There’s no doubt about it – the film version of Elvira was born out of Cassandra Peterson’s character’s appeal rather than an abundance of ideas for a full-length feature. Elvira’s rise from small-time horror movie host to star was a sort of happy accident; the intention was for a full television show, but due to those constraints Elvira and co. opted for a film deal instead. What results is a road movie that’s best described as a cross between Munster, Go Home and Footloose, in which Elvira inherits a house in a particularly moralistic town in Massachusetts and drives cross-country to fix it up, only to discover she’s also in possession of a magical book from her lineage that her evil Uncle Vinny (William Morgan Sheppard) wants to get his hands on. And, well, the rest of the town wants to get their hands on parts of Elvira too.
Elvira: Mistress of the Dark adheres mostly to the comedic elements inherent in the Elvira shtick, which means that immediately viewers will have a choice to make: does that innuendo-laden humor tickle their funny bone? The film features three writers – Peterson, Sam Egan, and John Paragon – who all took various scenes each and then combined them together into one whole, and often the comedy feels as disjointed as that writing style. Sometimes the laughs stick, especially during the movie’s most crude and raucous gags. But too often the jokes fall flat mostly due to the repetitious nature of the countless boob jokes at play here. In essence, Elvira: Mistress of the Dark is one long tease.
It takes quite a while to get to the actual horror elements of the movie, which highlights the tonal problems of the film. It’s never quite sure if it wants to go for the comedic romance elements, or if it wants a more Addams Family-esque juxtaposition between Elvira’s goth charms and small-town normalcy. More so, Elvira even expresses disdain for some of the horror that made her famous in the first place. Though Elvira: Mistress of the Dark is an attempt to get at the crux of the character’s backstory, it sometimes seems at odds with her style.
With that said, the latter half of the movie is much more enjoyable because it lets its inhibitions fly. More makeup effects, more monsters: all of these breathe life into a movie that is too content to just cruise on its namesake and Peterson’s alluring… qualities. It just takes Elvira: Mistress of the Dark too long to get there, mimicking the style of past monster-in-normalcy ideas without the substance.
Elvira: Mistress of the Dark has had a few Blu-ray releases in the past, but this Arrow Video release (first released in the UK in 2018, and now available for US audiences) sports a new “restoration from a 4k scan of original film elements.” Further information reveals that the actual restoration is 2k, and the source was an interpositive.
Arrow’s video quality is quite good, with a solid amount of depth and detail in its medium-grained representation. Skin tones are consistent and natural. The color has a bit of a cooler tone to it than a previous release from Nameless, which also tends to cause more blown whites and some inconsistent black crush (it’s apparent in some scenes, and missing in others). However, comparing screenshots, Arrow Video’s release looks to be about on par with the previous international release, meaning US buyers shouldn’t feel the need to import on this one.
Included audio is a DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo track which is perfectly acceptable though without much dynamism except for a couple lively montage numbers. No pops, hisses, sybillance or drop issues of note. English subtitles are also included.
Extras for this release are “new” in the sense that some of the previous documentary features have been revised, though I can’t say to what extent because I do not own the previous Nameless release. “Too Macabre,” a feature-length making-of special with interviews with much of the main cast and crew, is a wealth of information and well-directed too, going through the entire production process in detail. The other major featurette is “Recipe for Terror: The Creation of the Pot Monster,” taking a look at the design and special effects work needed to make the crock pot monster work. Three audio commentaries are collected from past releases including one with Cassandra Peterson, Edie McClurg, and John Paragon, one with James Signorelli and moderated by Tony Timpone, and another with Patterson Lundquist.
Also included are extensive galleries, trailers, and reversible cover artwork. An essay booklet was included with the first copies of the US release.
NEW restoration from a 4K scan of the original interpositive
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
Original Uncompressed Stereo 2.0 audio
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Introduction to the film by director James Signorelli (HD; 1:10)
2017 audio commentary with director James Signorelli, hosted by Fangoria Editor Emeritus Tony Timpone
2017 audio commentary with Elvira Webmaster and judge of US TV show The Search for the Next Elvira Patterson Lundquist
Archival audio commentary with actors Cassandra Peterson, Edie McClurg and writer John Paragon
NEW Too Macabre – The Making of Elvira: Mistress of the Dark – newly-revised 2018 version of this feature-length documentary on the making of the film including interviews with various cast and crew and rare never-before-seen archival material (HD; 1:37:04)
NEW Recipe for Terror: The Creation of the Pot Monster – newly-revised 2018 version of this featurette on the concept and design of the pot monster, as well as the other SFX of the movie (HD; 22:13)
Production Stills (chapter breaks; 14:40)
Behind the scenes stills (chapter breaks; 5:10)
SFX stills (chapter breaks; 11:10)
Original storyboards (chapter breaks; 4:31)
New York Premiere stills (chapter breaks; 1:10)
Miscellaneous stills (chapter breaks; 1:30)
Original US Theatrical trailer (unrestored HD; 1:49)
Teaser Trailer (unrestored HD; 1:05)
NEW Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Sara Deck
Click to view
Archive interview with Cassandra Peterson
Bally Pinball video tour
Arrow Video’s Blu-ray release for Elvira: Mistress of the Dark should be everything a fan needs without importing, including almost all previous extras and a quality restoration with minimal flaws. Those with a modicum of interest in the film can grab this one without worry.
Take a second to support Cultsploitation on Patreon!