Scared Stiff by the Party Monsters: Elvira’s Pinball Adventures

It seems like I’ve always known about Elvira. I know that can’t be possible, but at the same time I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I learned of her existence. I remember learning about her pinball game Elvira and the Party Monsters during one of the same family vacations that led to me discovering Rampage but at the same time I don’t remember being mystified by who Elvira was. As this was long before I had learned before I learned of her association with movies through seeing her ThrillerVideo releases at various video stores and Attack of the Killer B Movies, I must have seen one of those cardboard Coors Light stand-ups featuring her during one of dad’s trips to the package store. It would certainly explain why I had no reason to question Elvira having a barbeque with a bunch of monsters. Given how those Elvira stand-ups usually lumped in with some generic “party” display, it makes sense the two images would become mixed in my mind.

Given my love of pinball and monsters, I immediately made a beeline for the machine and started to play. Being a casual gamer (and being too young to to know or care about them), I didn’t play according to the game’s official rules. I just tried to score as many points as I could by hitting stuff. I remember being quite amused by the dancing “Boogie Men,” both for the pun and the fact they used the same type of finger puppets I had back at home to create them. I also picked up on the parodies of Gold’s Gym and Tombstone pizza, but remember having to have one of my parents explain the “Dead Head” joke. Having recently looked at the backglass artwork, I had originally assumed the werewolf was modeled on radio personality Wolfman Jack. However, it turns out he’s actually based on one of the designers!

My research for this article also led to me learning there was a sequel made in 1996: Scared Stiff. Like the original, it has its own unique rules and both games are popular enough to have separate fansites. Not only that, but Elvira appeared in a special promotional video for the sequel, as uploaded by duncanfbrown:

Elvira pinball games (and her promotional video) make sense, as her revealing outfit and numerous double entendres fit in perfectly with sexual world of pinball. Oh, you think I’m kidding, don’t you? In addition to numerous pinball machines with backglass art featuring scantily clad women with plunging necklines, there have been many instances where pinball machines feature risqué artwork and references. Let’s not forget all the machines where the sound of women having loud orgasms make an appearance. But in fairness (and as noted in those links), the manufacturers did provide ways of making those machines more family friendly.

And then there’s the promotional videos intended for potential buyers. Some, like this one featuring an Elvira-style hostess, are restrained, but then you have ones where a woman is shown having sex with a pinball machine! Granted, it’s Demolition Man-style virtual sex rather than a variation on Cameron Diaz’s infamous car windshield scene in The Counselor, but it’s amazing how they thought that was the perfect way to sell that particular machine.

Since pinball has been on a decline (but thankfully its predicted death never happened), digital ports of classic machines have been on the rise. Farsight Studios has not only licensed both of Elvira’s pinball games (in both censored and uncensored forms) for a collection of titles known as “The Pinball Arcade,” but they also hired Elvira to appear in new videos promoting them! The Mistress of the Dark also appeared on the Spooky Pinball podcast to discuss the matter.

There’s one last connection between Elvira and pinball: although not as popular as they were in their glory days, they’re always going to around in some manner. I remember running across copies of her second video game while visiting Staples and seeing copies of the Elvira: Mistress of the Dark LaserDisc in Johnson Smith’s “Things You Never Knew Existed” catalog back in the day and you can always count on her showing up in some form on television or in your local costume store every October. And you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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