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Elvira -- A Character Perfected

Updated on January 6, 2016
Elvira, Mistress of the Dark
Elvira, Mistress of the Dark

You can get all the background on Elvira (Cassandra Peterson) via Wiki and IMDb, so I'm not going to repeat what is already available to those interested in the subject. This is more of a personal impression of the actress and her effect upon me. Perhaps you shared some of these impressions.
My sister and I had a bad habit of staying up late to watch horror films. The narrator of these "B" movie thrillers was none other than Elvira... at least I thought so. Now, something doesn't mesh up with the Wiki data. In Wiki it states that Cassandra Peterson was born in 1951. Wiki goes on to state:

In the late spring of 1981, six years after the death of Larry Vincent, who starred as host Sinister Seymour of a local Los Angeles weekend horror show called Fright Night, show producers began the task of bringing the show back.

If the Elvira show began in 1981, I would have been 28 years old, and this is an impossibility. By the time I hit 28, I was already married and divorced yet I distinctly remember watching Elvira as a kid or young teen.
Wiki states:

The producers decided to use a female host. They asked 1950s horror hostess Maila Nurmi to revive The Vampira Show. Nurmi worked on the project for a short time, but eventually quit when the producers would not hire Lola Falana to play Vampira. The station sent out a casting call, and Peterson auditioned and won the role.

Perhaps I never made the huge mental leap from horror hostess Maila Nurmi to Elvira. Simple facts would have to support some kind of conclusion as this.

Vampira -- Maila Nurmi
Vampira -- Maila Nurmi
Sexy Elvira
Sexy Elvira

Anyway, eventually there she was (Elvira, that is), sexy as hell and just as funny.
Although Cassandra Peterson did some other parts, her career really revolved around the Elvira role -- even when the TV series was long cancelled. She created a kind of "afterlife" for herself by putting out a series of "B" movies under her own logo. In 1988 Cassandra came out with her first movie, which was brilliant comedy. In or around 2003 Cassandra came out with a second film, which I thought was equally funny.

Cassandra Peterson
Cassandra Peterson

Claypool did a long-running comic book series (finely drawn by the way) that kept her image alive through the 90's. Cassandra also did a lot of personal appearances and even a few recordings. (Yes, she can sing.) In the late 90's, I caught a holographic portrayal of Cassandra doing a song and dance routine, and it wowed me -- not just because of the technical achievement but by how svelte and alluring the actress was at this stage in her career. She just didn't seem to age.

Cassandra Peterson
Cassandra Peterson

Cassandra was gifted with a dream figure and a naturally impressive bust, and none of this hurt when she wore her revealing Elvira costume. I can't think of any other actress who built an entire career on a single character like Cassandra -- not one with the same longevity and fan devotion.

Cassandra Peterson
Cassandra Peterson

You have to give her unlimited appreciation because not many actresses could have pulled off this stunt for so long. You have to give her credit for knowing and recognizing an iconic figure and sticking with it through thick and thin. Above all you have to give Cassandra credit for being a talented comedian. She could play the sexy vamp but also a kind of Valley Girl kind of bimbo, and mix the two together seamlessly. Throughout her years she never resorted to vulgarism to get a laugh. Her humor was wry but always within the bounds.

Cassandra as Elvira
Cassandra as Elvira

I don't know if Cassandra still makes personal appearances or not. I suspect she could since she aged gracefully and the Elvira makeup is pretty thick stuff. (I imagine she's overjoyed to be free of it.)

Cassandra in Full Makeup
Cassandra in Full Makeup

My hat is off to Cassandra because she perfected a truly memorable, lovable character, without stooping to anything illicit or seedy (although some of her humor as Elvira borders on this). She somehow played both ends against the middle and won a lot of admirers -- kids to adults. Her legend lives on in the Goth subculture of young adults. Elvira never got messed up with religious issues (i.e., paganism vs. Christianity), but her mere appearance as the "mistress of the dark" seems to have activated a waiting subculture. In her first movie Elvira is regarded as the misfit -- and she is but has no realization of it thus making all those she offends by her mere presence seem even more out of touch because they don't possess the wherewithal to display their sexuality, wit or sarcasm. By contrast Elvira wins over the youngsters (first the males, of course, but then the young women as well) -- all of whom are more open about an odd intrusion into their quaint, secluded community.

An Elvira For Generations
An Elvira For Generations

It's time for Cassandra to do an autobiography because there must be mountains of material of which the public is unaware. I'd read it -- especially if it were unadulterated and mixed with the same brand of humor that brought Elvira to life for so many years. I'd enjoy reading about her double life. Cassandra bears no resemblance to Elvira, so I imagine she was able to go to the local grocery store without being hounded by fans or journalists. To this extent she must have been at least somewhat thankful for the theatrical makeup, wigs, and costumes. Not many celebrities can completely shed a skin and get back to their normal existence.

Cassandra's earlier career certainly did not impede her advancement toward Elvira. If anything, it gave her a very good sense of how to move in an artful/sexual manner. Elvira doesn't do much dancing but her every movement seems to require a requisite amount of sensuality. This early clip of Cassandra gives you the idea of why she landed to role of Elvira.

Cassandra Peterson (Elvira) In The Working Girls (1974) [HD]

Wiki makes reference to Cassandra's "replacement," and I kind of inwardly shudder. I suppose the figure of Elvira is more important than the actress who portrays her, but it's sort of like finding a replacement for Superman once Christopher Reeve met with his riding accident. Brandon Routh showed that a talented actor could fill in the big shoes. And Henry Cavill is showing that it's possible to move beyond the Reeve model into an unexpected kind of Superman. So, I suppose I shouldn't shudder at the idea of someone replacing Cassandra. I suppose it's inevitable, and maybe this new actress will bring admirable attributes to the character -- just as Routh and Cavill have done for Superman. But just as there will always only be one Christopher Reeve interpretation of Superman, the same will hold true for Cassandra and her perfection of the Elvira character.

Trailer for Elvira Mistress of the Dark


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    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 19 months ago from London England

      Elvira, Mistress of the dark.

      The archetypal 'Femme Fatale' who lures the unsuspecting male victim to his destruction.

    • jupiter justice profile image

      Asher Socrates 2 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      I'm a big fan of Vampira and Elvira! You've illustrated very well how this character developed over the years to become such an icon. Growing up watching Elvira's Movie Macabre has reminded me of all those great shows that influenced so many more productions to this day. I have great memories growing up in the Hollywood and Los Angeles area bumping into many of these classic personalities. Cheers!

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      RJ, here is the response to your questions on my hub concerning Australia. I tried to email you through fan mail but it didn't work so I am putting it here. (Check brackets after various queries) Sorry it isn't relevant to this hub, so delete it after reading if you wish.

      rjbatty 4 hours ago from Irvine Level 3 Commenter


      I have copied your post from my hub so I can reply to all your questions here.

      Jodah: I've always wanted to visit Australia. It's somewhere at the top of my list. Here in the US we get a very mixed view about Australia -- some of it glamorizing the place while other writers focus on weird, dangerous animals. I suppose both are true to some extent. (We have a fairly laid back attitude in general as a society, have amazing beaches and landscapes. Though as most of the population is centred on the coast it can be long distances between towns if you drive across country. Yes, we have a lot of dangerous animals but you rarely come in contact with any if you take care. Tourists get taken by crocodiles for ignoring signs and swimming in waterholes or rivers where they shouldn't. Sharks are in all waters around the world but attacks have been on the increase). I actually don't know what I'd do if I ever got there. I have a fascination for both city life and the outback. I think my fantasy is just to explore in a random fashion and see what comes with it. (I live in the country and I prefer the quiet life to the city hustle. It is a good idea to just travel randomly where the winds guide you and stop at places that appeal, provided you have enough time.) I've been to Europe and really hate the language barrier. I'm too lazy to try learning French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, so the prospect of visiting another English-speaking continent seems highly attractive. It would be a long trip from California. I'd probably end up with blood clots in my legs leading to a floating embolism suddenly clogging up my defective heart. (Not sure how long a flight may need pressure stockings. I haven't been further than Indonesia).I want to visit Australia because it almost seems like a distant planet. Are the people anything like Americans? Which way does their culture bend the most -- conservative or liberal. I have to add that I'm really glad our two countries can find harmonious ground. The fact that Australia has followed the US in some really questionable wars is rather touching. Was Australia merely following the UKs lead or did they independently decide to back up the Yanks? I have a lot of questions thus a personal visit would be highly edifying. (As a people are kind of a mix between British and American. I guess because most of our t and media culture is from those two countries and most hail from British stock). The country is divided fairly 50/50 regarding political leanings. The working class and pensioners etc tend to vote for the Labor Party while the rich and big business vote Liberal/national coalition as they know their interests get priority. The is a slowly increasing vote for the Green Party. We tend to change Prime Miniters more often than ruling party.

      Most of the population are against following the US and British into war. ISIS is the exception, we agree they need to be stopped.) I don't think I would ever want to live elsewhere.) Hope this helped. I would be grateful if you could read one of my later fiction stories "Tears Across the Waves" for example and critique. Thanks. P.s. If you ever decide to come to Australia you may find it helpful to read my series "How to Talk Aussie".



    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      I enjoyed reading this rj. It brought back pleasant memories. According to the dates I would have been 24 when Cassandra Peterson started as Elvira. I too thought I was watching the late night horror movies she hosted at an earlier age. I also loved a comic book called Vampirella at about the same time so maybe mixed the characters up. I didn't know anything about Cassandra outside of her Elvira character so I thank you for sharing that and the videos. She was obviously very talented and made the most of her assets. Good job with this.


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