Nocturna Productions 1/6 Elvira, Mistress of the Dark
In the late spring of 1981, six years after the death of Larry Vincent, who starred as host Sinister Seymour of a Los Angeles weekend horror show called ‘Fright Night’, show producers wanted to bring the show back. They decided to use a female host and asked 1950s horror hostess Maila Nurmi to revive the ‘Vampira’ Show. Nurmi worked on the project for a short time and when she quit, the station sent out a casting call. Cassandra Peterson auditioned 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's character in ‘The Fearless Vampire Killers, Or--Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are In My Neck’.
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 claimed that Vampira's image was based on Morticia Addams, a character in Charles Addams's cartoons that appeared in The New Yorker magazine.
Peterson's Elvira character rapidly gained notice with her tight-fitting, low-cut, cleavage-displaying black gown. 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 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 and her popularity soared.
The Elvira character soon evolved from an obscure cult figure to a lucrative brand. She was associated with many products through the 1980s and 1990s, including Halloween costumes, comic books, 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’, on whose script, written directly for the screen, Peterson collaborated with John Paragon and Sam Egan, and which was released in 1988.
After several years of attempts to make a sequel to ‘Elvira, Mistress of the Dark’, Cassandra and her manager and then-husband Mark Pierson decided to finance a second movie. In November 2000, Peterson wrote, again in collaboration with Paragon, and co-produced ‘Elvira's Haunted Hills’. The film was shot in Romania for just under one million dollars. With little budget left for promotion, Cassandra and Mark screened the film at AIDS charity fund raisers across America. For many people in attendance, this was their first opportunity to see the woman behind the Elvira character. On July 5, 2002, ‘Elvira's Haunted Hills’ had its official premiere in Hollywood. Elvira arrived at the premiere in her Macabre Mobile. The film would later be screened at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival. In September 2010, ‘Elvira's Movie Macabre’ returned to television syndication in the U.S., this time with public domain films. In October 2014, it was revealed that a new series of thirteen episodes had been produced, ‘13 Nights of Elvira’ for Hulu. The show began on October 19, 2014, running through to Halloween. (edited for length from Wikipedia)
When I saw the movie ‘Elvira, Mistress of the Dark’ in the theater back in 1988, I was impressed with Cassandra Peterson’s wackadoo characterization of Elvira; an over the top gothic, vampire, witch, punk seductress with a marvelously suggestive sense of humor that separated her from all other B-movie ‘ladies of the night’. I had met and become acquainted with Cassandra at Chiller Theater Halloween Shows in Secaucus, New Jersey back in the 1990s while I was there representing my own resin figure line. Consequently, when Nocturna Productions released their “Elvira, Mistress of the Dark” resin figure kit, I knew it had to be added to my collection. The kit is as close to perfect as one could ever ask of pressure cast resin. The kit’s sculptor, Trevor Grove, captured a dead-on likeness to ‘Elvira’ in facial features and body proportions and he sculpted the figure in a fluid, expressive pose that conveyed Elvira’s personality very well. The casting is flawless with precious few seam lines that require cleanup and the parts breakdown allows for ease of assembly and painting. You won’t have to use a ton of latex rubber masking on this kit.
As with all resin kits, I washed the kit parts thoroughly in warm, soapy water to remove any mold release residue, rinsed thoroughly, and allowed them to air-dry. After sanding and polishing what few seam lines required it, I drilled and pinned all connecting parts using ¾ inch lengths of ribbed dry-wall nails glued with 5-minute epoxy to insure strength and durability. Final assembly included filling small seams between the arms and the dress with a minute amount of two-part epoxy putty smoothed with acetone to make the dress seams appear more realistic. I didn’t bother to attach Elvira’s hair parts at this point because her outlandishly big hair would be in the way when painting the face. It would be easier, and cleaner, to paint them separately to attach later. As always, the assembled figure and smaller parts were washed in warm soapy water to remove any finger oil or sanding dust and allowed to air-dry for a couple of days before they were primed with flat white automotive primer. My habit is to construct similar bases with nameplates for all my pieces to add continuity to my collection. They are always square or rectangular to elevate the figure and accommodate a nameplate and so I can have custom acrylic cases constructed to protect each one from the dust, auto emissions and chemical film which exists in Chicago air. I created the artwork for the nameplate in Adobe Photoshop™ and as usual, Fritz Frising, a.k.a. the ‘Headless Hearseman’, translated my art into a beautiful three-dimensional metal plate. While the kit came complete with a nice ‘stone’ pedestal type base, I wanted to add a bit of color to contrast with Elvira’s black dress so I decided on a plain hardwood ‘floor’. This was made with strips of cherry wood cut to size on my hobbyist’s table saw and then glued to 1/8 inch plywood cut to fit the surface of the base. The base was constructed from ½ inch trim lumber assembled with 5-minute epoxy and laminated with .040” styrene sheet.
|COLORS & MARKINGS|
After the primed figure and small parts had cured until I could no longer detect a chemical odor when placing them very close to my nose, it was time to begin painting. The most difficult area of the figure to paint was capturing the distinctive “Elvira” eye makeup and the shape of Cassandra’s lips. She has a unique, rather thin-lipped, smile that required concentration to render correctly. The remainder of the figure I painted to, well, just look like “Elvira”. I painted the flesh areas first using my own mixtures of Liquitex™ tube acrylics thinned and airbrushed. I use the airbrush as if it were a light source, spraying ever lighter mixtures of the base flesh tone from a high angle down onto the figure. The result is a soft, natural blending of the shadow-to-highlight tones. After the flesh paint on the legs had cured, I mixed a touch of black and burnt umber into my medium flesh tone and slightly misted it over the legs, creating the illusion that the figure is wearing nylons. Detail is rendered with a combination of Windsor & Newton™ Regency Gold detail liner brushes and pastel powder for makeup and some shadow detail. Metallics used are all from the Liquitex™ acrylic range. After masking the flesh areas with liquid latex mold building compound, I painted the dress black, creating highlights using the same technique as the flesh areas. All painting is sealed after each step with Testors™ Dullcoat from the rattle can. As a final touch, the tiny jewel for Elvira’s ring is attached with a bit of cyanoacrylate on the end of a toothpick and the eyes, mouth and lips are given a coating of Testors™ Glosscoat. Glosscoat is also applied to the high heels, except the soles, to make them ‘pop’. The ‘hardwood floor’ was finished just like the real thing by sanding and sealing with clear varnish. Once completely cured, it was polished and then given a coat of Future™ acrylic floor finish. The floor was masked off and then the base was painted black and, after drying for a few days, the paint was sanded off the nameplate lettering where required. Then the lettering was hand-painted white and sealed with Testors™ Glosscoat. Final assembly required fitting the pre-painted hair onto Elvira’s noggin using cyanoacrylate, drilling and pinning the figure to the base with 5-minute epoxy and fitting the pre-painted whip pieces with cyanoacrylate.
If you are a fan of Elvira (and who isn’t?) then you have to love this 1/6th scale beauty of a kit. The sculpting rivals anything the great masters created, the likeness is right on the money, and the casting is some of the best I’ve seen and I’ve been building large scale figures a long, long time. I would have to compare the surface detail and finish out of the box to a classic Billiken vinyl kit. The lack of cleanup required made building Elvira a pleasure and it was quick work to get to my favorite part…painting! I hope you enjoy it!
Just do a search for ‘Elvira’ on that internet thingy and you’ll have more photographic reference than you’ll know what to do with!
16 April 2018
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