Elvira: Mistress of the Dark (1988)
Elvira: Mistress of the Dark (1988)

Genre: Horror Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 36 min.

Release Date: September 30th, 1988 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: James Signorelli Actors: Cassandra Peterson, Jeff Conaway, Frank Collison, Daniel Greene, Susan Kellermann, Edie McClurg, W. Morgan Sheppard




3 News plays its usual Elvira program (“Yours cruelly!”), during which the farcically slutty, playfully dimwitted, black-garbed, big-haired, pale-skinned, ample-bosomed hostess provides a bit of commentary before and after terrible, low-budget horror movie presentations. When sleazy producer “Longhorn” Earl (Lee McLaughlin) makes uncouth advances, Elvira pushes back, only to find herself without a job. And she’s expected to furnish $50,000 to finance a scheduled stage show in Las Vegas. But just in the nick of time, pal Manny (Charles Woolf) informs her of the passing of her great aunt, Mrs. Morgana Talbot, whose funeral might provide the much-needed funds.

Journeying across the country to Fallwell, Massachusetts, leaving a trail of dropped jaws and literal explosions in her wake, Elvira finally finds lodging at the scuzzy Cozy Cot Motel, though she’s continuously judged by the conservative, gossiping townsfolk. “Why, you don’t even fit in that dress!” During her stay, she must also contend with aggressive men, unfriendly family members (led by Uncle Vinny [W. Morgan Sheppard]), weak-willed conquests (including Bob [Daniel Greene]), a disappointing inheritance (in the form of an old, haunted house), a mysterious cookbook, the uptight ladies of the Fallwell Morality Club, and a touch of haywire witchcraft.

“There’s nothing wrong with G-rated movies, as long as there’s lots of sex and violence.” The humor isn’t spectacular, but the one-liners flow consistently and garner a laugh every so often. The majority of the comedy is fueled by sexual innuendos, sexual flirtations, sexual misinterpretations, flat-out sexual propositions, and plenty of sexual visuals. Writer/star Cassandra Peterson clearly knows what her brand of entertainment is all about.

Of course, the main appeal is Elvira’s physical attributes – fronted by her considerable pulchritudinous. Her breasts appear impossibly suspended within her low-cut dress, routinely pushed up against various objects or drizzled in various foods and liquids. At other points, she gets undressed, slowly, while jazzy saxophone music croons. And occasionally she simply jumps up and down, letting gravity take hold. Pairing this with her attractive confidence creates a mostly winning, if notably one-note, persona.

Filling in the gaps are bits of slapstick, comic montages, and a light love triangle. The predicaments are insincere, the supporting roles are insignificant, and the premise is flimsy; yet Elvira is an entirely watchable character, merging gothic titillation and a killer figure with bad puns and nods to iconic movies. The picture runs too long, with the gags steadily diminishing in favor of goofy magic and mayhem, though its mirroring of Z-grade flicks full of cheesy effects, gory makeup, and gooey puppetry is moderately amusing.

– Mike Massie

  • 4/10