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Elvira’s Haunted Hills – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)

One of my first crushes in my life from my own memory was that of Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. As a child in the 80s, she hosted spooky movies on TV and was a spokesperson for many a beer or other kind of television commercial. Cassandra Peterson in character was the poisoned apple of my young little eye. During he pop culture apex she was given her own starring film. Oddly enough it wouldn’t be for another 13 years that she’d see her second. Elvira’s Haunted Hills. While having a couple screenings, it wound up a direct to video release. Thankfully, the folks at Scream Factory see it fit to celebrate this cult item with a brand new collector’s edition of it featuring a 4K restoration and some new bonus features. The Blu-ray lands on shelves (likely virtual shelves) on October 5th, which gives you plenty of time to order it from the paid Amazon Associates link below to have in time and watch during your spooky season cinema sessions!

Film

With her voluptuous figure, voluminous black hair and hilarious one-liners, the essence of camp oozes from her pores. Elvira’s Haunted Hills culls its outrageousness from the classic Vincent Price/Edgar Allan Poe/Roger Corman films of the early 60s, along with a little Rocky Horror Picture Show and Fearless Vampire Killers. The tale begins in 1851, when Elvira and her maid Zou Zou are en route to perform in the Parisian Revue “Yes I Can Can,” but inadvertently end up at the sinister Lord Vladimere Hellsubus’ medieval castle. Bearing an uncanny resemblance to Vladimere’s long-dead wife, Elvira learns of the Hellsubus curse and finds her life in danger. Will she escape the family curse and the evil Vladimere? And can she keep her hands off of the stable hand long enough to save the day?
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Admittedly, I had never seen Elvira’s Haunted Hills before this blu-ray arrived on my doorstep. It was on an everlong and growing list of films to see. The film found itself a straight to video entry when I was in my college years. So, I was probably in a snobbery stage of knowing that and not checking it out for said reason. In retrospect, I’m glad it wasn’t until now that I was able to check out the film for the very first time.
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I’ll echo what was said on the bonus materials for this disc, but Elvria’s Haunted Hills is very much the Young Frankenstein for the Roger Corman/Vincent Price/Edgar Allan Poe era of horror films from American International Pictures (AIP). This film is an absolute love letter to Gothic romance, period outfits, castle sets, ghosts wronged in the past and fall leaves upon forest graveyards. If you’re up to snuff with those beloved classics like The Pit and the Pendulum or the House of Usher, you’ll quickly note the film has done plenty of its research and has the best understanding of the material.
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The best choice Cassandra Peterson and director Sam Irvin make for the film to do is tell a straight out Poe tale and merely drop Elvira, as is, into the mix. Sure, many of the supporting players are allowed to ham it up or go slightly more over the top than some of the films they are aping, but that’s the nod to the audience. The humor here does throw out a lot of jokes per minute to try and get something to stick to the wall. There is even a pretty subtle gag about ADR on actors as well that had me chuckling quite a bit (Yes, the movie DOES point it out, but the more humorous stuff is how its utilized after). Luckily, most of them work quite well and some of them are pretty great.
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Elvira’s Haunted Hills is quite an impressive production as it genuinely looks like an AIP or Hammer film of the 1960s or early 1970s. Its very natural and comfortable in its skin with both the horror and the humor. For people very into classic horror of this era, you’ll find this film a pleasant surprise. The film is also nice in that its very different from her previous fil Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. Like that film, its definitely going to have itself a consistent spot in my October rotation for years to come. Perhaps I’ll utilize them as a nice little Elvira double feature.

Video

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition of Elvira’s Haunted Hills features a restoration from a 4K Scan of the Original Camera Negative. What a gorgeous looking transfer here, too. Ripe with details, a crisp image, nice layer of grain with wonderful depth and color saturation on display. You’d never expect a cheaper low budget film to look this grand, but this new transfer from Scream Factory has done it wonders.

Depth:  Spacing is glorious here with good depth of field that presents wonderful scale on exteriors and big rooms within in the castle. Movement is filmic and smooth with no issues of jitter or blur to account for.

Black Levels: Black levels are deep and natural with good saturation and contrast to really bring out some pop in everyday natural fare as well as more vivid makeup, clothing and upholstery. Textures and such shine through with no trouble as information is rampant. No crushing present.

Color Reproduction: Colors are very bold here and quite rich in their look. Great attention to greens, reds, browns and the like. Elvira herself has a nice pop to her eyes with make up and such. Much of the fabrics in the film have a nice little burst to them filling out the frames in a lovely way.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish of the film. Facial features and textures come clear as day as you can see everything form make-up brush strokes to, freckles, wrinkles, stubble and more with ease in any given distance in the frame.

Noise/Artifacts: None

Audio

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 Stereo DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: Elvira’s Haunted Hills comes with a rock solid 5.1 mix that manages to take care of the job and then a little some. Its a clean audio track that has terrific balance in the score, vocals and effects. Said effects have some pretty nice layering that help the environments and events feel to the touch.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: Some solid subwoofer work here on wind gushes, big doors opening and closing, crashing and scoring. I do feel it could have rumbled a hair more on some of the lower moments in the score, but its rather fine.

Surround Sound Presentation: While this mix is a tad more front heavy, the rear channels do bring on some good consistent ambiance. Many a times a unique sound or two will filter in. During the more big action-esque or frightening sequences they’ll be asked to be in concert more with the front channels.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp.

Extras

Elvira’s Haunted Hills – Collector’s Edition comes in hard shell. single side loading case in its first pressing. The amary case features reversible cover art featuring the original poster design.

Audio Commentary

  • With Actors Cassandra Peterson, Mary Scheer, Mary Jo Smith And Scott Atkinson, and Director Sam Irvin

Introduction by Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (HD, 4:41) – Elvira gives a cheeky little filmed introduction to the film.

Transylvania or Bust (HD, 28:25) – Cassandra Peterson, Sam Irvin, Mary Jo Smith, Mary Scheer and Scott Atkinson provide a lively and detailed retrospective of the film’s production. Features a lot of behind the scenes home video footage. While this is encoded in HD, its upscaled from a 4×3 SD source.

The Making of Elvira’s Haunted Hills (HD, 22:20) – Another, older, making of featurette that features Cassandra Peterson, Mark Pierson, Scott Irvin recounting the film with behind the scenes footage and what have you. This may have been more around the time of release as opposed to “Transylvania or Bust”. Source on this is also 4×3 SD.

Elvira in Romania (HD, 46:32) – Raw footage documenting the character of Elvira traveling Romania, visiting areas, doing interviews and some comedic bits. Source looks to be VHS.

Interview with Actor Richard O’Brien (HD, 6:10) – An archival interview with the actor on the set of the film. VHS sourced.

Trailers (HD, 3:49)

Outtakes (HD, :55) – Source from VHS tape.

Still Gallery (HD, 1:57) – Upconverted from an SD source.

Summary

There’s a wonderful harm I find in Elvira’s Haunted Hills that hits and runs on my specific tastes, so it surely isn’t a film that is going to be for everyone. Scream Factory has put together an excellent package together for the film. It comes in a wonderful shell case and features a gorgeous 4K restoration. Elvira’s new intro is a treat and the vault of extras provided will show you why no new ones were really necessary or how they could have proved repetitive. And excellent treatment for a movie and the best you could ask for.

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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