Few figures from the horror genre are as well recognized as Elvira. She’s a late night horror host turned household name. And she’s as much fun as she’s ever been in the zany feature film, Elvira: Mistress of the Dark.
The flick sees charismatic television host Elvira (Cassandra Peterson) leaving her gig at a local network affiliate to pursue dreams of a stage show in Las Vegas. But before her Vegas aspirations can be realized, she finds herself relocating to the small town in which her late great aunt lived. Once there, she learns that the city is overrun with small-minded puritans. Can the bewitching Mistress of the Dark work her magic on the locals and show them how to loosen up and have a good time? Suffice to say that If she can’t, no one can.
It may not be entirely evident from the plot crunch above but what stands out to me in revisiting this film for the first time in a long time is just how fiercely feminist the titular character is. She stands up to a lecherous creep of a network executive, scares off an axe murderer, and tells a young woman (in so many words) that it’s ok to be exactly who she is, regardless of what anyone else tries to tell her; and that all transpires within the first twenty minutes of the feature’s runtime.
Furthering the feminist message: Elvira isn’t afraid to use her feminine wiles to her advantage but it’s always on her terms. She doesn’t let the men in the movie exploit her and she never waits for them to come to her rescue. In fact, she literally throws a pervy real estate agent out of her home with the exclamation, “Just because this house is up for grabs doesn’t mean I am.” And that’s really representative of her attitude throughout the entire picture. She may have her goods on display but she realizes that it’s her right to dress exactly as she wants and that doesn’t mean she owes anyone a damn thing.
In addition to a strong message of female empowerment, Elvira: Mistress of the Dark also makes the always-relevant point that you never need to change who you are to conform to someone else’s idea of what you ought to be. Elvira never even tries to fit in to the antiquated customs of the puritanical town she finds herself stuck in. But she is able to help the townsfolk understand that sex is something to be celebrated and not to be ashamed of.
My only criticism, if you could even call it that is the flick is a little hokey at times. But I hesitate to really categorize that as a fault, seeing as the camp factor is almost always in the service of sending up the kind of cinema Elvira was known for championing (and lampooning) in her years as a television host.
I could talk about the merits of the film ad nauseam but I want to shift gears and dive into what’s really important about the film’s recent Blu-ray release: The bonus content. The folks at Arrow Video have outdone themselves once again. The 2020 Blu-ray release boasts a revised feature-length documentary on the making of the film that does a great job of rounding up cast members to look back on the picture (fondly) and also dish some really fascinating trivia. For example, I was surprised to learn that Brad Pitt was almost cast as one of the teenage boys in the film. There’s much more to uncover in the making-of doc. But I will stop there so as not to spoil too much.
Additionally, there is a revised featurette on the pot monster that pops out of the ‘casserole’. The very existence of this bonus feature is a testament to how in tune Arrow Video is to what fans want. You’d be hard pressed to find a horror enthusiast that doesn’t name that scene as one of the film’s most memorable. And this retrospective feature has the answers to just about any question one might have regarding how that masterful sequence was put together.
Moreover, there’s not one but three audio commentary tracks included. The special features are a huge improvement over the 2019 US Blu-ray release that contained the dazzling special feature that is an SD theatrical trailer. As I mentioned before, Arrow Video knows what fans want. And they don’t disappoint with the love and care put into their release.
If you’re a fan of the film, this Blu-ray is an absolute must. I apologize for the tardiness of my critique but COVID delayed shipping severely and I didn’t get my hands on a screener until more than two months after the release date.
WICKED RATING: 8/10
Director(s): James Signorelli
Writer(s): Sam Egan, John Paragon, and Cassandra Peterson
Stars: Cassandra Peterson, Edie McClurg, and Daniel Greene
Release: April 28, 2020 (Arrow Blu-ray)
Studio/ Production Co: NBC Productions, New World Pictures
Budget: $7,500,000 (estimated)
Sub-Genre: Horror Comedy