If you grew up in the 80s you probably grew up watching shows like Elvira’s Movie Macabre, where the Mistress of the Dark would host viewings of B movies that had horror themes and interject commentary throughout the film. Shows like Elvira’s Movie Macabre paved the way for shows like Mystery Science Theater 3000 which followed largely the same format although with a wider range of movies. While Cassandra Peterson, the actress who brought Elvira to life, had done stage work and some other performance work before landing the role of Elvira she became best known as Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. After a strong cult following in the 80s that even led to her own feature film Elvira: Mistress of the Dark, she largely dropped out of sight except for occasional appearances on shows like VH1’s “I love the 80s” series of shows. Elvira is back though, and is bringing a new incarnation of her original TV show Elvira’s Movie Macabre with her. She is in production on the new show now.
In the 80s the business of horror movies was huge, and Elvira shot to fame as the host of Movie Macabre and through her appearances in other films like Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. She was featured in several Coors beer commercials and had her own line of Halloween themed products. She also starred in several Halloween specials for TV and music videos. The Mistress of the Dark was popular because of her unique cleavage baring costume and her giant black beehive hairdo as well as her witty and often sarcastic observations delivered in classic California Valley Girl style. Cassandra Peterson created the character of Elvira after she was brought into the show after classic 1950s horror icon Maila Nurmi quit the show over a casting issue. Maila insisted that actress Lola Falana be hired to play the character of Vampira and the producer refused to her. Maila Nurmi later sued the director and producer of Movie Macabre saying that the character of Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, was a direct copy of her Vampira character and that even their signature exit lines were similar enough to constitute infringement. A court disagreed with her though, after the producer and director and Cassandra Peterson herself testified that the character of Elvira was based on Morticia Addams.
One of the projects that Elvira is best known for is her series of home videos with horror themes called Thriller Video. In the 80s video tapes were a hot commodity because VHS players had just become popular. Elvira was the featured host on the videos and she also selected the movies that were shown. She chose to stick to B movies and lesser known horror movies with a comedic edge instead of choosing the slasher films that were so popular in the 80s. In 2004 she did another series of videos like Thriller Video and the popularity of those videos is what led her to retool Movie Macabre for the new millennium.