I pretty much grew up with Elvira as a kid, and I’m old enough to remember the bygone era of the horror host. Elvira was one of the last hold outs for a long time as Television changed formats and needed less filler with big personalities introducing us to movies. Elvira managed to live on as a cult icon, appearing in music, and on pretty much anything and everything that involved horror and or Halloween. It was only a matter of time until there was “Mistress of the Dark”
It’s tough to find someone like Elvira who can squeeze in so many double entendres in to only a half hour of comedy. “The Elvira Show” was essentially like the movie from the late eighties, but extended in to a sitcom setting. It was “Bewitched” meets “Sabrina” meets “Married with Children” with Elvira dominating the screen as always with her sexuality and sharp delivery of one liners. There are so many great sexual puns squeezed in to the opening scenes of the pilot from replying to hunky officer Chip “I bet you can’t eat just one,” to explaining that she and her family will be like the Cleavers, with she, of course, being “The Beaver.”
So not only is Elvira a descendent of a witch, but she’s also the descendent of a Romanian countess. Truth be told, I’d love to see Elvira descend in to my bed, but that’s another article for another day. The good news Cassandra Peterson still has her unkempt sense of humor and she still looks damn good cracking wise and getting herself in to trouble as the Mistress of the Dark. “Haunted Hills” is the further adventures of Elvira, as the film is set in 1851 where Elvira and her servant Zou Zou travel the countryside performing for various villages. A self-proclaimed celebrity, Elvira and her servant make a habit of skipping out of bills when given the order from rather aggressive innkeepers, and the two make their days on the run and hoping for jobs.
I would have loved to be a fly on the wall during the writing of “Mistress of the Dark.” Basically, the entire formula for comedy is comprised of a steady delivery of sex joke, double entendre, joke about Elvira’s breasts, sex joke, double entendre, joke about Elvira’s breasts, sex joke, double entendre, joke about Elvira’s breasts. Lather, rinse, and repeat. Hope for the best! Not to say it’s a bad formula, but after an hour, it becomes so predictable, you can see when a joke is about to fly at the audience, and it doesn’t really land all the time. But then again, Cassandra Peterson makes even the most clunky one-liner land, thanks to her almost unabashed goofiness, and her ability to use her chest as a sight gag more times than not.
For anyone who used to see this film when it originally premiered, using her chest as a form of laughs and awe from the men in the audience never gets old. When I was seven I’d see this movie every single time it was on television and it’s not because the movie is a comedy classic. Granted, “Mistress of the Dark” has a lot going for it. It never tries too hard and actually has fun with the premise. Cassandra Peterson uses this opportunity to bank on the popularity of her character while also giving her something to do. She provides the audience with her origin, a back story about her family, and she never hesitates to flirt with men around her in spite of the disgust of the puritanical town she ends up in.
There endless sex jokes and sight gags, so much so that the script would only be about four pages without them included. After quitting her famous cable show, Elvira sets out to start her own Vegas act, but she needs almost a hundred thousand dollars to fund it. She’s called back to her aunt’s home town Fallwell to inherit her possessions after she’s died, and after moving in to her dark mansion and adopting her dog, Elvira discovers she comes from a long line of witches. Meanwhile, her evil long lost uncle wants the sacred book of “recipes” Elvira’s aunt has left behind, while Elvira battles the town’s puritanical government, all of whom will do whatever it takes to run her out of town. Elvira runs amok garnering the love of the town’s teens, and even turns a small picnic in to an orgy after she botches a stew.
“Mistress of the Dark” is by no means a masterpiece, but compared to the likes of similar fare like “Repossessed,” it’s just infinitely more watchable and entertaining. Elvira sticks closely to the horror genre, providing a fish out of water comedy that was quite popular in films like “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure” and the eventual “Addams Family” big screen debut. Elvira herself is a likable character filled with movie references and shameless homages, while also never afraid to flaunt her assets to everyone she meets, even smothering her own windshield when she cleans it at a gas station. It may not be the comedy that re-invented horror comedies, but Elvira’s feature film debut is an entertaining and raunchy foray with the always sexy and unique Cassandra Peterson keeping together a formula plot and hit or miss jokes and one-liners with her wit, personality, and pair of talents always heaving for the audience.
One of the many classic devices of American television much of today’s youth will never get a chance to experience is the horror host. Though there are many talented performers keeping the tradition alive, we don’t have a glut of horror hosts as we once had. And it’s a shame because horror movies are ultimately an experience, and the horror host is the persona that keeps us watching and makes the viewing experience worthwhile in the end. “American Scary” is a brilliant and utterly fantastic tribute to the age of horror hosts, and really excels at informing audiences of a once American facet of television that no longer exists.
“FilmGore” is one of the many horror compilations grindhouse fans will get a kick out of, as it’s not only a compilation of the some of the most famous and obscure horror films of all time, but the presentation as a whole cuts through the droning dialogue and just zeroes in on the blood and grue. Basically it’s all one big cut together clip show from horror geeks and it shows. Dixon’s writing paired with the essence of Ackerman provides the film with a sense of charisma, in spite of the film basically being one big excuse to show off clips without much of a structure.
Penny Dreadful is a hot hunk of woman, and in a world where Elvira, Zacharly, Joe Bob Briggs, Dr. Demento and many other folks helped to ease the pain of horrible movies, Penny Dreadful and her friends could be the carrier of the torch. In the genre of horror, the females mostly always rule. Men still love Elvira, Vampira, Debbie Rochon, and the rest of the legendary brood, and Penny Dreadful carries this legacy with a New England series that excels at showing truly awful films.
Penny Dreadful’s smexxiness otherwise cushions the blow of the garbage like “The Beast of Yucca Flats,” and it’s a suggested little horror series where you can find it on Public Access. “Shilling Shockers” is obviously a series that derives from the formula of “Horrible Horror” and “Mystery Science Theater,” in which our hostess, Penny Dreadful, has some fun with props, entertains us with some funny commentary, and introduces a bad film.