will. In a Price is Right montage the ghoulish beauty dreams of the fortune that will fund her Vegas stage show. Heading in her hotted up devil-black Cadillac on a desert filled road trip, Elvira arrives at the perfect no crime town to collect the inheritance. Envisaging a huge cash payout, she is left with a run down creepy house, a poodle and family cook book. Punking up pooch Gonk (who can change into anything) and tapping into the recipes’ real powers being the original Mistress of the Dark, her mother’s magic spell, Elvira leaps all hurdles and reaches her dream.
The film’s script is made up of one liners filled with double entendres and sexual innuendos such as a mustard dripping sausage falling in-between Elvira’s cleavage. Every character and comical line makes each minute of the movie so amusing. Elvira offers relief to a town whose main idea of fun is the local bowling alley, where the local council live in fear that someone somewhere is having a good time and the local hunk who owns the movie theatre falls in love with her but awkwardly doesn’t know how to show it. Teen girls idolise her and all teen boys fantasize about her.
The electric rock guitar riffs enhance Elvira’s Kiss/Alice Cooper/Cher image. A highly entertaining moment is captured in the dance montage flashdance scene to Michael Sembello’s “She’s a Maniac’. Special effects are intentionally B-grade, keeping the corniness on par throughout all aspects of the film.
The lead of this comical horror Cassandra Peterson creates an image sexy-bad enough to attract any pre-pubesant teen boy’s full attention. Contrary to this in Cassandra’s own words ‘Out of drag, I’m short, freckled and not that busty.” Ironically the storyline of the film is the mirror image of Cassandra’s life. Peterson life is one with fascinating turns of events. She went from being a childhood farm girl monster, having burns from a traumatic water boiling accident to an enormous breasted sex symbol performing in Las Vegas. Her career was thrown to different heights from none other than Elvis with the advice to “Get out of Vegas.” This led to meeting director Federico Fellini and working with him playing a biker girl and hooker in a Thirties bordello.
From then Cassandra developed her innate talent for improvisation and comic timing over the years into the character Elvira, hosting a horror movie program Elvira’s Movie Macabre. This aired B-grade horror movies with narration and commentary from the hostess with the mostest Elvira. This format was one that influenced horror programs familiar to audiences that were looking for a comical fright with such shows as Tales from the Crypt and Freddy’s Nightmares in the late 80s early 90s.
Happy Halloween and “Unpleasant dreams”.