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 but a carriage inhabited by one Dr. Bradley Bradley (Scott Atkinson) who enjoys Elvira's ample assets a little more than a 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 her beloved wife, 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 and bouffant black wig and pancake makeup. Those familiar with her TV show know she's got a knack for corny one liners and delivers that type of material well so it's not a surprise in the least to see that this movie plays to her strengths in that regard.
The supporting cast are 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. 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 is presented in 1.85.1 and is anamorphic but this transfer is really nothing to write home about. The image is a bit on the soft side and sometimes a bit murky in the frequent darker scenes that occur throughout the movie. Skin tones look pretty decent and color reproduction isn't half bad, but there are some compression artifacts present throughout playback which can be kind of annoying and it doesn't look like much work was done to clean up the image. This is watchable enough, but there's definitely been some room left for improvement.
English language audio options are provided in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo with optional closed captioning provided in English only. The 5.1 mix gets the cup 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, the bass is fairly weak really, but outside of that the movie sounds pretty good.
The extras on this disc kick off with a solid commentary track from star Cassandra Peterson who is joined by cast members Mary Scheer, Mary Jo Smith and Scott Atkinson and director Sam Irvin. 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 are a look at the Elvira's Movie Macabre TV show, the original theatrical trailer for the film, a still gallery roughly one minute's worth of vintage outtakes from the movie, menus and chapter stops.
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 transfer is nothing to write home about but the inclusion of some new extras is a nice touch. Recommended for Elvira fans, a solid rental for everyone else.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.