Elvira: Mistress of the Dark (1988)
September 17, 2020 6:50 PM - Subscribe

Upon arriving in a small town where she has inherited a rundown mansion, a famous horror hostess battles an evil uncle, and townspeople who want her burned at the stake.

NYT review from 1988, paywalled image.

Elvira, Mistress Of The Dark is arguably the most famous of these frightful figures, becoming as much an icon of cheesy cinema as the schlock-horror stars she roasted on Los Angeles TV show Elvira’s Movie Macabre. Den of Geek (2010)

Interview with Cassandra Peterson A.V. Club (2009)

Happy birthday (dreadcentral 2020), Cassandra Peterson!
posted by porpoise (9 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I was born in the dusk of the 70's so I didn't get the "sex" parts (just the cheese part) and hadn't seen the television show. I loved that Elvira stuck to her guns and presented the way she wanted to, damn what other people think. Especially when other people think mistakenly.

That people come around to recognizing how wholesome she really is and actually overcoming their prejudice was fantasy dressing to top it off made this really endearing to me.

This is very much a product of the 80s.

Cassandra Peterson seems like such a lovely person. Dolly Parton level wholesome. I'm not into "meeting celebrities" or conventions, but I'd probably find an afternoon cup of tea with Peterson to be enchanting.
posted by porpoise at 7:09 PM on September 17, 2020 [6 favorites]

Biker Mama from Pee-wee's Big Adventure!
posted by Fukiyama at 7:50 PM on September 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

I watched this for the first time last year, expecting it to be "bad, but fun". It's legitimately great and The Addams Family movies that followed owe this a debt.

It's knowingly silly and cheesy but the raw presence and charisma of Elvira just carries the whole thing and the gothy punk rock attitude of the whole piece is delightful.

I know exactly what you mean, porpoise; Peterson just seems like a really genuine and wholesome person. Happy belated 69th nice birthday to her!
posted by slimepuppy at 8:42 AM on September 18, 2020 [4 favorites]

My mom and I used to watch Elvira host cheesy movies every weekend when I was a kid, she's the coolest. I was so shocked when I learned she has red hair!
posted by InfidelZombie at 9:45 AM on September 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

I've never seen this movie but I grew up watching Movie Macabre and Elvira is pretty great. You could call her the goth Dolly Parton and that's got the ring of truth, but she was also kind of a proto-MST3K with cleavage. A few years back she tried to bring the show back (with an opening theme by Jack Black!) but syndicated shows just aren't really a thing anymore and the show died a speedy death. It was a real shame. Everybody loves Elvira but these days we only get to see her around Halloween, showing up to be a judge on Halloween Wars or whatever. I've heard Peterson talk about how she's ready to hand the character over to another actor, she feels like she's getting too old to be the sexpot anymore, but I think that's madness. Anybody else would be an impersonator, an impostor. Even if they were really good, it just wouldn't be the same. There's only one true Elvira! (Plus, she still looks amazing.)

When I was a kid I used to wonder about what the heck she was. Like, was she supposed to be a vampire or a witch, or just some human woman with an enthusiasm for black dresses and castles? Then I heard somebody (probably Peterson) describe her as a "valley ghoul" and that settled that.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:37 PM on September 18, 2020 [4 favorites]

(God damn it. Jack White. Carry on.)
posted by Ursula Hitler at 7:51 PM on September 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

but she was also kind of a proto-MST3K with cleavage

Yes! That was a large part of what I couldn't express, that she was smart! Intelligent! She thought for herself and was true to her convictions.

She's also really quick, and with dead-on character reading.

In interviews, Peterson comes across as being very deliberate in how she traded on the character.

Really, as great or greater role model than any comic-book hero.

Agreed, Elvira is unique and a look-alike would be an Elvis impersonator. It's a testament that she still participates in entertainment, and is always delightful.

To me, Elvira's just some chick who likes black pantyhose and those types of dresses. And fuck those blondes. In the 80's. An anti-Reagan touchstone.
posted by porpoise at 8:10 PM on September 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

We didn't have cable when I was a kid in the '80s, so although Elvira was an inescapable part of the zeitgeist, I mostly knew her from beer commercials and the occasional guest spot on Friday Night Videos. But I had at least two girlfriends for whom she was a major role model, and so I've seen this movie a few times. It wasn't at all what I expected, and I think that calling her a goth Dolly Parton is pretty much right on. She's really fun and seems like a genuinely sweet and cool lady.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:14 AM on September 20, 2020 [3 favorites]

Elvira is a wonderful creation, and Cassandra by all accounts is pretty awesome. Best line from the original movie, after she bumped her head on an overhead sign:

GUY: How's your head?
ELVIRA: No complaints yet!
posted by davidmsc at 10:44 AM on October 18, 2020 [3 favorites]

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