What fem horror enthusiast that grew up in the 80s wasn’t shaped by the strong-willed, hilariously witty and drop-dead gorgeous Elvira (Cassandra Peterson)?
I was already a hardcore fan by the time ELVIRA: MISTRESS OF THE DARK (1988) came out. I still remember going to the VHS rental stores in town and picking up all of the big-box Thriller Video films she hosted. She was everything I wanted to be.
Unsurprisingly, I also crushed on her hardcore. She was and remains the total package. She had the eyes, the makeup, the hair, the legs and oh, the greatest tits, ever. I loved big tits when I was young. Imma love them even more now! Elvira owned herself and her sexuality unabashedly, and she cut anyone down to size who dared questioned her right to do so. She is freedom personified, and I love her so.
When ELVIRA: MISTRESS OF THE DARK came out, I was on Cloud 9. The film is admittedly a horror-comedy with a definite lean into the humor. It’s like THE BURBS (1989) meets CLUB DREAD (2004).
The movie opens when she tells off and pushes down her creeper boss who tries to pull a Weinstein. This immediately establishes her dominance and ability to take care of herself. She may dress in lowcut dresses and be unafraid of the cha-ching her moneymaker brings, but she would rather lose her job than herself. That’s Elvira’s moral code, and it’s a helluva lot more noble than the codes of her conforming, puritanical naysayers.
She’s notified that an unknown great aunt died in Massachusetts and she’s a listed beneficiary. She drives down without missing a beat and starts coming across shitheads immediately.
On the road, she picks up an axe murdering hitchhiker who is forced to make his escape from the Mistress of the Dark. Elvira doesn’t play! She’s a rough and tough cookie that is unfazed by killers, warlocks and uptight bitches.
Once in town, Elvira immediately is confronted by ultra-conservative twat Chastity (Edie McClurg) who runs the morality club. Sexy vamp Elvira threatens to beat the shit out of the bitch for piping up. Gooooo Elvira!
There is nothing subtle about her. She is beautifully in-your-face and doesn’t give a fuck what anyone thinks. She is her own person and lives by her own rules. She knows the level of her prowess and enjoys flaunting it.
When she rents a room at a motel, she meets the owners Mrs. (Pat Crawford Brown) and Mr. Meeker (William Duell). Though, Mr. Meeker is cool beans, the Mrs. is a self-righteous hag. She gives Elvira lip before turning her fury to her own granddaughter Robin (Ellen Dunning) for wanting to wear a bit of makeup. Fuck, Mrs. Meeker! She’s a goddamn judgmental weirdo.
If those evil biddies weren’t enough to deal with, Elvira also rubs lame-ass, pious Patty (Susan Kellermann) the wrong way. Patty works at a bowling alley that Elvira went to hang at. While there, the Mistress is hit on by two scumbags. One of the douches is portrayed by Jeff Conway of GREASE (1978) fame. Whenever his scenes come up, I’m like “Fuck you, Kenickie! Keep your paws off Elvira and while you’re at it, don’t touch Rizzo (Stockard Channing), either. Both are out of your league, pal!” I talk to my TV a lot. Lockdown’s been tough, guys!
When Elvira stands up for herself with those two losers, they decide to use brute force. Thankfully, bulky, shy and kind, Bob (Daniel Greene) comes over to help. Bob isn’t my type but still a fine gent. Elvira certainly likes the heat he’s packing, but so does Miss Patty.
Patty is a dime-a-dozen girl. She wants to come across all class and dignity but she’s a faux fem wench who needs a beatdown. These types always think they can go toe-to-toe with real Fem Goddesses and they fail every single time. They can’t measure up in any way, shape or form.
Now, it isn’t only women that Elvira has to deal with. Uncle Vincent (William Morgan Sheppard) is very unhappy that his sister left her recipe book to Elvira, which is really filled with magic spells. Vinnie offers to buy the book for $50. At first, Elvira agrees but the book vanishes, which is good because Vince is a villainous warlock.
Elvira also inherited a mansion and a poodle puppy. Imma love the poodle! Elvira gives the doggie a cool, badass, heavy metal, makeover, and it’s fab.
Other than the pup and Bob, the only other allies of Elvira are a bunch of teens. The boys have mad crushes, the gals look up to her and Robin needs an escape from human-hyena granny Meeker.
The kids all restore the dilapidated mansion, and make it into this gorgeous neon multi-colored beauty. It’s so loud and bright; just like me!
Out of money, Elvira attempts to get a job everywhere, but the morality club makes it near impossible. Thankfully, Bob runs a movie theater that’s about to go under because it only shows G rated flicks. She changes it up to the B Horror films like ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES (1978), hosts the event and enlists her teen buds to fill the house. It’s a near total success, until Patty covers her in oil. Damn that Patty!
Elvira is never defeated though. She’s ready to fight back immediately afterwards and vows revenge. She gets it, too! Elvira knocks around the puffed up, smug, skank and reveals that unlike her own, Patty’s tits are fakers. The jealous, bra-stuffing bully is pissed because Elvira has what she wants - big ol’ knockers, and Bob’s attention.
Elvira takes on the whole town and is nearly burned at the stake. Thankfully, she gets away only to be confronted by her Uncle Vincent in a showdown of magical powers. No one can beat the Mistress of the Dark, though, and that’s the real point of this film.
There are times, Bob tries to be the protector. He’s valiant and heroic, but Elvira doesn’t need protecting. When Bob tries to stand up against Vinnie, he gets pulverized. Elvira, however, gets the upper-hand. She is no damsel. Sometimes, she may play a damsel but it’s an act to get what she wants. She’s clever and that’s just one element of her prowess, and to watch her work it is beyond entertaining.
In one of the most memorable scenes, Elvira escapes thru a gate using her tits to push it open. It’s absolutely wonderful as she uses her amazingly beautiful fem form brazenly. She loves her body and her body loves her. She feels no shame showing it off, nor should she. God bless, Elvira.
I love this movie as much as I did when I was a child, and perhaps I love Elvira even more than I did then. I admired her fierce nature when I was young, but I didn’t really understand how much of a rebel she truly was. As lighthearted as this film is, the censorship patrol was a big thing. There was a big push to keep women covered and chaste, while painting the female body as offensive. It was puritanical bullshit then and it is puritanical bullshit now.
Elvira is a badass who never let anyone, man or woman keep her down. She rolled over for no one and always stayed true to herself. She personally means the world to me, and provided much strength and solace when I was a strange loner with no friends in school.
She is a defining Fem Goddess of Horror who paved the way for so many after her.