Elvira's Movie Macabre

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Elvira's Movie Macabre (or sometimes simply Movie Macabre) is an American comedy television show that airs B grade horror movies, occasionally interrupted by comments from the hostess, Elvira (played by Cassandra Peterson). In some episodes during intermission, Elvira would get an unexpected phone call from a character called "The Breather" (played by John Paragon) who would only call and tell Elvira weird jokes. The title shown here is the title the film was shown under on the show; many B-grade horror films were re-released with different titles.

Origins[edit]

Peterson dressed as Elvira at the 2006 San Francisco Gay Pride parade.

In the late spring (March/April) 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. Deciding to use a female host, producers 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 continued with the project and sent out a casting call. Peterson auditioned against 200 other horror hostess hopefuls and won the role. Producers left it up to her to create the role's image. She and her best friend, Robert Redding, came up with the sexy punk/vampire look after producers rejected her original idea to look like Sharon Tate in The Fearless Vampire Killers.

Since they were unable to continue with the Vampira character, the character Elvira was used instead. What followed was Elvira's Movie Macabre, featuring a quick-witted Valley-girl-type character named Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. With heavily applied, pancake-horror make up and a towering black beehive wig to conceal Peterson's flame-red hair.

Shortly before the first taping, producers received a cease and desist letter from Nurmi. Besides the similarities in the format and costumes, Elvira's closing line for each show, wishing her audience "Unpleasant dreams", was notably similar to Vampira's closer: "Bad dreams, darlings..." uttered as she walked off down a misty corridor. The court ruled in favor of Peterson, holding that "'likeness' means actual representation of another person's appearance, and not simply close resemblance." Peterson claimed that Elvira was nothing like Vampira aside from the basic design of the black dress and black hair. Nurmi herself claimed that Vampira's image was based on Morticia Addams, a character in Charles Addams's cartoons that appeared in The New Yorker magazine.

The Elvira character rapidly gained notoriety with her tight-fitting, low-cut black gown which showed ample cleavage. The movies featured on Elvira's Movie Macabre were always B grade (or lower). Elvira reclined on a red Victorian couch, introducing and often interrupting the movie to lampoon the actors, the script and the editing. Adopting the flippant tone of a California "Valley girl", she brought a satirical, sarcastic edge to her commentary. She reveled in dropping risqué double entendres and making frequent jokes about her display of cleavage. In an AOL Entertainment News interview, Peterson said, "I figured out that Elvira is me when I was a teenager. She's a spastic girl. I just say what I feel and people seem to enjoy it." Her campy humor, sex appeal, and good-natured self-mockery made her popular with late-night movie viewers as her popularity soared.

Elvira was a frequent guest on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and other talk shows. She also produced a long-running series of Halloween-themed television commercials for Coors Light Beer and Mug Root Beer (her trademark cleavage was concealed for the Coors campaign). She appeared in guest roles on television dramas such as CHiPs, The Fall Guy and Fantasy Island and appeared on numerous awards shows as a presenter. Although she is known primarily as Elvira, Peterson has made out-of-costume appearances as herself for television interviews and specials.

In 1982, with the success of Movie Macabre, Knott's Theme Parks hired Elvira to replace Seymour as the host of its annual Halloween Haunt during the month of October. Elvira appeared nightly at the park, live on stage with a Halloween-themed musical comedy revue similar to her Mamma's Boys act from the 1970s.

The Elvira character rapidly evolved from obscure cult figure to a lucrative brandname and "Mistress of all Media", spawning many products throughout the 1980s and 1990s including Halloween costumes, comic books,[1][2] action figures, trading cards, pinball machines, Halloween decor, model kits, calendars, perfume and dolls. She has appeared on the cover of Femme Fatales magazine five times. Her popularity reached its zenith with the release of the feature film Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (co-written by Peterson) in 1988.

Episode list[edit]

Season 1[edit]

Episode Film shown Ep # Date
01 Grave of the Vampire 1 September 26, 1981
02 Silent Night, Bloody Night 2 October 3, 1981
03 The House That Screamed 3 October 10, 1981
04 The Fall of the House of Usher 4 October 17, 1981
05 The Dunwich Horror 5 October 25, 1981
06 Blacula 6 November 1, 1981
07 The Comedy of Terrors 7 November 7, 1981
08 The Thing with Two Heads 8 November 15, 1981
09 The Werewolf of Washington 9 November 21, 1981
10 Cry of the Banshee 10 November 29, 1981
11 Count Yorga, Vampire 11 December 5, 1981
12 Murders in the Rue Morgue 12 December 12, 1981
13 Baron Blood 13 December 27, 1981
14 Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde 14 January 3, 1982
15 The Crimson Cult 15 January 10, 1982
16 The Murder Clinic 16 January 16, 1982
17 Horror Express 17 January 23, 1982
18 The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant 18 January 30, 1982
19 Horror Hospital 19 February 6, 1982
20 Rattlers 20 February 13, 1982
21 Disciple of Death 21 February 20, 1982
22 Frankenstein 22 February 28, 1982
23 The Devil's Rain 23 March 6, 1982
24 Psychic Killer 24 March 13, 1982
25 Necromancy 25 March 20, 1982
26 The Spectre of Edgar Allan Poe 26 March 27, 1982
30 The Deathmaster 30 April 1, 1982
27 Peeping Tom 27 April 3, 1982
28 Legacy of Blood 28 April 10, 1982
29 Deathdream 29 April 18, 1982
31 Beware! The Blob 31 May 1, 1982
32 Good Against Evil 32 May 8, 1982
33 The Brotherhood of Satan 33 May 15, 1982
34 The Mad Magician 34 May 22, 1982
35 The Turn of the Screw 35 May 22, 1982
36 Count Dracula's Great Love 36 May 29, 1982
37 Jennifer 37 June 12, 1982
38 Masque of the Red Death 38 June 19, 1982
39 The Tomb of Ligeia 39 June 26, 1982
40 The Incredible Melting Man 40 July 3, 1982
41 The Fearless Vampire Killers 41 July 10, 1982
42 Terror House 42 July 17, 1982
43 The Baby 43 July 24, 1982
44 The House of Seven Corpses 44 July 31, 1982
45 Psychomania 45 August 7, 1982
46 Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? 46 August 14, 1982

Season 2[edit]

Episode Film shown Ep # Date
01 War-Gods of the Deep 47 September 4, 1982
02 The Oblong Box 48 September 11, 1982
03 The Raven 49 September 25, 1982
04 The Conqueror Worm 50 October 2, 1982
05 And Now the Screaming Starts! 51 October 9, 1982
06 Blood from the Mummy's Tomb 52 October 16, 1982
07 Madhouse 53 October 23, 1982
08 The House That Dripped Blood 54 October 30, 1982
09 Tales of Terror 55 October 30, 1982
10 The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde 56 November 7, 1982
11 The Day It Came to Earth 57 November 13, 1982
12 Blood on Satan's Claw 58 November 20, 1982
13 Crucible of Horror 59 November 27, 1982
14 Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde 60 December 4, 1982
15 The Devil Within Her 61 December 12, 1982
16 The Bat People 62 December 19, 1982
17 The Return of Count Yorga 63 January 1, 1983
18 Inn of the Frightened People 64 January 8, 1983
19 Craze 65 January 29, 1983
20 The Monster Club 66 February 6, 1983
21 The Creature's Revenge 67 February 12, 1983
22 Beast of the Dead 68 February 19, 1983
23 The Island of Living Horror 69 February 27, 1983
24 The Devil's Wedding Night 70 March 5, 1983
25 The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism 71 March 12, 1983
26 Curse of the Vampires 72 March 20, 1983
27 The Vampire People 73 March 26, 1983
28 Scream and Scream Again 74 April 2, 1983
29 The Human Vapor 75 April 9, 1983
30 Lemora: A Child's Tale of the Supernatural 76 April 16, 1983
31 The Haunted Palace 77 June 18, 1983
32 The Doomsday Machine 78 August 27, 1983

Season 3[edit]

Episode Film shown Ep # Date
01 They Came From Beyond Space 79 September 17, 1983
02 Blue Sunshine 80 October 1, 1983
03 Screamers 81 October 29, 1983
04 Willard 82 November 5, 1983
05 The Time Travelers 83 November 12, 1983
06 Maneater of Hydra 84 November 20, 1983
07 They Came From Within 85 December 11, 1983
08 Gamera: Super Monster 86 December 24, 1983
09 New Year's Evil 87 December 31, 1983
10 Homebodies 88 January 28, 1984
11 Dracula 89 February 4, 1984
12 Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! 90 March 3, 1984
13 Dr Heckyll and Mr Hype 91 March 17, 1984
14 Alien Contamination 92 March 24, 1984
15 Village of the Damned 93 April 14, 1984
16 Monstroid 94 May 12, 1984
17 The Beast in the Cellar 95 May 19, 1984
18 House of the Dead 96 May 26, 1984
19 Circus of Horrors 97 June 10, 1984
20 The Pigs 98 June 17, 1984
21 Schizoid 99 June 24, 1984
22 The Godsend 100 June 30, 1984
23 Blood Bath 101 July 8, 1984
24 Kiss Daddy Goodbye 102 July 14, 1984
25 The Love War 103 July 28, 1984
26 The Human Duplicators 104 August 5, 1984
27 Mark of the Devil 105 August 11, 1984
28 So Sad About Gloria 106 August 19, 1984
29 Night of the Zombies 107 August 26, 1984

Season 4[edit]

Episode Film shown Ep # Date
01 Inn of the Damned 108 September 1, 1984
02 Tombs of the Blind Dead 109 September 8, 1984
03 Frankenstein’s Castle of Freaks 110 September 15, 1984
04 The Capture of Bigfoot 111 September 22, 1984
05 Village of the Giants 112 November 3, 1984
06 The Legend of Hell House 113 November 10, 1984
07 The Other 114 November 25, 1984
08 The Navy vs. the Night Monsters 115 December 1, 1984
09 The Last Bride of Salem 116 January 12, 1985
10 Yeti: The Giant of the 20th Century 117 February 9, 1985
11 The Revenge of Frankenstein 118 March 10, 1985
12 Curse of Bigfoot 119 March 24, 1985
13 The Great Alligator 120 May 4, 1985

Season 5[edit]

Episode Film shown Ep # Date
01 House of Dark Shadows 121 June 22, 1986
02 The Horror of Death 122 unknown
03 Kill and Go Hide 123 unknown
04 The Legend of Lizzie Borden 124 unknown
05 The Mad Butcher 125 unknown
06 The Meateater 126 unknown
07 The Mighty Gorga 127 unknown
08 Scream, Baby, Scream 128 unknown
09 Strait-Jacket 129 unknown
10 They Saved Hitler's Brain 130 unknown
11 Tomb of the Living Dead 131 unknown
12 The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll 132 unknown
13 The Boy Who Cried Werewolf 133 unknown
14 Let's Scare Jessica to Death 134 unknown
15 Horror of the Zombies 135 unknown
16 House of the Long Shadows 136 unknown
17 Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things 137 unknown
18 Empire of the Ants 138 unknown
19 Nightwing 139 unknown
20 Nightmare City 140 unknown

2010/2011 series[edit]

In September 2010, Elvira's Movie Macabre returned to television syndication in the U.S., this time with public-domain films. Twenty-six episodes were produced, six were left unaired but found a home on both DVD and iTunes.

See E1 Entertainment for DVD releases.

s#e# Film shown ep Week of
s1e01 Night of the Living Dead 1 September 20, 2010
s1e02 The Terror 2 September 27, 2010
s1e03 The Giant Gila Monster 3 October 4, 2010
s1e04 The Brain That Wouldn't Die 4 October 11, 2010
s1e05 The Satanic Rites of Dracula 5 October 18, 2010
s1e06 Scared to Death 6 October 25, 2010
s1e07 The Werewolf of Washington 7 November 1, 2010
s1e08 Eegah 8 November 8, 2010
s1e09 Teenagers From Outer Space 9 November 15, 2010
s1e10 Santa Claus Conquers the Martians 10 December 20, 2010
s1e11 I Eat Your Skin 11 January 17, 2011
s1e12 Don't Look in the Basement 12 January 24, 2011
s1e13 Untamed Women 13 January 31, 2011
s1e14 Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter 14 February 7, 2011
s1e15 Lady Frankenstein 15 February 14, 2011
s1e16 The Manster 16 February 21, 2011
s1e17 Tormented 17 April 25, 2011
s1e18 Manos, the Hands of Fate 18 May 2, 2011
s1e19 Hercules and the Captive Women 19 May 9, 2011
s1e20 A Bucket of Blood 20 May 16, 2011

DVD releases[edit]

Time Life[edit]

In 2004 Time Life released a series of special Elvira DVD's titled "Elvira's Horror Classics" which was done in a similar fashion to Movie Macabre. Each DVD had two films and they were later released in a box set titled "Elvira's Box of Horrors". The films featured were all in the Public Domain. They included:

Shout Factory[edit]

Shout! Factory has released a small number of Movie Macabre episodes to DVD, in both single and "double feature" format. The DVDs allow the material to be shown complete with Elvira's interruptions or uninterrupted. Unlike the original broadcasts, the original films are complete and uncensored.[3]

Single DVDs[edit]

Double Feature DVDs[edit]

E1 Entertainment[edit]

Following the revival of Elvira's Movie Macabre in 2011, E1 Entertainment began releasing episodes of the new series on DVD. Unlike the Shout! Factory editions these releases were released in their edited format as aired on syndication.

Single DVDs[edit]

Double Feature DVDs[edit]

Four Feature Sets[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]