Elvira: Mistress of the Dark (1988)

After Easy Money, Saturday Night Live veteran James Signorelli directed one more film. This one — starring Cassandra Peterson as her Elvira character.

In 1981, six years after Sinister Seymour, the producers of LA’s Fright Night decided to do another show and asked Vampira — Maila Nurmi — to help them with the project. There were creative differences — supposedly Nurmi wanted Lola Falana to play Vampira — and soon the station just did the show themselves (for her side of the story, please watch Vampira and Me).

Peterson had already lived a crazy life before she auditioned and won the role of the new horror host. She was a Vegas showgirl at 17, briefly dated Elvis, played a showgirl in Diamonds Are Forever, posed for men’s magazines like High Society, tried out to be Ginger in a new Gilligan’s Island, was on the cover of Tom Waits’ album (she claims that she doesn’t remember but it totally could be her), played in rock bands in Italy, ended up in Fellini’s Roma, joined the improv group The Groundlings and then ended up as a DQ on KROQ.

Is this Elvira?

Anyways, back to Elvira. The station allowing her to create the image of her character. Originally, she wanted to look like Sharon Tate in The Fearless Vampire Killers, but ended up with the punky and busty look we’ve all come to know and love.

Before the first episode even aired, Normi sued, claiming that Elvira was too close to her character. I’ll leave it up to you, dear reader, but they are quite similar. However, her Valley Girl delivery and sarcastic tone was a real difference and Elvira went from local star to pop icon. That all led to this, her first movie.

Elvira, Mistress of the Dark quits her job in LA after the station’s new owner has a #metoo moment with her. She wants to start an act in Vegas, but needs $50,000. Luckily, her great aunt Morgana has just died and she has to travel to Fallwell, Massachusetts to claim the inheritance.

So what does she get? A mansion, a recipe book and Morgana’s pet poodle, Algonquin. But once she’s in town, she learns that no one is allowed to have fun and she sets out to change everyone’s grey demeanor. Oh yeah — and her uncle Vincent just wants the cookbook — which is a book of spells — and he also wants to sacrifice her so that he can take over the world. Thus, magic battles ensue, Algonquin becomes a rat at one point and the town’s morality club gets hit with a sex spell that gets them all arrested for indecent exposure.

Fellow Groundling Edie McClurg shows up as one of the villains, as does former Grease and Taxi heartthrob Jeff Conaway. Other Groundlings in the film are Lynne Marie Stewart, Deryl Carroll, Joseph Arias, Tress MacNeille and John Paragon.

Scripted by Sam Egan and Paragon, who is better known as Jambi and Pterri from his Pee-Wee’s Playhouse days, along with Peterson, this movie’s entertainment level will depend on how much you love puns and Elvira.

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