In the late-19th Century, we find Elvira (Cassandra Peterson) as much in love with the idea of being a showgirl as she was in the original Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (1988). But given that Las Vegas doesn’t exist yet, she is on her way to Paris to be a can-can dancer. Elvira and her maid, Zou Zou (Mary Jo Smith) take a detour through the Carpathians (naturally), where they wind up at the castle of Lord Vladimere Hellsubus (Richard O’Brien). It transpires that Elvira is the spitting image of Lord Hellsubus’s deceased first wife, and all kinds of scheming and counter-plotting begins on the part of the various factions in the spooky old castle.
This plot is, of course, little more than a means to the film’s real end: an endless parade of double-entendres and slapstick that would be considered dated and cheesy by Benny Hill. Naturally, not a single opportunity for a boob joke is passed up. Now, the gags are knowingly dated and cheesy, but that still doesn’t make them that funny. Elvira herself is rather difficult to warm up to this time around (being up against stuffy neighbours made her more sympathetic in the original). Here, she is a bit of the Bud Abbott to Zou Zou’s Lou Costello, but Abbott was never the centre of that comedy team’s films. The direction is rather pedestrian, too, never really building a good head of comic steam, and the film is rather dull to look at, despite its sets.
But these sets and other incidental pleasures are just enough to make the film worth at least a passing glance. The visual nods to classic horror films are legion. The opening scenes, complete with inn and teeth-rattling carriage ride, are visually quite faithful to Tod Browning’s Dracula, for example. But the real touchstone for the film is Roger Corman’s Poe adaptations of the 60s. From O’Brien’s Usher-like afflictions to the smeared-oil-paint credits, we are in familiar territory. This is hardly to the Corman-Poe films what Young Frankenstein was to the Universal Gothics, but the affection is charming. The movie is, then, a rather clunky labour of love, and watching it requires a similar degree of affection.