Now That’s What I Call Quite Good: Elvira Mistress Of The Dark

elvira index

A short time ago I reviewed the latest comics adaptation of Elvira and was surprised that it was a nicely daft affair that didn’t have too many sex based gags, and mostly had fun bouncing around history meeting famous horror writers, so it made me nostalgic for her original eighties movie. I hadn’t seen it since my teenager years though and had no idea how well it’d hold up, but was vaguely optimistic that it’d be an entertaining view.

And it is indeed that, yes, it has the odd minor flaw but it’s largely a bright, breezy, if lightweight affair which has a lot of pretty funny moments in it. Starting with Elvira (Cassandra Peterson) presenting a tv show which mocks bad horror films, as she did in real life before finding fame, Elvira dreams of making it to Las Vegas and having her own show, the only problem being that the funding has fallen through and so it looks like it’s not going to happen.

But then as luck would have it (as Elvira comments herself) a relative dies and Elvira learns that she’s in the will, and so she heads off to the sleepy town of Fallwell, Massachusetts where she’s less than pleased to discover that her inheritance is only a dilapidated old mansion, a recipe book and a poodle. But she figures if she can fix the house up she might be quids in, though the fact that Fallwell is a town that hasn’t changed since the fifties and everyone who isn’t a lusty bloke hates her, along with her Uncle Vincent (William Morgan Sheppard) being a somewhat evil bastard, means that not everything might work out for our heroine.

Peterson originally wanted Tim Burton to direct and you can see why as it would have fitted his eighties style perfectly, though it’s not quite as dark and as quirky as most of his work was back then and if anything most similar to Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. It’s a kind of reverse fish out of water scenario too where Elvira doesn’t give a toss about what people think of her or that the small town is so prudish, but nearly everyone around her can’t believe what a wild and crazy girl she is.

It’s a film with a lot of strong jokes, throughout there’s a fair amount of fourth wall breaking which is done in an appealing manner, and there’s a great dream sequence where she imagines the will reading as if it were a cheesy game show. Also fun is her Uncle Vincent’s camp villainy, Elvira’s attempts at cooking leading to a hellish creature trying to kill her, and then later the townsfolk eat one of her dishes which makes them all horny in a scene which could have been creepy but thankfully isn’t, and most of her one liners hit home effectively too.

It’s not a perfect comedy and some of the puns haven’t aged well (with gags like “I didn’t know I had a good aunt let alone a great one” feeling like something from one of the weaker 50’s slapstick movies) while the amount of jokes about Elvira’s cleavage really does get tiring after a short time, yes it was a large aspect of the character but there was no need to go to that particular well quite so often. But most of the time it’s a warmhearted and good spirited affair, and like it’s central character it has an awful lot of charm.

Alex Finch.
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