• Elvira: Mistress Of The Dark (Arrow Video) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Arrow Video
    Released on: April 28th, 2020.
    Director: James Signorelli
    Cast: Cassandra Peterson, W. Morgan Sheppard, Edie McClurg, Ellen Dunning, Daniel Greene, Susan Kellermann
    Year: 1988
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    Elvira: Mistress Of The Dark – Movie Review:

    Directed by James Signorelli and released by New World Pictures in 1988, Elvira: Mistress Of The Dark opens with everyone’s favorite horror hostess doing her thing during a presentation of It Conquered The World. When the episode ends, Elvira (Cassandra Peterson, of course), gets sexually harassed by the new station manager and quits on the spot. She’s going to go to Las Vegas and launch her show at The Flamingo – but in order to do that, she needs to come up with fifty grand in cash to uphold her end of the bargain.

    And wouldn’t you know it, as soon as that issue comes up, she learns that her great aunt passed away and left her something in the will. She makes the drive to Fallwell, Massachusetts to meet with the lawyer and get her inheritance – only to find out that it’s a creepy old house, a cook book and a dog named Algonquin. As quickly as she’s pissed off the leader of the town’s morality squad, Chastity Pariah (Edie McClurg) and Patty (Susan Kellermann), the owner of the local bowling alley, she’s also befriended a teenage girl named Robin Meeker (Ellen Dunning) and struck up a romance with the owner of the town’s movie theater, Bob Redding (Daniel Greene). After the local kids help her fix the place up, she hopes to sell it and move on, meanwhile, her Great Uncle Vincent (W. Morgan Sheppard) makes it really obvious that he wants to get his hands on that cook book. With most of the town rising up against Elvira and all that she represents, will she be able to get the money she needs to make her dream come true, or wind up on the wrong end of the town BBQ?

    While the bulk of the jokes in the film revolve around Peterson’s admittedly impressive bust size, Elvira: Mistress Of The Dark remains a really entertaining and genuinely fun little B-movie. Yes, the bulk of the film rests on Peterson’s capable shoulders but she’s plenty charming here, quick with the quips and the double-entendres, using body language and her incredibly expressive facial features to up the humor quotient in the film considerably. Had she not been as strong a lead as she is, this could very well have crashed and burned but she’s got the charisma and the screen presence and, yes, the looks to make it all work.

    The supporting players are pretty fun too. Edie McClurg is perfect as the leader of the town’s morality police, taking issue with Elvira based solely on her appearance but proving to be quite the hypocrite when it all shakes out. Daniel Greene is fine, if unremarkable, as the male lead and Ellen Dunning makes for a likeable enough sidekick for Peterson. W. Morgan Sheppard steals more than a few scenes as the sneaky uncle – we know he’s up to something, it isn’t hard to figure that out, but he makes the character his own and crafts a memorable performance out of it. Susan Kellermann (who once employed the ass-slapping owner of a greasy spoon that gave Balki and Cousin Larry jobs in an early episode of Perfect Strangers!) is also pretty funny here.

    The movie was made on a pretty low budget and sometimes that shows through in the effects, but the film’s B-movie qualities actually work in its favor. It’s okay for a movie about a woman who plays horror hostess over some ridiculously low budget pictures to be a bit rough around the edges in spots! Overall though, the sets work and the cinematography is pretty solid. There’s a decent score here and Signorelli, who is best known as a producer on Saturday Night Live, does a great job keeping the pace and the tone right.

    Elvira: Mistress Of The Dark – Blu-ray Review:

    Arrow Video presents Elvira: Mistress Of The Dark on Blu-ray in AVC encoded 1080p high definition on a 50GB disc with the feature taking up just over 25GBs of space. The 1.85.1 widescreen transfer is taken from a “brand new restoration from a 4K scan of the original interpositive” and it looks quite nice. There’s a little bit of noticeable crush in some of the darker scenes and detail can and does vary from one scene to the next (which would seem to have more to do with changes in the lighting being used than anything else) but overall, detail is pretty strong here. We get nice depth and texture pretty much throughout, and color reproduction looks very good as well. There are no problems with any noticeable noise reduction or edge enhancement nor are there any noticeable issues with compression. All in all, this is quite a substantial upgrade over the past DVD editions of the picture.

    Audio chores are handled by a 24-bit LPCM 2.0 Stereo track in the film’s original English. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. Clarity is quite good here, and dialogue is always easy to understand and follow. The music used throughout the film sounds pretty strong and there are no problems to not with any audible hiss or distortion. The track is properly balanced throughout.

    Aside from a brief but amusing seventy-second introduction to the film by director James Signorelli, the disc includes three commentary tracks. The first is a 2017 track with director James Signorelli, hosted by Fangoria editor emeritus Tony Timpone that does a fine job of detailing Signorelli’s work on the picture. He talks about how he landed the job, what it was like working with Peterson and the rest of the cast, some of the effects work, the film’s production history, who the two DPs where that he worked with on the film, Curt Fuller’s scene in the movie and how he’s gone on to appear in ‘everything,’ having to redo the dye in the dog’s hair throughout the shoot and more. There is some occasional dead air here and sometimes the two get a bit engrossed in the movie and decides to narrate what’s on screen but when they conversation is on, it’s quite interesting. A second commentary, also from 2017, features Patterson Lundquist, www.elviramistressofthedark.com webmaster and ‘the nice judge’ from the US TV show The Search For The Next Elvira. This is a fan track where Lundquist talks about how New World’s collapse led to his not being able to see the movie theatrically, the use of It Conquered The World in the intro, how the veil featured in the will-reading scene was auctioned off, how they created the gas station explosion, the music used in the film and more. There’s quite a bit of dead air here, making this the weakest of the commentary tracks on the disc. Carried over from past releases is the archival audio commentary with actors Cassandra Peterson, Edie McClurg and writer John Paragon. If you haven’t heard it before it’s excellent, pretty detailed and delivered with a welcome sense of humor.

    Also included on the disc is Too Macabre – The Making of Elvira: Mistress of the Dark, a newly-revised 2018 version of this ninety-seven-minute feature-length documentary on the making of the film. This ridiculously in-depth piece is made up of interviews with Cassandra Peterson, Kurt Fuller, Daniel Greene, Ira Heiden, Susan Kellerman, James Signorelli, Mark Bryan Wilson, John Paragon and quite a few more. This covers the origins of the film, the rise of the Elvira character and how she almost got her own sitcom before making this movie, how and why the writers were chosen for the film, Signorelli’s direction, casting the picture, some of the sets that were used, the ongoing popularity of the film and a lot more.

    Recipe for Terror: The Creation Of The Pot Monster is a ‘newly-revised 2018’ version of this featurette that spends twenty-two-minutes going over how the pot monster in the film was created as well as some of the other effects set pieces that includes interviews with Signorelli, puppeteer Mark Bryan Wilson, monster sculptor Yancy Calzada, VFX illustrator Larry Nikolai, W. Morgan Sheppard, the lovely Ms. Peterson and a few others. There's some great conceptual art shown off here as well as some cool archival photographs.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc is a selection of original storyboards, a few still galleries, the original US theatrical trailer, a teaser trailer, menus and chapter selection.

    Elvira: Mistress Of The Dark – The Final Word:

    Elvira: Mistress Of The Dark isn’t deep but it remains a fun watch. Peterson charms her way through the film and the supporting players all do a great job rounding out the cast. Yeah, it’s corny and hokey and more than a little silly, but it never fails to entertain. Arrow’s Blu-ray release looks and sounds very good and contains some pretty strong extras as well. Recommended.

    Click on the images below for full sized Elvira: Mistress Of The Dark Blu-ray screen caps!