• Elvira’s Haunted Hills (Shout! Factory) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: October 5th, 2021.
    Director: Sam Irvin
    Cast: Cassandra Peterson, Richard O'Brien, Mary Scheer, Scott Atkinson, Mary Jo Smith
    Year: 2001
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    Elvira’s Haunted Hills – Movie Review:

    This second feature film to bring Elvira, Mistress Of The Dark, to the big screen was directed by Sam Irvin and while it may not be as funny or as good as the big breasted horror hostess' first voyage to cinemas, it's a fun time killer full of her trademark innuendos and double entendres with a few nice moments of homage to horror films of the past.

    The film is set in 1851 in the Carpathian Mountains where Elvira (Cassandra Peterson) and her maid, Zou-Zou (Mary Jo Smith), are kicked out of their home for not paying the rent. The landlord chases them through town and they decide, well, now is as good a time as any to try and make it to Paris for a gig at what is basically a burlesque show. The only problem? Getting there! It seems like they've hit some good luck when they're picked up at the side of the road by a carriage inhabited by one Dr. Bradley Bradley (Scott Atkinson), who enjoys Elvira's ample assets a little more than a true gentleman probably should. Regardless, he takes them to a castle own by Lord Vladimir Hellsubus (Richard O'Brien), an eclectic and strange man who dearly misses his beloved wife, Elura, dead for a few years now.

    When Elvira and Zou-Zou arrive, Hellsubus takes an understandable interest in our heroine due to her resemblance to his late beloved, but things get complicated when Elvira falls for the strangely post-dubbed stable hand, Adrian (Gabi Andronache), and is asked by Roxanna (Heather Hopper), Lord Hellsubus' daughter, to take her to Paris with her, much to the dismay of Lady Ema Hellsubus (Mary Scheer), the Lord's new wife. Backstabbing, subterfuge and a random musical number ensue.

    If Elvira's Haunted Hills isn't a classic it's amusing enough for what it is, and that's a playful, harmlessly sexy parody of old Hammer horror films and AIP Roger Corman/Vincent Price Edgar Allan Poe adaptations. From the obvious nod, that being a scene towards the end where our boobtastic heroine is bound underneath a giant swinging pendulum, to more subtle nods like a horse drawn carriage barreling down a nearly abandoned road lit only by the moonlight, Irvin's film manages to capture a lot of what made those movies so much fun in the first place and put a parodist spin on it. Peterson, of course, plays her character well. She'd been doing this for some time now and was obviously very comfortable in her form fitting dress, bouffant black wig and pancake makeup. Those familiar with her TV shows know she's got a knack for corny one liners and she delivers that type of material well. It's not a surprise in the least to see that this movie plays to her strengths in that regard.

    The supporting cast is decent here, even if no one is really being asked to grow as an actor with this material. Mary Jo Smith is consistently funny as the begrudgingly obedient servant and Scott Atksinson takes the typically stuffy Englishman stereotype and has some fun with that aspect of his part clearly channeling Vincent Price at times. Andronache is hilarious as the Fabio-esque stable worker, though much of the credit for that goes to the decision to dub him in as obvious and goofy a manner as they do here, again a nod to horror movies of the past. The best of the supporting cast, however, is O'Brien as the strange Lord Vladimir Hellsubus. Those who know him only for his trademark role as Riff Raff in The Rocky Horror Picture Show might be taken aback by the fact that he doesn't talk with such a nasal voice here (he's so closely associated with that character that you could be convinced Riff Raff's voice is O'Brien's natural tone - it's not) but he fits the part well, using his odd looks and knack for odd body language and facial expressions to nail the part.

    Yes, the film is corny as corny can be and yes the jokes are more likely to make you groan than laugh out loud. Sure, the script is sloppy but this is fun for what it is - those who enjoy Elvira's shtick ought to have a good time here.

    Elvira’s Haunted Hills – Blu-ray Review:

    Shout! Factory brings Elvira’s Haunted Hills to region A Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen taken from a ‘restoration from a 4k Scan of the Original Camera Negative.’ Taking up 28.3GBs of space on the dual-layered 50GB disc, the transfer looks really good. There’s plenty of impressive detail here, you’ll see it in the close up shots as well as the medium and long distance shots, and it’ll allow you to further appreciate the sets, costumes and makeup on display throughout the movie. Colors look great, black levels are nice and strong and skin tones appear lifelike and natural. There aren’t any issues with noise reduction, edge enhancement or compression artifacts to complain about. Shout! Factory has done a very nice job here.

    English language 24-bit DTS-HD options are provided in 5.1 and 2. 0 Stereo with removable subtitles offered in English only. The 5.1 mix is the winner here, as it sounds a little better than the 2.0 track thanks to the use of some good directional effects placement but both tracks feature well balanced levels and clean, clear dialogue. There isn't a whole lot in the way of subwoofer action to talk about (though you’ll definitely notice it when that pendulum starts to swing in the film’s final act), the bass isn’t super strong, but it’s there when the movie calls for it.

    Aside from a new four minute introduction by Elvira herself (the only new extra on the disc), which is quite amusing, the disc carries over the audio commentary with actors Cassandra Peterson, Mary Scheer, Mary Jo Smith and Scott Atkinson and Director Sam Irvin that was originally included on the 2011 DVD release from Entertainment One. The participants never get super in-depth but do have a great time looking back on the making of the movie and share some fun stories about the film's low budget, working with the absent Richard O'Brien, and some of the fun homage moments that are scattered about the film.

    Complimenting this nicely is a twenty-eight minute featurette entitled Transylvania Or Bust which covers some of the same ground as the commentary track though has the added advantage of having on camera interviews with the same participants who come across as amiable enough and seem to have enjoyed themselves while working on this movie together.

    Carried over from the original 2002 DVD release is the twenty-two minute The Making Of Elvira's Haunted Hills featurette and the six minute interview with Richard O'Brien who talks about his role as Lord Hellsubus.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc are a few minutes of outtakes, a still gallery, two trailers for the feature, menus and chapter selection options. This release also comes with a nice reversible cover sleeve featuring newly created artwork on one side and the original poster art on the reverse. Additionally, for the first pressing, Shout! Factory has included a really nice, sturdy, hardback slipcase – it’s a classy touch.

    Elvira’s Haunted Hills – The Final Word:

    Elvira's Haunted Hills isn't a masterpiece by any stretch but it's fun disposable entertainment that fans of the Mistress Of The Dark will definitely get a kick out of. The on the Blu-ray is really strong, the audio too. There isn’t much here in the way of new extras but everything has been carried over from the special edition DVD release. All in all, Shout! Factory has provided a nice high definition upgrade for fans of the film.

    Click on the images below for full-sized Elvira’s Haunted Hills screen caps!