Elvira Reflects on 40 Years Ahead of Shudder’s ‘Very Scary, Very Special Special’

Elvira on Shudder
Q&A
Shudder

There’s no better way to celebrate the spooky season than with Elvira, the queen of Halloween. The “Mistress of the Dark” is hosting a one-night, four-film marathon on Shudder as part of Elvira’s 40th Anniversary, Very Scary Very Special Special on Shudder.

The evening will see the ever-so-lively Cassandra Peterson come full-circle, as she revisits a similar format to that of her beloved late-night television series, Elvira’s Movie Macabre. The show premiered in 1981 out of the CBS affiliate in Los Angeles, bringing “B” horror and science fiction to the forefront.

Over the years, Peterson became a pop culture icon with appearances on various TV shows, spinoffs, and merchandise licensing bonanza. In 1988, she starred in her own movie, Elvira: Mistress of the Dark, which is part of the streamer’s lineup. Rounding out this frightful good time will be old school classics House on Haunted Hill, The City of the Dead, and Messiah of Evil.

The special is airing days after the release of her candid memoir, Yours Cruelly, Elvira: Memoirs of the Mistress of the Dark. In the book, Peterson opens up about her 19-year relationship with her girlfriend, Teresa “T” Wierson.

Here, the vivacious vixen previews the milestone special and how she’s finding new ways to inspire others.

Elvira Special

Shudder

What have you made of the response from your book so far?

Elvira: The memoir has been in the making for 15 years now. It has been overwhelmingly positive. I knew my fans would support me no matter what I do. I could shave my head and eat a bug, and they would still love me. I didn’t know about other people. I’ve been taking a great deal of care with the brand. It is my livelihood. Elvira is known to most people as kind of a straight horn-dog. So I didn’t want to throw anybody a curveball. I didn’t want them to feel like I was lying to them or feeling I was a hypocrite. I have to tell the truth. I’m 70 years old. How long am I going to keep it a secret? I just had to let it out. If you don’t let out your secrets, you get gassed.

Living your truth has certainly inspired others, given the social media response.

It’s really wonderful. I hope it’s inspirational to people who are in the same situation as me. Maybe they are in a same sex relationship but haven’t felt comfortable bringing it out. I just don’t think it is such a big deal anymore. It was 30, 40 years ago. We have to stop putting labels on people. It’s not about putting labels on people where you have to be straight or gay. There is a lot more gray in between that.

Do you think Elvira would be as successful had she first appeared in today’s TV landscape?

I don’t know. I think the 1980s was a really great time to have my show come out. There were a lot of other horror hosts around. I think the timing was a lot better. I do think if people could get ahold of these movies. The type of horror movies I like. I think it will be very successful today. I’m hoping this Shudder show gives them a little taste of what it’s like to attach a horror host to a movie. It brings it new life.

How much input did you have in the movies chosen for the special?

They gave me full approval, but they did four awesome movies — I mean, Elvira Mistress of the Dark being the most awesome of course. I was so happy they were playing that movie because it’s a Halloween [staple]. Then my favorite movie of all-time, [aside from] House on Haunted Hill with Vincent Price. It was the first movie I saw in my life as a child that got me into the horror genre. There is the City of the Dead with Christopher Lee, who is another hero of mine. The Messiah of Evil, which is so funny and has a couple of my friends in it from back in the 1970s. I had no idea they were in this movie. It’s a fun, campy, low budget, brilliantly insane movie.

Elvira 40th Anniversary Special

Shudder

Did you have fun getting back in the hosting space?

It’s a super fun show. It’s a really low budget. I’m keeping my image. It’s dirt cheese, shot in one little room with me talking about the movies. I think people will find it awesome and entertaining wrapped around four awesome horror movies. It was so much fun to do. I don’t get to do it enough as I’d like.

Has your perspective on Mistress of the Dark changed compared to when it first premiered?

I’ve probably seen it a billion times because I was one of the writers. I have to say it really stands up today and is more relevant with the whole “Me Too” movement than it was back then. It really speaks to people about a woman who is an outcast, weird and people don’t like her because of the way she looks and her having to fight and struggle to be who she is.

Your longtime friend John Paragon passed away before the anniversary. Talk a little about what he meant to you and Elvira.

John passing recently was devastating to me. He was honestly my best friend and writing partner for 27 years. People may know him better as Jambi the Genie from Pee-wee’s Playhouse. John [played] such an intricate part for me and Paul Reubens. He is also in Mistress of the Dark, if you play close attention. He is the gas station attendant. He looks so different in it and is hilarious even though he is not speaking. He has also worked with me as The Breather and really everything I’ve done. He put so much of his unique personality in it. I’m so glad people will be able to enjoy him and appreciate his legacy [thanks to technology].

Where do you see Elvira going in the future?

I think there are still a ton of things Elvira is going to be doing. Even if I step down playing the character. I basically run a company. It is a brand, and I would like nothing better than filming a documentary about Elvira and my life. Doing maybe a six-part series or movie. I think the book will be a nice guideline for anyone who wants to do that. One of my dreams has been to do a Broadway play of Mistress of the Dark. I think it would make the most fantastic musical very similar to Hairspray or Legally Blonde. Those are projects I am going to do my best to work on. I also think Elvira has been synonymous with Halloween and the horror genre. She will be able to live even when I’m not around. I mean, look at Santa Claus. He has been dead forever and is still working.

Elvira’s 40th Anniversary, Very Scary, Very Special Special, September 25, 8/7c, Shudder and on demand on AMC+

Visit Elvira’s website to stay updated on everything going on with the “Mistress of the Dark.”