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Elvira's Haunted Hills (2001)
Director: Sam Irvin

review by J.C. Hartley

In this review I will be abandoning all pretence of gentlemanly good conduct and considering a lady�s age and her physical attributes.

This is the second movie outing for Elvira the sepulchral-coated creation of actress Cassandra Peterson, whose first big feature was Elvira, Mistress Of The Dark, in which the eponymous heroine, hostess of a TV horror show hoping to hit the big-time, relocated to the suburbs in search of an inheritance where her larger than life liberated attitude came up against middle America.

The thrust of the first movie was a the situation of a weirdo in 'straights-ville', USA and the contrast of two violently clashing lifestyles, in Haunted Hills Elvira is the same vampish creation but located in the horror-heavy Carpathian mountains where every snaggle-toothed yokel has a werewolf on his father�s side, and consequently the original gag is much diluted.

Elvira and her peckish maidservant Zou Zou (Mary Jo Smith) are en route for Paris where they are mounting their touring can-can show, forced to escape from their boarding house when asked for rent, they hit the road and are picked up by the Vincent Price looky-likey Dr Bradley Bradley ("So good she named you twice") who, in between copping a feel and getting his nose trapped in Elvira�s cleavage, offers them the hospitality of Castle Hellsubus where he will be making a house call.

At the castle Elvira and Zou Zou meet the tormented Lord Vladimere Hellsubus (Richard O'Brien, The Rocky Horror Picture Show), his suspicious wife Lady Ema (Mary Scheer) and his swooning cataleptic ("fear of cats?") daughter Roxanna (Heather Hopper). Elvira discovers that Vladimere�s first wife Elura became depressed on entering the castle and eventually committed suicide and, on encountering a portrait of the latter, it transpires that Elvira and Elura bear an uncanny resemblance.

Here we are in Edgar Allen Poe country and particularly that domain as realised by the great Roger Corman and graced by the magnificent Vincent Price in the 1960s. The references abound, Castle Hellsubus has a great crack running through it like the cursed domain of The House Of Usher, a dinner is disrupted by a hypnotism demonstration, which suggests spirit possession as in The Tomb Of Ligeia, and Vladimere has some interesting accessories in the cellar as in The Pit And The Pendulum.

Elvira minces and sways through the film scattering corn and smut and looking like a cross between Fenella Fielding in Carry On Screaming and Anjelica Houston in The Addams Family as played by Cher impersonating Mae West, or vice versa. Elvira isn�t as sexy as Fenella Fielding but doesn�t take herself as seriously as Houston so that�s alright, but the film does bring to mind an old Johnny Carson special where a lot of sweating leering male dancers simulated lust while the walking blancmange that was Mae West sang a song. Cassandra Peterson looks fantastic and has a terrific, if unlikely, figure, but by my calculations she�s around 50 now and the make up gives her a plastic, if not waxy, aspect particularly in the region of her curiously static bosom and given the choice of an erotic encounter with her or the ample Zou Zou I�d plump (ouch!) for the latter.

As the plot shudders to its inevitable climax Elvira has a roll in the hay with Adrian the stable lad, whose chest is as impressive as her own, and attempts to rescue Roxanna from the grim fate of the family Hellsubus. The revelations of the rather grisly denouement are as expected, but that PG-13 certificate still seems an over-reaction even for the �land of the free�. There�s a mucky song listing Elvira�s adventures in the sack but for all that she�s rather strait-laced, like your best mate�s flirtatious aunty who would come over all priggish if you ever suggested playing strip scrabble.

The reason I�ve rated the movie three out of five is because it�s all good dirty fun, it�s an affectionate tribute to Poe/ Price/ Corman, its heart is in the right place, and Ms Peterson ended up funding the thing herself; she�ll probably lose her shirt, it wouldn�t be the first time.
Elvira's Haunted Hills

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