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Elvira's Haunted Hills

Many people know Elvira, be it from her cable show Elvira's Movie Macabre her or 1988 feature film Elvira: Mistress of the Dark, but what most people aren't familiar with is her 2001 follow-up movie Elvira's Haunted Hills.  It's not quite a sequel but is loosely based on the Elvira character and the hopes most viewers have knowledge of Mistress of the Dark.

Elvira, real name Cassandra Peterson, got her start in entertainment with small parts as a showgirl, go-go dancer, background singer, and model for men's magazines.  The Elvira character was born in 1981 when the Los Angeles-based weekend cable show Fright Nights auditioned for a new host to introduce B-rated horror movies.  Elvira quickly caught on with audiences with her "Valley-Girl" speech pattern and risqué and sarcastic commentary.  Personally, I don’t think her cleavage exposing tight fitting black dress didn’t hurt, but all joking aside, Elvira herself deserves the credit for her own success.  Her campy sense of humor, teeming with double entendres and one-liners, won over audiences, both men and women alike.

The Simpson's "Boob-a-Rella"

She was famously spoofed on The Simpsons as "Boob-a-rella" and even made an appearance (but not as the Elvira character) in one of my favorite childhood movies, Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, as the biker mama that man handles Pee Wee at the biker bar.
Cassandra Peterson as "The Biker Mama"

After trying for several years to get a sequel made for her fairly successful 1988 movie Mistress of the Dark, Elvira and manager (and at that time husband), Mark Pierson, decided to finance the movie on their own.  Throughout late 2000, with Mistress of the Dark co-writer John Paragon, Elvira co-wrote and produced Elvira's 

Haunted Hills.  It was filmed in Romania for just under $1 million USD of her own money, and at long last, her vision for a sequel/follow-up film had been put to film.  
There wasn't much money left over for advertising, so they creatively launched a series of free premiers around the United States at AIDS charity fund-raisers.  In 2002 it would have a proper Hollywood premier and later be featured at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival.

Elvira's Haunted Hills was set in 1851, following Elvira and her maid Zhou-Zhou (played by Mary-Jo Smith) traveling to Paris for Elvira's "big break" starring in a can-can style musical revue.  Having no money, the pair gets kicked out of a hotel for non-payment and begin a long trek on foot, escaping the law across the Romanian countryside.  Dr. Bradley Bradley (Scott Atkinson) rescues them by stagecoach and whisks them away to Castle Hellsubus in a hysterically raunchy scene.  Upon arrival at the castle, it's revealed Elvira looks exactly like Count Hellsebus' deceased wife which causes several uncomfortable situations.  Throughout the movie, some spooky, funny, and a few eye-roll-inducing events occur as Elvira tries to escape the haunted Castle.  I won't ruin the fairly predictable twist at the end but it fits well with the story.

It's often described as a "follow-up" and not a sequel because it doesn't directly continue the story of Mistress of the Dark but uses the same main character as if it's just another adventure in her lifetime, regardless of the fact that it takes place 100 years prior. Occasionally, during the movie, Elvira "breaks the 4th wall" and talks directly to the audience, one time even acknowledging how low-budget the special effects were.

One interesting tidbit I found during some research was that Lord Vladimere Hellsubus was played by Richard O'Brien. While not a household name, O'Brien was responsible for writing the stage show The Rocky Horror Show, which, of course, went on to international fame and is still in production to this day.

Elvira with Lord Hellsubus

Haunted Hills doesn't disappoint Elvira fans, as this movie is full of her trademark sexual innuendo, double entendres, and lousy one-liners.  All in all, it's a fun watch for those who like silly low-budget slapstick movies.  It's hard to call it a comedy in the same vein that it's hard to call it horror.  It's a fun blend of both, although it never drifts too far into either category.
Today as I write this in 2019, it's reported Cassandra Peterson is shopping a 3rd Elvira movie that will be a true direct sequel of Mistress of the Dark.  She also has an autobiography coming out in 2020.  
Elvira can still be found in nearly everything from comic books to computer games, and she frequents pop culture conventions.  Peterson also still makes guest appearances as the character Elvira, most recently in 2019’s Scooby Doo's return to Zombie Island.
Elvira's Haunted Hills is an annual watch in my household during the Halloween season as we get into the mood for the holiday.  My wife prefers this movie to Mistress of the Dark, while I still prefer the former.
If you're a fan of Elvira, you can find several great features here at YesterYear Retro or over at The Retro Network, focusing on Elvira, her 1986 Halloween Special, and her hit movie Mistress of the Dark if you want to learn more about the horror film hostess.

**This post originally appeared on The Retro Network.  Please visit them over at***