Hooboy, this one was a stinker. Directed by Zoltan G. Spencer (nee Spence Crilly), The Satanist is a B&W horror nudie (a kind of subset/cousin of the genre of nudie cuties that Brandon has been writing about of late) that was released in 1968 and was thought to be irretrievably lost after its last screening in 1971; film archivists generally agree that only five prints of the film were ever made, and the single surviving print was unearthed only a year ago. It has been screened only two or three times since then, including at the Forgotten Film Festival in Philadelphia last summer, and most recently at the Alamo Ritz for the Halloween season. Unfortunately, of all the missing films out there in the world that are begging to be found, this is one whose discovery doesn’t enrich the world all that much.
The plot follows a writer who has recently experienced a nervous break and is, under orders from his doctor, trying to get some stress-free rest in the country with his beautiful wife, Mary. In short order, the two meet their neighbor Shawna, a “student of the occult” whose home is decorated with “numerous” “arcane” objects. The writer sees an apparition of a topless woman in a mirror, but does not share this with his wife, chalking it up to his nervous exhaustion. Later, he returns to Shawna’s home and spies through her window as she feels up another woman before turning into a man and engaging in softcore intercourse with her. His wife catches Shawna attempting some rite with his glasses (topless, of course), and the two decide to leave, but feel obligated to attend a party that Shawna had invited them to before they discovered her witchy ways. Obviously, this is a bacchanal during which the writer is tied up and forced to watch as Mary becomes the bride of Satan, as each man in attendance dons a ridiculous-looking ram’s head and thrusts vainly in the general direction of her nethers. The film then ends with the writer back in the frame story, where he sits in a wheelchair stating that it is up to you, the viewer, to determine whether or not his experience was real or the result of his mental breakdown. Of course, his doctor sure does look an awful lot like Shawna, doesn’t she?
There is nothing that could save this movie, not even an ending that mocks The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. At only 64 minutes, this movie feels as if it is hours long, and there’s nothing to do for long stretches of it while topless women roll around in relative chastity with hairy, mustachioed men. There’s no exchange of dialogue at all in the film, as all lines are delivered by the writer in voiceover, expositing here and explaining there, and any fun that comes from the film is in the pompous verbosity and overwrought delivery. Even the titles for the director’s later works, like Terror at Orgy Castle and Sister in Leather, are more automatically engaging than this film. There are monologues here that are begging to be sampled and looped, but that does not make up for the long stretches of screentime that are devoted to titillation. Even as an esoteric, forgotten piece of cinema, this is one to avoid.
-Mark “Boomer” Redmond