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An Illustrated Guide To The Devil In Cinema Nikolas �c�reck


CREDITS

The Satanic Screen An lllustrated History Of The Devil In Cinema 1896-1999 Nikolas Schreck ISBN 1 84068 043 1 CREATION CINEMA COLLECTION, VOLUME

17

© Nikolas Schreck 2000 First published 2001 by: CREATION BOOKS All World Rights Reserved Design/layout/typesetting: PCP International Design technician: Bradley Davis Photographs: By courtesy of the author, BFI London, Kobal Collection (page 225), and the Jack Hunter Collection. All stills are .authorised publicity shots and used here as originally designated.

Author's Acknowledgements: Russell Massina, Helene Boullet, Simone Lohmeier In Memoriam for the Sea Wolf. For my wife, Zeena, with love eternal.


CONTENTS

Prologue: Darkness Visible

5 1. Through The Devil's Looking Glass 11 2. When Satan Was Silent: 1913-1929 23 3. The Depression And Its Demons: The 1930s 49 4.

War Is Hell: The 1940s 61

5.

Atom Age Antichrist: The 1950s 79

6.

Sympathy For The Devil: The 1960s 93 7.

Deluge And Backlash: The 1970s 143

8.

Raising Hell In The Reagan Years: The 1980s 193 9.

Even Hell Has Its Heroes: The 1990s 217 Index of Films 239


"The Devil hath power t'assume a pleasing shape -William Shakespeare

...

"


PROLOGUE:

DARKNESS VISIBLE According to tradition, the Devil has always been a celebrated patron of the arts. Quite apart from the vague and somewhat contradictory references to his personage found in the B i ble, Satan has maintained a long and distinguished presence in Western culture. Indeed, it is as a constantly sha pe-shifting entity of the creative imagination that Lucifer has been most enlivened in mankind's consciousness. Mephistopheles was the muse of such composers as Liszt and Paganini, whose virtuosity inspired rumours of pacts with the Devil. Opera houses still resound to a repertoire of infernal arias. Medieval nun Hi ldegard von Bingen's Sequentia included one of the Devil's earliest appearances as a musical character, a heritage continued more recently in the Satanic pieces of Penderecki and Maxwell Davies. Dante's Inferno, Milton's Paradise Lost, and Goethe's Faust count among the masterpieces of their respective national literatures, each conveying an indelible Satanic vision whose influence has lasted centuries. The Prince of Darkness was praised in the litanies of Baudelaire and the hymns of Carducci, among countless other bards drawn to sulphurous verse. Ever since the Everyman plays of the Middle Ages, the Devil has strutted the boards of the world's stages, from Marlowe's Doctor Faustus to Shaw's Don Juan In Hell. Satan has been an­ obliging model for artists of the calibre of Durer, Bosch and Goya, later materializing on the decadent canvases of many great Symbolist painters. The first sculptures of the Devil were seen in 1 2th century churches, and secular Satans of stone were molded by the romantic Rodin. These demonic apparitions in the arts have all been exhaustively chrohicled, bearing witness to the immense magnetism the Devil has exercised on the creative impulse. Considering this, it's strange that Satan's impressive showing in the seventh art of cinema has gone almost entirely unexamined until now. For, as one looks back on the first century of film, it becomes apparent that the movies have been the Devil's domain from the very beginning. The Prince of Darkness stars in one of the very first narrative films, France's LA MANOIR DU DIABLE ( 1 896} by cinema p ioneer Georges Melies. Germany's DER STUDENT VON PRAG (1 913}, recognized as the first cohesive feature-length p icture, tells the tale of a Faustian pact with the Devil, a theme that would be reinterpreted again and again in the next nine decades. Throughout the entire development of the motion picture as art form and entertainment in the 20th century, the figure of Satan stands firmly in focus, a mirror of changing times and cultural tides. Extending its scope far beyond the predictable handful of films that might first come to mind, this study of the Satanic cinema reveals that Beelzebub is invoked to interesting effect in a kale idoscopic array of pictures, striding across genre lines into often unexpected territory. In this, the first filmography of the Fallen Angel, it becomes evident that the Satanic archetype knows no boundaries. Here are toe-ta pping Satanic musicals like DAMN YANKEES (1958) and avant garde underground experiments, such as INVOCATION OF MY DEMON BROTHER (1 969). Satan is summoned in the salacious hardcore pornography of THE DEVIL IN MISS JONES (1972) and the wholesome Disney fare of FANTASIA (1 940). There are sci-fi films positing the Devil as an extra-terrestrial, and Blaxploitation flicks placing Hell right in the hood. The Devil rides the range in the Satanic western THE DEVIL'S


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THE SATANIC SCREEN

Hiixan.

M ISTRESS ( 1 966). Such works as F.W. Murnau's FAUST (1 926) and Richard B u rton's DOCTOR FAUSTUS ( 1 967) give us Archfiends suited for the salons of high classical culture. Despite such lofty forays, Satanas is no snob, equally at home in any number of Z-grade grindhouse q uickies. Consequently, I've cast as wide a net as possible, as the cheapest exploitation film tells us as much about our shadowy subject as any of the more refined infernal essays. Tracing the evolution of the Satanic archetype on film, one q u ickly d iscovers that n o character has inspired such wildly differing interpretations. Charming rogue with impeccable manners; slavering monster of bestial aspect; seemingly in nocent child; seductive woman; unseen metaphysical force: these are only some of the contradictory depictions of the Devil offered by the Satanic cinema. With so many film-makers centring on this mercurial figure through the lenses of so many cultures and times, a n u npredictable procession of shifting images appears. The enigmatic nature of Lucifer has u nleashed the cinematic imagination to intensely individual expression. It's rather odd to note how rarely film-makers have presented the Devil as the trite emblem of pitchfork-bearing, cloven-hoofed fiend. Subversive visions of the Devil as dark anti-hero collide with the traditional cliche of Satan as a one-dimensional Christian bogeyman. These disparate filmic portrayals of u ltimate evil's primary symbol reflect the rapidly changing swing of the 20th century's societal pendulum back a n d forth between transgressive impulse a n d safe conservatism. True to its mirroring nature, the Satanic cinema has often portrayed the Devil as whatever force was perceived by consensus consciousness as embodying cosmic maleficence at the time. Satan has been portrayed on film as being in league with such divergent social scarecrows as Saddam Hussein, the 1 960s hippy counterculture. Nazi Germany, the legal profession, heavy metal music, Kaiser Wilhelm II, and the


PROLOGUE: DARKNESS VISIBLE

•

7

President of the Un ited States. Above and beyond any of these strictly temporal anxieties, the Satanic cinema has most often associated Lucifer with the intoxicating and subversive power of Eros. As film after film testifies, Satan is seen as presiding over the eternal rites of sex, most effectively through his principal agent on Earth, womankind. Tertullian wrote that "Foemina janua diabuli"- Woman is the gate to the Devil - and this dictum has been hammered home in hundreds of diabolical films. Depending on the climate of the times, Satanic sexuality and feminine eroticism has been celebrated (H AXAN, 1922), exploited (BLOOD ORGY OF THE S H E-DEVILS, 1 972), and condemned to death (THE EXORCIST, 1 973), sometimes a l l a t the same time. The demonic Other i s very often simply the other woman, causing enchanted hearts to stray from the bonds of holy matrimony. In those films produced in prurient and Puritan Hol lywood, a strong streak of misogyny has informed these portrayals of the female as accomplice of Satan. Such pictures echo the words of Kramer and Sprenger, those Papal inquisitors who wrote the Malleus Ma/eficarum: "All witchcraft comes from carnal lust, which is in women insatiable ... wherefore for the sake of fulfilling their lusts they consort even with devils." This hatred and fear of the flesh was far less pronounced in European Satanic fi lms, which generally paint a more positive image of Luciferian lust. As a necessary adjunct to the history of the Devil on film, I account for cinematic depictions of his adherents, the practitioners of Satan ism and the adepts of black magic. In covering this subgenre of the Satanic film, I focus on the previously obscured interplay between the burgeoning cinema and the actual black magical revival, two unprecedented 20th century phenomena that often intertwined. Like rivers linked by unseen subterranean streams, the nee-magical renaissance and the cinema fed each other in synergetic fashion, parallel cultural developments occasionally interlinked. Aleister Crowley, the most notorious occultist of the century, exercised an influence on a veritable cottage industry of magical films, including the silent classic THE MAGICIAN (1 926) and Kenneth Anger's Thelemic underground cycle. Several British horror films were also inspired by the B east's darker elements. Other occult Orders have played a far more di rect role in the production of Sata n ic films. The obscure magician Albin Grau was involved with NOSFERATU (1 922) and other classics of the silent era. The screenwriter for THE SEVENTH VICTIM attended a 1943 meeting of New York Satanists while researching the film. Cameron Parsons, an artist/sorceress legendary in magical circles, can be seen in several films. Michael A. Aquino, founder of the Temple of Set, was the first practising Satanist to serve as technical adviser on a film in 1 972. And in 1 975, Anton Szandor LaVey, principal purveyor of Satanism as showbiz, was hired by director Robert Fuest to add a sense of realism to a drive-in Devil flick known as THE DEVIL'S RAIN. The films covered in this volume not only drew on actual magical practice, their powerful fantasies often inspired neophytes to experiment with the Black Arts- especially during the occult time warp of the late 1 960s and early 1 970s. On its most elemental level, the Satanic cinema forms an arena of war between two violently contradictory impulses, the stasis of the known vs. the eternally transforming Other. At one extreme, a certain number of these films express an unre l ieved fear of the Devil as embodiment of all that is hidden, unfamiliar and threatening to the status quo of fami ly, relig ious orthodoxy and sexual repression. At the opposite pole, Satan is depicted as a mysterious but desirable liberating force, breaking the bonds of normative consciousness, and


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THE SATANIC SCREEN

Tbe Magician.

freeing up possibil ities that allow for unlimited expansion of the self. At the heart of the dramatic conflict in almost every diabolical film is the relentless battle between the socially defined mass mind and the self-defined individual consciousness coming into being of its own accord. Power, knowledge, adventure, eternal life, erotic license; these are the temptations the Devil offers to the dramatis personae of the Satanic cinema. Of course, the lion's share of film­ makers ultimately opt for a reversion to the tribal good, quashing the dangerous rebellion of Lucifer in the final reel. However, we will also consider those intriguing works that allow the "evil" Other - the untrammelled independent self - to triumph over the herd. As for the archetype of the Devil, it actually extends far beyond the lim ited framework of Judaeo-Christian mythology. The Aztec deity Tezcatlipoca, the Egyptian war god Set, Grecian Prometheus, Islamic lblis, and Indian Kali are only a few of the culturally determined faces of the Devil, an archetype of truly cross-cultural dimensions. The ever-changing Satan of the cinema is in fact a mythical alloy composed of many strands of legend and folklore. NIGHT OF THE DEMON (1 957) is one of the few films that suggest the universal ity of the Devil in any convincing way. The casual viewer of the Satanic cinema will tend to dismiss diabolical doings on screen as nothing more than monster movies with theological trappings. However, I have added another point of view to the consideration of these films. After all, Satanism and the veneration of the Devil are not simply figments of screenwriter's imag inations. The practice of the Black Arts is a real


PROLOGUE: DARKNESS VISIBLE

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9

and flourishing phenomenon, reflected both in an arcane magical subculture and in the omnipresence of Satanic symbolism in different strata of pop culture. Satanism's sensational aura may draw customers to the box office - the most compe lling motivation of any producer - but I have also examined these films in light of the authentic black magical tradition they occasionally make reference to. That tradition - almost entirely obscured beneath the detritus of popular notions of Satanism - is the spiritual methodology known as the left hand path. Although THE DEVIL RIDES OUT (1 967) is the only film that actually refers to the left hand path by name, it is this system of metaphysical initiation that underlies the entire Satanic mythos which these films address. From a left hand path perspective, the metaphysical concepts of Satan and Lucifer have nothing to do with the Judaeo-Christian u nderstanding of these cosmic principles. In fact, Satan ism itself represents just one narrow element of the left hand path, which is, above a l l, the exaltation of the self through magical means. The magician of the left hand path seeks to separate her or his psyche from all that is unessential to it, embracing and integrating the Other as a key to achieving an immortal god­ like state of consciousness. Seen through the magical worldview, the Satanic cinema's conflict between the Other and the social vector can be defined as the battle between the left hand path and the right hand path, its eternal adversary. The right hand path can be defined as an alignment with cosmic conformism, a subm ission of the self to group consciousness. This imported esoteric phrase "left hand path" has been used rather inexactly by many modern black magicians, who usually ignore the Eastern Tantric tradition from which this terminology originated. The sexual magic intrinsic to the authentic Indian left hand path has also largely been ignored by prudish contemporary Satan ists, who sepa rate sexua l ity from spirituality just as much as any Christian. In India, the left hand way - Varna Marg in Sanskrit - can also be translated to mean the way of Woman, a fact which underscores the feminine essence of the left hand path. The cosmic Feminine Daemon ic, mysterious, lu nar and nocturnal, is usually stamped out in the Satanic cinema by the stolid male hero of the right hand path. The frequent cinematic portrayal of the Devil as a beguiling female is interesting in this regard. In viewing even the most marginal entries in the Sata nic cinema, it becomes apparent that cinema is truly the folklore of the 20th century, working on the same unconscious level of myth and dream. Just as certain iconic figures and themes recur in dreams and mythology, so does the diabolic film consistently present symbolic leitmotifs. Of these recurring images, perhaps one of the most frequent is the Double. Vexing the Sata nic cinema with its confusing presence from the earl iest days of the movies, the Double sometimes ill ustrates the simple Man ichean notion of good and evil by splitting one character into a purportedly good Jekyll and a Satanic Hyde. Reflecting a basic cultural distrust of women, this doubling often takes the form of the nice girl and the libidinous seductress, played by the same actress. Such twin n i ng can be most effectively seen in METROPOLIS (1926) and LA MASCHERA DEL DEMONIC (1 960). Often, the Double is evoked in a more subtle manner by the use of a Satanic mirror, reflecting a reality unseen by unillumin ated mortals. Many of these films can be viewed as initiatory quests, in which characters embark on a magical journey which transforms their identity, or brings them into contact with hidden aspects of Self previously unknown or forbidden to them. The mythic power of the cinema is such that even a film with absolutely no other


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THE SATANIC SCREEN

ambition than the financial can un intentionally project a mythic resonance that tells us something about the primordial archetype of the Devil. Just as seemingly trivial dreams may possess uncanny force and meaning, film can be a kind of waking dream, touching deep chords in the subconscious. On a more mundane level, there is un questionably a subtext of class confl ict in many of these pictures. According to F. Scott Fitzgerald's famous quote: "The rich are not like you and I" In the Satanic cinema that's certa inly true. In the majo rity of these films, the rich customarily worship the Devil. Money, in the theology of the cinema, is second only to female sexual ity as a depraving Sata nic influence. Film audiences are consistently offered images of Lucifer's minions as conspicuously moneyed snobs, symbols of class envy and suspicion taken to the furthest extreme. In the mass psyche's wish-fulfilment fantasies, the unbrid led erotic decadence presumed to typify the upper class leads directly to consorting with Satan. A standard location in almost every film concerning Satanism is the opulent chateau concea ling unholy rites behind its civilized facade. In keeping with this well-heeled undercurrent, there have been a surprising number of celluloid Satans played by actors with upper-class British accents. This trend, particularly evident in Hollywood productions, seems to symbolize some a rchetypal recognition that the Devil, despite his poor reputation in some circles, is essentially a gentleman. After all, an entity sporting the honorific title of Prince of Darkness must be a noble of some kind. In Das Bose In Kino, Hans-Joachim Neuman observes that "the cinema Devil is ... a thoroughly polyglot, often elegant, urbane and, above all, well-spoken apparition. His terror is the terror of a provincial public before the seductions of the great wide world." Other curious patterns will be seen to rise and recede as a century of screen Satans unreels in these pages. Certa in ly, I have allowed my own eclectic tastes to decide which episodes in this 1 04-year journey should be emphasized. It would require an encyclopedia to chronicle every diabolical production, and limitations of space simply forbid listing them all. As I'm convinced that the homogenized steril ity of 1 980s and 1 990s culture marked a dismal nadir, the reader will notice that I've been far less exhaustive in covering that aesthetically void era. When possible, I've tried to illuminate the darker, more obscure corners of the Sata nic cinema. Consequently, influential but forgotten early figu res like Georges Melies, Hanns Heinz Ewers, and Hans Poelzig have been afforded more space than some well-known contemporary players. I make no apologies for my adm itted prejudice against big-budget Hol lywooden product in favour of less publ icized independent productions. Now that you've been warned, it's time to let the ushers escort you to your seat. The shadowed screen that stands before you promises strange pleasures, serendipities and more than a few fascinating failures. As with every branch of the Black Arts, true masters of the Satanic cinema are rare, and transient pretenders are the rule. Its artistic ach ievements have sometimes been entirely accidental, although a select company of authentic visionaries have let their cameras peer into the darkness. The odd body of work we will observe veers madly between extremes, sometimes provoking the senses with Dionysian challenge, and then retreating into purblind conformism. These films talk loudly about all those topics forbidden to polite conversation: Religion, sex, politics. As such, even the most trivial of their number serve to reflect discomforting g l impses of the mutating culture that produced them. Xeper and Remanifest -Niko/as Schreck, Berlin, 30 April 2000 CE


THROUGH THE DEVIL'S LOOKING GLASS The history of the Satanic cinema truly begins with the magic lantern spectacles of the seventeenth century, which delighted and frightened pre-cinematic audiences with elaborate illusions of light and shadow. These dramatic demonstrations, foreshadowing the cinema to come, were vivid entertainments projected in the dark to the amazement of spectators. By shooting a stream of light through images wrought on coloured g lass sl ides, impresarios disp layed the mirage of glowing, realistic phantasms floating over onlooker's heads. The impress ion of movement was produced by inserting a second or third glass frame into the light. In this manner, a gaudily painted jester could be seen to dance a jig, or sunny clouds would suddenly darken with storm and l ightning. Fascination with the new entertainment was not l imited to any one stratum of society. Aristocrats invited noble guests to view this latest diversion, converting their ballrooms or private theatres for the use of magic lantern projection ists. Customarily restrained ladies of the court were reported to cry out in wonder when they witn essed the ¡alarming sight of radiant images moving above them. To these refined patrons, the magic lantern was presented by entrepreneurs as a genteel art form. In contrast, commoners were crowded into darkened tents in seedy fairgrounds and circuses to behold the magic lantern. Such d ifferentiations antici pated the art house film and the exploitation movie of centuries hence.

Some awe-struck spectators screamed with

delight at the

technically created marvels, often reaching out to touch the phantom images, believing them to be real. The superstitious crossed themselves, fearful that such sights were the artifices of the Devil. Hovering ghosts materialized and dissolved in the darkness. Flying pixies and fays g littered with magic dust. Other inhuman creatures, both benign a n d malevolent, terrified a n d encha nted t h e viewers o f these sorcerous light exhibitions. Naturally, because of the fantastic, dream-like effects artisans could create with the new medium, the Devil was a lways a popular theme in the phantasmagoria of the Laterna magica. Brightly coloured flames of hellfire fl ickered around the cloven hooves of winged demons. While many black magicians had strived in vain to conjure the Devil to visible appearance, the Laterna magica had succeeded. Such malefic a p p a ritions were the precursors to the Satanic cinema, offering the mythological images of embodied evil as popular entertainment. The Satanic amusements pouring forth from the magic lantern were noted with alarm by the agents of the Church. Always the first to condemn any new technical innovation, ecclesiastics swiftly inveighed against the magic lantern as an infernal contraption. Despite such admonishments, more pragmatic evangel ists did not fail to recognize in the public's fascination with the magic lantern a possible weapon against the Archfiend. In 1671, the Jesuit priest Kaspar Schott wrote in his opus Magia optica: "It is but that these pictures and shadows in dark chambers are much more frightening than those made by the sun. Through this art god less people can easily be kept from the commitment of too many v ices, if one created on that mirror images of the Devil and ban ished them to a dark place." Fire and b rimstone sermons hammering on the dangers of Satan, and the terrors of H e l l that awaited sinners, could be effective when delivered b y theatrically gifted


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THE SATANIC SCREEN

First illustration of the magic lantern, from Ars Magna Lucis El

Umbrae (1671).

preachers. However, innovative clergymen found that their congregations could be even more persuasively frightened into godl iness if their exhortations were illustrated with the realistic moving images of the Devil's pomps streaming from

Magic lantern slides c. 1800.


THROUGH THE DEVIL'S LOOKING GLASS

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Robenson's Pha,lasmagon¡a c. 1830.

the Laterna magica. This churchly utilization of the new machine to keep parishioners in line were the seventeenth century equ ivalent of such hysterical cinematic sermons as THE EXORCIST (1973) and THE OMEN (1976). Less pious results were aimed for by the Belgian magic lantern operator Etienne Robertson, who presented his elaborate and world-famous Phantasmagoria in the Paris of the early 1830s. In a macabre theatre appointed with human skulls and tomb-like appurtenances, Robertson projected artistically rendered images of the bat-winged Devil and his minions on moving mirrors, producing terrifyingly realistic i l l usions that created an international sensation. Hellish sound effects and sinister voices complemented the infernal images, which were created by a panoply of inventive prisms and optical effects. It was said that Robertson's more delicate customers ran screaming from these Satanic spectacles, which brought the diabolical possibilities of the magic lantern show to an unprecedented state of the art level. Another i mportant forerunner to the Satanic cinema proper was the extravagantly mounted grand i l l usion of fin de siecle stage magic. Steeped in diabolical imagery, practitioners of this art went to great lengths to suggest that the beguiling power of their sleight of hand was due to collusion with black magical forces. These stage magicians' colourful posters often depicted the Devil as the i l lusionist's invisible cohort, performing m aleficent miracles before the unbelieving eyes of their audiences. It was not uncommon in the late nineteenth century for grand illusionists to let it be known that their skills were the result of a pact with t h e Prince of Hell. Elephants appeared and vanished with the wave of a

hand, exotic princesses and fairy tale beauties were sawn in half or

gu illotined, only to be resurrected. If credulous audiences imagined that these wonders were the result of the mag ician's Satanic alliance, then so much t h e better Perhaps t h e Great Dante, aswirl in t h e infernal, brought t h i s Luciferian lineage to its greatest lustre.


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THE SATANIC SCREEN

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In Paris, where a certain penchant for diablerie had always been pronounced, one of the most popular of these wizards was Georges Melies. Like many a celebrated stage magician of his time, Melies affected a deliberately Satanic appearance, sporting a barbed goatee, garbed in the dapper formal wear and red-lined cape in which the Devil was usually seen in opera or theatre. Dubbed " Meph isto-Melies" by his admirers, this Satanic showman of th e Victorian


THROUGH THE DEVIL'S LOOKING GLASS

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age was soon to perform one of the greatest tricks of a l l time. For it was Melies who pulled the Satanic cinema out of his sleeve. The City of Light was an elegant bastion of the Prince of Darkness in Me lies' time, and the suave and mysterious stage magician was knowingly catering to public tastes. Ever since the days of Louis XIV, whose beautiful mistress Madame Montespan regularly celebrated the Black Mass at the royal palace, the Devil was chic in the French capital. Even His Grey Eminence, Cardinal Richelieu, secretly studied the Black Arts, despite the risk of Papal persecution. Baudelaire's im passioned Satanic poetry was followed by Joris-Karl Huysmans' 1891 novel La­ bas (Down There). Based on the decadent author's experiences with a contemporary congregation of Luciferians, the book revived serious interest in Satanism, particularly among the bohemian circle of Symbolist artists. Among these visionaries was the mystic painter Jean Delville. His g igantic canvas of a beautiful fallen angel, Tresor de Satan, enraptured its observers with an intensity the new cinematic art had not yet achieved. A perfumed taste of the exotic Satanic vogue sweeping through Melies' 1890s Paris is distilled in these lines of Verlaine: "In a s i l k and gold palace in Echbatan, Beautiful demons, youthful Satans, To the sound of Mohammedan music dedicate their f ive senses to the Seven Sins." Parisians attending Me lies' m a g i c shows could have intensified the evening's theme by sl ipping off at midnight to any of the risque Black Masses celebrated throughout the city. Paris was so associated with Satanism in the 1890s that the more spurious and commercial of these ceremonies were even listed in tourist gu ides. What better place than Paris, where the Devil was the stuff of popu lar entertainment, high art, and esoteric study, for the Satanic cinema to take its first cloven steps? Despite this long-simmering fascination with black magic a l l around him, it should be pointed out that for Georges Melies, Satan was simply the stuff of entertainment. Born in 1861, Melies' background was completely devoid of magic. As the son of a prosperous shoemaker, he was expected to take up the family trade. To this prosaic end, he was shipped off to London to perfect his English for business purposes in 1884. When he attended a traditional English pantomime, Melies was enchanted by the mythical fairy-tale atmosphere. His imagination inflamed, he never really set foot on earth again. Surrounded by the pseudo­ pharaonic splendour of Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly, he beheld the extravagant magic shows of the conjurer Maskelyne. The young Frenchman was taken under Maskelyne's wing, where he learned the closely guarded secrets of the art of stage m a g ic. Returning to his homeland, he purchased the famous Parisian home of stage magic, the Theatre Robert-Houdin. There, he devised i llusions that astounded even the most sophisticated audiences. As one of Paris' most celebrated entertainers, the magician was invited to the Lumiere B rothers legendary exhibition of the

Cinematog raphe on

28

December 1895. He was riveted by the wondrous sight of photographs that actually moved. Melies' m a g ically oriented mind perceived instantly that the moving picture was really a fabulous form of legerdemain, a grand il lusion that could be applied to his stage show to marvellous effect. The magic lantern and stereopticon, technical adjuncts he had previously util ized to create uncanny effects

in

his

act,

were

now

instantly

archaic.

With

this

new-fa ngled

Cinematog raphe, Melies saw that he could execute a kind of magic that would completely transcend the old-fashioned grand illusions of the stage. This technologically produced i l l u m inated fl ickering of sequential photographs was a


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THE SATANIC SCREEN

Georges Melies.

trick that even the great Mephisto-Melies, with all of his devilish dexterity, could not achieve. At first, he thought the invention would be a great attraction for his theatre, so he built and patented his own camera, the Kinematographe Robert-


THROUGH THE DEVIL'S LOOKING GLASS

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Houdin. Brief film clips were incorporated into his act, adding a dash of nove lty and razzle-dazzle to his usual Abracadabra. As Mel ies enthusiastically experimented with the gadget, he accidentally discovered one ofthe cinema's first special effects. While filming traffic in La place de I'Opera, his camera temporarily jammed, then started again. When he saw the developed film, he was delighted to watch a bus transformed magically into a hearse via stop motion. This trick photography was used to show the old disappearing lady trick with far more effectiveness than he could ever realize with theatrically bound stage magic. His obsession with the poss ibilities of using film as magic led him to abandon his successful stage act altogether. Melies refurbished the venerable Theatre Robert-H oudin into one of Europe's first movie theatres. Other film pioneers around the world were tinkering with the new technology of the Cinematograph, but they were primarily using the camera as a clinical instrument, recording real events in a documentary manner. The Lumiere Brothers, for instance, were producing the equivalent of newsreels, early exercises in cinema verite. It was the proto-surrealist Melies who used the cinema to transcend what the Symbolist painter Gustave Moreau dismissed as "the wretched reporting of positive facts" Jaded aud iences of the twenty-first century, bombarded as they are by a constant barrage of media images, may find it difficult to comprehend the visionary qua lity of Mel ies' genius. The magician was the first to grasp the medium's abi lity to tell fantastic stories in artfu lly contrived images. He set to il lustrating archetypal myths of the imagination with moving pictures that fooled the mind into suspending disbelief, allowing for the acceptance of the unreal as the actual. In the darkness of his theatre, audiences saw the impossible come to life. While others were content to record mundane events for the sheer novelty of it, Mel ies was creating his own bizarre and personal enchanted worlds. H e advertised these early fantasy films a s scenes a transformation. Reca lling the bias for naturalism early cinema viewers held fast to, Melies said, "the audiences of that day imagined that it was impossible to photograph anything but real objects" Cinema's first sorcerer dazzled his viewers, revealing unexpected artistic possibilities in his creations, stamping them with his id iosyncratic personality. Melies' productions became more and more complicated, quickly progressing from the filmic recreation of grand illu sions to actu al narratives. A one man show possessed of unflagging energy, he constructed and painted the first sets in a special film studio, designed and fabricated costumes, and handled the actual photography and editing of hundreds of short films. Naturally, Mephisto-Melies seized upon the chance to conjure his favourite mythical su bject, His Satanic Majesty, with the new magical device at his disposal. Melies' 1 896 LA MANOIR DU DIABLE (THE DEVIL'S MANOR), so far as I can ascerta in, is the oldest Satanic film still extant, and certa inly one of the very first presentations of the Devil in the new medium of the cinema. (A short film telling the s_}ory of Faust was reportedly shown around the same time by the Lumiere Brothers, but details concerning this seemingly lost production are scarce.) Clocking in at an epic three minutes and fifteen seconds, the story is simple. A j u m bo-sized bat glides into a trompe-l'oeil medieval castle hall set, painted in flat theatrical style. The bat flaps around menacingly before transforming into a traditionally attired Mephistopheles, none other than Melies himself. When a cavalier flourishes the despised crucifix, the Devil vanishes in a sulphurous puff of smoke. Fin. Essential ly, the Devil is portrayed as a styl ized grand illusionist, an


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THE SATANIC SCREEN

Qualre Cents Farces Du Diab/e.

alter ego of the film-maker. LA MANOIR DU DIABLE achieves Melies' goal of using trick photography to create deceptions far more convincing to the spectator than old-fashioned stage magic. Enervated as we are by a century of special effects, it is easy to forget how unprecedented Me lies' devilish cinemagique was in its time.


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I suspect that in far less time than a century, the vaunted digital effects of the late twentieth century will seem equally outdated, albeit retain ing none of Melies' charm. From then on, the magician indu lged in a veritable Mephistomania, an obsessive marathon of Satanic film-making the likes of which has never been seen again. The three minute LE CABINET DE MEPHISTOPHELES (1897) found Satan recreating the director's old magic act for posterity. In 1898, there was FAUST ET MARG UERITE, a brief episode from the Doctor Faustus legend, and an excerpt from Berlioz's opera DAM NATION DE FAUST, only the first of many treatments of the enduring tale of the infernal pact. His most elaborate Faustian film was to be 1 904's ambitious DAMNATION DU DOCTEUR FAUST which told Goethe's tale in twenty vivid scenes, including the Walpurgis night rites and a procession of h istory's most celebrated beauties. Melies d irected himself as the Devil again in 1 899's LE D IABLE AU COUVENT (THE DEVIL IN A CONVENT) in which a bat-winged Beelzebub appears in a column of smoke, tempting nuns into sin while masquerading as a priest at the pulpit. The blasphemous mockery is very much in keeping with the anti-clerical humour then prevalent in Parisian culture. 1 903's LES FILLES DU DIABLE (THE DAUG HTERS OF SATAN) was quickly followed by CAKE-WALK INFERNAL, the turn of the century equivalent of a music video. In an attempt to capitalize on the cake-walk dance craze sweeping through Paris, the magician set two black cake­ walk dancers in Hell, where they give a command performance for Satan. Melies turned to Satanic su bjects more times than can be listed in the over 500 short films he made for his Star Films company. By 1 906, he had refined his photographic trickery far beyond the primitive level of his first Devil f ilms. That year's QUATRE CENTS FARCES DU DIABLE (FOUR HUNDRED PRANKS OF THE DEVIL) boasts a host of pioneering special effect transformations manipu lated by the Devil's magic. Among the film's many mock-sin ister pha ntasms are an alchem ist's workplace replete with giant ovens and retorts and the spectral ride of an apocalyptic Devil's coach, trailing comets and suns as its drawn by a skeletal horse through the stars. Satan magically materializes in a church, swaying a virginal young woman from her prayers. It concludes with a tableau of the Devil roasting in Hellfire, accompanied by an infernal ballet. The last scene was originally hand­ tinted by Melies in vivid reds and yellow, bringing to the cinematograph one of the favoured motifs of the magic lantern shows of old. We are lucky to have the opportunity to view any of Melies' early experiments in diablerie. After World War I, new in novations in the cinema left the pioneering cinema wizard penni less, and he was forced to sell all the costumes, scenery, a n d props he had created for his fantastic tableaus. Unable to rent storage space for the negatives of his films, he destroyed many of them. Only a m i n uscule fraction of his enormous output survived. Innumerable copyists plagiarized Mel ies' work, and he was eventually bankrupted. After years of obscu rity, in which he survived as the proprietor of a small magic and novelty shop, this forgotten cinema spearhead found late acclaim in the 1 920s. When Melies died in 1938, a ward of the state, the ingenious godfather of the Sata n i c cinema was recognized for his historic contribution to the seventh art. The Parisian magician's distinctive legacy can be traced through many future appearances of the Devil in French cinema. As we examine Lucifer's man ifold filmic guises, it becomes clear that the Gallic interpretation differs markedly from the image preva lent in Anglo-Saxon films. Once Hol lywood's


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Quatre Cents Farr::es Du Diable. stra nglehold on the world film market was secured, the Devil was almost a lways i n carnated as a forbidding figure of terror, a sometimes intriguing but ultimately destructive monster reborn from the medieval imagination. In sharp contrast, French films of the diabolique are inclined to play Satan as a rather charming and romantic personage. To varying degrees, the Fallen Angel's Gallic man ifestations, in Marcel Carne's LES VISITEURS DU SOIR (1942), Rene Clair's LA BEAUTE D U

DIABLE (1949) a n d Claude Autant-Lara's MARGUERITE D E L A N U IT (1956) reflect

the character's seductive and attractive side. Such whimsical Princes of Darkness make for a refresh ing change from the parade of relent lessly grim Archfiends that h a u n t the Puritan collective consciousness of the American film industry. From its inception as a branch of Georges Mel ies' legerdemain, the cinema of the sinister has retained its original magical characteristics. Harkening back to the occult associations implicit in the magic lantern show, the new art of film displayed e lements of ritual, simulating - and often stimulating - the same trance states,

h a l l u cinations a n d visionary experiences aimed at by the esoteric practice of occultists. Nin eteenth century ceremonial magicians, at the time of the cinema's dawning, cla imed to travel to what they quaintly termed "the astral plane" The cinematograph, in the hands of a magician like Me l ies, seemed like a n instrument that's cold g lass eye could eventually rival the visions received in such astral journeys. In the twentieth century, building¡ on the trickery of Melies, filmmakers would attempt to limn the dreamscapes once espied only by initiates. Almost every film-maker of the fantastic owes a great debt to Mel ies, who discovered such essentials of film illusion as the fade, mattes, superimposition and the freeze frame. Rene Clair, who contributed LA BEAUTE DU DIABLE to the Sata n i c cinema in 1949, saluted his i l l ustrious predecessor by observing that Melies "produced as if from a hat a surreal world that prefigured ... the distortions of Caligari"


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Visiting t h e darkened realm of any of the new movie theatres springing up, one might as well have been stepping foot into a mage's shadowy ritual chamber The rite began with the dimming of the l ights, a llowing the celebrant to break with familiar consciousness. The opening of the curtain parted the veil to the un known mag ical universe. The screen replaced the scrying instruments of tradition. In the darkness, the enchanted moonbeam of the projector allowed the viewer to see other worlds far beyond the ken of normal consciousness. The early Christian historian Athanas ius, describing the hallucinatory phantasms with which the Devil was said to torment St. Anthony asserted: "Now it is very easy for the Enemy to create apparitions and appearances of such a character that they s h a l l be deemed r e a l a n d actual objects." T h i s power t o create realistic il lusions was on ly one of many attributes Satan had in common with the latest art form. Considering this early Christian assumption that realistic "apparitions a n d appearances" were t h e Devil's work, it's n o wonder that t h e new-fangled motion picture projector - like the magic lantern before it - was instantly attacked by m i n isters around the world as "the devil's looking g lass" Early cinema patrons were warned by clerics that the delusive dream worlds produced by this nefarious device would surely cast a dangerous, seductive spell upon them. For these moral guardians, a// movies, any movies, were potentially threatening to one's spiritu a l welfare. Even with the most mundane film, the hypnotic effect o f t h e dancing shadows projected on the screen could be understood as a glamour worked on the audience. If this was so, actual celluloid portrayals of Satan and occult topics were considered even more damning. This attitude would endure, assuring that many of the most important works of the Satan i c cinema would be v i l ified and offic i a l l y forbidden by censors and self-appointed public protectors for a century to come. Before the movies became a constant of everyday l ife, there seemed to be something intrinsically uncanny about the new medium. Cinema's artificial m irror world drew fascinated onlookers into an unnatural, alternative un iverse, a simulacrum of life itself. Born from the alchemical retort of the still mysterious photographic lab, this eerie double reality had the power to unsettle. Primitive peoples fiercely resisted having their photographs taken, fearful that their souls wou ld be stolen by the camera's eye. The B iblical injunction against graven images was not completely forgotten when the cinematograph arrived. Did not the capturing of l i keness and movement i n moving pictures constitute a kind of black mag ic, a Promethean c h a llenge to the divine privilege of creation? Actress Barbara Steele observed in her trenchant autobiographical essay "Cult Memories" that "film is so porous, and to my m ind, so oddly occult, that I think that film absorbs odd energies like a living skin." The movies also broke the laws of the mechanical universe by providing a kind of vampiric immortality to those it recorded. In the glowing shadow realm of the cinema, time could stand still, and flesh, once filmed, would not age. All of these seemingly supernatural qualities of cinema made it an ideal medium for illustrating the fantastic leg endry and folklore of the Satanic mythos. The last years of the nineteenth century were typified by an almost fanatical devotion to cold rationalism and scientific reason. It is ironic that one of the many tech nological marvels this era would produce was a machine that allowed the supposedly banished superstitions of magic and the Devil to appear more vividly than ever before, summoned by the science of cinematography. Commenting on this curious incong ruity, the pioneering student of the fantastic


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film, Ivan Butl er, notes: "It is. . . as if, despite our protestations of the triumph of commonsense over superstition, something very deep inside us is loth to bid farewel l to the ancient beliefs, the 'old religions' of our less enlightened but perhaps more imaginat ive ancestors. " Perhaps this paradoxical situation is what the brilliant British artist Austin Osm a n Spare, whose graphic gift served h i m as a sorcerous implement, described as a "resurgent atavism" In the crowded darkness of the new cinematheques, the primordial archetypes of the hierarchy of Hell could be conjured again.


WHEN SATAN WAS SILENT: 1913-1929 The new-sprung century was inaugurated by a succession of intense evocations of Satanic StUrm und Orang, emanating from the nascent German film industry. Pioneering fil m-makers in Germany, fed on a heavy diet of dark Romanticism, put the moving picture to use as a tool for recreating the fantastic worlds so prevalent in Teutonic fiction and music. In the land that originally produced the legend of Dr. Faust's covenant with the forces of darkness, the Devil and occultism still held sway as recurring artistic motifs. In contrast to Melies' whimsical. light opera renditions of the Faust myth, the German cinema approached the infernal pact with Wagnerian gravity. Faust's legend casts a long shadow over the silent Satanic cinema of Germany. Like all legends, the tale of the doctor whose transaction with Meph istopheles bestowed upon him remarkable powers, seems to be based on at least a kernel of truth. Sixteenth century historical documents reveal that a travelling fortune-teller named Georgius Faustus did make himself a nuisance to the courts o f several German ar istocrats at the time. His reputable title of "Doctor" was not conferred by any university, and his boasting of infernal dealings were largely dismissed, by all but the most credulous. Despite his general reputation as a charlatan, a knowledge of hypnosis was widely attributed to h im. The historical Faustus seems to have been somewhat similar to the well­ documented pretender Count Cagliostro of the eighteenth century. G oethe's poetic 1 808 adaptation of the Faust tale, based on the 1 587 folk-book Historia von D. Johann Fausten, so shaped German civilization that the contemporary philosopher Oswald Spengler dubbed the modern era a "Faustian culture" For the Gnostic G oethe, Mephistopheles was not the foul monster of Christian myth, but a being that promised to fulfil man's eternal striving for knowledge. While it was understood that there was a price to be paid, Mephistopheles' bargain was perceived to hold markedly favourable conditions. Infinite wisdom, power and riches were not easily scoffed at. Rearranged and adapted to suit changing circumstances, the contract with Mephisto recurs in a bewildering variety of filmic variations through the decades. The details of the life of the real Dr. Faustus may be sketchy, but he seems to have found eternal life through myriad filmic doppelgangers. In this way, perhaps that fabled black magician's entreaty for immortal ity has been granted via the magic of the cinema. The dark romantic writer E.T.A. Hoffmann often turned to hellish inspiration in his fantastic tales, notably in his Faustian novel The Devil's Elixir It was from these Hoffmanesque mists of a particularly German kind of terror that the Teuto n i c film Devil emerged. While it was France that produced the whimsical godfather of the Satanic cinema in Georges Mel ies, Germany sired his darkling heir in Hanns Heinz Ewers. As the creative force behind 1 9 1 3's DER STU DENT VON PRAG, Ewers set the stage for an unparalleled golden age of artistically accomplished demonic cinema, irrevocably shaped by his feverish Expressionist interpretation of the Satanic mythos. Although Ewers is one of the most colourful and controversial figures in twentieth century literature and cinema, he is almost completely forgotten as of this writing. His self-perpetuated notoriety and tremendous success in the years before World War I were largely due to his


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mastery of the Schauerromane, or novel of terror Ewers' trademark was an authentic treatment of archaic occultism skewered with a perverse twist of sadistic eroticism. In his most famous novel, Alraune, Ewers praised Satan as a being that "dashes all laws and norms to pieces ... he creates after his own proud wish and will" Describing the mode of aesthetic Satanism that guided Ewers' works, his biographer M ichael Sennewald described the pioneer of the German fantastic film as one who sought to "know the beauty of Hell, the magnificence and Majesty of Satan. What [Ewers] saw was not the underworld of Christian provenance, the goat-footed Devil, but.. the lustre of darkness, the blessedness of sin, the black light of Lucifer" A reckless intellectual explorer, he gleefully broke the taboos of the new century with h is provocatively lurid novels, which were immensely popular shocks to German society's system. H.P lovecraft, America's own master of the weird tale, was an outspoken admirer of Ewers' work. Born in 1 872 in Dusseldorf to the son of a successful painter, Ewers' self-consciously diabolic image led one journal ist to describe him in 1 927 as "the unholy ... lord of the black mass" Among the extraordinary company who populate his fiction are sexual vampire heroines, alchem ists from the Frankenstein school of Satanic science, and men who sold their soul to the Devil. None of his characters were as fantastic as his most infamous fictional creation: Hanns Heinz Ewers himself. Indeed, he explored a bound less fascination with himself through the vehicle of his fictional alter ego, Frank Braun, who narrated several of his writings. In Vampir, the heroic Braun extols a life lived "purely out of love for adventure" A fitting motto for Ewers' stranger than fiction existence. The last of the nineteenth century dand ies, he travelled the world in search of exotic inspiration for his tales. His love of danger led him to become a spy in America during World War I. An eloquent public speaker, he gave lectures on Nietzschean philosophy and Satanism, espousing his own cult of the "self­ aware ego" He evidenced a vampiric blood fetish and wrote under the influence of the hallucinogenic mescaline a half century before the 1 960s drug explosion made such experiments commonplace. Despite this unconventional lifestyle, and his cosmopolitan love of world travel, Ewers was also a fervent German nationalist. This latter contradiction would lead to the tragic last act of his life, the ultimate cause of his descent into oblivion. These dissonant pieces of the Ewers puzzle never quite fit together, which is appropriate for a man whose closest friend characterized him as "the man behind the mask" One of this perennial provocateur's passions was the new art of the cinema, which he championed with missionary zeal. From the very first flickerings of the cinematograph, Hanns Heinz Ewers recognized the potential power of the medium for materializing supernatural effects. His enthusiasm for the cinema led him to open his own movie theatre, and he devoted his considerable imagination to developing the possibi lities of transforming his page-bound words into moving images on the screen. In 1 9 1 3, one year before Europe plunged into the calam ity of the First World War, Ewers adapted ETA. Hoffmann's Satanic short story Sylvesternacht into a film script entitled DER STUDENT DER PRAG (THE STUDENT OF PRAGUE). Hoffmann's novel The Devil's Elixir, which also told the tale of a Satanic double, is clearly an influence, as is the overpowering presence of the Faust legend. In a time when many early film-m akers were still stumbling to understand cinema's optical grammar, Ewers seized on a myth whose sheerly visual aspects were perfectly suited to the new medium's language of imagery. He


WHEN SATAN WAS SILENT: 1913-29

Der SludenJ Von Prag

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0913).

drew on a theme long familiar in German fantasy fiction and occult lore, that of the Doppelganger, or double. Ewers hoped that the wizardry of the moving photograph would a l l ow a u diences to be astonished by the sight of a believable Doppleganger before their very eyes. DER STUDENT VON PRAG was directed by the Dane Stellan Rye o n location in the romantic medieval streets of Czechoslovakia's ancient capital. Ewers rooted his tale quite del iberately in Prague, a town he knew was long l i n ked with the practice of black magic. Once Europe's undisputed occult capital, the city itself was intended by Ewers to be one of his film's major characters. Prague's sin ister reputation lent instant authenticity to the fantastic narrative. Some scenes were shot on the picturesque Golden Lane, a narrow street located in the city's med ieval quarter. It was still referred to by locals as the "Street of the Alchemists", and Ewers was pleased to discover that this street's former denizens included many d istinguished magicians. Golden Lane had once sheltered Dr. Faustus, whose fabled pact had been one of the inspirations for Ewers' film. Cornelius Agrippa, author o f De Occulta Phi/osophia, and the near legendary Paracelcus had also resided there. Of Paracelcus, it was said that he sought to create a homunculus, an artificially created pseudo-human life form fed on human blood. The figure of the homunculus, which Ewers had a lready delved into in his novel Alraune, loomed over the entirety of the silent Satanic cinema, inspiring many of its masterpieces. Balduin, the student of Prague, was played by Paul Wegener, a seasoned


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Das Kabineu Des Dr. Caligari.

stage actor who had learned his art as a leading player in innovative theatre giant Max Reinhardt's stage company. Wegener's frequent association with dark occult roles made him the first genuine horror star. In such diverse roles as the student of Prague, the Golem, Alraune's alchemist ten Brinken, and the black magician Ol iver Haddo, Paul Wegener excelled at projecting a unique otherworldly intensity. Felix Bucher rated Wegener's starring role in DER STUDENT VON PRAG as "one of the first great acting performances in the German cinema" A title card tells us that Balduin is "Prague's best fen cer and wi ldest student", although his capacity for carousing is lim ited by his poverty. Scapinelli (John Gottovvt), a mysterious top-hatted stranger in black, suggests a curious transaction. In exchange for the young man's mirror reflection, this archetypal foreigner from places u n known will provide riches sufficient to al low Balduin to enjoy his hedonistic lifestyle in grand style. An agreement is struck and Scapinelli walks off with the student's identical double in tow. No reflection peers back from Balduin's mirror - the first of many Satanic looking glasses we shal l encounter Although he's blinded by his avarice as to the true identity of his enigmatic patron, the aud ience can have no doubt with whom this deal has been made. Scapinelli is the perpetu al outsider who promises much for seemingly little, that eternal Other known to Faust as Mephistopheles. As conceived by Ewers and played by John Gottovvt, the strange Scapinelli hints at a modern istic exploration of the Devil as something more than the horned cliche of popular iconography. In appearance and manner, Scapinelli is reminiscent of the black-clad title character of DAS KABIN ElT DES DR. CALIGARI (1919), which causes me to wonder how much the


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Ewers Devil influenced the look and even the name of the later Expression ist icon. Armed with his new fortune, the student successfully pursues a local noblewoman. Balduin's daemonic Doppelganger proves to be a malevolent shadow, taking on a murderous life of its own. By bartering his reflected likeness, the young man has effectively sold his soul, i n keeping with ancient folklore regarding the supernatural nature of the reflection. The soul less living reflection eventually kills Balduin, and is seen gloating on the student's gravestone. Often accredited as the fi rst ful l-length film, this was a radical work in its time. One critic remarked that it was in that film that "dramatic art first appeared on the screen" Some have called it the f irst auteur film. While there can be no doubt that director Stellan Rye executed a coherent cinematic concept, his collaboration with such creative innovators as Ewers and co-scenarist Henrik Galeen make this a team effort. Galeen, Ewer's person a l secretary, shared his emp loyer's love of diabolical fantasy, scripting some of the most distinctive demonic films of the 1 920s. DER STUDENT VON PRAG premiered on 22 Aug ust, 1 9 1 3 in Berlin, causing a sensation. Audiences screamed aloud when they saw Wegener's image doubled on the screen. The impossible became alarmingly real in the magical darkness of the theatre, thanks to the sorcery of the cinematograph. Ewers had accomplished his goal, rea lizing nig htmare effects on the screen in a visceral manner that his novels could never achieve. While filming on location, Paul Wegener. the film's star, learned of the many ancient legends of black magic associated with Prague. A serious student of eastern metaphysi cs, the actor had a deep mystical bent that made him receptive to such exotica. Wegener was fascinated with one particu lar tale of unnatural life engendered by the esoteric scien ces, a variation on the previously mentioned homunculus. This was the folktale of the Golem, an inert clay hulk said to have been brought to life by Goetic magic during the 1 580s. According to the myth, the legendary Rabbi Loew, reputed to possess sinister powers. used his knowledge of sorcery to an imate the Golem to save the Jews of Prague from the pogroms of King Rudolf. Resorting to black magic in the emergency situation, Loew called upon the demon Ashtaroth, one of the princes of Hell described in medieval grimo ires. So intrigued was Wegener by this legend that he would be driven to bring the magically created homunculus to life in three different films, taking o n the lead role himself in two of the productions. And so it was from Prague, fabled city of alchem ists and homunculi in the sixteenth century, that twentieth century demons like D E R STUDENT VON PRAG and DER GOLEM were called up. To the company of Paracelcus, Faustus and Agrippa - those long-ago den izens of the Street of the Alchemists - the names of Ewers and Wegener, practitioners of the occult science of the cinema, could be added. Wegener attempted to capture the mystery of this black magical creature that had captivated his imagination in 1 9 1 4's DER GOLEM, directed by Henrik Galeen. Galeen was moving out from under the shadow of his mentor Ewers, inspired by the master to foster his own dark creations. Wegener's script sets the story in modern times, showing a crew of construction workers unearthing a strange statue from an abandoned synagogue's ruins. A collector of antique arcana purchases the statue, which is actually the lifeless Golem, and revives it by use of the Black Arts. A spell is cast upon the resuscitated creature, bidding it to serve its master as a slave. Wegener's decision to place the plot in a contemporary environment robbed the legend of some of its dream-like power, and he wouldn't create the defin itive cinematic treatment of the Golem until 1 920, when he


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reprised the role under his own d irection. The outbreak of mass insanity known as World War I abruptly interrupted the flowering of Satanic cinema in Europe. In the interim, several film-makers in the United States turned to the diabolical. Like 90% of silent films, most of these pictures have crumbled long ago. Nevertheless, they are worth recalling from obscurity if only because they tell us how d ifferently the Puritan New World dealt with Satanic subjects in comparison with their European cousins. For the most part, when the Devil appears in early American movies, it's as an adjunct to a heavily Christianized moral lesson. European film-makers tended to take a far less religious approach, using Satanic legendry as grist for fantastic and uncanny imagery. American silent films generally avoided the explicitly supernatural subjects that German di rectors were so drawn to, preferring to use the movie theatre as a fire-and-brimstone pulpit. Each of these films present the first appearance of plot points and themes that will recur frequently as the Satanic cinema develops almost genre-like conventions. A perfect example of this is 1 9 1 5's THE DEVIL, by one of America's best early d irectors Thomas H. lnce. Although based on Hungarian writer Ferenc Molnar's 1 907 play of the same name, the plot's dour warning against the mortal sin of adu ltery was well-suited for prim Yankee sensibilities of its time. Here, the Devil (Edward Connel ly) is of the elegantly attired, sophisticated society type that we will so often encounter. The fiend appears in the studio of a painter, persuading him to take up with an old flame, who happens to be happily married. The rest is drawing room drama revolving around the jealousies of the artist's m istress, fiancee and ex-lover. Sign ificantly, it is the woman who most easily submits to Satan's recommendation of infidel ity, reflecting a common age-old belief in female weakness of the flesh. This is also the first of many films in which a n artist - particularly a painter - is seen to be an easy mark for the Devil's machinations. A long-standing mistrust of the creative temperament is impl ied in this most conservative of pieces. The lovers, needless to say, are punished for their sinfulness with a climactic descent to Hell. A better known 1 920 version of THE DEVIL featuring silent era star George Arliss toned down the supernatural elements of the story considerab ly, and therefore falls just outside of the parameters of this book. Tho mas Alva Edison produced THE MAGIC SKIN (1915), directed by Richard Ridgely. An Honore de Balzac short story provided the moralistic plot, in which a young musician moves to Paris, and is caught up in the web of a heartless femme fatale. Love-sick, he v isits an antique shop to purchase a trinket for her, but falls asleep. When he awakens, the store's proprietor is revealed to be Mephistopheles (H erbert Prior), who accepts his customer's soul in exchange for a skin with the power to grant any wish. Although the Devil's skin does fulfil his every desire, there's the usual unforeseen catch: each wish shrinks the skin and withers his hea lth. The cruel vamp leaves him, and the sweet girl he jilted kills herself i n despair. H i s last wish exhausted, the magic skin vanishes, a n d the luckless musician finds himself in Hell, there to atone for the sin of desiring too much. Ah, but it's all been a nightmare. Frightened away from his hedonistic ways by the devilish dream, the musician promptly marries the nice girl, swearing to lead an upright life from henceforth. This will not be the last time that a meeting with the Devil is revealed to be an admon ishing dream, particularly in the subgenre of the Satanic film as moral lesson. THE MAGIC SKIN's other lesson is clear¡ women of easy virtue are the Devil's concubines.


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Information on Robert G. Vignola's THE BLACK CROOK ( 1 9 1 6), adapted from a popular play, is scarce. Reprising his theatrical role of Hertzog, a criminal who must provide the Devil with an annual human soul or be consigned to Hell himself, was E.P. S u l l ivan. When the blackguard fails to steal the souls of an idealistic young couple, he must make good on his deal with Satan, and - as in every American film we've considered so far - is consumed by the mouth of the inferno. In THE DEVIL'S TOY ( 1 9 1 6) another painter falls prey to Lucifer's a l l u re, making a pact with the Devil for success, and resorting to murder to win an i n h eritance. Edwin Stevens, the actor portraying Satan, had won fame playing the title role in the New York stage version of The Devil, Molnar's successful play. U niversal's THE DEVIL'S BONDSWOMAN (1 9 1 6) was a typical example of the popular "vamp" genre. Adele Farrington played a hellish hussy whose carnal appetites on Earth attracts Sata n i c attention. The film ends with the title vixen being carried off to Hell by the Devil (Richard Morris), who seduces her in the human form of an amorous Prince. Although the Satanic element was unusual, Lloyd B. Carleton's picture was one of hundreds of American films of the time warning of the newly emancipated woman's wi les, most memorably symbolized by vamp empress Theda Bara. THE DEVIL'S BONDSWOMAN makes it clear that while Satan may be the great inspirer of sin, his greatest ally is the supposed moral fragility of the gentler sex. In 1 9 1 7, the same writing team of F. McGrew Willis and Walter Woods produced an even more heavy-handed lesson with Universal's EVEN AS YOU AND I. Crudely al legorical in the style of a relig ious tract, Lois Weber's film presents yet another tempted artist and his pure wife literally bedeviled by demons named Drink, Lust and SeiJ Pity. The artist is nearly defeated by the Devil, until his incorruptible bride repels the fiend with her self-sacrificing repentance. In the same cross-bearing category was the guilt-ridden CONSCIENCE ( 1 9 1 7), directed by Bertram Bracken. Satan's royal consort, Serama (Gladys

Brockwell) is expelled from Paradise by that party-pooper the Archangel Michael. She reincarnates on earth as a fun-loving society vamp named Ruth, whose mysterious companion is one Dr Norton (Bertram Grassby), none other than the Devil on earth. Succubus that she is, Serama/Ruth has broken the hearts of a series of lovers, inspiring more than one suicide along the way. She's subpoenaed to the court of the angel Conscience (also played by G ladys Brockwell), where the demons Avarice, Vanity, Lust and Hate (also a l l played by Brockwel l !) testify as to the Satanic vamp's misconduct. Conscience decrees that Serama must be punished by living with the memory of her sins, which inspires her to break up with her diabolical consort and repent in prayer Interestingly, arch-vamp Theda Bara was originally set to play the eight-fold lead role, one of the earliest representations of the black magical properties of the feminine Double. America's late entry into the European bloodbath of World War I a llowed for the first use of the Satanic film as pol itical propaganda. Demonizing the enemy is always the first step of martial hostility, and Metro's TO HELL WITH THE KAISER ( 1 9 1 8) wasted no time in placing Germany's Emperor in league with the Devil. Kaiser Wilhelm (Lawrence Grant) is revealed to have signed a pact with Satan (Walter P. Lewis), trading his soul for world conquest. The Crown Prince of Germany is shown raping an innocent American girl in a church, which inspires a U.S. aviator to daringly capture the Teutonic-Satanic Kaiser. In despair, the Kaiser commits suicide, and Satan collects his soul in Hell. The unmissable message of George Irving's film is really underscored in the finale: the Devil abdicates his infernal throne in favour of the Ka iser, who he acknowledges as being far more


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Satanic than h imself. It's surprising that one of the American silent screen's better screenwriters, June Mathis, was responsible for this simplistic jingoism. Twenty­ four years later, the remarkably similar THE DEVIL WITH HITLER (1 942) made clear that although the enemy's name had changed, audie nces were sti l l prepared to accept Satanic influence as lurking in the background of h istoric events. Kaiser Wilhelm was linked with the Devil again in the episodic religious epic RESTITUTION aka THE CONQUERING CHRIST ( 1 9 1 8}, d irected by Howard Gaye. The director had played the role of Jesus in D.W. Griffith's INTOLERANCE, and was clearly influenced by that historic saga in the making of his own film. The first of several extravaganzas tracing Satan's malign impact on man through the ages. this curious subgenre was taken up in Europe with Dreyer's BLADE OF SATAN� BOG ( 1 9 1 8}, Murnau's SATANAS (191 9}, and was still going strong with Irwin Allen's monumental mess THE STORY OF MANKIND in 1 957. Beginning with a series of earnestly depicted Bible stories, Gaye shows us how mankind has suffered under the Devil's bondage since Adam and Eve's expulsion from Eden. Satan (Alfred Garcia) causes all kinds of trouble, including the inspiration of pioneering murderer Cain, the crucifixion of Christ (director Gaye, reprising his earlier role). the devilish persecution of early Christians by Nero, the tortures of the Inqu isition, and the ruthless autocracy of Napoleon. Jehovah's crowning glory, of course, is pictured as the founding of America, which is threatened by Satanic agent Kaiser Wilhelm. In the apocalyptic final reel, the Devil is bested by the Nazarene, and the spirit of America, Columbia, defeats the Kaiser in the name of God. An ambitious production shot over half a year. its voyage through the centuries required fifty d ifferent sets to be constructed. Only fragments of the film have survived, but from what I've seen, Gaye was no Griffith, and the dreary piousness that informs his picture is unrel ieved by anyth ing like his mentor's flashes of genius. Denmark's cinematic master, Carl Theodor Dreyer, often expressed a fondness for the supernatural as his dreamy VAMPYR would later show. Less remembered is his BLADE OF SATANS BOG (LEAVES FROM SATAN'S BOOK). Although it was actually released in 1 92 1 , most of the film was shot in 1 9 1 8, as shell-shocked Europe struggled to recover from the holocaust of World War I. Based on a novel by Marie Corre lli, whose mystical potboilers often incorporated diabol ical themes, this epic documents the nefarious meddlings of Satan (Helge N issen) in human destiny through the centuries. Its time-spanning episodic structure recalls Griffith's INTOLERANCE, although there is none of the grandeur of that spectacle. We learn that the Fallen Angel posed as one of the Pha risees who condemned Christ, a sadistic Grand Inquisitor in Spain, a cruel officer presiding over the bloodbath in revolutionary France, and most recently, as a dissident monk stirring up trouble during 1 9 1 8's Russo-Finnish war. Like every film based o n the u n readably pious Corelli's work. this is a bit too preachy for my tastes. Non etheless, Dreyer's second film is worth seeing for the insight it offers into the process of its director's maturation into genius and for Nissen's comm itted portrayal of Lucifer. The German SATANAS ( 1 9 1 9} directed by F.W. Murnau, has much in common with Dreyer's earlier work, and there has been some controversy regarding the similarities. U nfortunately, we'll never know how similar it may be - it appears to be a lost film. Again, we witness the influence of Lucifer through the ages of time. Despairing of his exile from Heaven, the fallen Archangel attempts to win his halo back by searching for one mortal who can redeem evil through good. The first sequence finds Satan disguised as a hermit in ancient


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Egypt, sowing discord in the court of the Pharaoh Amenhotep. According to Murnau's biographer Lotte Eisner, this episode ends when "the hermit changes into a vast angel of death, Lucifer, who goes through the palace crushing beneath his scorn the mediocrity of mortals" The second tale finds the Devil in the pose of a Spanish adventurer involved in the Byzantine intrigues surrounding the poisonous Lucretia Borgia in Rena issance Italy. The fina le, like that of BLADE OF SATANS BOG, was set in contemporary times, and presented Satan i n the guise of a Russian revolutionary recommending increasingly savage measures to a comrade, who eventually goes insane upon realizing his adviser's identity. It's a particular pity that no copy of SATANAS has surfaced, considering that it features some of the silent era's most talented artists. The great screen villain Conrad Veidt was cast in the title role of the Devil, a part tailor-made for his singular presence. Earlier in 1 9 1 9, Veidt had come to prominence as Cesare the somnambulist in the Expressionist classic DAS KABIN ETI DES DR. CALIGARI. That film's director, the inventive Robert Wiene, wrote the screenplay for SATANAS. It would a lso have been interesting to see how Murnau, who later directed NOSF ERATU (1 922) and FAUST (1 926) handled this earlier diabolica I assignment. Fina lly, the picture was photographed by the gifted Czech-born cin ematographer Karl Freund, who later lensed Lang's M ETROPOLIS (1 926) and DER GOLEM (1 920), before em igrating to Hollywood where he was involved with several of Universal's most memorable horror films in the 1 930s. A fascinating missing piece in the mosaic of the Satanic filmography. The subsequent year, Conrad Veidt again donned the Devil's mantle for Richard Oswa ld's KURFORSTENDAMM, another lost film. Contemporary reviews would suggest that this was a considerably lighter take on Lucifer than SATANAS. When a rakish Devil decides to take a vacation from his duties in Hell, he chooses Berlin's most fashionable street Ku rfurstendamm as the perfect relaxation spot. Setting himself up as a film producer, he soon finds that the young women of 1 920s Berlin are too wicked for even him to handle. After a series of amorous adventures. Satan returns dismayed to the less troublesome atmosphere of the inferno. This seems to have been a showcase for the talents of early movie star Asta Nielsen, who played no less than four of the women causing mischief for the Devil. Comedies were not Conrad Veidt's usual ba i l iwick, so this would have been an odd departure for him. Another lost Satanic film is 1 920's DIE TEUFELSANBETER (THE DEVIL WORSHIPPER), based on the book by Karl May, whose wildly popular adventure novels thrilled mil lions of German readers. Cast in the sinister title role was a relatively unknown Hungarian stage actor then working in the thriving Berlin film world. It would appear that DIE TEUFELSANB ETER marks the first time that Bela Lugosi would be called on to play a part requiring him to project that uniquely mesmeric menace he would eventually come to specialize in. One can only wonder what lessons in supernatural villainy Lugos i learned while playing a black magician in this forgotten silent production, a film that preceded his epochal role as DRACULA by eleven years. The Devil appears in the form of the demon Ashtaroth in 1 920's DER GOLEM, WIE ER IN DIE WELT KAM (TH E GOLEM, HOW H E CAME INTO THE WORLD). Collaborating with the ubiquitous Henrik Galeen, Paul Wegener wrote a script that returned the Golem to his original time in the late fifteenth century, realizing that his earlier updating of the legend in 1 9 1 4 had missed the mark. Casting himself again as the title character, Wegener evinces an absolute personal commitment to the performance that convinces us entirely of


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Der Golem (1920).

the existence of the clay homunculus. Ashtaroth's appearance in DER GOLEM was something entirely new in the Satanic cinema. Previous screen Lucifers had been portrayed by human actors. Here, the baleful being conjured by Loew is a pure cinematic illusion. The unearthly atmosphere of the scene suggests, for the first time on film, the inhuman nature of the Devil. Ashtaroth material izes as a giant disembodied head glowing in the darkness. That the scene still retains its power is a credit to the skill of Carl Boese, who engineered the startling effects. Karl Freund, who had already captured the Devil on film in Murnau's SATANAS, was responsible for the trick photography. DER GOLEM is an ambitious blending of the arts in the tradition of Richard Wagner's Gesamtkunstwerk - a total artwork. The direction of Wegener, the special effects and trick photography of Carl Boese, the expressive camera work of Karl Freund, have all been justly praised, assuring that their achievements have lasted long after the days of the silent film have faded. One of the visionaries who worked on DER GOLEM is far less remembered today. He is Hans Poelzig, the esoteric arch itect, who designed the look of DER GOLEM's richly imagined dreamworld, including the weirdly angled set of medieval Prague. In DER GOLEM, Wegener gave Poelzig a chance to dramatically demonstrate his ideas with a purity his more functional public architecture could not a lways express. Given carte blanche to construct an Expressionist vision of the magical old town of Prague, Poelzig, with the assistance of his wife Marlene, built an alien cityscape that is surely one of the most memorable sights in the cinema.


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As filmed by Wegener, Poelzig's Prague is a maze of twisted, oblique towers,

drawing the characters into mysterious recesses. Silhouetted against a starry n ight sky, the slanted houses look like menacing demon sha pes, a l ive with secrets. One can believe that the demon Ashtaroth would gladly visit the depths of such structures, and that the Golem can walk through these serpentine streets. The shapes of the houses, doorways, and even the furniture, in DER GOLEM echo the forms of the film's characters, as if a magician's curse has transformed flesh into stone. True to Poelzig's concept of architectural sound, his esoteric recreation of Prague does indeed sing a strange music. Poelzig's Prague is a physical metaphor for the Golem's homunculus theme, that of an inorganic being of clay brought to life by the Black Arts. Director Paul Wegener told an interviewer from Film-Kurier: " It is not Prague that my friend, the architect Poelzig, has built. Not Prague and not any other city. Rather, it is a city-poem, a dream, an architectural paraphrase on the theme 'Golem.' These alleys and plazas are not intended to resemble reality; they create an atmosphere in which the Golem breathes." Poelzig's rather mysterious persona intrigued many who met him. When director Max Reinhardt engaged Poelzig to build stage sets for his theatre, one of the architect's junior assistants was the young Austrian Edgar U lmer, who later worked on the set of THE GOLEM. Poelzig's eccentricities, magical ideas, and sometimes unp leasantly domineering personality would not be forgotten by Ulmer, who eventually became a film director in his own right. Far from Berlin, on a Burbank, California soundstage, Ulmer would create a curious cinematic monument to Poelzig that would ironically have more lasting impact than any of the mystical architect's professional accomplishments. We w i l l examine U lmer's film, THE BLACK CAT (1 934), and the shadow Poelzig cast over its production in the following chapter. Denmark had already clawed its mark on the Satanic screen with Carl Dreyer's BLADE OF SATANS BOG. That country's only other contribution to the field was 1 92 1 's utterly unique HAXAN (WITCHES), released throughout the English speaking world a s WITCHCRAFT THROUGH THE AGES. Directed with a master painter's eye by former opera singer Benjamin Christensen, HAxAN is sui i geners, a rarity among silent films. It must be adm itted that even some of the greatest masterpieces of the 1 920s can seem creakily old-fashioned to modern audiences. Frequently hampered by static camera work and out-moded acting styles more su ited for the stage than the cinema, many silent films must be judged by the standards of the times in which they were produced if they are to be enjoyed. Not so with the dynamic HAxAN, a work of pure cinema that seems as lively and inventive today as it did in the 1 920s. Perhaps the timeless q u a l ity marking most of Christensen's film is due to the fact that it so faithfully captures an atmosphere of true legend and folk tale, evoking archetypal images that create the impression of hexed engravings come to life. Those sequences freed of the impediments of plot boast scenes of demonic debauchery that rival the Sata nic masterpi eces of Hieronymous Bosch. At times, the viewer is carried away by the kind of belladonna visions once attributed to bedev iled witches at their sabbats. Christensen's lush il lustrative style b lazed the way for the evolving cinema to become a sort of moving painting, an art that commun icated in sheer imagery. The film consists of several documentary-like episodes tracing the history of witchcraft from the legend of the Black Sabbath to the tortures of the Inquisition. Ch ristensen himself takes on the role of the Devil, imbuing the part with


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Hiixan

jolly lasciviousness. Presiding over a wild bacchanal with obvious gusto, Christensen's Satan is lust personified. H is Devil is portrayed as a wholly positive figure of liberation, symbo lizing the joys of the flesh. HAxAN reveals the Trickster side of the Devil, a mischievous rebel against the negatively presented austere sexual repression of the Church. To the operetta Mephistos of Melies, Ewers' foreboding old man in black, Dreyer's M i ltonian monarch, and DER GOLEM's frightening inhuman apparition, Christensen adds a portrait of the Devil as animalistic incarnation of the untamed libido. This wide d isparity between these various representations accentuates the shapeshifting nature of the Devil's being. Christensen didn't shy away from recreating the erotic fantasies that swirled around visions of the Devil's sabbath. H is writhing witches display more exposed flesh than was seen in the Satanic cinema for decades to come. The del iberately blasphemous, frankly anti-Christian tone scandalized Danish audiences i n 1 9 2 1 . Indeed, few Satanic films in the intervening decades dared to present such a full-on assault on the Church as is mounted by Christensen. The comically played priests and nuns shown in the film are dep icted as deserving targets for the Devil's mockery, recalling the more diabol ical moments of Bunuel. It is a testa ment to HAxAN's enduring power that when the film was re-released during the witchcraft craze of the 1 960s, modern audiences found it as compelling as ever. Distributed to underground film venues, the silent film's old title cards were replaced by the voice of William S. Burroughs, who narrated the events in his dry, sardonic Missouri drawl. The delirious scenes of deviltry are actually enhanced by


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Burroughs' voiceover, although the jazz soundtrack is rather jarring. Purists were left aghast by this tampering. At the time of this writing, paranoid Christian activists decry the supposed malevolent influence of occult themes in movies and music as a pre-apocalyptic token of modern times. Of course, most of the alleged "Satanic" influences cited are imaginary, or of a puerile nature with no genuine connection to the magical tradition. It is interesting to consider that genuine magical influences were actually incorporated i n one of the German si lent cinema's masterpieces. The black magical subtext of NOSFERATU (1 922) is subtle but potent, wreath ing this unauthorized film adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel Dracula with a cryptic Satanic nimbus veiled to many of its viewers. The film's almost tangible atmosphere of dread has been noted by many, but its occult symbolism has been a l l but ignored. Although it makes no blatant reference to the Devil, NOSFERATU is truly an occult film, providing g l impses into the esoteric knowledge of its creators. Directed by F.W. Murnau, whose SATANAS we have already taken into account, NOSFERATU is the first genuine vampire film. While the names and locations were changed from Stoker's Dracula to avoid charges of copyright infringement, the plot a n d characters are clearly recognizable to anyone who has read the novel o r seen a n y o f its innumerable remakes. Graf Orlok (Max Schreck) i s a demonoid creature of clearly inhuman appearance, a being that m ight have been summoned from the netherworld. Stoker's Dracula can blend in easily with the teeming millions of London, but Orlok is an entity born of medieval nightmare. A house agent travels to the haunted ruins where Graf Orlok resides, bearing a mysterious document from his employer, Herr Knock. When Orlok reads this missive, we see that it is no ordinary text, but a coded message consisting of occult seals and talismans culled from demonological texts. Hutter is the unwitting courier of one magical in itiate, unknowingly transmitting a secret message to another adept. Knock's almost religious devotion to his master Orlok might also signify the relation between a black magician and Satan himself. Some (shadowy) light is thrown on the dark metaphysical undertone in NOSFERATU when we learn that the man who drew these Goetic talismans was a certa in Albin Grau. The man known in the outer world as Albin Grau was recog nized by his fellow adepts in Berlin's thriving occult community by his magical name, Frater Pacitus. Grau was a Master of the Pansophical Lodge, a n d an in itiate of the Ordo Templi Orientis, or Order o f Oriental Templars, who pioneered the introduction of Tantric sexual magic in Europe. The OTO understood themselves to be the authentic heirs of the forbidden tradition of the Knights Templar, that doomed fraternity exterminated by the King of France for their rumoured participation in black magical ritual. Of central importance to the German OTO's studies was the mysterious deity Baphomet, linked by centuries of occult tradition with Lucifer. In his capacity as a member of the OTO, Albin Grau was a frequent, if occasionally d isputatious correspondent with Aleister Crowl ey, who led the OTO's British lodge. In the magical cosmology of Grau, whose sex magical practices were most defin itely of the authentic left hand path, Lucifer was not viewed as the sin-punishing demon of Christian myth, but as the bearer of light who illum inated mankind in the form of the Edenic serpent. These ideas were expanded upon by Grau's close associate Gregor Gregori us, author of Satanic Magic and founder of the secretive left hand path sodality known as the Fraternitas Saturni. Although Grau is only officially credited for the art design, sets a n d


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Nosferatu.

costumes for the film, the magician was actually instrumental in the conception of NOSFERATU. In a 1 922 article in the periodical Buhne Und Film, Grau recounts a strange tale from the time of his World War II duty in rural Serbia six years earlier. As one of a company of soldiers billeted in the home of a Serbian peasant, the occultist heard how his host's father purportedly returned from the dead in 1 884 and terrorized the town until he was dispatched with the traditional stake in the heart. Accord ing to the peasant, his father was known as a Nosferatu. Several years later, while Grau was searching for exterior locations for the vampire's castle in the rugged Tatra mountains of Czechoslovakia, he stopped in the "old alchemist's city" of Prague. There, he happened to meet one of the soldiers who had heard the Serbian tale of the Nosferatu, who he informed of the forthcoming film. The spell of Prague, that legendary town of black magic, was again connected with o n e of Germany's best-known demonic films. Further magical impetus can be found in the screenplay by Hanns Ewers' personal secretary Henrik Galeen, which is filled with black magical a llusions. In a pentagram-bedecked tome seen in the film, we read that Nosferatu came "from the seed of Belial", one of the demons traditionally summoned by Goetic magicians. This Satanic essence of the vampire legend was not to resurface again in the cinema until the 1 970s, when a small subgenre of British films concerning the unholy undead took shape. Nosferatu's opponent, Professor Bulwer, is described by Galeen as " a Paracelsian", evoking the famed alchemist Paracelcus. This role was played by John Gottowt, previously the Satanic Scapinelli in STUDENT VON PRAG. Even the name of the small production company responsible


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for NOSFERATU, Prana Film, tells us something of the magically conscious environment from which the film was born. Prana, in the yogic tradition of India, is the sacred breath that is said to endow life with its essence. In Rex Ingram's THE MAGICIAN (1 926) we have our first example of a sturdy subgenre of films based on the persona of the infamous Aleister Crowley. Adapted for the screen from a 1 908 roma n a clef of the same name by William Somerset Maugham, the picture revolves around the eponymous sorcerer O liver Haddo, a thinly disguised poison-pen portrait of Crowley. Unequivocally the twentieth century's best-known occu ltist, Crowley's name was synonymous with "devil worship" to the undiscriminating readers of the 1920s popular press. Indeed, although he has long since been adopted by the new age movement as a harmless exponent of human potential, Crowley continues to be thought of as the blackest of black magicians in less esoteric circles. In fact, Crowley was not a Satan ist by any definition of the word. When writers on the cinema have previously explored the films Crowley inspired, they have often tended to rely on inaccurate information, repeating dimly u nderstood misinformation. In a sense, this is understandable. Even before his death in 1 947, Crowley was more myth than man, transformed by the sensationalistic press of his day into a black magical bogeyman of epic proportions. It is to this melodramatic reputation, rather than the somewhat more squalid reality, that film-makers have turned to as a ready-made template for their screen Satanists. His advocacy of the visionary usefulness of drugs and his enthusiastic promulgation of sexual magic were more than enough to outrage the public sensibilities of his time. Affecting a deliberately sin ister appearance with shaven head and practiced stare, Crowley's escapades inevitably served as grist for the mill of the scandal-starved media. HEAD OF THE DEVIL WORSHIPPERS; A MAN WE'D LIKE TO HANG; THE WICKED EST MAN IN THE WORLD; these were the kind of headlines Crowley inspired. It was this larger-than-life image of menace created by a string of lurid articles and a number of horror novels and stories based on his life that attracted the attention of film-makers. Natural ly, the reality is more complicated. Born as Edward Alexander Crowley in 1 875, he seems to have spent the · entirety of his troubled life in violent reaction to the fanatic Christianity of his parents, devotees of the puritanical Plymouth Brethren sect. Even as a child, he claimed, h is mother referred to him as the Beast, after the Antichrist described in the Bible's apocalyptic Revelations. He came to take this appellation seriously, declaring himself to be 666, the destined destroyer of Christianity and prophet of a new era. In 1 899, following his education at Cambridge, he was in itiated into the quasi-Masonic Order of the Golden Dawn, an organization his contentious personality helped to destroy. He did not discover his life's work until he travelled to Cairo in 1 904. There, he reportedly received a communication from an astral entity named Aiwass, who dictated a text entitled The Book Of The Law. Crowley eventually came to accept this visionary document as the foundation of a newly revealed religion, Thelema. With messianic fervour, Crowley proselytized for a revolutionary era in human h istory he called the Aeon of Horus, after the hawk­ faced Egyptian deity. A prodigiously prolix writer, Crowley produced a corpus of work that ranges from serious studies of the occult arts like Magick In Theory And Practice, reams of wildly uneven poetry, pornography both sophomoric and subli me, a handful of self-referential novels including Diary Of A Drug Fien d, among his many other often self-published volumes. I've a lways felt that his truly cogent


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Aleisler Crowley, with magical accessories.

writings could be fit snugly into one thin volume, were one to edit out all the long-winded obscurantism he indulged in. He was a world traveller of immense wanderlust, and a well-respected mountaineer and athlete who all but destroyed his fragile health with generous helpings of heroin, coca ine and ether. He could be an amusing and witty ironist, but seemed to possess l ittle sense of humour about himself. Crowley's life-long study of Tantric sexual yoga and his theoretical veneration of the feminine principle would seem to mark him as an adherent of the left hand path. However, in his everyday relations with his many paramours


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he showed himself to be a macho chauvin ist of the right hand path variety. Crowley sincerely insisted that he was a white magician, seeking that oneness with the un iverse that is the mark of the right hand path. Certainly, the antique pantheon of gods he revered were not of infernal provenance. Although he called himself by such seemingly Satanic names as the Great Beast 666 and Baphomet, the mysterious devil-god of the Knights Templars, his magical phi losophy is far too complicated - if not incoherent - to limit with any one denominational label. H is entire life suggests that he was riddled with a deep­ seated confusion about his own spiritual identity. In his 1 923 d iary, he writes, " I may be a Black Magician, but I'm a bloody great one." Simu ltaneously, he regularly condemned the many other occultists he feuded with as black magicians or agents of "the Black Brotherhood" In Magick In Theory And Practice, Crowley ascribes to the devil: "the qualities of courage, frankness, energy, pride, power and triumph" comparing him to the Hellenic Pan, "the Godhead which, if it become manifest in man, makes him Aegipan, the All" In his artwork, positive images of the Devil abound, and his widely available Tarot deck interprets the Devil card in a largely beneficent light. One of h is better poems, " Hymn To Lucifer", presents a heroic, Miltonian view: "With noble passion, sun-souled Lucifer swept through the dawn colossal. .. Breathed life into the sterile un iverse" The ode concludes with an affirmation of the fallen angel's struggle agai nst Jehovan authority. Lucifer, Crowley expounds, "With Love and Knowledge, drove out innocence ... The Key of Joy is Disobedience." In recent decades, Crowley has moved from his former place as depraved pariah to near sacred cow status in the occult world. While his detractors may have gone too far in blackening his reputation, his followers have just as simpl istically rehabilitated him as the all-wise St. Aleister. Lest too romantic a picture be painted, it is well to remember that his writings and his personal relations were shot through with a near pathological misogyny that often led to wretched m istreatment of his wives and mistresses. The Beast also evidenced a mindless cruelty toward animals from an early age, and h is espousal of narcotic illum ination led him to the depths of heroin addiction. He often came off l ike a typical occult confidence artist, at one point selling vials of his sperm as "rejuvenation ointment" In 1 902, the twenty-seven year old Crowley was a fixture in the cafe society of Paris. Among the belletristic types who were the habitues of a restaurant called Le Chat Blanc, he met the young William Somerset Maugham, a fellow Englishman of equally acidic tongue and bitchy demeanour Maugham, recalling their encou nter, wrote that he "took an immediate dislike to him, but he interested me and amused me. He was a great talker and he talked uncommonly well" I have not found any comment from Crowley concerning his reaction to the film of THE MAGICIAN. However, his remarks concern ing Maugham's book provide some clues as to how he must have responded to seeing himself portrayed as a human monster on the screen. Crowley, dripping with sarcasm, writes of being drawn to a newly published book in 1 908: "The title attracted me strongly, The Magician. The author, bless my soul! No other than my old and valued friend, William Somerset Maugham . . . So he had really written a book - who would have believed it! ... the Magician, Oliver Haddo, was Aleister Crowley ... The hero's witty remarks were, many of them, my own I was not in the least offended by the attempts of the book to represent me as, in many ways, the most atrocious scoundrel, for he had done more than justice to the qualities ...


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of which I was proud ... The Magician was, in fact. a n appreciation of my genius such as I had never dreamed of inspiring." Necessarily, the film simplifies the novel, and the Crowley character is even more one-dimensionally villainous. THE MAGICIAN owes its visually a rresting look to Irish-born director Rex Ingram, whose taste for the exotic had made Rudolph Valentino into a matinee idol, and earned him the hard-won respect of his exacting colleague Erich von Stroheim. Chafing at what he perceived to be Hollywood's phi l istine approach to the cinema, he moved to France in the mid­ twenties, purchasing his own film studio in Nice. One of the first properties he acquired was Somerset Maugham's novel, conveniently set i n France. I n typically m a licious fashion, Maugham let it be known that he disliked Ingram's adaption of his work. Returning the compl iment, Ingram responded that he had done the best he could with such poor material. An enthusiastic admirer of European cinema, Ingram was im pressed by Paul Wegener's a bi lity'to enact fantastic characters in DER STUDENT VON PRAG and DER GOLEM. Wegener was cast as Oliver Haddo, giving the German heavy the opportunity to create one of his most memorable occult villains. Apparently, Wegener's sometimes abrasive personal ity did not ingratiate himself to the cast and crew. The German actor would fly into rages at his personal make-up artist, and the tantrums disru pted shooting. Ingram's gifted d irector of photography, John Seitz, regarded Wegener as a pompous ham. Wegener's presence in the film accentuates Ingram's obvious attempt to steep his film in some of the same Expressionist atmosphere he adm ired in German cinema's treatment of occult su bjects. One encounter between Haddo and the heroine, set at a carnival, seems to suggest the influence of the seminal CALIGARI. The film revolves, like so many of the silent cinema's Satan ic films, around the dramatic conceit of the homunculus. The mage Oliver Haddo, a hypnotic practitioner of the Black Arts, plans to follow an ancient recipe for the creation of artificial life. Haddo has already created his homunculus, but it remains inan imate. To fulfil the formula. he must infuse blood from a virgin's heart into the entity. The innocent he seizes on is the lovely Margaret Dau ncey, played by Ingram's wife, Alice Terry. Haddo is dastardly enough to abduct Margaret o n the eve of her wedding, to assure that she retains the maidenhood he requires for his experiment. Haddo absconds with his Margaret to a desolate tower, where he has built an alchemical laboratory. In the film's most memorable sequence, Margaret hallucinates that Haddo has brought her to Hell, inspired by the flames of his alchemist's lab. As the glowering magician leads her through the inferno. orgiastic nymphs writhe in abandon. A statue of the horned Pan comes to life, tempting the virgin with devilish ardour Inevitably, just when Haddo has secured Margaret for the necessary heart removal, her fiance saves the day. In a fiery climax which influenced the finales of hundreds of films to come, Haddo, his homunculus, and his mountain-top eyrie are all destroyed by a suitably infernal conflagration. Marred by a certa in static quality, the great strength of the picture is Ingram's sense of pictorial i l l ustration. Wegener's feverish performance is overly melodramatic by today's standards, but he dominates the film with his unsettling presence. The genuinely ethereal qual ity o f Alice Terry provides a perfect complement to Wegener's resplendent iniquity. The a n imated statue of Pan in the Hell scene was played with brio by a charismatic Folies Bergere dancer known only as Stowitts. The erotically sugg estive bacchanal scenes in which a nearly naked Stowitts seduces


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The Magician.

the swooning Terry were filmed at an outdoor location in Nice. The locals, though glad to have a thriving film studio in their back yard, were outraged by the orgy scenes, explicit for their time. All in all, THE MAGICIAN is worth seeing as an accurate filmic mirror of the Crowley myth as it already existed in the 1 920s, a n d a s a rare example o f a major American studio handling an explicit occult subject. Although the Faust legend has inspired efforts from some of the cinema's greatest talents, F.W. Murnau's FAUST (1 926) made at Berlin's UFA studio, takes pride of place. Murnau's masterpiece is the definitive version, a remarkable visua I achievement deserving of comparison to Goethe's literary rendition. With tota l control of his mystical mise-en-scene, Murnau creates a vividly realized folktale of mythic d imensions that brought film-making to previously unimagined artistic heights. The picture's stature has inspired superlatives since its release, so I won't be redundant by adding too many more hosannas to the existing chorus of praise. As the story of old Doctor Faust's pact with Meph isto is probably the most familiar


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THE SATANIC SCREEN

Faust 0926).

of European legends, a detailed synopsis hardly seems in order It's the wondrous images that the viewer of FAUST comes away with; the gigantic bat-cloaked Devil (Em il Jannings) gliding over a Gothic vil lage; the four apocalyptic riders galloping through a sea of clouds; the words in the unholy pact bursting into hellish flame. Carl Hoffman's excellent chiaroscuro photography, with its then i nnovative use of travel ling shots, adds immeasurably to the film's beauty. Originally, director Ludwig Berger was to film FAUST, with Conrad Veidt - rather than Emil Jann ings - in the role of Mephisto. After his performances as the Devil in SATANAS and KURFURSTENDAMM, Veidt would have been easily accepted in the part by German aud iences. Nevertheless, second choice Jann ings brings Meph isto to crackling life in one of that actor's finest characterizations, and one of the most ful ly-realized incarnations of the Devil ever screened. The ageless intell igence expressed beneath Jan nings' wily persona suggests the mysterious fascination Meph isto exercises on the brilliant Dr Faust. Only Gustaf Grundgens' 1 960 Meph isto in the filmed stage play of FAUST is even comparable. It's appropriate that the production of this landmark Satan i c film functioned as a kind of school for future diabolical film-makers. Young actor Wilhelm Dieterle - who played Valentine in the picture - went on to direct T H E DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER (1941), and crew member Edgar Ulmer created 1 934's THE BLACK CAT. Both later films bear the mark of Murnau's influence. FAUST is a rarity in the Satanic cinema; a big-budget major studio production dealing with the Devil not as the simple su bject for a horror film, but from a genuine metaphysical perspective. 1 926 found the German silent cinema at its creative peak, and the unholy triad of Satanic films made i n Germany that year all reflect this level of accom plishment. If FAUST perfectly realized the traditional Gothic fairytale setting usually associated with the Sata nic film, Fritz Lang's M ETROPOLIS ( 1 926) broke this mold entirely. Lang's flawed but compelling early science fiction vision showed us that Satan ism will still be practiced in the gleaming vistas of the future. The black magical aspects of METROPOLIS are clearly pronounced in the novel by Lang's


WHEN SATAN WAS SILENT: 1913-29

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Metropolis

wife, Thea von Harbou, who usually receives less credit than she deserves for imagining the film's most memorable scenes. While Lang's f i lm is largely concerned with creating the spectacle of a futuristic world, the Satanic subplot of the picture has often been overlooked. Hidden beneath the vast skyscrapers of tomorrow's city is the alchem ist's lab of Rotwang (Rudolf Klein-Rogge), a state of the art Satanic tech nologist who was the prototype for a whole school of mad scientists to come. Rather than growing an organic homunculus, Rotwang builds a diabolical android, the false Maria (Brigitte H e l m), who comes to life beneath an illum inated inverted pentagram - making METROPOLIS the first film to feature that ancient symbol of the Black Arts. Klein­ Rogge's Faustian scientist is a brilliantly diabolic figure, but it's the seventeen year old Helm as the sin ister robotrix who really shines. In a scene that powerfully documents the pre-apocalyptic climate of Berlin in the mid-twenties, Helm reveals herself as the Whore of Babylon during an erotic dance at Metropolis' palace of pleasure. Helm's evocation of the good/evil fem inine Double preceded her performance that same year as Hanns Heinz Ewers' femme fatale ALRAU N E, directed by Henrik Galeen. Despite its strong magical elements, ALRAUNE is not d i rectly diabolical enough to merit inclusion in this book. The other picture Galeen made in 1 926, a remake of Ewers' DER STUDENT VON PRAG (1 926) brings this chronicle of the silent Satanic fi l m in Germany fu ll circle. Only thirteen years had passed since Stellan Rye directed the first version of that Faustian tale, but advances in the craft and technology of cinema since those pioneering days had opened up possibilities even the visionary Ewers could not have imagined. Defending his decision to remake a classic, Galeen wrote in an article in Oer Film that he could now enrich Ewers' "magn ificent fable",


44

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THE SATANIC SCREEN

Der SJuderU

Von Prag (1926).

removing the "no longer digestible Satanism" that had dominated the earlier film. This statement underscores a growing conflict between Galeen and his mentor Ewers. While Ewers continued to explore his fascination with the occu lt, his younger protege p referred a more modern, less supernatural approach to the fantastic cinema. In any event, the final product - with a screenplay co-written by Galeen and Ewers - was no less diabolical than the original version. If anything, the sinister performance of Werner Krauss as the Mephistophelean Scapinelli was several shades blacker than that of John Gottowt in the 1 9 1 3 production. A wild­ eyed, goateed stra nger outlined against a windswept heath, his every grand gesture p rojecting menacing shadows, Kra uss is the picture of Expression ist evil. It's a performance that ranks with Krauss's earlier enactment of that other ominous Italian, Dr Caligari, in 1 91 9. In fact, the 1 926 STUDENT is something of a CALIGARI reunion. Conrad Veidt, who'd been the homicidal sleepwalker i n CALIGARI, plays the d oomed student Balduin, who sells his mirror image t o the Devil. Hermann Warm, the set designer responsible for the angular, slanting sets that Kra uss and Veidt had once prowled in CALIGARI, built a wonderfu lly moody Prague for the actors to haunt in their secoRd collaboration. When one adds the participation of Galeen - director of the fi rst GOLEM, and co-scenarist for NOSFERATU - and grey eminence Hanns Heinz Ewers lurking in the background, the remake of STUDENT VON PRAG is practically a who's who of the German cinema of terror. Veidt makes for a more athletic student than Wegener had been in the earlier rendition; his fencing scenes were favourably compared to the


WHEN SATAN WAS SILENT: 1913-29

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45

Hanns Heinz Ewers.

swash buckling of Douglas Fairbanks. More im portantly, he eerily conveys the psychic disruption of a man without a soul in the scenes that follow his splitting into a demonic Double. Although Galeen's film is technically more accomplished


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THE SATANIC SCREEN

The Sorrows OfSalan.

than its predecessor, author Ewers actually preferred the 1 9 1 3 picture, especially because of its inclusion of authentic Prague locations. Despite such quibbles, DER STUDENT VON PRAG is a fitting swan song to a period of protean imagination in European film never really equalled again. The coming political maelstrom in Germany made this fateful production into the end of an era. Conrad Veidt would end up escaping the Third Reich to Hol lywood, where he would die a n early death after being typecast as a movie Nazi. Werner Krauss would remain in Germany, participating in some of the most notorious a nti-Semitic films produced by the H itler regime. As for the dark destiny of Hanns Heinz Ewers, we sha ll consider his last days i n the following chapter. By 1 926, America's cinema i nnovator D.W. Griffith had long been exiled from the halls of Hollywood power The triumph of his BIRTH OF A NATION was largely forgotten. Given to drink, and unwilling to adapt to more modern techniques of film-making, the legendary director struggled to maintain a hold i n the industry he had helped to shape. Perhaps the fallen titan could relate to the Devil's plight in Paramount's THE SORROWS OF SATAN (1 926). The picture was actually developed by Cecil B. De M i l le; Griffith was only called in as a last-m inute replacement when De Mille broke with Paramount. To his credit, Griffith disliked the tedious and moralistic 1 895 Marie Corelli novel upon which the film was based, but he d id what he could with the project handed down to him. The d irector handles the prefatory scenes of Satan's dismissal from Paradise with his old verve. From this mythic prologue, we descend to earth, where garret-bound starving novelist Geoffrey Tempest (Ricardo Cortez) meets and falls in love with fellow struggling writer Mavis (Carol Dempster).


WHEN SATAN WAS SILENT:

1913-29

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47

Tempest, embittered by his l iterary failure, curses God. This blasphemy encourages a certain elegant Prince, calling himself Lucio de Rimanez (the incredibly suave Adolphe Menjou) to take the lad under his dark wing and introduce h i m to London's smartest society. The mysterious Prince tells his charge that he will be given a fortune if h e obeys his commands. Forgetting all about poor Mavis, Tempest is held in thrall by a bewitch ing Princess (Lya De Putti). The Devil orders the writer to marry the Princess, who is soon revealed to be a gold-digger in love with Lucifer. Tempest leaves his new wife, who kills herself as all sinful women in such films usually do. When the remorseful writer wants to return to his still starving first love Mavis, the Prince reveals himself in his full Satanic grandeur, threatening to take away the young man's fortune. Tempest renounces h is diabolic patron and ends up back in the wretched garret with Mavis, where he belongs. Adolphe Menjou, who practically invented the part of the charming aristocratic cad, p lays his Prince of Darkness perfectly, setting a high standard for all the upper-class Evil beings who followed h i m . Smouldering Lya De Putti vamps it up as the erotic epitome of the silent movie diva. D.W. Griffith, even at this late stage in his career, lends conviction and artistry to much of the film, which is certa i n ly the best of the Satanic films produced in America during the 1 920s. These pleasures more than allow the discerning viewer to dispense with Carelli's killjoy message. Many of Europe's most extraord inary film talents were drawn to the flame of Hollywood as the silent era faded out. Among them was Benjamin Christensen, director and principal Devil of HAXAN. In California, the Dane's talents were inspired by the d iabolical Muse for the second time in his career In 1 929, he was given the task of adapting A.E. Merr itt's best-sel ling novel Seven Footprints To Satan to the screen. Merritt, known as "The Lord of Fantasy", specialized i n rousing mystic-themed adventures set i n exotic locales. I n Seven Footprints, a stalwart explorer is kidnapped by a mysterious secret society and brought to their leader, the masked mastermind Satan. Although the reader is initially led to believe that the omniscient Satan of Seven Footprints is the dark lord man ifested on earth, he is eventually revealed to be a mortal criminal genius enamoured of Satanic symbolism. Merritt's central cha racter, Satan, is one of the most memorable super-villains in pulp literature - every bit the peer of Sax Rohmer's insidious yellow peril Dr Fu Manchu, and lan Fleming's Ernst Stavro Blofeld. T he complexity which Merritt end ows h i s Satan raises hi m far above t he standards o f ordinary escapist literature. In fact, the sin ister tone o f the novel was watered down considerably in the film, which is played as far-fetched comedy. Merritt, like so¡many authors mangled by Hol lywood, was said to be extremely disp leased with the transformation of h i s dark crime mystery into farce. Despite this inappropriate transformation, Christensen's extravagant visual artistry is in plentiful supply. Satan's fantastic throneroom is a most impressive sight, with its bat-winged fire­ breathing dragons, slinky harem girls, and robed and hooded potentate seated imperiously above his swank society disciples. There's genuine menace in the sombre halls of Satan's hidden mansion, a lavishly decorated gothic p i le suggesting at once the wealth and larger-than-life presence of its owner Film critic Roger Starbuck, i n reviewing the film, melodramatically followed the studio's request to keep the ending a secret. Starbuck wrote: "To divulge it is beyond our providence, for we, too, are sworn to secrecy born of a deep, dark oath at midnight with one hand upon a cloven hoof."


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THE SATANIC SCREEN

Seven Footprirus To Satan.

Alas, it is the finale that completely ruins the genuinely disturbing climax of Merritt's original work. The fantastic journey through Satan's realm is ultimately revealed as an elaborate prank played on the hero. While European fantastic films never flinched from delineating psychic darkness, early Hollywood invariably copped out in the last reel, tidily explain ing any discomforting elements away. The kidnapped explorer was played by Creighton Hale, an i neffectual comic hero in the Harold Lloyd mode. Thelma Todd, whose many stormy a mours earned her the nickname "Hot Toddy", is the hero's dizzy dame sidekick. Threatening the couple were Satan's menagerie of henchmen, a fanged grotesq ue known as Spider, a cani ne-faced savant. and the inevitable dwarf, played by " Little Angie" Rossito, whose d i mi nutive presence was later seen i n FREAKS, and several of Bela Lugosi's worst films. Released on the cusp of the talkie revolution, SEVEN FOOTPRINTS TO SATAN was distributed initially in a standard silent version. To keep up with the new-fa n gled craze for "all-talking" pictures a sound version was released the same year, which featured a silly spookhouse soundtrack, replete with screams, groans, and gunshots. Despite the visual splendour of Christensen's film, the farcical tone make this a less than defin itive adaptation of the far superior novel. The heady mixture of Expressionism and Satan ism that spawned the black magical masterworks of the 1 920s finally burnt out with the advent of talking pictures. However, that dark aesthetic would resurface in the New World for one final intense burst of black flame.


THE DEPRESSION AND ITS DEMONS: THE 1930s The student of the Satanic cinema will notice that this anomalous area of film obeys sometimes mysterious laws of its own. There's clearly some kind of obscure cycle in effect, dictating that every decade of intense activity will be followed by a period of drought. Never is this more pronounced than in the case of the 1 930s. After the tidal wave of black magical productions that produced some of the silent era's recognized landmarks, the economic crash of 1 929 seemed to signal an almost total cessation. The fact is that the thirties can boast of only two major d iabolical pictures, namely THE BLACK CAT ( 1 934) and the third version of DER STUDENT VON PRAG (1935). In both cases, these films can be seen as the last lingering echoes of the Satanic Expressionism of 1 920s German cinema, rather th a n as any indication of a new d irection in the field. Upon superficial examination, TH E BLACK CAT would appear to merely be one of the many horror films produced by Universal Films in the wake of the successful DRACULA ( 1 9 3 1 ). While it's certa inly enjoyable on that level, a closer ana lysis reveals a film of hidden depths that draws on the h istoric, magical, and aesthetic currents of the 1 920s in a fascinating and previously unexplored fashion. Directed by the wilfully eccentric Edgar U lmer, and featuring two marvellous performances by Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi at the top of their respective forms, there's more than meets the eye here. Let us systematically unravel the disparate strands woven together to produce a film that remains genuinely bizarre after more than half a century. Although bound by the constraints of the Hol lywood B picture, Ulmer managed to produce a singular work of art, as personal as any underground avant garde production. Considered individually, the seemingly dissonant elements Ulmer brought together seem as if they couldn't possibly make sense in one film. Despite the affront to logic THE BLACK CAT's Poe-pourri presents to the linear mind, it all comes together with surreal harmony, like ingredients in a hallucinatory elixir imbibed at the Devil's Mass. Ulmer convinced U n iversal chief "Junior" Laemmle to allow him to make a film in the European CALIGARI style. Laemmle agreed to give Ulmer an unusual amount of creative control over the project, the only condition being that the film be titled THE BLACK CAT, after the Poe tale. The plot, dream-like and inconsistent, is secondary to atmosphere and overall effect. Somewhere in Central Eu rope, the All isons, a honeymooning American mystery writer and his wife, embark on a train jo urney. On board, they meet the peculiar Dr. Vitus Werdegast (Bela Lugosi), who explains that he's a World War I veteran, only recently freed from fifteen years as a prisoner of war Due to a n accident, the Allisons and Werdegast must seek shelter for the night at the forbidding futuristic home of Engineer Hjalmar Poelzig (Boris Karloff), who happens to be Werdegast's former commanding officer in the war. Our introduction to Poelzig finds him laying on a bed with his young wife Karen, a highly suggestive scene by 1 934 Hollywood standards.


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THE SATANIC SCREEN

Tbe Black

Cal.

We learn that Poelzig's starkly modern mansion is built on the ruins of Fortress Marmaros, over the graves of thousands of men who perished there during the war. It becomes evident that Werdegast, for all o f his outward cou rtesy, is on a mission of vengeance, and that he's come to k i l l Poelzig for stealing his wife a n d daughter from him during his long incarceration. Werdegast's ethereal daughter Karen is now Poelzig's wife, replacing h is wife, who died mysteriously. Poelzig leads Werdegast through the bowels of Marmoros, showing him the perfectly preserved bodies of women he's mounted in glass coffins. Who these women are is never explained, like so many of the film's mysteries. Perhaps the necrophile fetishism with which they're lovingly presented is a deliberate echo of Poe's penchant for beautiful morbidity. As for black cats, there's only one spooky pussy to be seen, in a confusing scene in which Werdegast's phobia against cats is revealed. Literally out of left field, U lmer i ntroduces the information that Poelzig is the High Priest of a Satanic cu lt. We see the Engineer reading a book entitled The Rites Of Lucifer, which prescribes the sacrifice of a virgin. As the members of his cult convene for the rites, it becomes apparent that Mrs. All ison is the only virgin on the premises. On a striking Expressionist set that recalls CALIGARI, Poelzig leads a stylized Black Mass. The first group Satanic ritual ever seen on the screen, this scene would have an enduring influence, eventually becoming a staple of almost every movie concerning black magic. With his usual sense of humour, Karloff improvised the impressive sounding Satanic invocation he intones, by


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The Black Cat.

stringing together a few phrases from his college Latin. Consequently, Poelzig's Satanic litany includes such non-sequiturs as "Cum grano salis" (with a grain of sa lt), "In vino veritas" (in wine there is truth), and "Cave Canem" (beware of the dog). Werdegast saves the intended sacrifice, breaking up the ceremony. This last-minute rescue of a female Satanic sacrifice would also recur frequently in many films that followed. Finally, Werdegast avenges the death of his wife and the despoliation of his daughter by sadistically rending the flesh off of Poelzig's body - stripping h is hide like the hated black cat he symbolizes. The hero, Mr Allison, interrupts this cruel operation by shooting Werdegast, who activates a handy self-destruct button (every Fortress should have one) with his dying breath. The mutilated Poelzig and his cult are destroyed, and the couple escape, presumably to enjoy their honeymoon in a more inviting atmosphere. As outlandish as the plot of Ulmer's film is, some of its strange a ir of credibil ity may be due to the fact that screenwriter Peter Ruric (a pseudonym for hard-boiled detective writer George Sims) and Ulmer based their story on a curious news item circulating in the world press shortly before the making of the film. Unlikely though it may seem, there actually was a na"ive young couple who visited the remote home of a magician and became enmeshed in occult rites involving a black cat. The magician in question was Aleister Crowley, the isolated residence was his Abbey of Thelema in Sicily, and the unfortunate black cat was called M ischette. All of this had come to the attention of the press when Crowley,


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THE SATANIC SCREEN

desperate for funds, accused Nina Hamnett, an author friend of his, of libel in a London court. It says something of Crowley's character that with all the libelous things being written about him by strangers, he chose to prosecute one of his friends. Hamnett had mentioned Crowley in her 1932 autobiography Laughing Torso. The passage that inspired the Beast's ire was Hamnett's description of his days at the Abbey of Thelema: "He was supposed to practice Black Magic there, and one day a baby was said to have d isappeared mysteriously. There was a lso a goat there. This all pointed to Black Magic, so people said, and the inhabitants of the village were frightened of him." In court, his attorney represented Crowley as a firm foe of black magic, and an ardent practitioner of white magic. It's hard to imagine such an argument making much of an impact on a conservative British jury, especially considering Crowley's already tarnished reputation in the public eye. Rather than vindicating Crowley, the libel action allowed the opposing attorney an opportunity to dredge up every pornographic poem and outrage against society the magician had produced since the Victorian age. The trial was transformed from a simple libel action to a public ind ictment of Crowley's life. One of the witnesses whom Ham nett's solicitor asked to appear to smear Crowley's character was one Betty May Loveday. In 1 923, she and her husband Raoul had been invited by Crowley to study Thelemic magick at the Master's Italian island lair. Betty May testified, to the horror of the court - and the glee of the yellow press - about a ritual she had witnessed in the Abbey's make-shift temple in which a drugged Crowley had ordered the stabbing of a cat. (According to the Beast's rules for his Abbey, no animals were al lowed to "profane the temple".) Remembering the animal's savage killing, she tried that "my young husband had to drink a cup of that blood." Shortly thereafter, Raoul Loveday died from an infection of the liver and spleen, which his grieving wife attributed to the ingestion of the eat's blood. Judge and jury were pred ictably mortified and Crowley lost the case, the resultant pub I icity only feeding the public's worst suspicions of "the wickedest man in the world" It was from this kernel of sensational reality that several of THE BLACK CAT's dominant elements were borrowed. It should be noted that Crowley's Abbey of Thelema, though long since shrouded in legend, was hardly as impressive as the daunting Fortress Marmoros stalked by Crowley surrogate Karloff in the film. The fabled Abbey was actually no more than a dila pidated five room, one-story farmhouse in the rugged rural town of Cefalu. Conditions were squalid in the extreme, and the lack of electricity or sanitation was enough to scare away many who voyaged there to learn how to Do their Will. While the character of Satanist Hjalmar Poelzig owes much to Aleister Crowley, Edgar Ulmer also drew on a more personal source in imagining his black magical villain. Before turning to cinema, Ulmer had studied arch itecture in Vienna, and this knowledge served him well in his designing of film sets, a task he often took on himself. In 1 920, he was given his first job in the German film ind ustry, as silhouette cutter for Paul Wegener's monumental production of TH E GOLEM. Wh ile working on that film, he encountered Dr Engineer Hans Poelzig, responsible for the astonishingly express ionistic Prague set that played such a major part in THE GOLEM's impact. It's often been noted that Ulmer borrowed the last name of the Boris Kar loff character in THE BLACK CAT from Poelzig, but there's actually more of a l ink between the real Poelzig and the reel Poelzig than just nomenclature.


THE DEPRESSION AND ITS DEMONS: THE 1930s

Hans

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53

Poelzig.

Born in 1869, Poelzig was one of Germany's leading architects, erecting his unique b u i l d ings on a monumental scale. Although he has wrongly been associated with the Bauhaus m ovement, Poelzig was actually a law unto himself, designing acc ording to m eta physica l theories of space unrelated to any school. --rhe effect of architecture is magical", Poelzig once declared in a lecture, and he was not speaking figuratively. The master builder felt that every building was a


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THE SATANIC SCREEN

living thing, possessed of its own musical rhythm, a mystic sound that could be "heard " by the initiated. Although he was an intensely private man, reveal i n g little of himself to those outside his small circle o f associates, Poelzig was o n e o f many German silent f i l m personal ities who privately studied the magical arts. Poelzig and his wife Marlene often held spiritual ist seances at their home, at which Poelzig's daughter served as medium. According to Poelzig's biographer, Theodor Heuss, the respected arch itect's library "was filled with the works of mystics, the occult sciences, and astrology" Heuss, one of Poelzig's students, felt that h is mentor was a n ee-Platonist on a " mystical quest", pursuing the mystery of eternal forms through his grand architectural designs. Poelzig vaguely referred to the hidden powers behind real ity as the "Andere" (Other) which he sought to discover in his work, musing over the hermetic concept of the world axis. Poelzig had long felt that the cinema could be a forum for his magical outlook. In an unpublished notebook, Poelzig once jotted: "Film ... the magic of form - the form of magic ... Devil's Mass ... " These shad ows all gave heft to the character of THE BLACK CAT's own mystical engineer Hjalmar Poelzig. Watching the construction of Poelzig's set of Prague fourteen years earlier had been an ·inspiration to the young Ulmer, although he considered the older architect something of a tyrant personally. On a much smaller scale and budget, U lmer and set designer Charles Hall attempted the same technique on THE BLACK CAT The starkly futuristic set of Fortress Marmoros is just as much of an important character in the film as Poelzig's set of Prague was in THE GOLEM. Photographs of some of the interiors of buildings constructed by Hans Poelzig in Germany reveal designs that obviously inspired the unforgettable look of Fortress Marmoros. Indeed, THE BLACK CAT is inconceivable without the cold futurism of its settings. Just as the pioneers of fantastic cinema in the 1 920s were inventing a previously undreamed of magic of film, so was Poelzig using the art of architecture as his magical medium. A true magician of the twentieth century, Hans Poelzig cast his spe l l in a field not commonly perceived to be connected with the B lack Arts at a l l. When Poelzig d ied in 1 936, his friend and collaborator Pau l Wegener eulogized the architect a s a "gothic mystic" The legacy o f this forgotten magician is still visible to anyone who watches THE BLACK CAT. In spite of its fantastic aspects, the film is also unusual among horror films of the 1 930s for so powerfully evoking the spectre of World War I, still a fresh wound in the public psyche. Most Universal horror films offered sheer escapism. In contrast, TH E BLACK CAT confronted its viewers with recent historic horrors far more frightening than any movie monster Interviewed in the 1 960s by Peter Bogda novich, U lmer recalled another source that informed THE BLACK CAT· " I had been in Prague ... I met at that time Gustav Meyrink, the man who wrote The Go/em as a novel. Meyrink was one of those strange Prague Jews, l ike Kafka, who was very tied up in the mystic Talmudic background. We had a lot of d iscussions, and Meyrink ... was contemplating a play based upon Doumont, which was a French fortress the Germans had shelled to pieces during the First World War There were some survivors who didn't come out for years. And the commander . . . went crazy three years later when h e was brought back to Paris, because h e had walked on that mountain of bodies." Much of the ambience of this historic incident is reflected in Bela Lugosi's lines in TH E BLACK CAT· "And that h i l l yonder, where Engineer Poelzig now lives, was the site of Fort Marmoros. He built his home on its very foundations. Marmoros, the greatest graveyard in the world."


THE DEPRESSION AND ITS DEMONS: THE 1930s

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The Black Cat. lugosi, himself a veteran of the war, speaks these lines with truly haunted intensity. With

its mixture of Satanism,

necrophiliac suggestions,

and erotic

atmosphere, THE BLACK CAT is easily one of the darkest films of the 1930s. The original version, however, was even more sin ister. When Universal executives saw Ulmer's rough cut of the film, they demanded cuts, and a comparison of the original script to the finished film reveals that many of the most disturbing elements, i n cluding a more blatantly orgiastic treatment of the Black Mass, were hastily excised. One of the characters at the Satanic mass was a woman named Mrs. Goering, a n obvious reference to the German air force leader. Un iversal also clipped this possibly controversial character from the film. The subject of contemporary Satanism had only been dealt with on the screen once before, in lugosi's long forgotten THE DEVIL WORSHIPPER (1 920). U niversal's marketing department deliberately downplayed this aspect of the picture, nervous that Devil worship might not be readily accepted as enterta inment. Even with this editing, British censors found the film's handling of Satanism to be completely u nacceptable. Consequently, the British print of the

film, entitled HOUSE OF DOOM, replaces all mentions of black magic with less disturbing references to "sun worshippers", which effectively ruins the transgressive impact of the picture. British guardians of public morality would fight any and all inclusion of Satanic themes in movies for decades to come. This last-minute cutting explains some of the inconsistency of the plot, which makes a little less sense with every repeated viewing. Nevertheless, the perfectly matched Lugosi a n d Karloff carry the film, with Heinz Roemheld's


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Bride OfFrankenstein. bombastic classical based score lending a unity to the production. Cinematographer John J. Mescal! has more than a few brilliant moments as his camera g l ides through the recesses of the Satanic fortress. All of these accomplishments are a l l the more impressive considering that the film was shot on the paltriest of budgets in only fifteen days. Knowing something of the many unconnected background stories that inspired THE BLACK CAT allows the viewer to experience the film on several levels at once. But even without placing the picture in context of these influences, H o llywood's first treatment of Satanism exerts a unique fascination unlike any other film of its time. Ladislas Starewicz, the pioneering master of stop-motion animation, created an especially engaging animated Archfiend in THE MASCOT, made in 1 934


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in Paris. The twenty-six min ute short is a quirky mixture of sentimentality and g rotesq uerie. Starewicz's antic voyage to Hades begins innocently enough when a toy dog is brought to life by a teardrop. The pooch, literally hellbent on retrieving an elusive orange, eventually becomes a guest at a demonic soiree persona lly hosted by Satan. An excerpt of this memorable Bacchanal scene, featuring an elegant but comic Lucifer, has occasionally been revived on television as THE DEVIL'S BALL. The blending of surreal whimsy and sinister humour of THE MASCOT is remin iscent of the mood and imagery of Jan Svankmajer, the ingenious Czech stop-motion animator whose 1 994 FAUST seems at least partially inspired by Starewicz's perverse puppetry. In 1 935, the Devil made a brief but im pressive cameo appearance in James Whale's TH E BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN. Mad scientist Dr. Praetorius, played by professional British eccentric Ernest Thesiger, shows Dr Frankenstein his own efforts at creating artificial life. Praetorius is revealed to practice the Black Arts, as he proudly disp lays his collection of bottled homunculi to his colleague. One of these creatures is a suave miniature Satan. (This scene recalls very similar bottled homunculi seen in a 1 9 1 0 Georges Melies production, which almost certainly influenced the later film.) Considering this performance as an alchem ist, it is of relevance to note that the flamboyantly fey Thesiger was on sociable terms with another British eccentric of the time: the Great Beast himself, Aleister Crowley. In 1 932, Crowley was invited to give a lecture at the prestigious Foyle's Literary Luncheon. The Beast asked his friend Ernest Thesiger to open the event by reciting Crowley's incantatory poem "Hymn To Pan" Anyone familiar with Thesiger's droll delivery can imagine what the actor must have done with Crowley's delirious incantation. DANTE'S INFERNO (1 935) is an incredibly dreary film starring Spencer Tracy as the ruthless proprietor of an attraction called Dante's Inferno, which recreates vistas from Hell for the entertainment of its visitors. However, it's worth seeing for the beautifully realized images of the underworld, which are as i m pressive as anything in the drawings of Gustave Dore.·These infernal sequences were edited into the long lost H E LLAVISION (1 937), which had to do with a television that transm itted live from the nether regions. With the installation of the new National Socialist government in Germany in 1 933, Dr. Josef Goebbels seized control of the German film industry in his capacity as Minister of Propaganda. Despite the new Germany's decidedly anti­ Christian ideology, there was no place for the Satanic in the Nazi aesthetic. The deviant triumphs of the German silent cinema were condemned by the regime as • decadent art", replaced by an officially sanctioned art of relentless wholesomeness and cheerfu lness. All shadows were banished from the once inventive UFA studios, where Murnau's FAUST, and Lang's METROPO LIS had been created. The German film industry began to churn out uninspired fluff designed to avoid all provocation, soothing and comforting indoctrinated audi ences with supposedly uplifting fare. During the twelve years of the Third Reich, only a bare handful of fantastic films were permitted. (Two of these N azi-produced fantasy films, the haunting ghost story FAHRMANN MARIA, and the full-colour special effects extravaganza BARON M U NCHHAUSEN are actually classics of their kind.) Hanns Heinz Ewers, who had first sparked the demonic tendencies in German film, experienced a difficult time adjusting to the new climate. The sado-


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DanU?'s Inferno.

erotic nature of his popular occult-tinged novels had been considered shocking even in the permissive Weimar republic. During the Third Reich, Ewers' work was viewed with positive d isgust by the defenders of public moral ity. Alraune, that predatory virago, was not exactly the sunny image of Aryan womanhood expected of German literature, and his seductive vampire character Lotte Levi was even less acceptable. In a transparent attempt at currying favour with the growing power of the Nazi party - and protecting his own fragile career - Ewers quickly wrote a hack novel glorifying the life and death of the Nazi martyr Horst Wessell, a young stormtrooper who made his living as a pimp. Ewers' hagiography of Wessel l was a popular success, and upon the Nazi seizure of power in 1 933, Goebbels requested that Ewers adapt it into a filmscript entitled HANS WESTMAR. The film, fi nanced by the SA, was conceived by Goebbels as an important building block of the heroic Nazi mythos. Ewers, his creativity hampered as a servant of the state, complained in a letter to his wife: "I don't like the work at all, I have more than enough of that theme ! " Perhaps Ewers' lack o f commitment was apparent, for Goebbels accused Ewers of making a " pseudo-artistic or in artistic attempt to exploit the actual political situation" The demonic and sexual themes driving Ewers' work were u ltimately incompatible with the Third Reich's ideology; by 1 934 the leading German fantasist's work was forbidden altogether as an unhea lthy influence on the master race. Students were encouraged to burn his books along with other undesirable l iterature. Ewers' brief interlude as a Nazi propagandist gave rise to


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Der SludenJ Von Prag (1935). the persistent but unverified rumour that he wrote the lyrics to the National Socialist Party anthem Der Horst Wessell Lied. By the time of this ban on Ewer's work, production had already started on a sound re-make of his STUDENT VON PRAG, filmed in 1 935. The only genuinely Satanic German film to appear during the Hitler era is the third version of Hanns Heinz Ewers' classic. Its chief innovation, the addition of sound to the now familiar tale of the Doppelganger, makes for a more realistic rendition than the previous silent versions. Unfortunately, as is often the case with occult subjects, the use of sound tends to cast the potentially dream-like iconography of the story into an inordinately prosaic form. Although the silent format proves to be far the more powerful medium for evoking the ap propriate nightmarish mood required, the 1 93 5 STUDENT is still an imp ressive film, featuring a melancholy lead performance by the young Adolf Wohlbruck. The Devil's name was changed inexplicably from Scap inelli to Dr. Carpis, an a lteration I surmise may have been out of deference to Germany's new ally Italy. Played with seedy menace by Theodor loos, this Meph isto is still not on a par with Werner Krauss' Scapinelli of nine years earlier The film was directed by the American emigre Arth ur Robison, who d ied during the last phases of production, which may help to account for a certai n unfin ished feel. A sense of bleak fatalism dominates the atmospheric picture, not a qual ity likely to win the hearts of the watchful Nazi censors, who allowed STUDENT VON PRAG only limited distribution. I n the nationalistic fervour of the thirties, Robison's American birth o n ly added to the film's political incorrectness. The screenplay, credited as "freely after Hanns Heinz Ewers" was written without Ewers' permission, and expressly agai nst his will, substantially changing


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many important elements of the original story. "This rotten film was made without permission, and behind my back by this swinish film company!" snarled Ewers. The extravagant dandy and adventurer whose imagination had given birth to the German Satanic cinema lived out the rest of his life as a forgotten unperson. Castigated as "decadent" and " Un-Aryan" by the Nazis for his unwholesome fascination with Satanic subjects and heretica l ideas, Ewers survived under the official shadow of d isgrace. He was forbidden to publish his work, which was deemed to be too dark and d isturbing for the professedly salubrious dispositions of the master race. Ewers died in war-ravaged Berlin in 1 943. Condemned by the Nazis as a decadent "poisoner of the people", he has subsequently been branded by post-war literari as a "Nazi" Double-damned by conflicting ideologies, the strange and fascinating artistic legacy of Hanns Heinz Ewers now lays in limbo, awaiting rediscovery.


WAR IS HELL: THE 1940s After keeping such a low profile in the previous decade, the resurgence of the Devil on screen during the 1 940s marks nothing less than a comeback. War-weary audiences were frequently diverted and disturbed by Satanic entertainments.

Naturally, many of the films created in that harrowing era preferred to look on Lucifer's light side. However, a surprising number of genuinely dark visions were

set to celluloid in those years of Hell on earth.

In Walt Disney's an imated FANTASIA ( 1 940), one of the Satanic cinema's

most fearsome and majestic Devils is unleashed upon the screen. The final episode of the film, set to the orchestrated thunder of Moussorgsky's Night On Bald Moun tain, is a faithful rendition of the composer's conception of the music, as he intended his piece to evoke a tone poem of the forces of darkness rising on the demon-haunted Bald Mountain. Disney animator Vladimer " B i l l " Tylta, a Russian by birth, based his concept of the Devil on the Slavic Satan Chernobog. Swiss artist Albert Hurter also had a hand in the striking demon's design. The "Night On Bald Mountain" sequence incorpor.ates a bit of German demonic lore into the Russian

legend, for the Devil's awakening from the mountain is said to occur on

Walpurgis Night. The Devil's spell conjures demons from Hell, and calls the dead

to rise from their graves. The creatures of darkness dance wildly to Moussorgsky's stormy music until dawn when the ringing of church bells d ispel them back to the abyss. Chernobog's massive form melds back into the craggy peak. The sun rises,

and a particularly saccharine rendition of "Ave Maria" is sung by a candlelight procession of the faithful.

Disney a n imators tended to base their characters on human models,

attempting to capture a

living

personality

in art by stream l i n ing certain

id iosyncratic motions and movements down to their essence. But what merely mortal prototype could adequately convey the imperious m aleficence D isney had in mind for Chernobog? Only one actor came to mind: Bela Lugosi, who had created some of his most enduring villainous characterizations with commanding, larger-than-l ife gestures. Although his career was already in eclipse by 1 940,

Lugosi rose to the occasion, lending his unmistakable personal charisma and

authority to FANTASIA's Devil. Chernobog is Lugosi writ large, the sweeping

gestures instantly recognizable as Bela's patented body language. Lugosi's

officially uncredited performance, transfigured by Disney's an imators into a moving icon, breathes unholy life into Disney's darkest character. William (Wilhelm) Dieterle's THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER aka ALL THAT MONEY CAN BUY ( 1 94 1 ) brill iantly transplanted the Faust legend to a mid­ ni neteenth century New England town. Adapted for the screen by Stephen Vincent Benet from his 1 937 short story "The Devil And Daniel Webster", it's one of the best fantasy films of the 1 940s. Despite the home-spun Yankee m i l ieu and the picture's gentle sense of humour, D ieterle brings something of the haunting atmosphere of German silent cinema to the production. Of course, Dieterle earned his Satanic wings years before; he played the substantial role of Valentin in F.W. Murnau's 1 926 production of FAUST, and learned much from the master.

Impoverished farmer Jabez Stone (James Craig) swears that he'd sell his soul to the Devil to pay his debts, and grizzled old codger Mr. Scratch (Walter Huston) obligingly appears. Promising seven years of affluence in exchange for his


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Fantasia.

soul, Scratch officiates their pact by burning the date into a tree. Of course, the seven years are anything but lucky, and the money Mephisto provides is soon seen to be the root of all evil. When Jabez's wife Mary becomes pregnant, the rueful father-to-be attempts to cut down the tree which bears his infernal agreement. Angered, Scratch summons a hailstorm which wipes out all the crops... save for J abez's. The other farmers are forced to work for Jabez, tending to his mysteriously thriving crops. When Jabez's son is born, enchanting agent of the Devil Belle (Simone Simon) arrives, ostensibly to serve as nursemaid. Hell's Belle bewitches Jabez, but he's even more obsessed with his money. Mary, who stays behind at the Stone's hu mble farm wh i l e her husband lives it up with Belle in a luxurious manor, describes her plight to the legendary senator Daniel Webster Inflamed by the Satanic sins of pride and avarice, Jabez holds a party to show off his new abode. Belle's bold enough to order Jabez's wife to leave the party. When Webster lectures Jabez about the consequences of his sinful life, Jabez is enraged, expelling the Senator and h is wife from his property. Delighted with the consternation he's caused, a gloating Scratch announces that he's willing to extend his pact with Jabez in exchange for his beloved son. The party scene is particularly eerie, with its strange g uests and Belle's seductive but lethal dancing to a sinister band. When the Devil claims the soul of one of his guests who's also made a pact, Jabez realizes that his own time is nearly up.


WAR IS HELL: THE 1940s

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The Devil And Daniel Webster.

A sheepish Jabez catches up with Daniel Webster and confesses all, beseech ing the senator to help him fight Mr. Scratch. With Webster's gift of oratory, he hopes that even Satan can be outsmarted. They confront the Devil shortly before midnight, when Jabez agreed to relinquish his souL Scratch appears at the stroke of the witching hour. Webster declares that as a n American citizen, Jabez is entitled to a trial by jury. Scratch assents, with the condition that he be allowed to select the jury. Twelve of the colony's worst blackguards and traitors are summoned from Hell to hear the case. They're a formidable bunch, including Benedict Arnold and Captain Kidd among their number Cruel Justice Hawthorne, late of the Salem witch tria ls, sets down the ground rules: If Webster loses, he too must forfeit his souL Webster summons a l l his rhetorical powers. making an emotional appeal to the jury's American love of liberty, tarnished by their bargain with the DeviL By declaring Scratch's pact null and void, they can, at least in some sma ll way, redeem their own lost freedom. To Scratch's chagrin, Jabez is exonerated and the pact is destroyed. Jabez's new house, symbol of i l l-gotten infernal gain, explodes into hellish flames, and he reunites with loyal Mary. Mr Scratch, jaded by centuries of experience, takes his loss in stride. The last shot of the film shows the Devil glaring out at the audience, pointing his finger as he searches for new souls. Walter Huston leaves a lingering im pression as Scratch, whose credibly sinister persona is leavened by cutting wit. This is a Meph isto who enjoys his job, a sardonic smile never far from h is lips. Huston's eyes g l itter with malice and


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a musement, taking delight in the vicissitudes of the humans he bargains with. Even the stodgy Academy Awards, prone to shunning fantastic f ilms, nominated him as Best Actor of 1 94 1 . The atmospheric score by Bernard Hermann, integral to the success of the film, garnered an Oscar for the composer. So many Satanic films are undermined by a dramatic imbalance created by pitting all­ powerful Satan against u npre­ possessing human heroes. For once, the Devil's given a worthy adversary in Edward Arnold's Webster. As the Devil's fetching e missary Belle, French actress Simone Simon projects an otherworldly glamour all her own. Released only two months before the United States' entry into World War II, Webster's patriotic speech to the infernal jury was well­ timed to appeal to the national mood. Traditional American values such as thriftiness and a Puritan sexual attitude were pitted against the temptations of Mr. Scratch. Huston's charming Devil and the film's overall appeal make it easy enough to ignore the somewhat preachy u ndertones. RKO executives were concerned that the title THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER would offend aud iences in the Bible Belt, so the alternate title ALL THAT MONEY CAN BUY was hastily dreamt up. for one segment of the diverse American population - almost entirely ignored by Hollywood's big budget cinema assembly line - the Devil had long been a vital presence. For American blacks in the 1 940s, the Baptist church was the heart of community life, and there was little ambiguity concerning belief in the literal existence of Satan. Feeding into this belief were the all-black films of director Spencer Williams,. who pioneered the production of blaxploitation movies for the so-called "chitlin circuit" In 1 941, the cinema's first black Prince of Darkness appears in Williams' gospel musical THE BLOOD OF JESUS. S ister Martha Ann Jackson, (Cathyrn Caviness) is river- baptized into a Southern black church. When her irreligious husband accidentally shoots her, Sister Martha's attended by an angel who takes her soul to a cemetery haunted by the ghosts of those who died through another's sins. On a crossroads leading between life and death, she meets sleazy Judas Green (Frank H. McCiennan), an angel. of an altogether d ifferent sort. This infernal intermediary shows her the high life, decking her out in fine clothes, and bringing her to a d isreputable jazz night club. Judas persuades a pimp to hire Sister Martha, luring her with prom ises of easy money, but she resists temptation. M istaken by one irate customer as a hooker who pickpocketed him, Martha is pursued back to the mystical road whose path she had been tempted from by the worldly bland ishments of Judas Green.


WAR IS HELL: THE 1940s

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Tbe Devil Wilb Hiller.

At the end of the road, old Satan himself (Jas. B. Jones) is waiting for her, accompanied by a band playing jazz. Sister Martha falls to the ground, her soul seemingly lost. Above her, the sign marking the crossroads between the worlds changes i nto the cross of crucifixion, and drops of the eponymous blood of Jesus anoint her Her soul returns to earth and she awakens from the brink of death, welcomed back to the world of the living by her husband Ras, now saved by his witnessing of the miracle. A filmic analogue to the fire and brimstone exegesis delivered every Sunday by Baptist preachers, THE BLOOD OF JESUS recalls the moral lesson of Satanic films of the 1 920s. Just as the preacher man might pepper his earnest exhortation with levity, so are Judas Green and Satan humorously represented as big city jazzbos. This might have raised a nervous laugh or two from the film's target audiences, but the threat that Lucifer poses was taken with no less solemnity. Jazz is repeatedly used as the aural equ ivalent of the Devil's influence, in contrast to the redeeming value of gospel music. For his next screen sighting, Satan was pressed into Uncle Sam's service as an unlikely comedic agent for the Allied cause. Directed by Gordon Douglas, THE DEVIL WITH HITLER (1 942) was one of quickie producer Hal Roach's "strea mlined features", comedy shorts churned out to complete the bottom half of double bills. The netherworld's board of directors votes to dism iss Satan (Alan Mowbray), long­ time chairman, since his record of evil has been surpassed by the dastardly deeds


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of Adolf Hitler, who they elect as h is successor Satan offers to visit Germany in order to demo nstrate that even Hitler has some redeeming qua lities - any good will on the Nazi autocrat's part would automatically make him ineligible for the throne of Hell. Satan finagles his way into Hitler's Chancellery, posing as the Fuhrer's new astrologer. The Devil does his damnedest to persuade H itler to do a good deed, finally winning back his hegemony in Hell through trickery and impersonation. Finished off by a climactic explosion on earth, Hitler next appears in Hell as a damned soul, prodded by the demon's pitchforks. Suave character actor Alan Mowbray lends his usual flair to his role, although he's only required to provide a caricature Devil for a film that aims for no more depth than a political cartoon. Mowbray's rival in evil, Bobby Watson, built a strange career for himself as a professional Hitler impersonator, repeating the role in THAT NAZSTY NU ISANCE, among others. Watson is surely the only actor to appear in two Satanic films as Hitler. In 19 57's oddity THE STORY OF MANKIND he donned Fuhrer costume again, accompanied by Vincent Price's Satan. As a film, THE DEVIL WITH HITLER is negligible. As a reflection of the ever­ shifting persona of the Devil in mass consciousness, it's an interesting case study. The comedy reflects what was going on in the depths of the American national psyche. For the democracies of the 1 940s, cosmic evil had transferred from the mythological Satan to the mythified figure of Hitler If the Devil is the unacceptable Other, positioned at the furthest antipode of societal conformism, H itler had become that Other in the eyes of his foes. Of course, Nazi propaganda - despite its general avoidance of specifically Christian symbolism - also conferred infernal properties on its declared enemies. In Mein Kampf, Hitler warns of "the Satanic Jewish youth", drawing on centuries of Christian imagery that literally symbolized the Devil as Jew. Satan is the demonized other side of every equation. To consider all the contradictory images the Satanic cinema offers up as the Devil is to understand the mercurial nature of mass consciousness. How effortlessly today's Devil is forgotten, and how quickly a seemingly unrelated demonic symbol rises in its place. THE DEVIL WITH H ITLER, produced in the sheltered backlots of Hollywood could satirize the Nazi leader with impun ity. Director Marcel Carne, working i n what remained o f the severely censored film industry of occupied France, was more restricted in the subject matter he could work with. Before the war, he had coined the phrase "poetic realism" to describe his style. The German film inspectorate had specifically forbidden Carne's approach. French directors were only al lowed to deal with contemporary l ife if their films extolled the Axis war effort. Carne sought to create a film that would present a specifically French vision to his demoralized compatriots. With script-writer Jacques Prevert, he decided that only the ageless qual ity of a fairytale could evade the restrictions of the times. They created LES VISITEURS DU SOIR (1 942) aka THE DEVIL'S ENVOYS. Opening on pages from an ornately calligraphed fairy tale tome, we find ourselves in the year 1485. An attractive pair of travelling troubadours, Gilles (Alain Cuny) and Dominique (Arletty) are seen riding to a baronial castle in an undisclosed region. They have arr ived during a splendid festivity celebrating the betrothal of the Baron's winsome daughter Anne to the knight Renaud. A jarring note disturbs the merriment when a troupe of severely deformed dwarves are paraded before the court. The troubadours follow, captivating the court with


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their m instrelry. One of their songs tells of "demons and marvels", a subject more appropriate than the rapt nobles can know. Indeed, their audience is literally spellbound by the performance; Gilles and Dominique are servants of the Devil, sent to earth to cause mischief among mortals. With her magical mandolin, the icily beautiful Dominique stops the noble dancers in their paces. Determined to disrupt the idyllic romance between Anne and Renaud, the Devil's envoys enchant the young lovers. Anne is swiftly seduced by the dashing balladeer Gilles, and his partner in crime Dominique easily wins the heart of Renaud with her charms. The Devil's desired mischief seems to have been attained until the unforeseeable occurs: the black hearts of the troubadours are stirred to feel human emotions for their intended v ict i ms. Their master in Hell - played with disarming bonhomie by veteran villain Jules Berry - is forced to step in before his amorous agents are completely embroiled in mortal love. Arriving at night on a shadowy steed, announced by the crack ling of lightning, the infernal visitor poses as a mortal aristocrat, insinuating himself into the life of the castle. The strutting, cynical Satan sets out to lead the virtuous virgin Anne astray, but she resists. Outraged, the Devil transforms his errant servant G i lles and Anne into stone. The fiend is pleased with his magic, until he hears the faint sound of the lover's hearts still beating beneath the stone. The hopeful message of the film was taken in some qua rters to be an allegorical comment on the French plight. Viewing LES VISITEURS D U SOIR from this perspective, the pure white castle is France itself, invaded by evil creatures (the German occupying forces) led by the Devil (Hitler). The beating hearts encased in stone were understood to represent the will of the resistance, bridled


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but vigi lant, waiting for the spell of enemy domination to be broken. Dou btless, French audiences of 1 942 could be moved by such metaphors, considering their situation. However, to appreciate the film only as a political metaphor is to undervalue its poetic effectiveness. Like all true masterpieces of the Satanic cinema, this diabolic fairytale exists on a plane far removed from temporal concerns, and can be judged as a legend speaking to all times rather than simply a h istorical commentary. Roger Hubert photographs the fable with an eye that truly evokes the mystique of fairytale heraldry. The splendidly conceived castle, white and gleaming in contrast to the dark forces that penetrate it, is the achievement of art designers Georges Wakhevitch and Alexandre Trauner. This pristine citadel is a perfect symbol for the well-ordered, regimented - but ultimately boring - life of the court that the diabolic duo disrupt. The castle's effectiveness is a l l the more impressive, considering the limited resources at the designer's disposa l. Jules Berry's shaded performance as the Devil manages to be ingratiating and o m inous at the same time and he shamelessly stea ls the show in every scene he's i n . Swedish d irector Alf Sjoberg brought Rune Lindstrom's play Himlaspe/et (The Road To Heaven) to the screen in 1942. Lindstrom was preparing to take his vows as a pr iest when he wrote the play, and the result is a spiritual parable il lustrating h is own struggle with the rigors of faith and the temptations of the Devil. Resembling a medieval Everyman play in its structure, the film presents the quest of hero Mats Ersson, played by author Lindstrom himself. When we first meet Ersson, he is a innocent ideal ist, certain that all is good in God's creation. This rosy view of things is darkened when his beloved fiancee is falsely accused of consorting with the Devil and burned at the stake as a witch. Disil lusioned by all worldly things, he embarks on a spiritual journey, setting forth on the celestial road of the title. On this pilgrimage, Ersson chances upon the Devil (Emil Fjellstrom), who a l lows the wanderer to come across a gold mine. This concept of breaking with one's routine existence and meeting the shadowy Other on a mystical path is one of the most ancient of mythological fixtures, long predating the Christian mythos. The mysterious stranger who provides the key to unsuspected riches is always met while trave l l i ng far from the familiar, since the Devil is inherently a god of foreign places. H I M LASPELET presents the encounter with the Other and the acquisition of subsequent wealth through the negative Christian outlook of a novice priest. However, the iconic pictorialism of the film allows us to experience deeper mythical undercu rrents. The gold mine revealed by the Devil, like the treasure guarded by dragons, ulti mately represents the gold of alchemical in itiation, rather than tangible precious metal. Maurice Tourneur, whose career in the cinema began in 1 9 1 2, was one of French cinema's great pictorialists, using his camera as a paint brush to create a rtfu lly composed cinematic il lustrations of formal classical beauty. His aesthetic was strongly influenced by his association with the sculptor Rodin and the Symbolist pa inter Puvis de Chavannes as a young man. It was appropriate then that this most painterly of directors would be drawn to create 1 943's LA MAIN DU DIABLE (THE HAND OF THE D EVIL), an inexplicably forgotten classic of Satanic grand-guignol.

Based loosely on a short story by Gerard de Nerval, it tells the tale of Roland Brissot (Pierre Fresnay}, a failed painter. When we first see Brissot, he is a haunted, one-armed man rushing into a mountain hotel carrying a mysterious


WAR IS HELL: THE 1940s

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La Main Du Diable.

chest he can never be separated from. The anxiety-ridden visitor demands to know where the local cemetery is located, and he's told that the hotel has been built on it. When the package he's been guarding d isappears, he is disconsolate, and he tells the other guests his incredible story. Despairing of his failure as an artist in Paris, he is offered a talisman said to provide its owner fortune, fame and love. This fateful talisman is a severed hand in a chest, which Roland buys for the low price of only one sou. Suddenly, the object of his desire falls in love with him, and h is paintings begin to sell briskly, acclaimed as masterpieces. Of course, there's a catch, and this emerges when the Devil appears as a little man in black (played by the dimi nutive character actor Palau). This pint-sized Satan gloats that the hand really belongs to h im, and un less Roland can sell the hand for less than he paid for it, he will claim his soul. The market for severed hands not being as strong as it might be, Roland fears eternal damnation. In a generous mood, the Devil al lows the artist the a lternate possibil ity of buying back his soul - for a price that doubles every day. After three weeks, the price is astronom ical, but Roland almost wins the needed sum at the casino in Monte Carlo. However, his gambling ultimately avails him nothing. In desperation, he invokes the past owners of the cursed hand. In one of the film's most effective sequences, he vi ews the history of the hideous talisman as it came to be possessed by a king's musketeer, a juggler, an illusionist, a boxer and finally the restaurateur who sold it to h im. He learns that the magic hand was stolen by the Devil from the tomb of a saintly 1 5th century monk, said to have miraculous powers. Armed with this


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knowledge, his pact with the Devil is broken on the grounds that the fiend can't sell what really belongs to the monk. In a horrific scene of poetic justice, Roland loses his own hand, but realizes his soul can't be saved unless he returns the hand to its rightful owner His story concluded, he finds that it was the little man in black who stole the hand from him, and he pursues him. In the process, he falls to h is death, ending up buried - with the chest containing the hand - in the Monk's tomb. His soul is redeemed. Although the moralism sounds a bit heavy-handed in the retelling, Tourneur is more interested in the macabre elements of h is tale, conveyed in a film that's a model of tight narrative structure. The demonic imp Palau is certainly one of the most imag inatively cast Devils in cinema, and his cursed victim Fresnay carries the picture with harrowed intensity. Released in a subtitled English version as CARNIVAL OF SINN ERS, this neglected gem is well worth unearthing. Maurice Tourneur's son, Jacques, made his own name as a horror special ist in the Un ited States, directing some of producer Val Lewton's finest chillers for RKO. The same year that his father was filming LA MAIN DU DIABLE, Jacques Tourneur was assigned to his own Satanic project, THE SEVENTH VICTIM (1 943). This darkest of mysteries began in earnest when Lewton asked screenwriter Dewitt Bodeen to "see if it's possible for you to go to a devil­ worshipping society meeting" As a member of Lewton's close-knit horror film unit at RKO Studios, Bodeen had already dealt with such outre subjects as Balkan shapeshifting in THE CAT PEOPLE, and Haitian voodoo in I WALKED WITH A ZOMB IE. Although he wasn't sure what his eccentric producer had in mind for their next project, he dutifully set out in search of Satanists. The writer stopped by RKO's New York research department. As he recalled to film historian John Brosnan, "They had a marvellous office there in New York. I went to them, and said, 'Is there any chance of me going to a devil-worshipper's meeting?' and they started laughing, but they called me back, and said yes, it had been arranged. But I would have to go under a pseudonym. The society would be glad to have me but I wouldn't be able to say anyth ing - just sit there and observe. " At that time, Satanic groups formed, by necessity, a secretive underground, closed to outsiders and uninterested in garnering publicity. Bodeen remembered that his furtive hosts "were exactly like the devil worshippers in ROSEMARY'S BABY It was even in the same neighbourhood on the West Side that they used in that film. It was during the war, and I would have hated to be H itler with all the spells they were working against him. They were mostly old people and they were casting these spells while they knitted and crocheted. A bunch of tea-drinking old ladies and gentlemen sitting there muttering imprecations against H itler. I made use of the experience in that the devil worshippers in THE SEVENTH VICTIM were very ordinary people who had one basic flaw, an Achilles heel which has turned them against good and towards evil ... The mystery centres on naive orphan Mary (Kim Hu nter), who leaves her parochial boarding school to search for her sister Jacqueline (Jean Brooks), a man ifestation of the diabolical feminine Double. Jacqueline is a darkly stylish soph isticate whose profession - proprietor of a cosmetics firm called La Sagesse - suggests the artifice and bewitching glamour of the sorceress she's revealed to be. Innocent Mary's quest for her own sinister mirror image, embodied by her missing sister, is a chthonic journey through a bleak New York plangent with despair, a Gotham popu lated by the damned. She's confronted by a city filled with secrets and deceptive appearances. "


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The SevenJh Victim.

The mannish Mrs. Redi (Mary Newton) - secretly the leader of the Palladist Sata n i c cult - claims to own Jaqueline's firm, which awakens Mary's suspicions. She discovers that her sister rented a room from a restaurant called Dante's (an appropriate name for this underworld voyage), but all Mary discovers there is a noose hanging from the ceiling. Her sister's body can't be located at the morgue, but she's advised to speak with an attorney Jacqueline knew. The attorney secretly married to Jacqueline - reveals that Mary's sister is obsessed with the idea of suicide. A detective who has taken on the case informs Mary that he's found a locked door at La Sagesse. There, the detective is stabbed to death by an unseen assa ilant. Fearing for her own life, Mary hides out in the subway. During her terrified underground journey, two men courteously assist a drunkard onto the train. When the sleeping man's hat falls off, Mary sees that he's actually the murdered detective. It's an image that typifies the illusory nature of appearances that runs through THE SEVENTH VICTIM. Jacqueline's psychiatrist Dr. Judd (Tom Conway) appears, revea ling that he's seen her recently, and that she's on the brink of madness. Judd brings Mary to Jacqueline's apartment, but there's no trace of her there. When Dr. Judd leaves in search of her, Mary catches a g l impse of her sister before she vanishes again. An unsuccessful Greenwich Village poet promises to help Mary. He brings her to a party at the apartment of a woman whose apparently normal guests are actually members of the Palladist cult. A one-armed piano player at the party seems to symbolize the "basic flaw" that Bodeen felt motivated his Satanists. At the library, the poet learns that both Mrs. Redi and Dr. Judd have checked out a book concerning the Satanic Pallad ists. Mary does her own research at the cosmetics store, d iscovering that Mrs. Redi has adopted the Pallad ist symbol as her


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company's new trademark. Later, while Mary is showering, Mrs. Redi warns her to return to the school, telling her that it was Jacqueline who murdered the detective. Mary decides to abandon her search, convinced that her sister is a murderess. The Pallad ists resolve that Jacqueline must die for betraying their secrets. Six others tried to leave the group, and all were silenced. Mrs. Redi sends two of her minions to abduct their renegade disciple. Judd manages to locate the ¡ agitated Jacqueline, who admits her involvement with the Palladists, and her desire to break from them. The Pallad ists discover Jacqueline's hiding place and abduct her. They attempt to persuade her to drink from a goblet filled with poison. Finally, at midn ight, the Palladists allow the abducted Jacqueline her freedom. They are merely toying with her, just as the film skilfully toys with our own expectations. A hired assassin is dispatched to hunt her through the nocturnal cityscape. A tour-de-force chase scene follows, as Jacqueline runs on high heels from her pursuer. She seeks refuge in her hidden apa rtment. On the stairs, she meets a mortally ill streetwalker. After a cryptic exchange of unparalleled morbidity, the whore departs for her nig ht's work. On the way out, the hooker hears the tell-tale sound of a chair being kicked over emanating from Jacqueline's room. Jacqueline is the seventh victim, escaping the Palladists only to take her own life with her hangman's noose. The final words we hear, those of the poet John Donne, are spoken by the dead woman's mournful voice: " I run to Death and Death meets me fast, and all my pleasures are like yesterday" A fitting epigram for a film that has led us toward doom with the inevitability of fate. Lewton eventually assigned the film to skilful editor Mark Robson, replacing his usual director, Jacques Tourneur, who would make his own contribution to the Satanic cinema with THE CURSE OF THE DEMON (1 957). Working with a tiny budget, Robson made a tremendously assured debut. Relentless dread, reminiscent of the desolate mood of film noir, permeates its every frame. Robson, in an interview co nducted by Charles Higham, recalled his film's "rather sin ister quality, of someth ing intangible but horribly real; it had an atmosphere. I think the actors and the director had to bel ieve very strongly in the possibil ity of d isaster: that something was there. We believed it ourselves. We ta I ked ourselves into believing it. We had a kind of fidelity to that feeling ... " N icholas Musuraca's brooding camera records a shadowy, claustrophobic world, lit only by Jacqueline's doomed, fleeting beauty. Much of the film's force is due to the enigmatic presence of Jean Brooks in the role of the Satanist Jacqueline Gibson. In most of her other film roles, usually in mediocre westerns and program mers, Brooks had played a seductive but wholesome blonde. Considering the tight restrictions of Hol lywood type-casting in the forties, the mysterious role of Jacqueline was a departure for her. With her pale unsmiling face framed by a Cleopatrian black wig that recalls another actress who bore her name, Louise Brooks, she communicates an undeniable sense of kinky eroticism not visible in her other films. Val Lewton Jr. thought that the "dramatic and mysterious" qualities of Jacqueline had been based on his father's aunt, silent screen goddess Nazimova. Adding to Brooks' mystique is the fact that, like the character she played, the actress herself vanished after her last film in 1 946. This puzzling disappearance led to much unfounded speculation and rumour Resourceful film researcher Gregory Mank eventually solved the puzzle, revealing that she had died of alcoho l-related ill ness in 1 963, only 46 years old.


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The name which Bodeen gave his fictional Satanists - the Palladists provides a clue as to where he may have derived the film's basic plot. I suspect that during his research on the h istory of Satanism, Bodeen must have come across the Satanic hoax perpetrated in the Paris of the late nineteenth century. Gabriel Jogan d-Pages, a social critic writing under the pen name Leo Taxil, convinced all of France that an entirely imaginary Satanic cult known as the Palladists controlled society's higher echelons. In the complicated conspiracy story, a woman named Diana Vaughn was said to be on the run from the Pallad ists, who had vowed to kill her for betraying their secrets. The similarities to THE SEVENTH VICTIM are obvious. Reflective of the practice of an actual Satanic Order is the scene in which Jacqueline is bid to drink from a goblet of poison in group's presence. The Freemasonic Order of the Golden Centurium, a German Satanic lodge active since the mid-1 800s, annually elected one of its i n itiates as a willing sacrifice to its tutelary demons. The chosen sacrifice drank poison during the yearly ceremony. T H E SEVENTH VICTIM, above all, marks the first serious treatment of modern Satanism in the cinema, long before this theme came to the general attention of the public. Situated at the opposite emotional pole of the grim SEVENTH VICTIM is Ernst Lubitsch's whimsical 1 943 fantasy HEAVEN CAN WAIT. Based on Hungarian playwright Lazlo Bus-Fekete's play Birthday, this early Technicolor trifle tells the tale of socialite Henry Van Cleve. Played by Don Ameche, Van Cleve is a life-long lady's man who decides, upon his demise, that his predi lection for skirt-chasing qualifies him for immediate entry to Hell. Upon his passage into the abyss, he is greeted by a n unflappable patrician known only as H is Excellency. As incarnated by the impeccable Laird Cregar, His Exce llency is very much from the civilized school of screen Satans, noble in manner and speech, elegantly amused by human foibles. Given that Cregar is perfectly cast, it's a pity that he only appears i n the brief sequence framing the long and involved life story of Van Cleve, which is related as an appeal to the Devil to be allowed entry into Hell. When His Excellency has patiently l istened to the potential lost soul's credentials, he condescendingly concludes that Hell does not welcome Van Cleve's class of people. The inferno is dep icted as a n exclusive social club where only the genuinely damned are welcome. Vincente Minelli's CABIN IN THE SKY (1 943) was adapted from a Broadway musical, and was announced as the first of a planned trio of "al l-Negro" musicals. Here, the schem i n g Lucifer Jr. represents the Devil on earth, doing his level best to snare his mortal target into a web of sin. Reprising the Satanic role he played on Broadway is Rex Ingram, whose performance is imbued with just enough dignity to provide the needed gravitas. (More than one unwary source has mistakenly stated that this Rex Ingram was the famous Irish director who directed THE MAGICIAN in 1 926.) Here, Hell is revealed to be a rowdy honky-tonk of a place, replete with jitterbugging demons. Inveterate gambler Little Joe (Rochester) is mortally wounded by gunfire at the shady Paradise Cafe. Lucifer, Jr - appearing i n the form of little Joe's late friend Lucius - arrives to escort the dying man's spirit to Perdition. This infernal mission is interrupted by the godly General (played by the same actor cast as Rev. G reen), summoned by the prayers of the dying man's wife, Petunia. Lucifer, Jr is confident that Little Joe's affair with femme fatale Georgia Brown (Lena Horne) will prevent his entrance to Heaven. The General a llows h i m


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Cabin In The Sky.

six more months of life on earth to demonstrate his righteousness. Lucifer Jr. sends gamblers to entice Little Joe, consulting with the Hotel Hades Idea Department in search of other diabolical traps. These damnation experts advise defiling Little Joe with riches, and the Devil provides his quarry with a winning lottery ticket. Little Joe resists temptation but soon sinks back to his attraction to other woman Georgia Brown and that den of iniquity, the Paradise Cafe. The inevitable conflict between wicked temptress and blameless spouse ensues, manifested in a singing contest between Petunia and Georgia. Petunia is the champion, but as she exits with Little Joe, they're both slain in yet another gun fight. A storm of Biblical proportions is del ivered unto the Paradise Cafe by a furious General. Lucifer Jr. seems to have triumphed when Petunia is allowed to enter the pearly gates, but Little Joe is consigned to Hell. A merciful Lord intercedes and reun ites the coupl e in H eaven. Little Joe awakens to realize that his journey to the other world was only a nightmare, but he's been frightened enough to mend his ways and get right with the Lord. Although this is essentially a primitive Christian scare story in the same vein as THE BLOOD O F JESUS, Ingram's Lucifer is emin ently entertaining. The same old " it's only a dream" trick is trotted out again in 1 944's SOUL OF A MONSTER. Directed in a hurry by Will Jason for Columbia's cheapjack B picture unit, the monstrous soul in question is an enigmatic Luciferette, well played by Rose Hobart. Here we have one of those rare female film Devils, providing Hades with a heroine capable of standing on her own two cloven feet. When worried wife Ann Winson calls on the forces of darkness to save her ailing surgeon husband George (George Macready), mysterious stranger Lilyan Gregg


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(Hobart) arrives. The doctor is cured, but he's lost his soul and is wrapped around the cruel finger of the demonic Lilyan. Promising to kill for her, George violently turns against his wife and friends. When he's arrested for murder due to her telepathic commands, he musters up the strength to confront his Devil. She coldly shoots him, but he manages to push Lilyan to her death. He awakens from his nightmare to find his wife praying for his soul. The film does have a certain dream-like quality, although one can't say for certai n whether this is entirely intentional. It almost goes without saying that THE SOUL OF A MONSTER perpetuates the theme of the good wife vs. the evil mystery woman. Considering that Lilyan Gregg is the Devil, it does seem odd that she's reduced to such prosaic acts of mayhem as running someone over with her car, and resorting to gunplay. Furthermore, one doesn't immed iately think of t he Devil dwelling in a cheaply appointed apartment. Despite these incongruities, Rose Hobart makes for an unusual Satan in high heels, her lethal allure cutting through some of the inevitable sanctimony. The tradition of the snooty British Beelzebub is maintained in Archie Mayo's comedy-fantasy ANGEL ON MY SHOULDER (1 946), in which an urbane Claude Rains wears the crown of Hell on h is well-co iffed head. Originally titled the more accurate ME AND SATAN, Rains' frightfully civil ized deviltry stands in vivid contrast to the vulgarity of gangster Eddie Kagle (Paul Muni), who finds himself in Hell after being murdered by a fellow hood. Criminal Kagle's untimely death inspires him to seek revenge on his killer. The calculating Devil - who goes by the name of Nick - offers Kagle a deal. He'll help Kagle rub out his murderer if he,


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in turn, will inhabit the body of a do-gooder judge (also played by Muni) who's become a thorn in the Devil's side. Although Nick fulfils his part of the bargain, the gangster develops scruples after occupying the judge's body. After a rocky transition in which his thuggish manners and temperament alarm the judge's friends, servants, and fiancee, Kagle decides to use his new position of power to become even more of a moral reformer than the judge. Rains is amusingly outraged by Muni's treacherous outbreak of virtue. Kagle falls for the judge's betrothed (Anne Baxter), but after hearing a sermon, decides he can't continue deceiving her. He forms his own pact with the fuming Nick: he'll return to Hades, but only if he's granted u nprecedented rights and privileges. Nick balks, until Kagle threatens to let the demons in Hell know how the boss lost a potential soul. The unhappy Devil and the gangster return to the underworld via an ordinary garbage elevator. The timeless theme of the Double, bound up with the Satanic cinema since the days of DER STUDENT VON PRAG is as evocative as ever, especially as played by Paul Muni, excellent in both roles. Despite the on-screen lev ity, the moody Muni made this an unhappy production, arguing with d irector Mayo all through the making of the picture. Harry Sega l l and Roland Kibbee's script provides Rains' sneering, caustic Devil with all the wittiest lines. Rains, who had already demonstrated the range of his particular brand of worldly, supercilious villainy in THE INVISIBLE MAN and as the cynical prefecture of police in CASABLANCA, has one of his best roles here. The obscure, and apparently lost GOING TO GLORY, COME TO JESUS (1 947) seems to be the final entry in the quaint black Baptist Devil musical subgenre that began and ended in the 1 940s. What must now be the familiar theme of the jazz nightclub as gateway to Hell appears again in this devout warning against the fatal sin of van ity. The plot had to do with a homely, church­ going g irl who trades her soul to a jazz-loving Satan named the Prince O'Hades in exchange for beauty. She falls in with a sinful set of hep zoot-suiters while on a hot date with the Devil, before (yes, you guessed it) waking up to realize it's all been a dream. One scene described in the script where the girl is possessed by the Devil in her bedroom seems to anticipate THE EXORCIST (1 973). Reflecting post-war America's increasingly cyn ical take on pol itics and crime, John Farrow's Faustian ALIAS NICK BEAL (1 949) has a dark hue that would border on film noir were it not for its sentimental ending. District Attorney Joseph Foster (Thomas Mitchell), goes so far in his crusade against crime as to vow to the kindly Reverend Garfield (George Macready) that he'd "sell his soul" to convict a local gangster. This careless figure of speech attracts the attention of a stranger, who invites h i m to a seedy cafe on the wharfside. The beyond-the-pale dive is an appropriate modern equivalent of the crossroads where Faust first met Meph isto. There, Foster meets one Nick Beal. whose fashion sense and saturnine charm can only betoken the diabolical presence. As played by leading man turned heavy Ray M illand, Beal is a fallen angel with a fading matinee idol's practiced charm. The Devil aids the D.A. in convicting the gangster, which leads in turn to Foster running for office, with a campaign contribution from Hell. Foster's wife Martha emerges as the symbol of social order here, ever vigilant to the Devil's ruses. Her more interesting demonic counterpart is the seductive Donna (Audrey Totter), a down at her luck lady of the night enl isted to Nick's cause with the promise of a magically provided new wardrobe and deluxe apartment. Candidate Foster transforms into a greedy politico, with Nick securing his victory by serving


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as shadow campaign manager. When Foster tries to back out of the arrangement, Nick forces the new governor to sign a pact, threatening to send him on a one­ way journey to an island called Armus Pardidas if he refuses. Of course, Armus Pardidas is not to be found on any terrestrial map. Foster breaks the agreement when he resigns from the governorship, confessing to fraud. At the sin ister cafe, Reverend Garfield confronts Nick, who carelessly allows the priest to scrutinize the pact. In a ridiculous anti-climax, Garfield routs Beal by merely dropping a Bible on the pact, which sends the Devil off into the mist. All of the dramatic tension that has been built up is sudden ly, and unsatisfyingly, dissipated by this hastily executed deus ex fiber. It's a fatal flaw i n Jonathan Latimer's otherwise carefully constructed script. Franz Waxman waxes sin ister in an exce llent score, which perfectly complements the shadowed world limned here by Farrow and cinematographer Lionel Lindon. The Devil is a part that often brings our the best in an actor, and M i l land intelligently underplays Nick Beal(zebub) to impressive effect. Almost twenty years later, on the same Paramount lot, d i rector John Farrow's daughter Mia would reach her own Satanic stardom in ROSEMARY'S BABY And Ray M i l land would enter the diabolic arena again when he played Satan ist Roman Castavet in the undistinguished 1 976 TV sequel WHATEVER HAPPENED TO ROSEMARY'S BABY?. A far more ambitious 1 949 take on the Faust legend was Rene Clair's self­ described tragicomedy LA BEAUT E DU DIABLE (THE. BEAUTY OF THE DEVIL) Set in a romanticized past, it's still very much a work of the atomic age, expressing post-war fears of nuclear devastation and dictatorsh ip. An intriguing twist on the Daemonic Double theme finds the aging Faust actually taking on the dashing young Meph isto's appearance - and vice-versa. The mix of all these factors combined with the built-in elemental power of the Faust folk-saga itself - makes for an picture rich with ideas. The complicated, mercurial plot begins when the doddering Professor (Michel Simon) is honoured at the University, while the handsome Meph isto (Gerard Philipe) observes, cruelly laughing. In the a lchem ist's book-cluttered lab, shape-shifting Meph isto appears as the exact double of Faust. He offers the tired seeker of wisdom infinite knowledge, but old Faust only longs for his lost youth and the pleasures he missed in a l ifetime of study. Faust gazes in the first of severa l Satanic m irrors in the film, and sees himself transformed into Meph isto. He sets out to make use of his rejuvenated body, especially with the gypsy beauty Marguerite. When it's noticed that the old Professor has vanished, foul play is suspected and the now youthful Faust is accused of murdering himself. To protect him, Mephisto reappears in the form of the old Faust, living the Professor's life. He reveals the secrets of a lchemy, producing gold in Faust's lab. When this gold saves the local Prince from bankru ptcy, Faust/Mephisto is honoured as a great inventor and first citizen of the realm. The real Faust falls in love with the vain Princess, neglecting the simple but pure gypsy girl, and is introduced to the pleasures of court life. To persuade him to sign his soul away in a pact, Meph isto restores Faust to his former poverty. Eager to return to his new life of luxury, Faust reluctantly signs the pact with Meph isto. Faust imagines new inventions that will end world hunger and war When Mephisto shows him his future in a magical mirror, he's horrified to learn that his inventions will make him into a murderer and ruthless dictator, riding through the


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La Beaule Du Diable.

devastated ruins of cities he conquers. He sees his last day on earth, desperately trying to escape from Mephisto, waiting to collect his soul. Rueful, Faust seeks to break his pact and return to the loving Marguerite, insisting that Mephisto turn the magical gold that created the possibil ities for such power into sand. The town is torn by civil unrest, and Marguerite is accused of witchcraft. Cynical Meph isto offers his help to the imprisoned gypsy, revealing that her beloved Faust has signed an infernal pact. In disbelief, she throws the pact to the angry crowd outside. The pact reveals to the townspeople that Professor Faust is the Devil's agent responsible for their troubles, and they pursue him. To escape, he jumps over a palace balcony to h is death, exploding into hellfire with the pact. Faust, still in h is youthful body, is reunited with Marguerite. Michel Simon and Gerard Philipe both excel in their difficult dual roles, creating some of the most original interpretations of the legendary characters of Faust and Mephisto in the long history of this subgenre. The lavish sets of silent film veteran Leon Barsacq, built with baroque splendour on the soundstages of Rome's Cinecitta studio, create an eye-pleasing fairytale universe. Enhanced by a mysterious and thrilling Roman Vlad score, Clair's deceptively old-fashioned picture rewards the viewer with many more jayers of meaning than first meets the captivated eye.


ATOM AGE ANTICHRIST: THE 1950s Film-makers did not completely abandon the diabolical folklore of yore in the 1 9 50s. However, cinema aud iences were now more inclined to conceptua lize the Other in the form of little green men in flying saucers or giant monsters un leashed by man's meddling with radioactivity. An obsession with science seemed to temporarily hold the Satanic archetype in abeyance, largely banishing the mysteries of black magic from the screen . Consequently, the very few images of the Devil that surfaced on film in that most self-consciously "modern" of decades tended to be frivolous, reflecting a generally accepted notion that the Black Arts could only be viewed as a quaint archaism from a less enlightened time. Typifying the lightweight approach to the Devil so prevalent in the 1 9 50s is MEET MR. LUCIFER (1 953), directed by Anthony Pelissier for British comedy specialists Ealing. Despite the rather misleading title, this has more to do with the impact of the newly arrived television on British society than its slight Satanic framing device. Arnold Rid ley's play Beggar My Neighbour was the basis for the picture, and like many theatrically inspired fi lms, it seems static and stage-bound. Mr. Lucifer (Stanley Holloway) is one of Satan's demons, sent to earth by the boss below to cause havoc among mankind by distributing the Devil's newest tool of d iscord, the television set. A pensioner's retirement becomes anything but peaceful when he's given one of the infernal devices. So many neighbours drop by to steal a g limpse at the gadget that he's soon in debt from all the booze he serves to his gu ests. The newly married couple upstairs buy the machine, but their viewing inevitably sets them quarrelling. The supposed humour is undercut by its unintentional portrait of a grey Britain not yet recovered from the drab post-war era. In its satiric association of television with Satanic influence, MEET MR. LUCIFER recalls the Church's claims that such novel entertainments as the magic lantern and the cinematograph were the Devil's works. Horror aficionados may be interested in noting the presence here of the always amusing Ernest Thesiger, who played Dr Praetorius in BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN. Also on hand is Raymond H u ntley, who made Count Dracula famous on the British stage long before Lugosi was devour. ed by the role. The lud icrous Lucifer that inexplicably pops up in Ed Wood's GLEN OR GLENDA? (1 953) rates a mention. Due to the latter-day infamy of Wood's singular transvestite travesty, almost completely un known in its time, the face of the symbolic Satan from that film has actually become the best-known image of any 1 950s Devil. In 1 9 53, the American underground film-maker Kenneth Anger returned from a self-imposed Parisian exile to the Hollywood Babylon he loved and hated to orchestrate his occult opus INAUGURATION OF THE PLEASURE DOME (1 954). Working completely outside of the studio system, Anger was able to finance his film with a small inheritance left to him by his mother Born around 1 927, his self­ chosen name of Anger was far more appropriate for a director whose extreme volatil ity made him the epitome of the temperamental artist. More than any other figure we will consider, Anger consciously util ized film as a magical weapon, creating brief but intense works of art that explore the sorcery of the cinema. Most significantly to our concerns, several of his most important works have been deeply personal and poetic meditations on Lucifer, a being for whom the d irector


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Glen Or Glenda?.

has expressed a life-long affin ity. In more exhibitionistic moments, Anger has revealed the huge LUCIFER tattoo on his chest, a symbol of permanent religious devotion embla zoned decades before tattoos became commonplace. H is fascination with the mysteries of the movies began as a child, when he had a bit part in A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM (1935) di rected by Max Reinhardt and William Dieterle. Other important figures in the Satanic cinema, such as Paul Wegener, Edgar Ulmer and Hans Poelzig had worked under Reinhardt's direction. Dieterle, who co-directed Anger's first appearance in film, had d irected THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER and appeared in Murnau's FAUST It's instructive to view Anger's own magical films as forming part of a continuum with these earlier evocations of Lucifer. The role young Anger played i n the picture, that of a changeling, has always been connected with the darker side of the faery domain. He described the experience as a "rite of passage", and "the shining moment of my childhood" On a more prosaic level, some have attributed Anger's seeming bitterness about Hollywood's film industry to a frustrated desire to be a movie star. Be that as it may, MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM was his last involvement with a studio film. His revenge on the Tinseltown that spurned him was the 1 959 book Hollywood Babylon, a rather mean-spirited melange of gossip and unsu bstantiated rumour besm irching the glamour of Hollywood idols. As a young man, Anger studied the traditional works of hermetic magic, poring over the works of such mages as Eliphas Levi. In the early 1 9 50s, Anger's erstwh ile friend and fellow underground film-maker Curtis Harrington was


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perusing a London bookshop. He came across The Great Beast by John Symonds, which was the first biography of the recently deceased Aleister Crowley. When Harrington paid for the book, the clerk very del iberately retu rned to him the sum total of his money i n small change. Harrin gton noticed the bookseller's knowing expression, and understood that h e was being given a cryptic gift. Shortly thereafter Harrington gave the Crowley biography to his more magically inclined friend Anger This was a turning point in Anger's life; from that point on he became entirely immersed in th e teachings of Crowley, eventu ally imbuing a l l of his own works with a Crowleyite message. Following in his master's footsteps, Anger adopted the use of drugs as a magical tool, which only exacerbated his notorious mutabil ity. Most particularly, Anger seized on a somewhat neg lected aspect of Crowley's writings, namely the Beast's u n ique interpretation of Lucifer. The last line of Crowley's " Hymn To Lucifer" practically became the d irector's motto: "the Key of Joy is Disobedience" Anger's vision of the Devil has nothing to do with the Christian figure of dam nation. For him, Lucifer is the principle of light and liberation, and the mystical vision projected in h is films is not so much traditionally Satanic as it is Luciferian. INAUG URATION OF THE PLEASURE DOME was Anger's first directly magical film. Reject ing the rigid formula of ordinary film narrative, the d irector returns to the enchanted imagery of M e lies, who the magician/film-maker has called his "mentor" Anger has succinctly summarized the plot of his remarkable film-poem: "The Abbey of Thelema, the evening of the 'sunset' of Crowleyanity. Lord Shiva awakes. Madam Satan presents the mandragore, and a g lamour is cast." This "convocation of enchantresses and theurg ists" depicted i n the midst of a joyous but mysterious rite includes such dark god desses of the left path as Lilith, Kali, and the Whore of Babylon. Making an especially striking appearance in the film as the severe, crimson-haired Whore of Babylon was Marjorie Cameron. a magician in her own right. Cameron. as she was usually known. was the widow of sorcerer John Whiteside Parsons, whose death in 1 952 was the resu It of an explosion in his garage laboratory. Parsons was the most dynamic American i nitiate of Aleister Crowley's OTO, although he broke with that society after the Beast's death in 1 947. Parsons was that rare occultist who actually excelled in non-magical activities, pioneering the development of solid rocket fuel for the early aerospace i ndustry. Parsons claimed to have conjured the Devil at the age of twelve, and a few years before his death he legally changed his name to Belarion Armiluss All Dajjal Antichrist, a sign of dedication to his spiritual mission. Years after his death, a lunar crater was named after him in honour of his scientific accomplishments. Appropriately, Parsons' crater is on the dark side of the moon. Parsons met Cameron under u"nusual circumstances, as might be expected with two such unusual beings. In 1 946, he and a magical associate performed a ritual known as the Babalon Working, which sought to summon an elemental spirit representing the Whore of Babylon, the Scarlet Woman of myth. Shortly thereafter, Cameron a nswered an advertisement for a room to let that Parsons vas offering at his Pasadena mansion. He interpreted her as the man ifestation of the Scarlet Woman, and the couple enthusiastica lly took up the practice of sex magic designed to give birth to a "moonchi l d " , a form of homuncu lus. Jack Parsons eventually claimed to have succeeded in creating his nomunculus, dropping mysterious h ints about the creature's existence to his


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lnauguraJion Of The Pleasure Dome.

associates. In 1 999, Austrian artist Renate Druks, who appeared with Cameron in INAUG URATION, told me of an incident that had occurred in the late '40s. Parsons, she said "asked if I wanted to go downstairs and see his homunculus. I didn't know if that was his idea of a line or not, so I declined" While Druks' cynical interpretation of Parsons' peculiar invitation might well be correct, he was hardly the first magician to make such an improbable assertion. Anger was fascinated with the occult legend that was already forming around Cameron, and his inclusion of her in his film was a del iberate connection to the magical climate created by the Babalon Working. Cameron's charismatic screen presence can also be seen in Curtis Harrington's atmospheric short film THE WORMWOOD STAR (1 956), in which the Scarlet Woman displays a series of her esoteric paintings to the camera shortly before she destroys them. Harrington,


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who appears in INAUG URATION as Cesare the somnambulist, would return to this magical muse in the '60s. The brightly coloured visionary imagery of INAUGU RATION OF THE PLEASU RE DOME was immediately celebrated by beatnik bohemia, a subculture that recognized the drugged Crowleyan atmosphere for what it was. In many ways, Anger's film was the predecessor of the '60s "head" film, one of the outgrowths of the occult revival to come. One of the most infamous incidents of historical Satan ism was dramatized in 1 9 55's L'AFFAIRE DES POISONS (THE POISONS AFFAIR) In the 1670s, under the supervision of the defrocked Abbe Gu ibourg, many of the bright young things of Louis XIV's gl ittering court dabbled in diablerie. This Satan ism in high places was kept secret until the King ordered a sweeping investigation into a rash of poisonings around Paris. It was d iscovered that h is long-time m istress Madame de Montes pan had served as a naked altar at the Devil's Masses that Gu iborg regularly celebrated. In r ites held to mag ically assure Montespan's place in the monarch's bed, children were sacrificed to the demons Asmodeus and Ashtaroth. The King's mistress was said to have fed her royal lover wafers dipped in blood to cast a love spell on him. When his attention turned to other women in the court, the jealous Montespan performed destruction rituals against her competition, eventually resorting to poison. To this end, the Satanist La Voisin was emp loyed, leading to an attempt on the King's life. Louis was so shocked by the depths of black magical activity his officers discovered that he ordered a suppression of the evidence, which only sparked increasingly fantastic rumours. Predictably, director Henri Decoin's L'AFFAIRE DES POISONS wrings the lurid incident for all the sensationalism it's worth. The lovely Danielle Darrieux is credibly conniving as the grasping La Montespan. and the orgiastic scenes of her nude presence at the Black Mass were considered shocking at the time. Paul Meurisse is suitably depraved as the fallen priest, and the rituals are reenacted with a faithfulness to historical records that's somewhat surprising. Still, 1 9 50s restrictions didn't allow Decoin to document the events in as bloody or as erotic a manner as they call for, and the resu lt is a restrained but intriguing costume melodrama. The plot of MARGUERITE DE LA NUIT (1 955) need not be recounted; it's yet another take on the pact between Meph isto and Faust. D irector Claude Autant-Lara strives to do something different with the fa m i l iar legend, but is sunk by a general air of pretentious artiness. Yves Montand exudes a certa in seedy charm as the Satanic Monsieur Leon, but the role is lim ited by the pettiness of Autant-Lara's conception of evil. Here, the Devil suffers the indign ity of being presented as the sleazy proprietor of a Pigalle nightclub in the '20s, whose small­ time sinning includes dealing drugs. M ichele Morgan is appealing as Marguerite, head over heels with the magically rejuvenated Dr. Faust (Francois Calve), but the real attractions here are the almost expression istic art deco sets created by Max Douy. Autant-Lara started in the cinema as a set designer for silent films, and his awareness of the importance of setting is clear. Unfortunately, nothing of any great interest happens on those exquisite sets, making for a curiously unaffecting picture in which style wins out over substance. Palau, who was the Devil in LA MAIN DU DIABLE, appears here as the old Dr. Faust. American director Roger Corman's first exercise in low-budget horror. THE UNDEAD (1956), features a slightly more traditional Devil of legend. Ever alert to


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The Undead.

hastily exploitable trends, Corman paid heed to the interest in reincarnation awakened by the best-selling book Bridey Murphy. Claiming to recount the "true story" of a woman whose past lives were reca lled through hypnosis, Bridey Murphy ignited a reincarnation boom. Knowing that a major studio film based o n t h e book was already i n production, Corman asked screenwriter Charles B . Griffith to whip up a script to cash in on the phenomenon. What Griffith came up with was a wacky little witchcraft tale that penny­ pinching Corman shot i n a record-breaking ten days in a tiny studio cobbled out of a former grocery market. The aptly named prostitute Diana Love (Pamela Duncan) is recruited by a parapsychologist who needs a test subject for his past life regression experiments. Under hypnosis, it develops that one of Pamela's former incarnations was a medieval Frenchwoman falsely accused of sorcery, thanks to the devious plotting of Lydia, who really is a witch. (The slinky Lydia is none other than Allison Hayes, immortalized in ATTACK OF THE FIFTY-FOOT WOMAN.) To aid her in her insidio usness, Lydia summons the corniest of pitchfork-wielding Devils (Richard Devon), who is given to spouting the most peculiar pseudo-Elizabethan dialogue ever uttered on screen. Devon's Devil steals every scene he's in, exuberantly mugging to the camera, and reciting the absurd dialogue as if he were performing Shakespeare. In the '60s, Corman would go on to direct two excellent black magic pictures, THE HAUNTED PALACE and THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH. Although THE U NDEAD is merely a trifle in comparison to his later work. it's interesting to notice many stylistic touches of his more famous films in their embryonic form.


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7be Story Of Mankind.

Recalling those silent era epics that set Satan loose in a series of historical episodes, the maladroit Irwin Allen's THE STORY OF MANKIND (1 957) is unquestionably a sprawling d isaster However, it's one of those bad films that is redeemed by an enterta ining performance, in this case the perfect casting of an arch Vincent Price as the Devil. Allen set himself the impossible task of telescoping novelist Hendrik van Loon's massive fictional history of mortalkind into a viable fi lm. Like so many fantasy pictures of the time, this saga is redolent with the '50s mood of atomic anxiety. The spiritual powers that be realize that humanity is on the verge of destroying itself, and convene to decide the fate of the species. In Heaven, a cosmic tribunal assembles to hear the case for homo sapiens' survival. Ronald Colman, i n the al legorical role of the Spirit of Man, speaks for the accused species. His adversary is the sardonic Mr. Scratch (Vincent Price), arguing for the extermination of man. From his first appearance in a cloud of Technicolor smoke, the nattily attired Price easily steals the show in a role that al lows him to make the most of his grand manner The actor had only recently appeared on the stage as the cynical Satan in George Bernard Shaw's Don Juan In Hell, and he brings someth ing of that witty flavour to his performance . here. Colman asks the tribunal to consider man's more noble moments, which are enacted by a motley assortment of Hol lywood stars making sometimes embarrassing cameo appearances. Sex symbol Hedy Lamarr is Joan of Arc, Harpe Marx is Sir Issac Newton, silent star Francis X. Bushman is Moses, among many other brief sketches. Price wickedly lam poons these do-gooders, having been given all the best lines in the script. Mr. Scratch has a more colourful chronicle of vig nettes to present; Peter


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Lorre as Nero fiddling while Rome burns; Virginia Mayo is the temptress Cleopatra; Dani Crayne as Helen of Troy; Dennis Hopper as Napoleon; THE DEVIL WITH H ITLER'S Bobby Watson as Hitler. Satan argues that these episodes prove man's basic penchant for evil. Almost bordering o n the "so bad, it's good" level, the perverse may find amusement in THE STORY OF MANKIND. If for no other reason, it's worth seeing for one of Vincent Price's forgotten acco m plishm ents in tongue-in-cheek villainy. In 1 957, two American films of vastly different quality handled the subject of modern-day Satanism, a topic untouched since THE SEVENTH VICTIM (1 943). The first - and the worst - of these was Charles Marquis Warren's BACK FROM THE DEAD. Scripted with a dizzying lack of narrative coherence by Catherine Turney from her novel The Other One, its su btext seems to be that women are especially vulnerable to the influence of Satanic cu lts. Consider the plight of poor Dick (Arthur Franz), whose wife died as a result of her initiation into the sect of the unholy Father Renall (Otto Reichow), who owe their power to sacrificial rites. Dick thinks he's found a nice unSatanic wife to replace his evil ex, only to watch her become possessed by his first bride's demonic spirit. This posth umous stalking continues until another female follower of Renall is motivated by jealousy to kill her Satanic guru. Warren's d irection is l i m p and uninvolving throughout, and his cast comport themselves with all the vitality of sleepwalkers. From this deservedly obscure entry, we turn to what is without question the best Satanic film of the decade. Indeed THE N I G HT OF T H E DEMON (known in the U.S. as CURSE OF THE DEMON) is one of the small body of truly effective films concerning the modern practice of black magic. As in two other films that reach its level of quality - THE BLACK CAT (1 934) and THE DEVIL RIDES OUT ( 1 967) - the occult antagonist of the picture was inspired by Aleister Crowley. The actual story, however, is loosely derived from M.R. James's 1 9 1 1 tale "Casting The Runes", one of that ghost story special ist's detours into black magic. It was screenwriter Charles Bennett, who had written some of Hitchcock's most suspensefu l pictures, who added the Crowleyesque touches to the film. At first, u n i maginative low-budget producer Hal E. Chester had nothing more challenging in mind than a routine monster movie. Thanks to Benn ett's literate script, NIGHT O F THE DEMON evolved into a thoughtful but exciting film with characters of far more complexity than are usually to be found in horror films of any era. The subtleties of the piece were skilfully handled by director Jacques Tourneur, responsible for some of Val Lewton's moody 1 940s chil lers. Carrying on the Lewtonian tradition of suggestion rather than shock, the director handled the occult aspects of h is story in a deliberately understated manner. These fine points were lost on Chester, who had his mind set on monsters, particularly of the over-grown kind so favoured by '50s film-makers. His post­ production i nsertion of a blatantly visible giant demon became a major bone of contention between Tourneur and h imself, and critics have been divided about this controversy ever since. The tightly constructed plot has an American scientist, Dr John Holden (Dana Andrews), flying i n from the colonies to England to attend a parapsychology seminar He discovers that one of his colleagues has died under mysterious circumstances, and is warned by "devil cult" leader Dr Julian Karswell (Niall MacGinnis) to call off an on-going investigation into his sect. Slowly, he real izes that Karswel l i s not the "harm less faker" he first takes him for, and that


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Nigbl Of 1be Demon.

the magician has in fact cast a curse on h i m by furtively passing h i m a parchment inscribed with runes. Learning that the only way to elude his doom is to pass the runic parchment on to someone else, Holden manages to slip the cursed paper to Karswell himself. The magician is thus destroyed by his own demon, in a gripping ending of palpable suspense. Although Dr Holden stubbornly refuses to accept the reality of black magic through most of the film, NIGHT OF THE DEMON doesn't d i l ly-dally in revea ling the effects of the powers of darkness. After an atmospheric title sequence rolls over some brooding shots of Stonehenge, an off-screen narrator warns us that "evil supernatural creatures exist" Within a few min utes, a tense prologue that sets the disquieting tone gives us a glimpse of one of these beings. A scientist who has mounted an inquiry into Karswell's Order of the True Bel ievers comes to the notorious magician's manor house, begging h im to call off the demon he has summoned to kill him. Karswell is noncommittal, and his terrified visitor is pursued by a smoking fire ball that eventually transforms into a giant bat-winged demon. The viewer will notice that a close-up of this beast d iffers markedly from the shadowy shape in the long shot. This was Chester's clumsy tampering, which irritatingly disrupts Tourneur's carefu lly constructed sequence. The film intriguingly em phasizes the cross-cultural un iversality of the Devil. A drawing of a fire demon made by one of Karswell's disciples is described as matching ancient images of "Babylonian Baal, Egyptian Seth-Typhon, Persian Asmodeus" Later, Holden whistles a melody that's been haunting him. An associate recognizes it as an Irish folk-tune about the Devil, and an Indian colleague remembers a sim ilar demonic d itty from his own country. Casually


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Night OfTbe Demon.

handled details like these imbue NIGHT OF THE DEMON with a convincing feeling of authenticity lacking from most Sata nic films. At the British Museum Library, famous as a treasure trove of magical works, Karswe l l politely introduces himself to his nemesis Holden. The magician invites the scientist to his home to see a rare occult volume not available at the library. During this brief encounter, Karswell cleverly slips a runic parchment to his foe, thus casting the curse of the fire demon upon him. Niall MacGinnis p lays this scene with a deceptively befuddled air, thoroughly disarming the sceptical Holden. I n one of the picture's highlight scenes, the scientist drops by the magician's manor house, accompanied by the niece of his late colleague. They d iscover Karswell innocently entertaining the local children with a magic show, wearing clown make-up and a battered hat; the costume of Dr Bobo the Magn ificent. It's a credit to MacGinnis's expert performance that he manages to be more menacing than ever in this absurd get-up, tapping into the sin ister clown archetype. Coming across some children playing snakes and ladders, the magician rema rks tellingly that "I always preferred sliding down the snakes to climbing up the ladders" "Maybe you're a good loser," a bemused Holden replies. " I'm not, you know, not a bit," says Karswell pointedly. It's a well-played exchange that subtly pushes the battle of wills between the two men into a new level of courteous hostility. As they discuss the powers of darkness, Karswell whimsically demonstrates his magic by conjuring a terrific wind storm, which sends the children scurrying for cover


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Taking-'shelter from the storm, Holden meets Karswell's nervous mother (Athene Seyler), who seems eager to match-make for her son. The odd relationship between the Karswells is one of many off-beat aspects of NIGHT O F THE D E MON's villain, suggesting that the powerful magician i s really an insecure mother's boy. Considering '50s stereotypes, it's poss ible that the odd relationship with his mother and his middle-aged bachelorhood was intended to hint that Karswell was homosexual. Certa inly, he shows none of the insidious interest in the opposite sex so commonly demonstrated by screen diabol ists. This is not derived from the M.R. James story the film is officially based on, so it's not too unl ikely that screenwriter Bennett was incorporating one aspect of Aleister Crowley's sexual predi lections into the character of Karswell. Physically, the paunchy, balding Niall MacGinnis resembles the real Crowley far more than any of the other actors who played characters inspired by the magician. Paul Wegener in THE MAGICIAN, Karloff in T H E BLACK CAT, and Charles Gray in THE D EVIL RIDES OUT were stylized and extremely romanticized in comparison to MacGinnis's very human portrayal. This unusually naturalistic portra it of a Satanist as a quirky but believable human being, instead of a melodramatic stock villain, sets NIGHT OF THE DEMON apart from the routine. Although the film is marred by a few moralistic fi llips - including the Dennis Wheatley-like conceit that the Satan ists are afraid of the powers they invoke Tourneur's last great fi lm is shot through with an all too uncommon depth and intelligence. The dramatic lighting and photography by Ted Scaife bring the set designs of Ken Adam - later to create the Bond films' distinctive look - alive. It's ironic that the fanged demon edited in against the director's wishes remains the image most frequently associated with this film, but that's show biz. Texas, long rumoured to be a hotbed of Satanic activity, is the unl ikely locale for TH E DEVIL'S PARTN ER (1 958), directed by Charles R. Rondeau. If it adds little glory to the cinematic heritage of the Lone Star State, this is still a diverting if modest B picture essay in black magic. Arriving in a small Texas town with the appropriately infernal name of Furnace Flats, mysterious stranger Nick (Ed Nelson) attends to the unpleasant task of arranging. the funeral for his good old Satanic Uncle Pete (also played by Nelson). Uncle Pete was generally reviled by the townsfolk as a down and dirty Devil worshipper. To the citizen's alarm, these practices seem to run in the family, and the nephew takes to sacrificing goats to Satan, uttering maled ictions, and painting strange talismans on the floor. Despite such d isagreeable hab its, Nick isn't all bad. David, owner of the town gas station is head over heels for Furnace Flats' local attraction, Nell, but lacks the capital to marry the beauty. Nick graciously loans David the necessary funds, but this act of generosity proves baleful. True to Satanic lore, the beasts are stirred up by the Devil's proximity. David's loyal dog inexplicably attacks his master. disfiguring h is handsome features. A horse goes wild and crushes the harm less town drunkard. Suspecting that their newest resident is up to his late Uncle's tricks, the local physician and sheriff discover a Satanic ritual in progress at Nick's cabin. The dastardly Nick next turns his sights on Nell, who has been abandoned by her scarred ex-beau. Vulnerable, Nell is easily taken in by the smooth-talking stranger's charm. A strange serpent attacks the sheriff during a visit to Nick's cabin. The lawman shoots the varmint, and the dying creature begins to metamorphose. First, the demonic snake becomes Nick, finally transforming into Uncle Pete. They were one and the same all along, disguised by the black magic they practised. Before the


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were-viper descends to his infernal reward, the town pastor arrives to perform a n exorcism. The rural Texan setting of THE DEVIL'S PARTN ER is an interesting departure from the usual urban or gothic environment in which most Satanic films are situated. Some new wrinkles are also wrought by dramatizing the ancient folklore of the Devil's influence over anima ls, here presented as his malefic familiars. Across the border, Mexican director M iguel M. Delgado must take the blame for the wretched M ISTERIOS DE LA MAGIA NEGRA aka MYSTERIES OF BLACK MAGIC. A witchcraft historian discovers that the star of a tacky stage magic act is really a 400-year old sorceress (Nadia Haro Olivia). Her Satanic "lord and master of the black sabbath", Dr. Urbano-Galli, i s being kept in a ghoulish half-life in h is tomb. Interesting only as a rare South American approach to diablo worship, this drearily d irected and poorly acted time-waster is easily the worst Sata nic film of the '50s. Although you'd never guess it from its generic '50s monster movie title,


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Damn Yankees.

THE THING THAT COULDN'T DIE (1958} is marginally connected to the Sata nic cinema. The film's a historical premise is that one of the crew sailing with Magellan's fleet was i n league with the Devil. According to the script, Sir Francis Drake personally beheaded this Spanish Satanist of the seas in 1 579. Centuries later, a psychically g ifted girl discovers the decapitated head buried on the grounds of a California ranch, and it's inadvertently revived to exert its diabolical will. Despite the black magical angle, Director Wi ll Cowan's unremarkable B picture really belongs to the " living head" subgenre, never the most inspiring of horror categories. Since my ingrained dislike for most Broadway musicals is rivalled only by my absolute disinterest in baseball, the baseball musical DAMN YAN KEES (1 958) presents me with a daunting challenge indeed. Having made this admission of prejudice, it must be said that the George Abbott and Stanley Donen film is a clever adaptation of the Faust legend to the world of All-American sport. The Faustian hero here is not an elderly professor thirsting for knowledge, but a m idd le-aged baseball fan who idly states that he'd sell his soul to the Devil if only his luckless team would win against their opponents, the Yankees. A certa i n Mr. Applegate (Ray Walston) promptly arrives to negotiate a pact, and the unprepossessing fan is transformed into a strapping young baseball hero who can lead the team to glory. The Devil delivers the wis hed-for victories, but the damned contractee tries to squirm out of h is end of the bargain. M r Applegate calls on t h e a i d of h i s gorgeous witch Lola (Gwen Verdon) to seduce his client back down the primrose path. We learn that Lola's stunning looks are


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Santa Claus.

due to a deal she made with Applegate 1 72 years earlier, when she sold her soul for eternal beauty. Of course, the mere mortal foils the Devil's scheme in the end, and the hero forswears the seductions of Lola for his faithful wife. Gwen Verdon's Lola had enough va-va-voom to make me forget all about the soporific basebal l scenes; her hig h-ca l ibre eroticism creates a sizzling femme fatale qu ite remarkable for the chaste '50s. Ray Walston, best-known for the sixties TV series My Favorite Martian, has the role of his life in the Satanic Mr Applegate. Although there have been severa l splendid comic Satans in the cinema, Walston's energetic American Mephisto is surely one of the finest Bringing the cinema's most undistinguished decade of demonic films to a fittingly foolish conclusion is SANTA CLAUS (1959), which has attracted a cult following by dint of its unrelieved absurd ity. D irected in Mexico by Rene Cardona, this cheaply made kiddie's holiday movie finds the Devil plotting against the relentlessly jolly toy-monger. A cliche'd comic book Satan does his worst to lure good l ittle children to be naughty and not nice. In a jarring m ixture of Christian and pagan mythology, Santa allies with Merlin the magician (? !) against the Archfiend. Although it strikes Anglo-American aud iences as odd, the film actually serves as a fairly typical example of just how omnipresent the figure of Satan is in Mexico's Catholicized culture, popping up in the most unexpected places. Of course, the alert reader has already noticed the cryptic occult message hidden in this seemingly harm less family picture ... Santa is an anagram of Satan.


SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVI L: THE 1960s "One day in each century it is said that Satan walks among us. To the God-fearing this day is known as Black Sunday," a portentous voice has told us. Surely this is that day, and the face that glares at us from the screen, transfixed in a seeming ecstasy of evil, is Satan incarnate in bewitch ing mortal form. The glaring depths of her eyes radiate pure hatred, but strangely, this in no way obscures their beauty. A predatory joy in her savage expression imbues the pale visage with an inhuman qual ity. Her lips are thin, yet sensuous. Wild black hair frames the high cheekbones. A study in chiaroscuro, her luminous portrait is delineated in shadows worthy of the brush of an unknown master. The exquisite face is cruelly marred by a pattern of wounds, imp ressed upon her flesh by the spiked mask she has worn for centuries. This image is simply one of the most imposing to be seen in 1 960's LA MASCH ERA DEL DEMONIO (THE MASK OF THE DEMON) aka B LACK SU NDAY The actress is Barbara Steele, possessed of unabashedly expressive features and emotive powers rarely seen since the iconic days of the silent film. The maestro who lit and framed the shot in his inimitable painterly style is Mario Bava, Italy's most gifted proponent of the fantastic cinema. Emerging in the first year of the 1 960s, a decade dominated by images of the witch as seducer, destroyer and victim, Bava's vision of Steele is an alluring omen of things to come. The witch as willing envoy of Satan not only became a staple of the period's cinema, she unexpectedly spilled off the screen as an archetype lived out in the lives of thousands of women swept up in the brewing occult reviva l. By the early 1970s, such aggregations as the encha ntresses of the Lucifer Coven in Florida, and the Church of Satan's Lilith Grotto in New Jersey, led by ex-model Lilith Sinclair, were making news as part of a movement of diabolically inspired witches. To the contemporary reader, whose idea of a witch may be influenced by the sweetness-a nd-light Wiccans who have appropriated the word, the dark aesthetic of the '60s witch must be emphasized. Seeing themselves as sisters of Satan, the majority of that era's witches were a far cry from the current Wicca movement. Just as today's Wiccans are constantly pointing out indignantly that they are not Satan ists, the witchcraft movement of the sixties revelled in its romantically diabolical associations. LA MASCHERA DEL DEMONIO foreshadows all of this, a potent symbol rising from the collective myth­ consciousness of the Satanic cinema. Inspired vaguely by Gogel's 1 835 story "Viy" the picture is best appreciated as a series of beautifully created images. In 1 630, The Princess Asa (Barbara Steele), convicted of venerating Satan, is brought to the desolate place of her execution with her warlock lover. A grim procession of Inquisitors preside over the ceremony. The princess is bound by her captors and the mask of Satan, a spiked demonic face, is hammered into her skull. Before her death, she cu rses the Inquisitors. Two hundred years later, the coach of a pair of trave lling doctors breaks down in the shadow of a castle. Stranded, they discover Asa's tomb. One physician removes the mask of Satan from the corpse, shocked by the miraculously well preserved, if maggot-ridden, face of the beautiful witch. Some of his blood drips from a cut onto the witch's lips. Outside, they are startled by an encounter with Princess Katia (Steele, in a double role), great-granddaughter of the witch.


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La Mascbera Del Demonio.

Bava provides the heroine of his film with a strangely sin ister grand entrance, photographing her dressed in flowing black against a stormy sky, framed by the portals of a ruined chapel with demonic black dogs - beasts traditionally associated with the Devil - straining on a leash. It's as if her sorcerous ancestress has already begun to transfer her soul. "Sometimes Satan plays tricks, even with the dead", as a priest in the film helpfully explains. In her tomb, Asa stirs, revived by blood. One of the more stunning scenes in the Satan ic cinema, it's made plausible by the combination of Steele's uncanny presence - which goes much deeper than any special effect or make-up - and Bava's command of his camera. Asa and her companion return to life, fulfilling the curse cast centuries earlier. Steele's skill is revealed by her ability to convincingly play two roles in the film. While her performance as the fury Asa is the most immediately impressive, she's also credible as the heroine of the film, Katia. The tension between rapacious Asa and pure Katia is a classic dichotomy that harkens back to Brigitte Helm's twin roles in METROPOLIS. A textbook example of psycho logical splitting, which often manifests in dreams, Katia awakens desires that can only be satiated by her succubus twin. Mario Bava's greatest strength is in creating memorably eerie compositions. A black coach from hell gliding through billowing fog. The dramatic first appearance in a storm of Katia with her demon dogs. The doom-laden images of Asa's execution and the leering mask of Satan itself. All these stick with the viewer with the force of half-remembered dreams. Bava was primed for the crafting of his finest film; his artful mise-en-scene was shaped by lessons learned from his father, a gifted sculptor. Immersed in art from an early age, Bava's predi lection for portraying Satanic visions with p ictorial beauty could be foreseen for many years. In 1 947, Bava made one of his fi rst films, the documentary IL


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DEMON IACO N ELL'ARTE (THE DEMONIC IN ART), which surveyed Satanic works with an aesthete's eye. Fittingly, an earlier performance as a witch started Steele's film career Playing the bohemian sorceress in John Van Druten's play Bell. Book And Candle, she was spotted by a Rank Organization talent scout, who signed her to a contract. LA MASCH ERA DEL DEMONIC propelled Barbara Steele to an emblematic - almost fetishistic - status as the only female star of the fantastic cinema. In the early part of her career as the 1 960s most celebrated cinema sorceress, Steele evinced an i nterest in occultism, saying that, "I love witchcraft, the supernatural, a l l that's intuitive. I don't like people who are too rationa l." Wearing her unasked for crown as horror queen a little more uneasily some years later, she told the magazine Midi-Minuit Fantastique - the main ecclesiastical organ of the Steele cult among French cineastes - that "once and for all, they've typecast me as a sorceress. Furthermore, they finish by believing that I really am a witch . . . " Barbara Steele has not always found the curse of Princess Asa easy to bear. French film critic Raymond Durgnat described her as projecting a "Celtic feminine occultism", adding in his Films And Feelings that "every well-appointed harem has its witch-bitch, for the same reason that fairy sto ries have them," and that Steele was the quintessential embodiment of this legendary being. Often expressing resentment at the constraints of the diabolical image she involuntarily stepped into, Steele prefers her less macabre work with such directors as Fel l i n i a n d Schlondorff. The cinema's magical tendency to. ineradicably identify actors with their parts has been particularly acute in her case. Wearing the mask of the demon, which is ultimately the mask of the dark feminine Other, can change one's persona, just as the ancient Greeks warned their dramatic players. A cultured woman with intellectual tastes, Steele told me that she never played the deferential "show business game" with any great enthusiasm. Typifying her provocative attitude, she once defiantly answered a journal ist who asked for her future plans: "I want to tuck the whole worl d ! " Unfortunately, o n e of the film's key elements, Asia's oath o f vengeance, has been appropriated so often by lesser films, some of its force has been drained by famil iarity. By the 1 970s, it became almost inevitable that Satanic films would be kicked off by an unforgiving witch promising wrath to her persecutors, even as her mortal body is destroyed by the flames of the auto-da-fe. The shadow of the witch was successfully cast on the screen again in 1 960's often overlooked THE CITY OF THE DEAD. Although it was filmed i n Britain with a Br itish cast, this effective early entry in the English Gothic revival is set in America. Wh itewood, Massachussets is the kind of decaying New England municipa lity only H.P. Lovecraft could love. Haunted by black mag ic, the eponymous village once witnessed the execution of witch El izabeth Selwyn (Patricia Jessel}, doomed to the stake in 1 692. Demonologist Professor Driscoll, (Christopher Lee) advises his student Nan Barlow (Venetia Stevens) to visit Whitewood to research the legend of El izabeth Selwyn at first hand. On Candelmas Eve, the n ight of a witch's sabbath, she checks into the Ravens Inn. This disquieting hostelry is owned by Elizabeth, revived from the grave by a pact with the Devil. Nan's scholarly interest in occultism is more than satisfied when she is sacrificed by Elizabeth Se lwyn and her coven. One of the warlocks turns out to be Professor Driscoll, whose Satanic know-how is more than academic. Concerned family and friends trace Nan's tra i l to the accursed town, where they discover that the local min ister's grandda ughter is about to fall under the coven's


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knife. Unwelcome guests at the ritual, they save the prospective victim by dispatch ing the Satanists with the shadow of a cross. The rotting old town of Whitewood is clearly a sparse set on a small soundstage, but director John Moxie imbues his city of the dead with an unsettling ambience that is truly Lovecraftian. Indeed, the film captures that New England writer's tone with more accuracy than any of the films actually based on his work. Elizabeth's coven of robed witches, swathed in shadows, and shrouded in fog, are lit effectively in photographer Desmond Dickinson's black and white compositions. Even though the concealed identity of the witches is quickly revealed, Moxie manages to keep a taut undercurrent of tension running throughout the well-paced proceedings. This was the first macabre offering from producer Milton Subotsky, founder of Amicus Films, which was to prove H a m mer Films' only real competitor in the British Gothic sweepstakes. Released in the United States under the dreadful title HORROR HOTEL, this subtle exercise in occult atmosphere was misleadingly advertised in America with the catch line " Just Ring for Doom Service ! " THE CITY OF TH E DEAD also marks the first of several appearances Christopher Lee was to make in the Satanic cinema during the years he worked as a specialist in macabre roles. As Professor Driscoll, the former linguist demonstrates his gift for mimicry, pulling off a convincing American accent that eludes some other cast members. In the same year, Lee travelled to the Un ited States to play another black magician in "The Satanist", an episode of the American television series Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Satan's first sign ificant cinema appearance in an increasingly demonic


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7be Devil's Eye.

decade can be seen in lngmar Bergman's 1 960 DJAAUGENS OLA (THE DEVIL'S EYE). A comedic departure from the Swedish director's habitual melancholy, the picture is prefaced by the adage "a chaste woman is a stye in the Devil's eye" This epigram is illustrated in the film's first scene, set in a deliberately artificial, theatrical inferno. The Devil, played with Shavian eloquence by Stig Jarrel, is beset by a painful stye in his eye. An unremarkable fellow in a modern business suit, the Devil calls on h is ministers, two eighteenth century Sadean libertines whose perversions, we are told by a narrator, once "sent voluptuous shudders right up into the archangel's pinions" Their master's ailment, it appears, is caused by a young Swedish virgin who ins ists on maintaining her virginity until she is married. They advise releasing legendary lover Don Juan (Jarl Kulle) from Hell, so he can seduce the girl. Attended by a shape-shifting guardian demon and assistant, Don Juan proceeds to modern-day Sweden. There, he convinces the girl's father, a min ister, to invite him to supper. The priest is treated with Bergman's usual anti­ clerical derision. Don Juan's target, a thoroughly up-to-date sixties g irl named Britt-Marie (Bibi Andersson) is bored by the great lover�s antiquated courting technique, and he realizes he's lost his touch over the centuries. All she will allow him is a blase kiss. Just when his mission seems lost, Britt- Marie finally agrees to be deflowered. Don Juan is stung to learn that all of his wooing has not won the girl's ardour· she just feels sorry for him. Out of principle, he refuses to accept a mere pity fuck and returns to Hell in disgrace. For the first time, the damned lothario has actually fallen in love with his prey. The Devil, still suffering from h is mal ady,


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Faust (1960).

chastises h is failed em issary by forcing h i m to listen to a demon's detailed report of the loss of Britt-Marie's virginity on her wedding night. Don Juan is spared from further tortures when his beloved lies to her new husband, claiming that she has never kissed another man. Her sin of deception is enough to remedy the Devil's stye. Beneath the sex farce, Bergman is really exploring such themes as the death of god and the futility of religion. Bergman's Hell, and the infernal punishments his Devil metes out, are absurd in the sense of Sartre's No Exit. Don Juan's infernal castigation consists of seducing h is many old flames over and over again, never being allowed to consummate h is conquests. This meaningless repetition symbolizes Bergman's metaphysical despair, which views human life, for all of its pleasures, as a task of Sisyphus, characterized by unfulfill ing banal ity. For a l l of its eighteenth century diabolical frippery, THE DEVIL'S EYE is a film shaped by the existential angst that g r ipped many European intellectuals then. FAUST (1 960) is the only celluloid documentation of Gustav Grundgens' legendary stage per­ formance as Meph isto in Goethe's Faust. Meph isto was not only a commanding presence on Berlin's many cinema screens in the 1 920s. The stage actor Grundgens incarnated the Devil to overwhelming su ccess i n German theatres of the time. H is mesmeric performance as Mephisto in the theatrica I version of Faust was one of the great critical and popular triumphs of German drama. Although the actor was acknowledged as one of the leading thespians of his time, more than capable of interpreting a wide range of roles, Grundgens became indelibly associated with the part of Faust's prince of Hell. So total


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was Grundgens' association with Mephistopheles that novelist Klaus Mann would base his novel Mephisto on the actor's life. This film, co-directed by the actor and Peter Gorski is a fascinating recording of an excellent performance of Goethe's play at the Hamburg State Theatre. As a filmed play, it can't be judged by cinematic criteria, but is well worth seeing for Grundgens' marvellous performance, a complex and captivating Mephisto rivalled only by Emil Jannings in Murnau's FAUST ( 1 926). Grundgens himself was depicted as a power-mad Faustian careerist in Hungarian d irector Istvan Szabo's 1 980 MEPH ISTO. The allegorical film depicted the actor's unscrupulous collaboration with the Third Reich as a deal signed in Hell. Although a wide variety of actors would play the Devil in the twentieth century, only Gustav Grundgens would be so lastingly intertwined with the character THE HELLFIRE CLUB (1 960) is a bit of a cheat, a dull costu me melodrama that.actually has little to do with the infamous eighteenth century debauchees. Produced and directed by the team of Baker and Berman, who made several u n i nvolving adventures based loosely on some of England's more notorious historical episodes, the picture never shows us Sir Francis Dashwood's pseudo­ Sata n i c rakes in action. European prints of the film include slightly more risque orgy scenes than the rather decorous British version. The downbeat narrative of Mexican di rector Benito Alazraki's ESPIRITISMO aka SPIRITISM (1 960) is told in the form of a forlorn middle-aged man's confession to his priest. His family has been devastated by dealings with the Devil, and he seeks absolution. The gateway to Satan was first opened by experiments with spiritualism, through which he and his wife believed they could contact the other world. When the couple's reckless son bankrupts them through his unsound business dea l ings, the wife (Nora Veryan) turns to dark forces, begging Satan for assistance in paying the mortgage. The Devil kindly appears to fulfil her banking needs, offering her a Pandora's box containing a crawling severed hand. Although the wish she makes upon the hideous hand comes true, it brings d isaster in its wake. (Th is last element of the story is obviously lifted from the widely anthologized story The Monkey's Paw by W.W. Jacobs.) When her son dies, she wishes for his return from the dead, which transpires - but not in the manner she expected. Too late, she learns the lesson that tampering with black magic ultimately leads to tragedy, despite the temporary boons it may grant. Remin iscent in its simp le-minded ness of a Christian comic book tract, ESPIRITISMO conveys the very Latin message that women are usually to blame for evil's manifestation in the world. The film ends with a final warning: "There are many who are helplessly driven by a desire to explore forbidden phenomena, if, with this picture, we are able to quench that unhealthy curiosity in some, we will consider our job well done." Approximately as entertaining as H igh Mass, but without the fancy costumes, ESPIRITISMO is a dreary interpretation of black mag ic. The sorceress and Whore of Babylon Cameron Parsons and the avant­ garde film-maker Curtis Harrington had not worked together since TH E WORMWOOD STAR (1956). In 1 96 1 , Harr ington asked Cameron, then focusing her talents on her evocative painting, to appear in his first feature film, the wondrously moody mermaid drama NIGHT TIDE (196 1 ). Although her part is brief, Cameron's powerful magical presence is compelling. In a scene obviously intended as an homage to the 1 942 Val Lewton film THE CAT PEOPLE, Cameron plays a


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Cameron Parsons, Dennis Hopper in

Night Tide.

sinister mystery woman who confronts the apparent mermaid, speaking in a strange language. Harrington, like Lewton before him, never clarifies whether his central character is truly a supernatural being. However, someth ing about Cameron's uncanny persona certainly seems to ind icate that there may be an otherworldly answer to the enigma which the director skilfully presents. Although NIGHT TIDE is not technically a film of the occult, its inclusion of this rare performance by Cameron, one of the late twentieth century's most influential magicians, makes it relevant to this study. Adding to the subtle but undeniable magical climate is Harrington's fleeting shot of a copy of Aleister Crowley's magnum opus Magick In Theory And Practice in his film. In 1 96 1 , this book was long out of print, and known only to a very small coterie of esotericists. By using Cameron and the Crowley book, Harrington consciously communicated an authentic - if oblique - awareness of the magical underworld years before the occult revival of the late 1 960s had come to a boil. The curious TH E DEVIL'S MESSENGER (1961) was assembled from some of the thirteen episodes of the short-lived Swedish television series 13 Demon Street. The Devil (Lon Chaney, Jr.) guards the cavernous gates of Hell, keeping a watchful eye as a glum procession of the damned line up for processing. One of the latest arrivals is young Satanya (Karen Kadler), who killed herself after a disappointment in love. The Devil appoints the lovely suicide as his messenger on earth, convinced that she can tempt more mortals into sin for him. After three episodes of varying quality, Satan reveals h is ultimate Machiavellian plan to bring the maximum number of new subjects under his sway. He hands Satanya an envelope, to be


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Night Of The Eagk

delivered to earth. When his envoy asks who the missive is to be del ivered to, the Devil turns to the camera and leers, "To them ! " indicating the aud ience. They return to earth, providing human ity with the formula for a doomsday bomb of un precedented power. The screen fills with a g igantic explosion that annihilates entire cities. The Devil bursts into laughter, pleased with the success of his coup. Now the entire human population have condemned themselves to Hell. Herbert L. Strock's d irection fluctuates between black humour and melancholy moodiness, making for a refreshingly off-beat anthology. Lon Chaney Jr.'s gleefully apocalyptic Satan is one of his best-latter day parts, far more lively than the l istless performances he usually gave in this period. American fantasist Fritz Leiber's 1 953 novel Conjure Wife was filmed as THE NIGHT OF THE EAGLE aka BURN WITCH BURN in 1 96 1 . This picture's clever script was by Charles Beaumont and Richard Matheson, who would both make other important contributions to the Satanic cinema of the 1 960s. An intrusion of left hand path feminine black magic into the rational right hand path male sphere of academia, the tale reflected Leiber's life-long preoccupation with supernatural female characters. Portray ing black magic in a contemporary setting, the British film was an early warning sign of the incipient witchiness of the times. The film is constructed with a pleasing circularity, opening with un iversity professor Norman Taylor (Peter Wyngarde) expounding his rationalist ph ilosophy to his students. "I do not believe" he writes on the blackboard, defining an outlook that will soon be shaken to its core. He defines belief in witchcraft as "a morbid escape from reality" Taylor seems to have the perfect life, inspiring one colleague to jokingly ask if he's sold his soul to the Devil. When he d iscovers that


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his wife Tansy (Janet Blair) uses magic to add impetus to his academic career, h e discards h e r magical i m plements. Tansy warns him that his rash a c t has opened him up to ma levolent forces, an idea he dismisses. Ta nsy's warnings are born out when the Professor is immediately beset by a barrage of threatening i ncidents, including Tansy's disappearance. Discovering that h is wife has been reading Rites And Practices Of Black Magic as well as a chapter about the Devil in another book, he resorts to black magic himself, saving her from a spell compelling her to d rown herself. Upon being rescued, she inexplicably tries to kill him, under the telepathic command of the crippled Flora Carr (Margaret Johnston), sorcerous wife of a rival professor The film cleverly shows modern methods of black magic; tape recordings and telephone calls are the preferred methods of sorcery here. When Taylor confronts Flora, she mockingly demonstrates his conversion to magical thinking by burning a house of tarot cards, suggesting that the flames are consuming his own house. A stone eagle we've seen throughout the film in increasingly disturbing angles comes to life and attacks Taylor. The professor backs u p into his blackboard, accidentally erasing the "not" in the phrase "I do not bel ieve"; his last semblance of resistance against the unknown power of black magic has been erased with it. Margaret Johnston relishes her part as a wonderfully wicked witch, making for a sin ister nemesis to Wyngarde's disintegrating man of reason. Muir Matheson's inventive score features some interesting pre-psychedelic touches that suggest the subterranean world of witchery. Director Sidney Hayers brings the same kind of understated sense of menace to his material demonstrated by Jacques Tourneur in 1 9 58's N IGHT OF THE DEMON. This demonic tone of the times was even more pointed in Kenneth Anger's SCORPIO RISING, a Black Mass in black leather It seethes with a sense of mockery absent from INAUG URATION OF THE PLEASURE DOME, the di rector's earlier celebration of Thelemic mysticism. The 1 963 film holds a sting in its tail, befitting a work made under the sign of Scorpio, supposedly the astrological sign most associated with the darker side of sexual ity, occultism and death. Often cited as one of the first films to convey a deliberate camp sensibil ity, and lauded as a pioneering expression of homosexual ity in the cinema, it is also Anger's most blatantly Satanic film. While his later I NVOCATION OF MY DEMON BROTHER (1 969) and LUCIFER RISING (1 980), evoked the director/mag ician's gentler vision of Lucifer as beautiful fallen angel and bringer of light, SCORPIO exposes a savage image of Satan, plugging into the Mephistophelan machismo of the biker anti­ culture grabbing headlines at the time. Dedicated to self-anointed Antichrist Jack Parsons, the fi l m is described by its creator as a "Gathering of the Dark Legions" A rapid-fire assault of quick cuts and a l most subliminal montage, Anger's brief blast sardonically borrows from the corny devilish iconography of the Hell's Angels. "You look like an angel, but you're the Devil in disguise" King Elvis croons over a fetishistically photographed chopper. The blasphemy of a nineteenth century Black Mass is updated when a biker points his toy gun at the symbols of Judaeo-Christian ity, a menorah and a cross. One guest at a drunken bash wears devil horns and a cape. Invoking the legend of the Satanic festival said to be held on Germany's Bracken mountains on May Eve, Anger describes this blow-out as a "Walpurgis party" Shots of a homosexual orgy and implied fellatio are edited into scenes of an actor playing Jesus from an old religious fi lm. A bible-kicking biker enters a desecrated church, urinating i n a helmet that he presents as an unholy grail.


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Scorpio Rising.

Anger's imagery may pack less punch after decades of heavy metal "Satanic" posturing and puerile Devil flicks of lesser artistic worth, making it hard to imagine how shocking h is delirious diabolism was in 1 963. In fact, SCORPIO RISING was found to be obscene by one court, and frequently banned at its few public showings in the early '60s. It has exercised a huge, and mostly uncredited, influence on later film-makers, prefiguring - for better or worse - the o m n ipresent style of the music video. Anger's ironic use of trivial pop music to comment on his images was also a revelation in its time, although it has now become a commonplace device of derivative directors. The soundtrack consists of an unlucky thirteen tunes, one of which was Bobby Vinton's Blue Velvet, used sim ilarly in David Lynch's 1 987 film of the same name. In every sense of the word, this is a seminal film. Edgar Allan Poe never penned a single line about Satanism i n all of his curious volumes of forgotten lore. That hasn't stopped Hollywood from posthumously attributing three Sata nic tales to that despairing bard's hand. Joining Ulmer's 1 934 THE BLACK CAT are two of Roger Corman's best American International films. 1 963's TH E HAUNTED PALACE is only connected to Poe by virtue of sharing the title of one of his poems. In fact, this Vincent Price vehicle is based entirely on The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward, H.P. Lovecraft's 1 927 black magic novella. Lovecraft's tale is a well-crafted variation on the theme of the diabolical


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The Haunted Palace.

Double, set in his favourite locale, the hau nted New England town Arkham. Director Corman argued with producer James H. N icholson about the misleading Poe tie-in, only to be overruled. Later in the turned-on '60s, the weird fantasies of Lovecraft developed their own cult among the psychedelic young. Vincent Price does double duty as executed Warlock Joseph Curwen and his g reat-great-grandson Charles Dexter Ward, who comes to be hexed by his infamous ancestor It requires a strong performance to make dual roles believable, and the often underrated Price is in fine form here. In 1 765, the black magician Curwen casts a maled iction on the residents of Arkham, before his immolation at the stake by a fearful mob. A century later, Curwen's descendant Charles Dexter Ward arrives with his wife Ann (Debra Paget) to take possession of his ancestral home. He soon falls under the spell of a portrait of Curwen that bears that old " u n canny resemblance" viewers of the Satanic cinema must now anticipate. In the cellar where Curwen once practised his deviltry, an elder god from another world waits to mate with and devour his bride. One nightmarish scene, well filmed by Corman's ace cameraman Floyd Crosby, reveals the mutant descendants of the cursed villagers, shambling through the studio mist with eyeless faces. Price is in his element presiding over an atmospheric Satanic rite held in a torch-lit multi­ tiered dungeon set built by art designer Daniel Hailer. Offering sin ister support as an old Curwen reta iner waiting for his master's remanifestation is Lon Chaney Jr., reduced here from his former role as Satan in THE DEVIL'S M ESSENGER to Price's demonic altar boy.


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1be Mosque OJ 1be Red Death.

Thankful ly, the film eschews the sappy happy ending so often tagged onto otherwise effective black magical films . A broad hint implies that Ward has been permanently possessed by his wicked a ncestor after all. This final disturbing twist is intimated by nothing more than a subtle smile on Price's . lips. This climactic victory o f evil typifies the dark work of scenarist Charles Beaumont, who managed to sneak subversive endings into many of his films long before the success of ROSEMARY'S BABY made such finales into a brief vogue. The superb main theme by Ronald Stein draws us into the film's weird world from its first note. Corman returned to the black eidolon named Poe with THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH (1 964). Beaumont's script cleaves closely to the short story of a depraved a ristocrat's masquerade, but adds a healthy dose of Satanism entirely his own. Thanks to the poetic, p h ilosophical dialogue, and Vincent Price's carefully shaded performance, lead character Prince Prospera is one of the screen's most -fully-realized Satanic figures. Set i n a stylized twelfth century Italy of the imagination, this is Corman's most visually pleasing work. Freed from the constrained soundstages American International usually condemned him to, Corman filmed his black magical epic in England, where he was let loose in a large studio still filled with left-over sets from the sumptuously produced costume drama BECKET. These gorgeously appointed sets provide much needed splendour to the Satan ist's .palace. Colour is an important aspect of Corman's mise-en-scene. The strikingly scarlet-robed figure of the Red Death touches a pure white rose, magically changing the flower to a


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bloody hue. At the end of the film, we witness a gathering of Deaths from other lands, a l l garbed in robes of varying shades. Prospera gu ides his newest in itiate through specially lit chambers entirely decorated in red, yel low, and black. The visual polish of the film owes much to the exqu isite lighting and camera work of Nicolas Roeg, whose sense of style later served him well as the d i rector of his own fi lms. That eternally recurring motif of the virtuous/wicked female is central to the story. This time, the dark side of femi n i n ity mate rializes as the sensual aristocrat J u l iana (Hazel Court), a willing student in Prospera's instruction in the Black Arts. The character of J uliana confirms a lesson about class that so many Satanic films convey. Because she is a lady of the court, she must be a servant of the Devil. Again, elitism equ ates with evil. Conversely, the personification of feminine purity in the film is a h u m ble villager of lowly birth, Francesca (Jane Asher), abducted by Prospera from a plague-ridden village. He offers her his hospitality and protection from the plague , if Francesca will join his veneration of the Devil. Jane Asher's ostentatious chastity truly borders on the insufferable. In his perversity, Prospera considers it a challenge to attempt to initiate this paragon of virtue into his dark philosophy. Presumab ly, Francesca is supposed to illustrate the homily that the meek shall inherit the earth. However, her character is so drab in comparison to the gla morous J u l iana, there's simply no dramatic parity. Even the most devout viewer is forced to conclude that Prospero and his concubine J u l iana are simply more fun to watch than the ostensible heroine. When Francesca's finally dragged down to Prospera's d u ngeon, any discerning spectator can only cheer. Prospera's jealous lover Juliana is none too pleased with the competition for Prospera's favours provided by the young waif. When Prospera sadistically forces the nob lewoman to submissively bathe the common wench, she plots revenge on her rival. To impress Prospero with h e r more authentic commitment to the Devil, Juliana painfully brands her bountiful bosom with the mark of Satan. In a beautifully designed dream sequence, J u l iana sees herself being sacrificed in her past reincarnations. Convinced that she has now passed Prospera's in itiatory tria ls, she prepares for her prom ised unholy wedlock with the Prince of Darkness. A raven - possibly flitting into the palace from Poe's famous poem - descends o n t h e h e l l ish handmaiden, k i l l i n g her T h e faithless Prospera smirkingly declares to his horrified g uests that J u l iana has now been given in marriage to a "friend" of his. In the c limactic Masque, a spectral figure i n a red robe appears. Prospero, exultant, believes the stranger to be Satan, rewarding his disciple with a visitation. The Prince excitedly unmasks the intruder, only to peer upon h is own face. It is not the Devil, but the Red Death, come to spread the plague to Prospera's supposedly impregnable Palace. TH E MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH was too much for the British censor, who excised every Satanic scene from the film. Not much had changed in this regard since the rites of Lucifer sequence from an earlier quasi-Poe film, TH E BLACK CAT, had been mauled thirty years earlier Vincent Price's Prince Prospero is one of his finest characterizations, a sybaritic Epicurean whose refined sadism has been elevated to the level of aestheticism. Perhaps something about Prospera's refinement and artistic flair struck a chord with the bon vivant actor Although he admitted that he often played h is genre roles with his "tongue in both cheeks", he gives an entirely


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The Masque Of The Red Death - "Satanic" scene cut by British censors.

committed performance here. Accord ing to Price expert Lucy Chase Williams, "Price's working script is heavily annotated with comments, question marks, and dialogue changes, more so than almost any of his extant screenplays." Roger Corman was notorious for offering very little direction to his actors, so it would seem that Price h i mself is responsible for the effectiveness of his interpretation. Hazel Court as J u liana is given one of her best roles here, adding to her small but impressive gallery of roles in macabre and fantastic films. Due to model Jane Asher's involvement in the production, an even more frightening visitor than the Red Death showed up on the set. Paul M cCartney, currently Asher's main squeeze, stopped in to watch the action, taking a break from the moptop hysteria raging in 1 964. Corman's most ambitious film, this is an artistic conception that transcends the formulaic traps of the horror genre the director usually worked within. For all of its originality, the influence of lngmar Bergman hangs heavy over the picture, especially in the robed figure of the Red Death. A diabolic duet of Austra lian director Don Sharp's films were released in 1 964, capitalizing on public fears of mysterious cults and their rituals. Both filmed in Britain, the simi larities between the films create a thematic double feature. Sharp's first film for gothic special ists Hammer THE KISS OF THE VAM PIRE innovatively portrays its undead as an occult order The charming Dr. Ravna (Noel Willman) is the High Priest of a secret society who gather in a ritual chamber appoi nted with esoteric symbols in the style of traditional ceremonial magicians. The essential Satanic nature of vampirism is elu cidated by the film's protagon ist:


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"When the Devil attacks a man or woman with this foul disease of the vampire, the unfortunate human being can do one of two things. Either he can seek God through the Church and pray for absolution, or he can persuade himself that his filthy perversion is some kind of new and wonderful experience to be shared by the favoured few. " M ost of the expected cliches of the vampire genre are turned topsy-turvy. Black capes aren't part of the dress code for Dr. Ravna's cult; his disciples are attired in pure white robes when they convene for their unholy rites. The vampire coven's meeting place is a luxurious, colourful chateau rather than a crumbling castle. A newlywed bride is seduced into the pleasures of the cu lt's special d iet at a magnificent masked ball, far more festive than the usual Transylvanian shindig. Sharp explained his subversion of vampire tradition by commenting that, "some of the most awful corruption has been in the most respectable of places: the old Biblical thing of whited sepulchres that were shining on the outside but absolutely corrupt underneath. Once we had that kind of approach, the whole of the designing and costuming grew from it." The heroine's ritualistic in itiation into Ravna's sect is interrupted by an occult expert who invokes the forces of darkness to destroy the demonic denomination. TH E KISS OF THE VAMPIRE opened a new vein in cinematic vampire lore by depicting its creatures of the night as the Devil's disciples. As the British censor became more lenient in al lowing the blatant portrayal of Satanism on screen, Hammer Films would increasingly emphasize its uniquely black magical take o n vampire mythology. Roman Polanski's 1 967 parody DANCE O F TH E VAMPIRES


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shame lessly lifted major chunks of Sharp's plot, including the unusual Luciferian angle. Sharp's WITCHCRAFT, filmed on a spartan budget in only twenty days, is a superior variation on the "witch's revenge" motif so prevalent in the 1 960s. Anticipating the worldwide growth of nee-witchcraft that would mushroom only a few years later, the film's pressbook rather disingenuously suggests that WITCHCRAFT is an educational film. The anonymous publ icist advances this rather doubtful claim: "In view of the reported rise in witchcraft and black magic practices, the film is useful in that it explains much about these centuries' old rites." Lon Chaney Jr., in his third Satanic role of the '60s, plays Morgan Whitlock, patriarch of a clan of black magicians locked in a centuries old family feud with the Lanier brood. In the 1 7th century, the Laniers cheated the Wh itlocks out of their property and buried sexy sorceress Vanessa Whitlock (Yvette Rees) alive. Rees displays a chilling and demonic appeal that makes her a serious contender for the coveted Barbara Steele award. She's d isturbed in her grave when the current Lanier's construction crew nearly razes the Whitlock family cemetery with a bu lldozer. Avenging Vanessa returns to wreak havoc on the Lan i ers. Amy Whitlock (Diane Clare), who has broken tradition by promising her hand to one of the despised Laniers, is in itiated into Satanism by her family. However, just when the Whitlocks are preparing to sacrifice one of the Lanier's wives to the Devil, Amy turns against them. When the sorceress threatens her fiance, Amy pours boiling oil on her supernatural ancestress Vanessa. Thus does the eternal cosmic catfight between N ice Girl and Nasty Witch man ifest. Usual ly, the chaste heroine embraces the established rule of the family in opposition to the individua list rebellion espoused by the Satanic temptress. Here, Amy must


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betray her Satanic family if she is to redeem herself and b e reabsorbed into the entrenched social order. In a violent denouement similar to that in Sharp's earlier KISS OF THE VAMPIRE, the Whitlocks are consumed in an infernal conflagration, decisively ending the centuries old feud. Although the weird Whitlocks are the villains of the piece, it's interesting that the Satanists are actually moralists, punishing the corruption of the Laniers. This ambiguous theme runs through much o f the.. VeDgeful Witch subgenre, in which the sins of the fathers are ruthlessly penalized by the supernatural tribunal of the Devil. A tale of an altogether different kind is 1 964's MY TALE IS HOT, first of a softcore subgenre which trafficked in lascivious images of the Devil. Since Satan was long held responsible for the libido, his presence in early stag films - such as BLACK MASS (Germany, 1 928) - was inevitable. By 1 964, censorship had relaxed sufficiently to allow a wave of so-ca lled " n u d ie cuties" to be unzipped on American screens. Innocuous items revea ling the same amount of skin gents could scope at strip joints, these titillating titles competed by starring the most a l luring striptease artistes, far more attractive than the local talent. MY TALE IS HOT boasts the celebrated skin artist Candy Barr. The buxom blonde was already sufficiently legendary to play herself in the film. The character names will clue you in to the level of refinement this Seymour Tokus production aims for. Lucifer U. Devil does his damnedest to tempt " Husband of the Year" Ben Hur Ova to stray. A parade of pu lchritude is marched before the lens, but Lucifer is foiled in his plans: Ben Hur is a n Arab sheik with a harem of his own. MY TALE IS HOT is actually a leap backwards from the artful eroticism of Christensen's HAxAN forty years earl ier, but it hints at more significant Satanic sex films to come. Alas, Miss Candy Barr is not around to spice up the moribund a l l-star cast in George Stevens' Biblical biopic THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD (1 965). Too bad, she would have made an ideal Mary Magdalene. The story in question is that of a certa i n Nazarene carpenter's rabble-rousing in Jerusalem, his subsequent execution, and his vampiric return from the dead. Of interest here is one of the characters the do-gooder (Max von Sydow) meets along the way. The Devil, as played by beady-eyed British character actor Donald Pleasence, offers his adversary a l l worldly power, but is turned down in favour of a masochistic demise. Pleasence offers a refreshingly original and understated performance, bereft of any of the usual cliches. He's refresh ingly naturalistic and recognizably human amon g a l l the stagy, self-important emoting indulged in by the rest of the celebritous cast he's surrounded by. The heavy-handed Hol lywood epic is a turgid film, but it's worth catching for Donald Pleasence's off-beat interpretation of the New Testament's principal heavy. T H E SKULL referred to in 1 965's often surreal Amicus film once proudly stood on the shoulders of Donatien Alphonse Francoise Marquis de Sade. The central conceit here is that de Sade was a practis ing black magician whose will to evil can inspire posth umous malevolence. Robert Bloch adapted his 1 945 short story The Skull Of The Marquis de Sade to the screen. The writer was inspired by the fact that the notorious nobleman's head actually disappeared from h is grave on the grounds of Charenton insane asylum. Professor Maitland (Peter Cushing), collector of occultiana, is approached by a sleazy merchant with an offer to buy the celebrated skull of de Sade, which he claims to have taken from the writer's grave. Fellow collector Sir Phillips (Christopher Lee) informs h i m that the skull was in fact stolen from h im, warning Maitland that the object has the power to possess its owner with its own dark spirit. Obsessed, the Professor acquires the


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skull and is consequently ensnared in the Marquis' spell, suffering nightmares and eventually trying to kill h is wife. Director Freddie Francis brings the Marquis to life with some uneasy shots filmed from the skull's point of view. An eye-catching assortment of magical bric-a-brac fills the screen, suggesting the milieu of occult collectors very well. THE SKULL depends entirely on Cushing's abil ity to believably interact with an inanimate object, a task the actor pulls off with his usual aplomb. In all deference to the divine Marquis, I must note that the film's dep iction of him as a Satanist is only a figment of Robert Bloch's fancy. As de


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OJ The Dese11.

Sade's voluminous writings make clear, he was a dyed-in-the-wool atheist, placing as little credence in the Devil as h e did in God. For the libertine p hilosopher, metaphysical evil was only a blind force of nature, and although he found that blasphemy added spice to his fleshy pursu its, he cannot be termed a black magician. When the film was released in France under the title TH E SKULL OF THE MARQUIS DE SADE, the Marquis' descendants threatened to sue the producers for besmirching the name of their i llustrious a ncestor. The great Spanish surrealist Luis Bunuel, always fascinated by the terrors and ecstasies of religion, explored this terrain again in 1 965's SIMON DEL DES ERTIO (SIMON OF TH E DESERT). The ascetic Simon (Claudio Brook) renounces the world and its pleasures for a severe existence on top of a desert pillar. Among the many hallucinations he encou nters in his lonely outpost are such typically Bunuelian characters as a goat-fucking dwarf shepherd, a possessed priest - and the Devil, of course. Tempting the would-be saint with her charms is a mercurial female Satanas, played mischievously by Silvia Pinal. She fi rst appears to Simon as a little girl in a sailor su it, skipping and singing around his austere pillar - a phallic sym bol if ever there was one. She sings that "i n my kingdom... things are not what they seem," which describes the shifting dreamworld of Bunuel as well as the domain of Lucifer When Simon is .suspicious of this seemingly benign apparition, she assures the hermit that she's an "innocent little girl" Simon f irst realizes what he's dealing with when the maiden lifts her skirt to reveal a peek of her thighs, framed by garters and black stockings. When this gambit doesn't work, the Devil flashes her bare breasts to Simon in an attempt to weaken hi s resolve. The saucy blonde Satan materializes behind him, p u l ling on h is beard and growling, "look how long my tongue is" Her Satanic Majesty transforms into an


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Devils OfDarkness.

ancient crone when Simon prays to resist her wiles. The Temptress next appears leading a flock of sheep, calling herself a good shepherd, wearing a false beard in blasphemous imitation of Christ. In her third appearance, the Devil rises out of a coffin that propels itself magically across the sands. In an effectively surreal moment of anachronism, a jet soars out of the emptiness of the sky. Simon and the Devil are suddenly in the chaos of a discotheque in New York City. The hermit looks dismal surrounded by the frantic celebration of flesh, but the Devil, now dressed in the garb of a h i p early '60s girl, takes to the dance floor, twisting as she lets out a wild scream of triumphant joy that cuts through the din of the music. This is Simon's Hell. Bunuel illustrates the obvious parallels between the fevered imaginings recorded by the saints and the illog ical ima gery of surrealism. Sylvia Pinal's energetic and ever-changing performance makes for one of the screen's most seductive Satans. Bunuel would briefly call upon the Devil again in his LA VOlE LACTEE (THE MILKY WAY) in 1 969. The British Gothic literary tradition, exemplified by Matthew Lewis' The Monk, had always drawn deep from the Devil's well. Bram Stoker's novel Dracula made no bones about the Count's Satanic heritage. Despite the untapped potential laying in the theme, the British Gothic revival in cinema had only h i nted at its Sata nic patrimony. The obscure DEVILS OF DARKNESS (1 965) presages the peculiarly Br itish brand of diabolic vampirism that would later become a mainstay in a series of 1 970s pictures. Directed by Lance Comfort, the extremely uneven picture is interesting primarily for its emphasis on Satan ism, then a major taboo in English-


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made films. Two -British couples on vacation in France d isturb the sleep of the absurdly named Armand Sinistre (Hubert Noel), buried alive for practising the Black Arts. His robed coven, who "pledge al legiance to the Devil of dar-kness" ritually sacrifice one of the women. Un known to the tourists, the leading members of the town, including the chief of police, are all initiates of Sinistre's cult. In fact, one of the tourists, the antique dealer Madeline (Diana Decker) is also one of Sin istre's fol lowers, using her shop "The Odd Spot" as a front for their activities. Upon returning to London, nominal hero Paul Baxter (Wi lliam Sylvester) attends a party of jaded sophisticates, kookily decadent British members of the cult. There, he meets the eccentric model Karen (Tracy Reed), who affects a mysterioso image. The up-to-date Satanists are presented as latter-day beatnik types, including an obvious lesbian couple. Karen makes for a refresh ingly dark heroine, a change from the vapid sunny type usually imperiled in such flicks. Sinistre, posing as an artist, paints the bohemian girl as a ruse to ind uct her into his vampire coven. In a scene taken directly from NIGHT OF THE DEMON, Baxter researches the Sin istre cult at the British Museum, where a curator notes a n extraordinary rise of interest in the occult. The undead cult are depicted with surprisingly human motives; Sin istre's bride becomes jealous of the attention he's paying to his model/victim. When the coven convenes in their subterranean lair to in itiate Karen into the Order as High Priestess "in the name of our lord Sata n", there's the usual hurried climax in which the cult is destroyed by the hero. Although it's an odd l ittle film filled with occasional innovations, DEVILS OF DARKNESS is ultimately weakened by some truly ridiculous plot turns and a few performances too lifeless even for the living dead. That being said, it does exert a certa in unexplainable charm, and it's just the kind of film that might inspire its own cult if it were better known. One film that has been elevated from obscurity to cult status is INCUBUS (1 965), wh ich really must be seen to be believed. Perhaps the single most pretentious Satanic film ever made, its director Leslie Stevens was inspired by a very misguided muse when he conceived of this. The simple plot is heavy-handed allegory: An Everyman character representing the force of Good is smitten by a Succubus, that elem ental symbol of femininity. Disturbing this touching tete-a-tete is a living icon of Evil, the Incubus. All of the dialogue is spoken in Esperanto, a synthetic language created in the 1 800s to foster world peace and Utopian understanding between the nations. Adding to the pomposity is William Shatner as the hero, overacting even more outrageously in Esperanto than he usually does in English. The actor who played the Incubus, one Milo Milo, later killed himself and his lover, Barbara Rooney, a fact which appreciators of this film have sometimes ascribed with occult meaning. By 1 965, the soup of dissent and social experimentation that would eventua l ly characterize the '60s was coming to a boil. Satanism, like other formerly taboo activities, had slowly begun to take a higher profile as one of the alternative options open to an increasingly discontented Western civilization. In 1 960, one Dr. Herbert Sloan had formed the Ophite Cultus Sathanas, the first Sata nic sect in the Un ited States to open its doors to the public, rather than practise its rites in secrecy. Sloan had garnered a certain amount of media attention, issuing a manifesto which declared his group's veneration of the serpent of Eden as a positive force of knowledge and enl ightenment. In London, Robert De Grimston left Scientology to found The Process


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Incubus.

Church of the Final Judgment in 1 964. According to the Process theol ogy, Satan and Lucifer were integral cosmic forces in a coming transformation of the world order. Processean Satan ists wore black robes on the streets of London, proudly displaying goat's head medallions as a sign of their a l legiance to the Devil. ECCO (1 965) aka WORLD BY N IGHT, was the first Mondo film to offer u p images o f alleged black magical rites for the stimu lation of their audiences. Among the scenes of international oddity on display - a body piercer, a lesbian act in a Paris n itery, Mardi Gras in Rio - is the celebration of a Black Mass by congregation of London diabolists. Fulfilling the traditional cliches expected of them by Christian propaganda, the supposed Satanists are seen pouring a sacrificed chicken's blood on their latest in itiate. The scene only inspires pity for the bird, rather than any awe for the rather pathetic cult. The usually d i g n i fied George Sand ers lends a sense of author ity the film hardly deserves, providing world-weary narration with his smoothly cynical inflections. Even Dr Sigmund would probably be perplexed by the psychological cases presented in MONDO FREUDO ( 1 966). Dimly assuming that anything to do with sex must somehow be Freudian, d irector R.L. Frost treats us to a panoply of libidinous behaviour, captured in voyeurvision. Topless Watusis; Japanese sadomasoch ists; a Mexican slave auction, and - if we are to believe what we are told - Puerto Rican Satanists. One episode set in a New York apartment features a clutch of supposed Devil worshippers preparing a 1 7 -year old virgin for sacrifice to Satan. One h esitates to q uestion the journalistic integrity of something called MONDO FREUDO, but the sneaking suspicion arises that this Black Mass just may be staged for the " h idden camera" In 1 966, Ettore Scola's IL DIAVOLO INNAMORATO (THE DEVIL IN LOVE)


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invoked the demons Beelzebub, Belphegor and Adramalech in a breezy romantic comedy of little consequence. Old-fashioned in the worst way, the picture's aristocratic Florentine setting allows for much extrava gant costuming and elaborate Princely decor. When the rival city­ states of Florence and Rome settle their differences with a peace treaty, the always bell igerent forces of darkness in Hell are annoyed. T h e s u a ve Arc h d e v i l Belphegor (Vittorio Gassman) is dispatched to earth to do what he can to end the peace. Accompanied by his invisible imp servitor Adramalech (an annoying M ickey Rooney}, Belphegor immediately disrupts the planned wedding of the b e a u t i f u l F l o r e n t i n e P r i n cess Magdalena de Medici (an alluring Claudine Auger) to the Roman Pope's TIJUANA AS IT SPAWNS son. Mag ically taking on the identity of Magdalena's betrothed, the schem ing demon breaks off the peace-making wedding, asserting TH E SCENE that he desires war with Rome instead of his fiancee's hand. Belphegor humiliates Magdalena further by stripping her and --c-= = 0. � (THE WORLD OF FREUD) 1 ADUt1S OIIll:J IN COLOR @otvtlt displaying her from the palace balcony. Despite the degradation he has visited on the princess, Belphegor finds h is black heart melting for his human victim. Outraged by this thoroughly unSatanic behaviour, Beelzebub d ivests his envoy of all magical ability. Humanized and helpless, Belphegor is captured by the palace guard and swiftly condemned to be burned at the stake. In a suicidal expression of her devotion, Magdalena joins her beloved at the stake, inspiring her father to call off the execution and allow the lovebirds to be wed. Peace reigns and Hell's plot is undone. IL DIAVOLO INNAMORATO is a strained attempt to capture some of the fairyta l e mood of VISITEURS DU SOIR, but it never comes close to that mythic level. Lucifer, the rootin-tootin'est sidewinder of 'em all, rides on the high prairie in the first Satanic western, Orville Wanzer's THE DEVIL'S M ISTRESS (1 966}. The poster blurb tells us that "no other woman ever loved with such passion ... or killed with such hate" Alas. Joan Stapleton's listless performance is as devoid of passion and hate as it is of any other emotion. Stapleton, director Wanzer's wife, is meant to be irresisti bly bewitching, but lacks the sinister presence her role demands. In the film's favour is the unusual downbeat mood, so atypical of the OF

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western, which is ordinarily the most unyielding of morality plays. An off-screen narrator sets the grim tone. "They sacrificed unto the Devil and not to God. And the Lord said They sha l l be burned with hunger and devoured with passion and a bitter destruction. I will also send the poison of the serpent and the mouth of the beast upon them." In 1870s New Mexico, four desperadoes brag about their recent robberies and rapes. Frank (Robert Gregory), the youngest, seems offended by his compadres' callousness. They come upon a remote cabin inhabited by the mysterious old prospector Jeroboam (Arthur Resley). The old man, severely dressed in New England pilgrim garb, offers to share h i s supper. During the meal, the cowboys eye Jeroboam's young female companion, a mute called Liah. Frank inquires of Jeroboam, "What the devil you doing up here?" Their host explains that they migrated out west from Salem, seeking freedom from religious persecution. "What the devil is he talking about?"


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The Witches.

asks another cowboy. They shoot Jeroboam, and under an ominous crow's observation, two of the outlaws proceed to rape Liah, riding off with the mute woman as their captive. Liah's succubus kiss kills one of her rapists with fl ickering serpentine tongue. She dispatches her other attacker by compelling a rattlesnake to strike him. In the d istance, an ominous figure in a black robe follows the doomed cowboys' ride. The leader of the gang begins to dream of a gal lows, a dream which becomes prophetic when he's accidenta lly hanged on a tree. More crows gather like harbingers of death as she seduces young Frank, the last of the cowboys. She crawls after him like a predatory feline. After Liah drains him of his l ife-force with her kiss, she removes his heart with his knife, setting it ablaze. Jeroboam appears, raised from the dead. Liah kneels in prayer to her master, and Jeroboam's cruel laugh makes it clear that he is the Devil himself. This unusual ending foreshadows an increasingly sympathetic portrayal of the Satanic archetype that would only gather steam as '60s pop culture rapidly mutated. It is also singular in that Liah's unholy powers are visited upon four thoroughly unl ikeable low-lifes. As in 1964's WITCHCRAFT, the dark feminine Other is depicted as an avenger and a positive force of justice rather than as a blindly malevolent force of conventional evil. Hammer Films had summoned almost every imaginable variety of supernaturalism to the screen by 1 966. However, the studio was surprisingly late to seize upon the cinematic possibilities of black magic. Unfortunately, their first essay on this su bject, THE DEVIL'S OWN aka TH E WITCHES, is weak tea indeed in


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Torture Garden.

comparison to their later THE DEVIL RIDES OUT This tepid trial run, directed by Cyril Frankel, tells the tale of teacher Gwen Mayfield (Joan Fontaine}, traumatized after her encounter with an African witch d octor. Hoping that the qu iet English town of Heddaby will be a soothing place to recover from a nervous breakdown she suffered, she takes a position at the local private school. Gwen soon learns that there's more than meets the eye to the placid hamlet. In fact, the locals secretly practice witchcraft, under the spell of the cult's High Priestess, journalist Stephanie Bax (Kay Walsh). In one of the few eye-opening scenes, Stephanie - decked out in a


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flaming antler-horned headdress - presides over a climactic Sabbat. The aging witch intends to reincarnate in a sacrificed virgin teenager's body. "After the blow is struck, give m e a skin for dancing i n " is one of the more memorably ghoulish lines of this ceremony. The theme of the Satanic village was handled with far more flair in 1 960's THE CITY OF THE DEAD, but Kay Walsh does command attention with a n excellent performance - and her unusual taste in headgear The Devil tends to 1 967's TORTURE GARDEN, an uneven anthology film d i rected by Freddie Francis. Despite the misleading title, the film has nothing to do with Octave Mirbeau's infamous novel of the same name. The film does feature a superior, tongue-in-cheek performance by veteran cha racter actor B u rgess Meredith as Dr. Diabolo, master of ceremonies of a travelling side-show. Meredith, resplendent in top hat and cloak, claims the power to afford his customers a glimpse into their futures, which provides the framing device for a q uartet of dubious terror tales. The only standout concerns the revival of Edgar Allan Poe via black magical necromancy. We are not in the least surprised to discover that Dr Diabolo is actually the Devil in disguise. Although his transformation is handled with rather tawdry special effects, Meredith plays his theatrical carnival Satan with gusto, a characterization delivered with just the right measure of mockery and menace. Ever versatile, Lucifer sh ifts from carnival of horrors to the lofty prosce nium of High Culture in DOCTOR FAUSTUS ( 1 967), Richard Burton's well­ intentioned but disappointingly lifeless film of Christopher Marlowe's durable 1 594 play. Directing himself in the role of Faustus, one gets the impression that B u rton hoped to make up for a glut of popular but trivial work in the movies by returning to the "serious" theatrical tradition he emerged from. Andreas Teuber does not provide the necessary depth to his characterization of Mephistopheles, and any successfu l handling of the Faust legend depends on a charismatic Devil. Predictably, B u rton cast his on agai n/off again wife El izabeth Taylor as the most beautiful woman of a l l time, Helen of Troy. While she's attractive enough for the part, she doesn't have the theatrical background to handle Marlowe with any credibil ity. For all of his ambition, Burton fails to do justice to a play that ranks with the true masterpieces of Satanic literature. It's an ossified illustration rather than a living work of cinema. Is Satan a n entity from outer space? Exploring this completely uncharted territory with imagination and inte l l igence is QUATERMASS AND THE PIT (1 967). While the Hammer film's drama is played in a literal pit - a subterranean excavation - the events also take place on a mythical level in the very Pit of Hell. It is this deft movement between the layers of material, scientifica lly measurable reality and the darker strata of mythological, psych ic reality that g ives the film its power. Nigel Kneale's well-crafted screenplay poses an intriguing question: What if mankind's legends of the Devil and of demonic beings are rooted in ancient contact with extraterrestrial life? The first film to situate the Satanic mythos in a science fiction setting, director Roy Ward Baker makes a direct hit on archetypal territory usually untouched by either genre. A construction crew working in London's Hobbs End underground discovers ancient pre-human skeletons. When a worker discovers a strange craft which appears to be a rocket, the military are called in, determ ining that the vessel must be an unexploded German weapon from the last war This theory is disproven when Professor Quatermass (Andrew Keir) and his colleague Barbara Judd (Barbara Shelley) find horned insectoid creatures inside the vehicle, preserved


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Quatermass And Tbe Pit.

since their death m il l ions of years earlier These beings are presumed to be travellers from another world, possibly Mars. We learn that the area around Hobbs End has been host to occult phenomena and demonic sightings since 1 34 1 , a n d even i n Roman times. This hau nted history i s made a l l the more significant by the fact that the street's name was changed from Hob's Lane - Hob being a n old English name for the Devil. Telekinetic events occur around the alien ship. Strange visions - racial mem ories from a primordial past - appear in the minds of those who touch the demonic spacecraft. With a video device that records images directly from the brain, Quatermass documents these glimpses into man's collective unconscious. He and an associate are unable to make contact with the alien intelligence, which is the m ind of the being men have called the Devil. When Barbara J udd serves as medium, her mind is filled with violent scenes of the devil-aliens battling in millennia past. Her summoning of Hob's long untapped energy releases a torrent of destruction. Quatermass believes that the human race has inherited its tendency to violence from ancient contact with these sinister beings. When lighting is set up in the excavation to film the ship for television, the a l ien energy is released again through all of London. Barbara is swept up in the demonic maelstrom. A wave of chaos descends on the city, which is lit by hundreds of fires. Random kill ing breaks out. Some humans, including Quatermass, are apparently impervious to the effects. The inflamed mobs cruelly attack anyone immune from the mania. A huge apparition of the Devil, awakened like one of Austin Osman


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Dance Of7be Vampires.

Spare's resurgent atavisms, looms over the metropolis. When o n e of Quatermass' colleagues recalls the ancient folklore that iron counters the Devil, a steel crane is swung i nto the vision, destroying it. A temporary victory, for as Quatermass observes, "We are the M a rtians" As Quatermass, Andrew Keir is convincing as a rugged man of science forced to concede the existence of the Devil. Barbara Shelley effects an even more startling transformation, from cool rationalist to a woman in the grip of a sin ister inhuman intelligence. The classically trained Shelley, one of the fantastic cinema's unheralded femme fatales, was at her best in roles that al lowed

her to

demonstrate a metamorphosis from sympathetic heroine to demoniacal fury. D irector Roy Ward Baker maintains a steadily rising sense of tension, only relieved by the final blast of the apoca lyptic finale. Screenwriter N igel Knea le's clever melding of tidbits of genuine diabolic lore with space-age anxieties invest the drama with a sense of authenticity. QUATERMASS AND THE PIT is a f i l m unusually rich with thought-provo king ideas. Not the least of these concepts is the notion that the Devil - whether of occult or extraterrestrial origin - may be mankind itself. Considering the attention

Roman Polanski would

pay to

Satan

in

ROSEMARY'S BABY, the diabol ism i n his THE DANCE OF T H E VAMPIRES (1967) is illuminating. In this seemingly innocuous parody of Hammer's vampire movies,

there are shadows of the darker work to come. Count Krolock (Ferdy Mayne), like warlock Roman Castavet in the later film, is the leader of a Satanic cult. Krolock uses occult terminology to describe his vampire discip les, telling his human


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Bedazzled.

opponents that "as brooks flow into streams, streams into rivers, and rivers into the sea, so our adepts flow back to us, to swell our ranks" Both films contain scenes in which the coven leader addresses his followers in the language of religion. Krolock declares: "1, your pastor, and you, my beloved flock, with hopefulness in my heart, I told you that with Lucifer's aid, we might look forward to a more succulent occasion." With this, he holds up his hand in the so-called sign of the horns, a gesture used for centuries to signify the Devil among European Satan ists. (As previously mentioned, Polanski obviously based his vampires on the robed coven of occult blood-drinkers in TH E KISS OF THE VAMPIRE.) In the final scene, the incompetent heroes escape Krolock's castle with the rescued heroine (Sharon Tate) in tow. When Tate cuddles up to her fearless vampire-killing suitor (Polanski), we see that she has already become one of the undead; she bares her fangs to infect her protector. Ferdy Mayne's sinister voice tells us that the vampire-hunting Professor "never guessed he was carrying away with him the very evil he wished to destroy. Thanks to him, this evil would at last be able to spread across the world." This subversive victory of evil broke all the rules of moral ity imposed on audiences by decades of Hollywood conditioning. The triumph of Polanski's Satanic vampires, although leavened by comedy, may be read as a turning point in the relation of the cinema to the icons of Lucifer. In 1 967, forces were stirring - in the cinema and in society - that would create an unprecedented popular fascination with black magic. On those occasions when Lucifer has been played for laughs, the vagaries


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of the human heart have most often been at the centre of the comedy. One of the best ofthese diabolical d iversions, 1 967's BEDAZZLED, is no exception. Vaguely inspired by the Faust legend, but transposed to a kaleidoscopic swinging London setting, the film focuses on love-sick fool Stanley Moon (Dudley Moore). A short order cook in a greasy spoon, he's so hopelessly head over heels with dishy waitress Margaret (Eleanor Bron) that he hangs himself. However, Stanley's such a loser that he can't even succeed in ending his wretched existence properly. The debonair George Spiggot (Peter Cook, also the screenwriter) materializes, offering to grant Stanley seven wishes in exchange for his soul. The mod Meph isto makes good on his promise, but the realization of Stanley's ill­ conceived wishes only make him more miserable. Although he's transformed into an a rty intel lectual, a millionaire, a pop star, and an irresistible sex machine, the unattainable Margaret is ultimately left unmoved. In accordance with the age-old lore, the Devil is too clever by far, reaping the soul he desires but actually granting little in return. Stanley is trained in the art of love by the spirit of Lust herself (Raquel Welch), but it's all to no avail. Dissatisfied with his previous six wishes, the failed swain asks simply that he and Margaret be metamorphosed into kindly, loving people. The Devil cheerfully grants this final wish and to his horror Stanley finds himself in a nun's habit. He's become a sister in the beatific Margaret's convent, sworn to life-long chastity. Fina lly, The Devil al lows Stanley to have his soul back, hoping that the good deed wi ll earn him readmittance to Paradise. However, Spiggot is spurned at the pearly gates; he still suffers from the sin of pride. A witty time capsule of irreverent sixties satire, BEDAZZLED boasts one of those charming, sartorially resplendent Satans that make sin seem an entirely appea ling proposition. As played with pop star cool by Peter Cook, George Spiggot is a Devil for his times. He's the ultimate alternative to the "bourgeois establishment" BEDAZZLED marks another turning point in the mid-'60s transformation of Satan from villainous fiend to rebellious anti-hero. A remake, starring Liz Hurley in the Peter Cook role, was an nounced in 1 999. All of this irreverence would have appalled novelist Dennis Wheatley, very much on the other side of the generation gap at age seventy. Wheatley had made a long career out of scaring his millions of readers away from the dangers o f black magic. Despite this hostil ity, the Devil was kind to Wheatley. To The Devil - A Daughter, They Used Dark Forces, Gateway To Hell and The Satanist are only a few of his Satanic best-sellers. The author increased the appeal of his novels by introducing them with solemn cautionary notes warning his readers of the dire peril they faced by even reading about such a forbidden topic. Much like the disclaimers on vintage pornography proclaiming that the sordid activities described were presented only in the interest of science, Wheatley dissuaded his audience from "serious study of the subject" admonishing that "any ceremony connected with mag i c - white or black" could "bring them into dangers of a rea l and very con crete nature" In his textbook The Devil And All His Works, written during the late '60s, he deplored what he called "the opening of the minds of thousands of people to the influence of the Powers of Darkness that has formed a cancer in society" While research ing The Devil Rides Out in 1 934, Wheatley sought out the i ll-famed Aleister Crowley to provide some authentic magical lore for h is embryonic book. Crowley was only too ha ppy too oblige, instructing the author on the fine points of magical procedure and theory. Despite their differing views,


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the two writers became fast friends, seeing each other socially long after Wheatley's research was completed. This am icable relationship did not prevent Wheatley from fash ioning his character Mocata as a scurrilous caricature of Crowley's egregious public image. Like W. Somerset Maugham a generation earlier, Wheatley used the Beast as the model for an exaggerated villainous portrait. Thus did many of Crowley's magical ideas find themselves mouthed by Mocata, the book's Satanic leader. In 1 959, the actor Christopher Lee happened to be shopping in Harrods department store in London. He noticed that Wheatley was giving a lecture in the book department on the subject of black magic. Lee, unlike the majority of actors associated with macabre and fantastic roles, had entertained a life-long interest in supernatural fiction. He had read Wheatley's black magic tales with interest, and attended the author's lecture with curiosity. When the two men spoke after the lecture, they learned that they shared a war-time intell igence background which sparked a friendship that would last until Wheatley's death in 1 977, at the age of 80. By 1 964, Lee was the leading personal ity in Hammer Film's gothic grand guignols. He suggested to Hammer executives that his friend Wheatley's Satanic books would be ideal material for them, and the studio negotiated for the rights to film The Devil Rides Out. Initially, Wheatley had reservations about the project, fearing that Hammer would sensationalize h is famous book. Anyone who has read the novel, which is as sensationalistic a pot-boiler as can be imagined, must be puzzled by this reticence. The British censor, who had not taken kindly to the Satanic rituals in MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH in 1 964, delayed production. Hammer would have to contend with official squeam ishness in relation to filming the black magic epic until 1 967, when the green light was finally given to THE DEVIL RIDES OUT Derek Todd, announcing the impending production in Kinematograph Weekly, wrote that Wheatley's novel was "a lways considered beyond the scope of film-makers until now, because censorship restrictions forbade following his deep incursions into the black arts" Fisher's film, one of the most entertaining treatments of Satanism o n screen, i s a vast improvement o n the book. Richard Matheson's script is a model of economy and precision, cutting the fat from Wheatley's sprawling novel with surgical skill. The central battle of wills between Charles Gray as Mocata and Christopher Lee as the Due de Richleau is played perfectly. An alternately bracing and brooding score from James Bernard drives the drama with relentless mood. Terence Fisher - who could occasionally be a rather perfunctory d irector brilliantly melds all these elements together. Above and beyond these purely cinematic qualities, the film is also one of the most authentic portrayals of genuine magical practice and philosophy ever screened. Indeed, it's this authenticity that separates it from many other more fanciful productions. The importance of THE DEVIL RIDES OUT to the sin ister canon is such that it demands a more detailed look than lesser works require. Dominating this film like no other is the spectral presence of Aleister Crowl ey, who served as technical adviser on Wheatley's book, and whose ideas consequently had much to do with shaping the cinematic adaptation. Looking at the film from this perspective - while also calling to attention the film's unprecedented use of genuine demonological lore - illuminates previously neg lected aspects of this much-admired work. Observed from a magical point of view, TH E DEVIL RIDES OUT is a veritable compendium of esoteric arcana. If we


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ignore the inclusion of such inevitable horror movie flourishes as human sacrifice, n o other mainstream film made for a popular audience is so infused with accurate magical references. Operating during the 1920s in the leisurely sphere of upper class British country life, these are eminently civilized Satan ists, with more than a little of the snob appeal that runs through Wheatley's work. When the film begins, the haughty occult expert Due de Richleau (Christopher Lee) arrives at the stately home of his young friend Simon Aron (Patrick Mower). Simon is enterta ining guests, who h e claims are members of an astronomical society he has recently joined. De Richleau suspects subterfuge when he notes that there are thirteen gu ests invited - the traditional number for a coven. When asked to leave, the Due and a companion i nvestigate an observatory decorated with occult symbols. When a white hen and a black cockerel are discovered hidden in a basket, de Richleau real izes that the birds will be used for a Satanic sacrifice. (This ceremonial detail was clearly provided to Wheatley by Crowley, who almost always sacrificed such birds during his magi.cal rites.) De Richleau learns that Mocata (Charles Gray), the High Priest of the secret society, intends to in itiate both Simon and an ethereal young woman named Tanith (Nike Arrigh i), by rebaptising them. Breaking into Simon's ritual chamber, the Due finds that Mocata has summoned a guardian demon to dispel intruders. The apparition of this demon is announced by tendrils of smoke rising from the nostrils of a design of a goat on the floor The drawing was not a set


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decorator's whim, but is based on the Satanic goat first drawn by nineteenth century magician Eliphas Levi, and later adapted by German occultist Oswald Wirth. Also seen in the opening title sequence of THE DEVIL RIDES OUT, this goat symbol would appear in all subsequent Hammer films with a black magical theme. The demon that materializes in this scene has recently aroused the ire of the politically correct, since the part was played by a black man. Fisher certainly didn't intend to send a racist message; hundreds of accounts of Black Sabbaths described the appearance of the Devil as a black man, sometimes an Ethiopian. Mocata's hypnotic influence calls Simon and Tanith to an orgiastic rite held in the forest. De Richleau intrudes on the ceremony, arriving in time to witn ess the actual calling forth of the Devil (Eddie Powell), who appears as a goat­ headed man. "The Goat of Mendes! The Devil Himself!" the Due exclaims. His arcane reference, also unexplained, is to the ancient Egyptian cult of Mendes, which venerated a lascivious goat-god said to copulate with favoured mortal females. Many of the Judaeo-Christian Devil's traditional attributes seem to have been borrowed from this pagan deity. Several other obscure magical references in THE DEVIL RIDES OUT are worthy of explication. Mocata is referred to mysteriously as an lpsissimus - a word which will mean nothing to those unversed in the magical arts. In the traditional in itiatory degree system utilized by the Golden Dawn and its heirs, an lpsissimus is considered to be a magician that has passed to the highest state of magical awareness. Crowley, not surprising ly, told Wheatley that he considered h imself to have reached this exalted stage of self-development, a grade which he conferred upon himself in his Abbey of Thelema during the 1 920s. That Mocata shares this title with Crowley illustrates how completely Wheatley modeled his fictional Satan ist on the magician. In the brief explanation of Mocata's cult that de Richleau provides his associates with, the phrase "left hand path" is used for the fi rst and only time in the Satanic cinema of the twentieth century. Of course, as we have seen, Crowley did not consider himself to be an initiate of the left hand path at all, and would probably have been offended by this reference. In a scene masterfully d irected and edited by Terence Fisher, Mocata pays a polite visit to Marie Eaton (Sarah Lawson), who he knows is hiding Tanith and Simon. Although his intentions are malign, Mocata is the very picture of the English gentleman, presenting his visiting card at the door. He attempts to convince Marie that "the sinister reputation attached to magic is entirely ground less and is based on superstition rather than objective observation ... " Quoting Crowley d irectly, Mocata describes magic as a discipline beyond both "good and evil. .. it is merely a science of causing change to occur by means of one's will" As h e soothingly expands on the subject, we see that Mocata's will is so focused that Marie is falling under his hypnotic command. Fisher cuts from the tension of this scene to reveal that h is will has extended to Simon and Tanith as well. Until Marie's young daughter Peggy (Rosalyn Landor) enters the room and breaks her mother's trance, Mocata provides the most philosophical explanation of magic ever heard in any film. Simultaneous ly, Fisher marvellously conveys mag ic's power in purely cinematic terms. Dropping all pretences of stra ined cou rtesy, Marie demands that Mocata leave immediately. The Satanist's parting shot is delivered with icy resolve: "I shall not be back, but someth ing will. Tonight. Something will come for Simon and the girl." Gray del ivers his lines with all the smug threat he can muster. Forewarned, de Richleau realizes that he can only fight magic with magic.


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Preparing for a n expected onslaught from the Satan ists, he draws a protective magical circle around h i mself and his all ies. Mocata begins by hypnotically persuading one of d e Richleau's friends that such measures are merely superstition. When this fails, apparitions are sent to tempt them from the circle, one of which is a huge hallucinated tarantula. Mocata, fearing magical reprisal, forces his acolyte Tanith to call on the Angel of Death to destroy his opponents. Attacking the circle on a rearing steed, Death is only d issuaded when the Due utters the words of the Susamma ritual, a spell that has the power to warp space and time. It is typical of Christopher Lee's total dedication to his role that he researched the Susamma ritual at the British Museum Library, to assure that his delivery of the text was correct. The dialogue in the scene is not a figment of Richard Matheson's imagination, but the actual ritual. Although the Angel of Death is ban ished, Tanith dies as a consequence - it was she who summoned the entity. When Mocata assembles his disciples at a desecrated church to celebrate the sacrifice of the child Peggy, de Richleau disrupts the ceremony. The Due destroys the black magicians with an invocation of the Lords of Lig ht. The Susamma ritual has worked: time is altered and Tanith is restored to life. The Angel of Death, who can never return empty-handed, has taken Mocata instead. Fisher was very often a journeyman director who accepted whatever work was assigned to him. In the case of THE DEVIL RIDES OUT, he was deeply involved with aspects of production he had previously left to Hammer executives. For instance, he personally selected the performers for two of the most important roles. His choice of Charles Gray in the part of Mocata was inspired. In Wheatley's novel, Mocata is simply a cardboard villain, a nasty foreigner left over from the age of the penny-dreadfuls. Gray's interpretation of Mocata is a far more subtle and attractive personality, the living incarnation of what Fisher often called "the charm of evil" In the important supporting role of Tanith Carlise. Mocata's disciple, Fisher decided on casting N ike Arrighi. Her qu irky personality and odd


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beauty are well suited to her role as a woman search ing for spiritual answers in the dark teachings of lpsissimus Mocata. The Hammer front office would have preferred to see one of the feather-weight blonde and buxom heroines they usually decorated their horror films with, but Fisher insisted on Arrighi. There are a few weakn esses that undermine the total success of the film. Particularly in the scene where all of Mocata's powers are u nleashed against de Richleau's magic circle, the special effects seem cheap and poorly executed. A d i m ly conceived Angel of Death, which should inspire awesome dread, is distinctly unimpressive. The ostensibly wild orgy scene that presages the appearance of the Goat of Mendes is much too tame to seem very diabolical, even by 1 967 standards. Although Hammer originally planned a more appropriately erotic bacchanal, the prudish censor insisted that proper Br itish Satanists must keep all their clothes on whilst o rgying. THE DEVIL RIDES OUT, for all of its strengths, was not the box office success Hammer had hoped for. When d istributors feared that the title THE DEVIL RIDES OUT might give American aud iences the false idea that the film was a western, the title was changed to the bland THE DEVIL'S BRIDE for its U.S. release. In production before ROSEMARY'S BABY, the film must be considered the true forerunner of the major diabolical cycle that swept through the cinema from 1 968-1 976. During one of tlie promotional interviews Christopher Lee provided at the ' time of TH E DEVIL RIDES OUT's release in early 1968, the actor noted that "Satanism is rampant in London today. It's generally acknowledged in certain circles that the so-called swinging city is a hot-bed of Devil worship and such practices - just ask the police." But one hardly needed to consult the authorities to verify Lee's claim. Devil Chic was as much a part of the nouveau riche h i ppie scene as LSD, ha lf-baked Eastern mysticism, and pseudo-Edward ian clothing. The Rolling Stones' mind-blown 1 967 man ifesto Their Satanic Majesties Request had already illustrated the dark d i rection they were taking. On the specially printed 3-D album photo, the surly musicians posed as medieval wizards, signalling their recently discovered interest in black magic. One of their more successful groupies, the sin ister bea uty Anita Pallen berg, scion of an aristocratic fami ly, had introduced the Rolling Stones' doomed bassist Brian Jones to her Satanic practise. Pallenberg essayed a sadistic space siren in Vadim's camp living comic book BARBARELLA (1 967), and would go on to appear as an ambisexual seductress in 1 968's PERFORMANCE (released in 1970). The latter, disturbing fi l m was co-directed by Donald Cam me II, whose father was the poet Charles Richard Cammell, a one-time associate of Crowley in the thirties. Donald Cammell's remin iscences of being bounced on an avuncular Great Beast's knees as a lad earned him a certa in amount of cachet in Luciferian London, as well as the role of Osiris in fellow Thelemite Kenneth Anger's LUCIFER RISING. As Brian Jones drifted into narcotic oblivion, Pallen berg shared her witchy charms with Mick Jagger and Keith Richard, who subsequently went through their own di lettantism with diabol ism. It was into this climate that temperamental Crowleyite film-maker Kenneth Anger drifted, promising to be the Rolling Stones' tutelary Magus. Anita Pallenberg was particularly impressed with Anger's reputation as a sorcerer. Jagger, flirting with film himself, was intrigued with what he heard of Anger's latest opus in progress, known as LUCIFER RISING. The film-maker promised that his new film would be the last word on "the angel­ demon of light and beauty named Lucifer Lucifer is the Rebel Angel behind


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Anita Pallenberg, Mick Jagger in Donald Cammell's Performance.

what's happening in the world today. His message is that the Key of Joy is disobedience." Anger hoped that Jagger would take on the role of Lucifer in his bedeviled production, which had already gained the reputation of being a cursed film. The legend of LUCIFER RISING's bad vibes fascinated Pallenberg and Jagger The film's first Lucifer, a child named Godot, died before any footage could be shot. Godot's death was as existentially absurd as his B eckettian name - like the fallen angel he had been cast as, he tumbled to his death through a skylight at the age of five. Anger's next dark star was Bobby "Lucifer" Beausoleil, a devilishly handsome musician with amb itions to appear in the movies. Anger did manage to shoot a few scenes of Beausoleil for his Aquarian epic but Lucifer #2 abandoned the project - and Anger - after the inevitable falling out. According to Anger, Beausoleil had sto len reels of LUCIFER RISING at a celebrated San Fran cisco ritual/happening known as the Equ inox of the Gods, celebrated on the Fall Equi nox of 1 967. The legend, perpetuated by Anger, maintains that Bobby buried the footage in the desert. Beausoleil insists that these events never happened, and that he was simply being scapegoated by the notoriously vind ictive - an d imaginative - movie-making Magus. Beausoleil has also stated that Anger couldn't afford the cost of getting what little footage actually existed from the


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developing lab, and concocted the accusation to appease creditors. Whatever the facts may be, Anger duly placed one of his famous curses on h is protege. When Beausoleil was convicted in 1 969 for his compl icity in one of the first of the Manson related murders, Anger announced that his curse had been efficacious. The Magus m used that "One thing I've found is that since my film is about demons - but love demons - I have to work fairly fast because they tend to come and go ... a demon is just a convenient way of labelling a force." He hoped that his prospective third Lucifer, M ick Jagger, would prove to be a more stable elemental. The Magus instructed Jagger as to what rare occult books to purchase at London's more exclusive antiquaries. It was during the time that Anger served as the Rolling Stones' court wizard that Jagger read the 1 930s novel The Master And Margherita by Mikhail Bulgakov, which tells the tale of Satan's visit to Russia after the revolution. The novel, and Anger's positive conception of Lucifer, inspired Jagger to write that enduring infernal anthem " Sympathy For the Devil" (Yugoslavian d i rector Alexander Petrovic later adapted the novel into his u neven 1 972 film THE MASTER AND MARGHER ITA.) Director Jean-Luc Godard, Gallic pioneer of nouvelle vague cinema, perhaps intrigued by the radical potential of Lucifer as ultimate revolutionary, filmed the recor.ding sessions in which "Sympathy For The Devil" was laid on tape. H i s 1 968 documentary ONE PLUS ONE (SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL) intersperses · the creation of the Rolling Stones' popular Satanic psalm with didactic readings of Marxist tracts. Godard's film is an unholy marriage of left hand path romanticism and left wing dogma, echoing some of the politically charged pro­ Sata n ic sentiment of pre-Soviet ana rchists like Bakunin. SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL also shows how the song was transformed from a mock-religious piece replete with pipe organ to its less interesting blues-based form. On a human level, it is a tragic document of the d isintegration of Brian Jones, who seems to wither onscreen like a living portrait of Dorian Gray. Jones would meet his mysterious death shortly after the film's completion. Hardly one of Godard's greatest ach ievem ents, it remains worthwhile for its documentary value, freezing an exotic moment in time in the cruel lucid ity of the director's icy gaze. It's rather surprising that Feder ico Fellini, whose work overflows with terrifying and satiric images inspired by religion, only briefly turned his phantasmagoric lens on the figure of the Devil. Fellini's short but sweet contribution to the Satanic cinema is the final episode in 1 968's Edgar Allan Poe anthology HISTOIRES EXTRAORDINAIRE, released in the English speaking world as SPIRITS OF THE DEAD. Inspired only by the most tenuous thread of Felliniesque fancy on Poe's short story "Never Bet The Devil Your Head", the brief but striking sequence features Terence Stamp as Toby Dammitt, an arrogant English movie star. He arrives in Rome practica lly pickled in booze, prepared to shoot the first Catholic Western. Damm itt is haunted by the apparition of a n enigmatically smiling little girl (Marian Yaru) who mockingly bounces a white ball. When the actor is given a new Maserati by the producers of the film, he drives drunkenly over a dilapidated bridge. In a daredevi l mood, he promises his head to the Devil if he doesn't survive the jump. Sure enough, he's decapitated by a hidden wire. The little girl, who is actually the Devil, now bounces Toby's head in place of her ball. It seems fitting that Fellini, obsessed with womankind, would imagine Lucifer as a perversely seductive girl-child. A psychopathic transvestite in love with his mummified mother M u rderous flocks of birds that seemed to herald the apocalypse. Such strangeness


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had long been� Alfred H itchcock's cup of tea. However, the gal leys for an unpublished novel he had been sent as a possible film project by agent Martin Birdt was going too far even for the master of suspense. The book concerned a young woman in modern Manhattan that comes to suspect her seemingly innocuous neighbours of involvement with witchcraft. As her fears deepen, she realizes that her own husband has conspired with the coven next door to provide her soon-to-be-born baby to the cultists. The witches believe that her child is the literal spawn of Satan, awaiting his birth as the dawn of a new demonic age. The unshockable H itchcock was appalled. He had, after all, been brought up as a good Roman Catholic. This sinister new book offended the portly British­ born auteur's pious nature, and he turned the project down. Disappointed, B i rdt offered his property to the poor man's Hitchcock, horror kingpin William Castle. The brash di rector of such exploitation scare shows as THE TINGLER and HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL had none of H itch's moral misgivings. Castle placed his bet o n Beelzebub and purchased the fi l m rights for Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin for $ 1 00,000. When the novel was published, it became an immediate best-seller, sparking a wave of popular fascination with Satan ism that hit much deeper than the previously discussed diabolism of the counterculture underground. Although it wasn't a particularly accomplished work i n terms of literary style, Levin's book resonated with an undetected shadow zone in the 1 960s zeitgeist. Thanks to Rosemary's Lucifer ian labour pains, housewives and harried hubbies were chatting about Devil worship at suburban cocktail parties. The somewhat shady Robert Evans from Paramount struck a deal with Castle to rush a film of the bestseller into production. Castle hoped to direct h imself, but Paramount snubbed him by insisting that ROSEMARY'S BABY required a "real director" Polish emigre Roman Polanski, late of DANCE OF THE VAMPIRES, struck Evans as possessing the dark sensibility the film called for. In REPULSION (1 965), Polanski had already laid bare a young woman's claustrophobic descent into paranoia with nightmarish realism. Like ROSEMARY'S BABY, the earlier film was set in the cloistered confines of an apartment house, made sinister by the central character's fearful fantasies. A haunting lullaby theme by Krysztof Komeda begins the film on a deceptively lyrical note, as Polanski pans across the New York skyline. Fresh and innocent Rosemary (Mia Farrow) and ambitious actor husband Guy Woodhouse (John Cassavetes) are shown an odd but enchanting apartment in the distinguished Bramford Building (actually the Dakota). Rosemary's avuncular older friend Hutch (Maurice Evans) warns Rosemary that the Bramford has a dark history of suicide, cannibalism, and even a reputed invocation of the Devil by infamous warlock Adrian Marcato. The couple move into the gothic edifice a l l the same. One o f their neigh bours, a young woman named Terry, leaps to her death one night. At the scene of the tragedy, the Woodhouses meet the elderly Roman (Sidney Blackmer) and Minnie (Ruth Gordon) Castavet, with whom Terry lived. Invited to dinner by the eccentric couple, Rosemary is slightly offended by Roman's anti-Catholic remarks. Although Guy initially insists on keeping his distance from the nosy pair, he surprisingly begins to visit them regularly on his own. A rival for a part Guy wants is struck blind, and h e wins the role instead. Guy is suddenly taken with the idea of having a baby. They prepare a romantic dinner at home to set the mood for conception, when Minnie drops off a specially made batch of chocolate mousse, which has a d istinct "chalky" undertaste. Rosemary passes out on their bed, drugged, and experiences a very realistic


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Rosemary's

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nightmare. One of the best dream sequences ever filmed, it concludes with visions of the Castavets and others chanting in the nude while what appears to be the bestial figure of Satan (Clay Tanner) rapes her "This isn't a dream, this is really happening ! " Rosemary screams. This scene, filmed beautifully by cinematographer Bill Fraker seems to reflect Polanski's own negative experiences with LSD, which he recounts in his autobiography. The dream sequence was latched onto by acid-heads of t he time as the perfect visual accompaniment for their mind-manifesting experiences, a n d ROSEMARY'S BABY became a favoured movie to watch while dropping acid. When Rosemary awakens from her drugged visitation, there are deep scratches o n her back, which Guy claims he made while having sex with her u n conscious body. When she learns that she's pregnant, the Castavets i nsist that she allow their friend Dr. Sapirstein to attend to her. H e suggests that she drink a herbal potion that Minnie makes for her every day with plants from her garden. From a state of unease, she becomes completely paranoid. Her friend Hutch dies mysteriously, leaving her a book called All Of Them Witches, from which she learns that Roman Castavet is actually Steven Marcato, son of Satan ist Adrian M arcato, who once lived in the Bramford. She despairingly realizes that G uy's sudden success as an actor is due to his i nitiation into the Castavet's Satanic coven, and that he has promised them her baby for their rituals. Suspecti n g that they plan to sacrifice the i nfant, she attempts to escape, to n o avail. She is abducted from a doctor's office where she


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attempted to hide a n d brought back to the Bramford. Dr. Sapirstein injects her, and she's knocked out. When she awakens she's told that her baby died, but when she hears an infant's cry she enters the Castavet's apartment, armed with a kitchen knife. There she finds a gathering of Satanists from all over the world. They're celebrating the birth of her son, who is d isplayed in a black cradle. Named Adrian after Roman's father, Rosemary's baby symbolizes the advent of a new Satanic age. Her maternal insti ncts win out over her fear, and she rocks the cradle lovingly. "What have you done to his eyes?" she asks. "He has his father's eyes," Castavet smi les. The film is remarkably free of the cliches that marred previous films of Satan ism. To cite only one of the most obvious examples, Castavet's coven are not bloodth irsty fiends slavering to commit blood sacrifices. ROSEMARY'S BABY is brilliantly directed, and superbly acted by its entire cast. For a l l that, the i mportance of Krysztof Komeda's excellent score to building the atmosphere cannot be overestimated. The tremendous commercial and artistic success of ROSEMARY'S BABY transformed-the film into an unprecedented cultural phenomenon. Like all media events that touch the collective unconscious, a mythology of its own was generated, which still has a life of its own some thirty years later Few films have been so written about, analyzed, and d issected. Rather than rehashing these a n alyses, I prefer to examine the ROSEMARY'S BABY mystique, in an attempt to extricate the actual film Polanski created from the manifold legends it has inspired.


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Rosemary's Baby.

One of the most persistent of these romantic concepts is that Roman Polanski is h imself a devotee of the Black Arts, and that his film was constructed as a del iberate diabolical man ifesto. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Possessed of a deep Eastern European existentialist pessimism, Polanski has never evidenced the least interest in Satanism o r witchcraft, or any other mystica l creed. In writing the screenplay, Polanski grappled with his own phi losophy. As an agnostic, he believed neither in Satan as the incarnation of evil, or in a personal God; such ideas contradicted his rational world view. He considered black magic to be nothing but archaic superstition, the stuff of fairytales; it was the story's themes of alienation, betrayal and isolation - emotions that surface in all of his work - that attracted him. He resisted presenting the story as if Rosemary's occult experiences were unquestionably real. Polanski preferred to leave the possibility open that the seemingly supernatural events were nothing more than delusions of her fevered imagination. To establish this basic uncertainty about Rosemary's sanity he decided to film the entire drama through her point of view alone. Polanski was strongly influenced i n this by his reading of Professor R . L. Gregory's Eye And Brain: The Psychology Of Seeing. Accord ing to Gregory, we actually see much less than we like to believe, and most of our ideas of reality are based on earlier perceived impressions, d istorted and altered by faulty memory. By only allowing us to see the world through Rosemary's eyes, Polanski challenges his audience to question their own perceptions. As an example of how powerfully


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this technique worked, it's interesting to note that many viewers of the film have reported seeing such traditional Satanic features as cloven hoofs and horns in the final shot of the baby despite the fact that nothing of the kind was actually fil med. ROSEMARY'S BABY is a precisely targeted exercise in the power of suggestion. One of the reasons that Satan ists and other metaphysicians have wrongly assumed that Polanski was one of their own may be the film's surprise ending, in which Adrian Marcato's coven succeeds in overseeing the birth of the Devil's son. This victory of Satan must be viewed in context with of all of Polanski's other work, in which the forces of evil always prevail over the film's protagonists. While Polanski may have only intended to create a disquieting study of psychic pan ic, audiences had been primed by the success of Levin's book and the growing pop interest in the Satanic to expect the u ltimate cinematic essay on the Devil. Subsequently, no other film covered in this study was to have such a d irect effect on common perceptions of Satanism, even influencing would-be Satan ists t hemselves. ROSEMARY'S BABY became a kind of blueprint for the occult renaissance of the late 1 960s, quite unintentionally placing the Hollywood seal of approval on the Black Arts. Putting the cart before the horse, both occultists and Christians of different stripes have looked i n the film for hidden magical messages and authentic Satanic lore. Rumours have spread that the film-maker must have sought technical advice from "real" Satan ists to imbue the film with such seeming authenticity. When I asked Gene Gutowski - who was Polanski's closest creative and business partner in 1 968 - about these speculations, h e assured me the director was faithfully meticulous in following the dialogue and descriptions in Ira Levin's book, consulting no technical advisers of any kind. Of course, no amount of prosa ic facts can stand in the way of the credulous cult mental ity. More than one relig ious group denounced ROSEMARY'S BABY as a deliberate propaganda tool of the Devil. At one extreme, there are the conspiratorial fulminations of the Nubian lslaamic Hebrews. This New York based black supremacy group proclaimed in their 1984 publ ication L e viathan: 666 that: " I n the year 1 966, th e Devil. .. gave birth to thirteen children . . . In June 6, 1 966, Satan gave birth to his son in the western hemisphere (right here in New York). We the black and Latin populace did not even know what was going on. The Devil has camouflaged these factual events in a series of movies, and has told you the truth without you even realizing it! The first movie that dealt with the birth of his son was ROSEMARY'S BABY On June 6, 1 966 Satan was born in the flesh unto Rosemary in New York ... " The author, Al lmaam lsa AI Haadi al Mahdi, goes on to inform us that "Rosemary was not a fictitious character, she was a real Amorite. The name Rosemary (Satan's Mother) was chosen because it symbolizes the ancestral background of the physical Devil, the Amorites ... " A detailed etymological analysis of the occult meaning of the name "Rosemary" completes the argument. In a similar lunatic vein, the Church of Satan has officia lly maintained since 1 968 that its founder, Anton Szandor LaVey, was hired by Roman Polanski to provide technical advice for the film. Going one step further, LaVey's fol lowers also insist that their guru even played a (conveniently uncredited) cameo role as the Devil in ROSEMARY'S BABY's famous dream-rape sequence. In The Devil's Avenger, the first of two misleading "objective" pseudo-biographies written under LaVey's supervision, it is bold-faced ly stated that "In October of 1 967 Anton


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Sharon Tate, Roman Polanski.

was flown to Hollywood for two weeks ... Despite his presence, the Paramount­ Polanski film did not convey a true portrait of a modern Satanic cult... At least the demon used to sire Rosemary's baby was close to being an authentic devil. It was Anton, dressed in a costume of latex fur and reptilian scales ... There was indeed such a costume. However, the actor who wore it was not LaVey, but an actor named Clay Tanner, credited as playing the Devil in Paramou nt's cast information. Still photographs taken on the set by photographer Bob Willoughby clearly show the Satanically costumed Tanner standing astride a prone Mia Farrow. When I asked Gene Gutowski about the persistent LaVey rumour, he laughingly denied that the Church of Satan, or any other sect, had any association with ROSEMARY'S BABY In the extensive coverage which William Castle gives the production of the film in his 1 992 autobiography Step Right Up! I'm Gonna Scare The Pants Right Off America, there is no hint of LaVey's involvement, nor has any one involved with the film ever supported this claim. Roman Polanski's 1 984 autobiography also covers every aspect of his most famous film without ever mentioning LaVey. Despite this abundance of evidence to the contrary, LaVey's putative cameo became an article of faith among the Church of Satan's true believers. Indeed, for the subscribers of LaVey's cult of perso nality to question their leader's bogus claim would be the most unthinkable heresy. (The Church of Satan is surely the only religious body to include belief in its founder's appearance in a movie as part of its official dogma.) This Warholian twentieth century phenomenon is "


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reflective of the thin line between show biz celebrity and religious veneration. When I first interviewed LaVey in 1 988, he was still m i lking this fabrication for all it was worth. Like many an unwary researcher before and since, I repeated his tall tale, not yet aware of his penchant for deception. LaVey did have one tenuous connection with the film: He appeared at its San Francisco premiere as a publicity gimmick to d rum up business. Perhaps it was his participation in this promotional event that inspired him to invent the story. Ironically, when LaVey died i n 1 997, obituaries often cited his purported appearance in ROSEMARY'S BABY as one of his life's accomplishments. Finally, there is the stubborn legend of the curse of ROSEMARY'S BABY Informing this superstitious mythology seems to be the notion that anyone who dares to make a film about the Devil is asking for trouble, and deserves to die. Cited as "proof" of the-curse is the fatal brain aneurysm of the film's composer, Krysztof Komeda, the uremic poisoning that forced producer William Castle into the hospital, and most melodramatically, the 1 969 murder of Polanski's wife Sharon Tate. The culprit gui lty of connecting these three incidents and inflating them into a supernatural malediction would appear to be William Castle himself. One must keep in mind that Castle had long been a master of contriving the most outlandish publ icity for his films; exploiting the unrelated deaths of others to garner more attention for his film would not be beyond him. In interview after interview, Castle pitched his tales of diabolical influence to potential customers, sounding like a spook-show barker at the carnival. He told interviewer John Brosnan that "I went through several experiences on that film that can be put down to coincidence or the occult, depending on which side you're on. Many unexplainable things happened. It was quite phenomenal. . . After a l l the peculiar things that happened I just fell apart. I was recuperating in San Francisco when I saw the headlines about the Sharon Tate murders. That was all I needed. I drove right down to Los Angeles, went to Paramount where Roman was and fell apart aga in.'; To his credit, Polanski has never contributed to this nonsense, which Castle seemed to resent, saying that, "Roman is a strange man. He believes in nothing except what he sees, whereas I bel ieve in the occult and evil forces ... That sort of thing had never happened on any of my other horror films, but the ones I made before ROSEMARY were on a superficial level. They didn't deal with the Devil or the occult. . . I do believe that the film which I lived through and almost died through was controlled by some unexplainable force ... When Sharon Tate was killed, it became popular wisdom to assert that the actress' death was Satanic retribution against Polanski, or perhaps divine punishment for his making of the blasphemous ROSEMARY'S BABY Polanski received a torrent of hate mail from religious fanatics, offended by his film. When he was interviewed by Lt. Earl Deemer of the Los Angles Po lice after the murders, Polanski speculated: "I wouldn't be surprised if I were the target... it could be some kind of witchcraft, you know." The symbolism of the pregnant woman menaced by supposed Devil worshippers was seen by many as an example of life imitating art. That the true motives for the crime had nothing to do with Satanism, and that the Manson Family were actually far more Christian in their beliefs than anyth ing else did not dissuade these wild theories. The impact of ROSEMARY'S BABY on the Satanic cinema can hardly be overestimated. Its popular success moved the Devil from the margins of the film world to the centre, d irectly inspiring a tidal wave of d iabolical movies that surged around the world for a fu ll decade after its release. One of those rare films "


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Curse Of The Crimson Altar.

that transcends its original beginnings as simple escapist enterta inm ent, it was e levated by its myste rious inner force into its own dark myth. ROSEMARY'S BABY was fortuitously released at exactly the right time, capitalizing on and helping to create the sixties occult revival that it will always be associated with. The first film rushed into production to cash in on the ROSEMARY-inspired Devil craze is THE CURSE OF THE CRIMSON ALTAR aka THE CRIMSON CULT (1 968), produced by former Polanski associate Tony Tenser. Suggested by H.P. Lovecraft's moody short story "The Dreams In The Witch-House", and featuring an excellent once-in-a-lifetime cast of Boris Karloff, Christopher Lee and Barbara Steele, the film had all the ingredients required to mix a superior witch's brew. U nfortunately, a badly constructed and confusing screenp lay, misdirected by the un inspired and elderly Vernon Sewell, botches the job. Although there's a few eye-catching images, this must be counted a m issed opportunity . Antique dealer Manning (Mark Eden), visits Greymarsh Lodge, where his missing brother was last seen. The Lodge's squi re, J.D. Morley (Christopher Lee), who seems a pleasant enough chap, informs him that he's never met his brother. That night, an ancient folk festival known as Witch's Night is celebrated, commemorating the burning of the witch Lavinia (Barbara Steele) in the 1 7th century. Manning experiences a series of vivid dreams of Lavinia, in which she presides over sadomasochistic arcane rites with the cruel command of a demonic. dominatrix. These dream sequences, filmed with flair by the always inventive John Coquillon, provide the picture with its only cinematic interest. The formidably photogenic Steele is ma levolence personified - daubed in green, bedecked with ram's horns, seated haughtily o n a throne. Coquillon shoots the dream sequences with a striking use o f coloured fi lters, although the psychedelic influence of the nightmare in ROSEMARY'S BABY is q u ite apparent. Karloff, as wheelchair-bound occult expert Professor Marsh is


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given I ittle to do. He warns the hero that Morley is a warlock with the blood of Lavinia in his veins, who plans to avenge his ancestress by killing him. It's quite a come-down from Karloff's heyday as Hjalmar Poelzig in THE BLACK CAT In the final scene, Lee transforms into Lavinia, shortly before the manor is consumed in the inevitable flames. It's a sign of the film-maker's lack of insight that Lee, Karloff and Steele never appear together in the same scene. Some atmosphere is added by the location shooting at the famously haunted Grimsdyke Hall. THE CURSE OF THE CRIMSON ALTAR marked the end of Barbara Steele's reluctant reign as '60s Queen of the Witches, and she never appeared in another occult role. With the refreshing honesty that has so endeared her to the film ind ustry, Steele adm itted that, " I just flew in and did that one to pay the rent." Unfortunately, the film itself seems to have been made in the same cava lier spirit. The libidinous ways of Satan were emphasized again in the lud icrous TO HEX WITH SEX (1 969), which exploited the growing fascination with witchcraft and the simultaneous relaxation of pornography laws in one fell swoop. The luscious Lucibel (Paula Shaw) is a d istaff Devil who promises a world of erotic delight to the introverted Marvin (Stefan Peters) - in exchange for the traditional promise of his soul. The thin overlay of diabolism is basically a pretext for some rather predictable scenes in which Martin's sexual fantasies are realized. Di rector Simon Nuchtern's films usually only found distribution on the American South's sleaze circuit. This opus is only notable as the harbinger of an increasing trend for blue movies about black magic that would take on steam in the '70s. There could be no more fitting coda for the age of cinematic psychedelic Satanism than Kenneth Anger's INVOCATION OF MY DEMON BROTHER (1 969). Its eleven intense minutes of hallucinatory imagery comprise an essential time capsule of the '60s' dark side. Although it consists of a few condensed fragments from the d irector's never completed first version of LUCIFER RISING, his original concept of Lucifer as angel of Love has been entirely altered. The mood is aggressive, assaulting the viewer with the shadowy spirit of violence that had overtaken the Age of Aquarius. At the centre of the kaleidoscope is Anger, seen in the robes of a ceremonial magician, man ically performing a cryptic ritual. The di rector, describing his original conception of LUCIFER RISING said: " I'm showing actual ceremonies in the film; what is performed in front of the camera won't be a re­ enactment and the purpose will be to make Lucifer rise ... " We observe flashes of conjurations and group workings, a rapid onslaught of superimpositions building to a hypnotic rhythm, imprinting a lmost imperceptible glimpses of occult talismans and Crowleyan symbols on the spectator's mind. Anger isn't using his visuals to commun icate to the observer, but to impose his hermetic inner world on to the onlooker's subconscious. Most prominently featured, in the role of Lucifer, is Bobby Beausoleil, Anger's lost fallen angel. At the same time the film premiered, August of 1 969, Beausoleil was arrested for the murder of drug-dealer Gary Hinman. In one scene in INVOCATION OF MY DEMON BROTHER, Beausoleil is seen brandishing a k nife. Anger provided his erstwhile friend Anton LaVey with his first screen appearance, filming the so-ca lled Black Pope glaring for a few seconds in his usual Devil costume. Apparently, the Satanic generation gap produced a few tense moments between LaVey and Anger's current inamorata Bobby Beausoleil. The two Devils locked horns during the shoot. Beausoleil, interviewed by Anger's biographer Bill Landis, remembered LaVey wearing "the cap with the plastic horns on it - That's why 1 cal l him the plastic devil... There's such a contrast between him and me ... l


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Kenneth Anger in his

own Invocation

OfMy Demon Brother.

always knew I was a presence. What comes naturally to me was like plastic horns to him . . I thought he was a fuckin' jerk ... Propelling the film is Mick Jagger's deliberately repetitive electronic score, played on one of the fi rst commercially available Moog synthesizers. Jagger is a lso seen briefly, in footage shot by Anger at the memorial concert for Brian Jones. Jagger would himself witness death in 1 969, at the fiasco of the free concert he held at Altamont. Tiring of dabbling with the Devil, he eventually burnt all the magical gifts Anger had given him, and took to wearing a prominent crucifix. The Altamont murder seems eerily prophesied by Anger's superimposition of a skull over a shot of lurking Hell's Angels. Quick red flashes of U.S. soldiers jumping from a helicopter evoke the gods of War. While the dated hippie extras and general druggie am bience mitigate against the sense of time lessness Anger aimed for, the film's in-depth focus on black magic ritual and the figures of lucifer and Satan assure its place in the diabolical cinema. INVOCATION OF MY DEMON BROTHER is the secret threnody for the '60s, summoning all the demons of a decade for one last hurrah. .

"


DELUGE AND BACKLASH : THE 1970s Rosemary was more fertile than she could have known. Inspired by the box-office muscle of Polanski's break-through film, and the concomitant rise of i nterest in occultism, 1 970s moviemakers churned out more Satanic films than at any other time in the twentieth century. Quantity, of course, rarely betokens quality. Indeed, one unfortunate side­ effect of the ROSEMARY phenomenon was that the Devil was now relegated a l most exclusively to the ghetto of the horror film. Satanism on screen quickly ossified into a formulaic subgenre of m onster movie, which only occasionally a l lowed for personal vision to break through a rapidly congealing formula. Neverthe less, with such an abundance of activity in the field all over the world, more than a few dark gems were crafted. The sheer immensity of the 1 970s glut forbids coveri ng a// of the relevant pictures produced in those years; the most that can be provided is a general overview of the most im portant trends. Considering the media-fuelled expansion of public participation in pop Satanism and witchcraft in the early '70s, perhaps it is appropriate that we commence our study of Satanic cinema in this era with a trio of documentaries rather than a fictional work. On a slightly more elevated plane than the average Mondo film is SATANIS: THE DEVIL'S MASS (1 970), Ray Laurent's documentary study of Anton Szandor LaVey's Church of Satan. Although the film received no distribution beyond its brief run at one San Francisco theatre, it's worth seeing as a candid snapshot of one of the '60s' most amusing fad religions. The Church of Satan was founded by San Francisco based Anton Szandor LaVey, who came into this world in 1 930 as Howard Stanton Levey. Although he falsely claimed a colourful background as a circus l ion trainer and a police photographer, the facts show that he really made his living as a lounge organ ist. In the m i d -'60s, LaVey began holding Friday night lectures in the living room of his home on such topics as hau nted houses, vampirism, cannibalism, and ESP. Charging two dollars a head for these talks, the occult impresario began to make a name for h i mself as a local eccentric, while augmenting his income at the same time. Edward Webber, a regular at the bar where LaVey was employed, happened to be a professional publicity agent. He suggested that LaVey should "start some kind of religion" to capitalize on h is new-found celebrity. After a n ewspaper article happened to off-handedly call LaVey "the priest of the Devil", a gimmick was born. In 1 966, Webber helped LaVey officially incorporate a small business registered as The Church of Satan, Inc. At first, the Church of Satan was primarily covered by the then preva lent nudie magazines that featured several spreads of LaVey posing with naked witches on his altar In his exalted position as High Pr iest, LaVey began wearing a plastic devil horn cap and carrying a pitchfork as signs of his office. All of this had been seen before in Paris of the 1 890s. when earlier entrepreneurs had charged tourists admission to theatrical Black Masses that featured cavorting demi-mondaines.

Fad ing screen sex symbol Jayne Mansfield was briefly involved with LaVey, until her manager decided that a publ icly perceived connection with Satanism might not be useful for her none too robust film career. When Mansfield died in an automobile accident, LaVey wasted no time in al lowing certa in journalists to


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cult In San Francisco that advocates evil: wltchcr�ft, Just irJI!lals, black maclc, h ���� · :� r- . sacrifices, and total se1ual freedom. A

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''Anton LaVey, t h fl Pope or the Chu rch of S a t a n . looms large i n ' S a t � n i a ' I c a n hones tly s a y that I view t h e Church of Sata11 w1t h tu lly a s much respect as I "View any church." -John Waa . . rman, S.F. Chronicle ••

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A nton LaVey

Occult lor•arer

know that she had been the accidental victim of one of his Satanic curses. Just as he traded on his little white lie concerning his claimed involvement with ROSEMARY'S BABY, the High Priest found that he could ride on the coat-tails of even the least im pressive celebrities for years. In 1 967, several media events were staged in rapid succession, and with Webber's journalistic conn ections, the new religion/business was up .a nd running. The work of attracting customers now began in ea rnest. LaVey invited the media to witness "the first Sata nic wedding", in which a local social ite and journalist pretended to take their vows with LaVey presiding over the ceremony. John Raymond, who posed as the groom, later remembered LaVey laughing at how "the rubes" had been taken in by the bogus rite. Like all con artists, he reserved a special contempt for those who were taken in by his act, especially his naive followers. Next, LaVey opened the doors of his home for journalists to document "the first Satanic Baptism" The couple whose child was to be baptized backed out at the last m in ute, but the show had to go on. LaVey substituted his own daughter, obligingly performing a ceremony of baptism no less than three times for the clicking cameras. The final diabolic photo op of 1 967 was "the first Satanic funeral", which found black-robed LaVey followers posing grimly with the coffin of a sailor who had joined the Church. Venturing into a less disguised form of enterta inment was Anton LaVey's Top less Witches Review, a nude revue at a strip club. Briefly employed by LaVey for the act was a strung-out stripper named Susan Atkins, who went on to join that other 1 960s performance artist Charles Manson, in his travelling troupe of performers. We have already discussed LaVey's publicity stunt of 1 968, which found him driving up in a hearse to a San Francisco theatre showing ROSEMARY'S


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BABY In 1 969, LaVey was commissioned by paperback publisher Avon to put together a book designed to capture the growing occult market ROSEMARY'S BABY had helped to spawn. Despite its paucity of content, and several allegedly plag iarized passages, the book establ ished LaVey as the brand name of pop Satan ism. The Satanic Bible became an obligatory prop for novice magicians and d isaffected teenagers of all ages. The adolescent pseudo-philosophy espoused in its pages has no connection to the left hand path in its metaphysical sense, and is in fact nothing more than a crude exegesis of simple materialism, embellished with a few elementary spells. What LaVey rather arbitrarily termed "Satanism" was really atheism sprinkled with diabolical trappings; he made it very clear that the Devil was nothing more than a symbolic archetype to him, and not an actual spiritual entity. The very simplicity of these ideas guaranteed the book's success with LaVey's midd le-brow constituency and offered an instant identity to its readers. In 1 970, at the time di rector Ray Laurent was filming SATANIS: THE DEVIL'S MASS, the Church of Satan was still holding Friday night rituals for its mem bers at LaVey's home, which he grandly dubbed "the Black House" A few of these ceremonies are enacted for the camera, with LaVey in full Devil drag for the occasion. The banal ity of these proceedings is exemplified by LaVey's blessing of a follower's pen is, in hopes that this consecration will bring the parishioner better luck with the ladies. One is struck by how terribly middle-class LaVey's followers are, and for all the nude altars and Beezlebubian bombast, this could be any '60s encounter group. One female LaVeyist recounts her son's breakthroughs with masturbation, making it apparent that these individuals are only marginally concerned with Satanism; they've really come to the Church of Satan for counse lling with their sex problems. In the context of the sexual revo lution then in full swing in the San Francisco of 1 970, and LaVey's own talk of lust and indu lgence, this day in the life of the Church of Satan is curiously tame. Later that year, LaVey put an end . to the public ceremonies which were increasingly attracting dangerous lunatics to his doors. It should be noted that despite his coming to notoriety during the late 1 960s, LaVey always strongly condemned such man ifestations of the times as rock music and the drug culture. Ironical ly, after his fall from mass media grace, it was primarily a drugged rock fan constituency enamoured of heavy metal music that showed any interest in h im. Ultimately, a consideration of the Church of Satan has surprisingly little to tell us about the much larger phenomenon of Satan ism it sought to corner the market on. In actuality, this curious amalgam of business and personal ity cult was nothing more than an Anton LaVey fan club, and upon its guru's untimely demise, its break-up into several in-fighting factions was almost inevitable. As for LaVey himself, he belongs to the shabby h istory of so many contemporary American cult leaders, who have always exploited Americans' perennial relig ious search by selling them spiritual snake-oil. WITCHCRAFT '70 is the U.S. version of a 1 969 Italian Mondo film originally known as ANGELl BIANCHI. .. ANGELl NERI (WHITE ANGELS... BLACK ANG ELS). Luigi Scattin i's original European version was fairly thoughtful as far as Mondo films go. Once in the hands of American Mondo specialist R.L. Frost, it became the usual exercise in heavy-breathing voyeurism. Frost also had his hand in ECCO and MONDO FREUDO, two '60s shockumentaries that titillated audiences with Satanic rites. As is so often the case, the naked witch on the poster art beckoning


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customers into the theatre to see WITCHCRAFT '70 was far more sensational than anyth ing in the actual film. Although Edmund Purdom's solemn narration prom ises much, there's only one scene of diabolical relevance: A theatrical celebration of the Church of Satan's rather chaste Black Mass recreated for the cameras by Anton LaVey, who obligingly scowls for the camera. Along the same lines is SEX RITUALS OF THE OCCULT ( 1970) which despite its proudly lurid title is something of a let-down. We are told that this string of awkwardly staged ceremonies of fake Satan ism, phoney voodoo, a n d posed sado­ masochism are the genu-ine article. One uncomfortable couple are filmed while copulating in a coffin, while elsewhere sullen models feign torment in shackles and chains. I have to admit that this literally put me to sleep, but perhaps I was hypnotized by the doubtlessly potent gibberish being chanted. Director Ray Dennis Steckler created a string of obscure exploitation vehicles (INCREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES . . . , RAT PFINK A BOO-BOO) that have since achieved ironic cult status, despite their singular technical incompetence. Steckler's 1 970 release SINTHIA, THE DEVIL'S DOLL, which began production two years earlier, claims our attention as his inevitable nod to the Sata n ic fad of the '60s. This d isjointed assemblage of flash-backs, nudie dream sequences, and murky drive-in psychology tells the tale of young Sinthia (Shula Roan), who fantasizes patricide and softcore depravity aplenty, seemingly under the Devil's command. Here, Steckler's typically crude portrayal of good old sex and violence is blunted by a dash of self-conscious European art-house pretension. Ever the optim ist, the d irector has compared his camera work in SINTHIA to that of lngmar Bergman. One certai n ly sees the awkward attempt at aping the Swede's style, but lngmar never asked the tantalizing question posed by SINTHIA's poster blurb: "Half Child ... But All Woman . . . How Abnormal Can a Girl Be?" TH E DUNWICH HORROR (1 970), obviously designed to appeal to the with­ it witch and warlock movement mushrooming across America, was American International's experiment in reworking their establ ished formula to fit freakier times. Earlier, this occult tale would certa inly have been a period piece starring Vincent Price. With ROSEMARY'S BABY's success, AlP realized that a u diences now wanted to see black magical stories set in th e present day. Instead of the aging Price - a grandfatherly figure by 1 970 - the ostensibly g roovier Dean Stockwell was cast as the heavy. Rather than turning to tried-and-true Poe, the weirder work of H.P. Lovecraft was mined. The unholy Whateley family have been the subject of terrified rumour in a New England town for decades. Now, Wilbur (Dean Stockwell), the youngest of the brood, seeks to evoke the elder gods with the help of the Necronomicon, that fabled tome of black sorcery. Of course, a sacrifice is needed, and pert Sandra Dee makes for an ideal altar decoration. D i rector Daniel Haller, once Corman's ace art d irector, occasionally achieves a n uncanny atmosphere, sometimes utilizing inventive photographic effects. Unfortunately, Stockwell wanders through h is role of demonologist for the Now Generation in a curiously disaffected daze. With his fashionable sideburns and stoned demeanour, one gets the impression that Wilbur may spend his nights invoking name less entities from a lternate d imensions, but by day he's probably protesting against the war in Vietnam with the other students at Miskatonic U niversity. Les Baxter's score is effective at first, incorporating some unusual electronic sanies, but it wears out its welcome through almost laughable repetition. Despite its attempt to bring gothic occultism into the modern age, THE


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The Dunwicb HoTTOr.

DUNWICH HORROR seems far more dated today than the earlier period pieces it sought to supplant. Particu larly silly are the pseudo-psychedelic ritual sequences that feature demonic flower children cavorting before a gauze-covered fish-eye lens. American International's CRY OF THE BANSHEE (1 970) has little to do with the eerie Celtic folklore its title would suggest. An inferior follow-up to the non­ occult historical drama WITCHFINDER GEN ERAL (1 968), the film features Vincent Price as Lord Edward Whitman, puritanical English witchhunter. A 17th century provincial mag istrate, Whitman cruelly persecutes a seemingly benevolent Druidic cult. The presiding witch, Oona (Elisabeth Bergner), in a plot device now taking on almost painful familiarity, swears revenge on Price's kith and kin. Satan is duly summoned and beseeched. Oona's vengea nce materializes in the form of a demon disguised as a handsome young groom, played by Patrick Mower, a veteran of THE DEVIL RIDES OUT The disgu ised incubus penetrates the sanctity of the mag istrate's home, where he also penetrates the pious official's comely daughter Maureen (Hilary Dwyer.) Satan, as embodied by the demonic groom, is a rampant libido intruding on social modesty, subverting the repression of hypocritical Christian culture. Playing to the anti-authority attitude of the under-30 audience to whom the film was marketed, director Gordon Hessler sh ifts our sympathies to the demonic avenger and the oppressed daughter he sexually liberates. Price represents the villainous establishment, stamping out the occultism and eroticism of the younger generation, while masking his own repressed desires (he entertains incestuous longings for his daughter, even while decrying the wickedness of others.) The period trappings are merely set decorations that disguise a generational conflict more relevant to 1 970 than the 1 670s. In its depiction of the


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outwardly virtuous magistrate as the malefactor and the sexy demon as anti-hero, CRY OF THE BANSHEE exalts the Other, albeit in the crude iconography of a routine monster movie. Very much in the same English rural witch-burning subgenre is Piers Haggard's minor but interm ittently intriguing BLOOD ON SATAN'S CLAW (1970). When the carcass of the Devil is ploughed up in a 1 7th century rural community, Satanic influences begin to undermine the town. Sceptical witchfinder Patrick Wymark i nvestigates, discovering that '70s horror sex symbol Linda Hayden has formed a coven centred around the macabre relics. Like the Pied Piper, the local witch has lured the town's children into her demonic fold. The rebellion of these devilish children against their horrified elders seems to reflect the mood of the times in fantastic guise. Here, Satanism is depicted as a kind of devolution to an a n i mal state, in which human skin is supplanted by bestia l fur. The actual manifestation of this disturbing idea sometimes bord ers on the lud icrous in its actual handling, but Hayden's transformation from innocent ingenue to demonic creature is unsettling. The finale finds the heroic magistrate intruding on a ritual in a desecrated church, arriving just in time for the Devil himself to be summoned. Alas, Satan's apparition as a particularly il l-conceived rubber monster is a considerable let-down after the build-up of mood leading us to this point. Sometimes disjointed and unfocused, Haggard's style does occasionally allow for a genuinely uncanny presence to intrude. In 1 970, presumably Satanic happenings more timely than the 17th century were readily available on the evening news. The public was seized with ghoulish fascination by the trial of the recently arrested Manson Family, whose


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m urders were, according to rumour, motivated by dark Satanic currents. Whether or not the mu rders had any connection to Devil worsh ip - my researches have ind icated that they did not - was really besides the point to a sensation-starved public. It was thrilling to think so, and that was good enough for low-budget producers with a pecuniary interest in giving their undemanding clientele what they wanted. Diabolic films have always demonized those social forces currently feared by the masses. Now, an America phobic of its own rebellious off-spring learned at the movies that h ippies were indeed the Devil's Contemplatives. Several films released in the bloody wake of the Manson slayings pandered to aud ience's fears of a counter-culture suddenly deemed to be dangerous. Puerile Satanic fantasies and fabrications of this kind have continued to obscure the much more mundane motives that actually led the Manson Family to commit those supposedly "random" crimes. Such films helped to blur the line between flig hts of fancy and cold reality, confirming that the lurking h ippy's long hair was surely concea ling a pair of horns. Since the Mansonoid Satanic film was a short-lived but lively subgenre that only lasted until 1 972, I'll consider them a l l in o n e fell swoop. I DRINK YOUR BLOOD (1971) directed by David Durston, focuses on a hippy family led by Horace Bones (the Indian dancer Bhaksar). We first see Bones officiating over his group, the Sons and Daughters of Satan, performing a nocturnal black magic rite in the woods. His face lit infernally by a blazing fire, he utters the u nforgettable theological declaration that "Satan is an Acid Head ! " When the hippies rape a local girl from a nearby town, her young brother retaliates. He injects a rabid rat's blood into pies which he distributes to the Satan ists, infecting them with rabies. All Hell breaks loose, and the entire town of upright establishment types become rabid bloodthirsty fiends. Durston's comment on the hidden violence of small-town America is unmistakable. One particularly archetypal scene shows a rabies-demented crew of hard-hatted construction workers chasing the hippies with murderous intent, a vision torn from the fantasies of many Americans of the time. Here, Satan ism is a dangerous social contagion that spreads its infection through such currently feared youth phenomena as LSD. Far from the refined image of the diabol ists in THE DEVIL RIDES OUT or ROSEMARY'S BABY, these down-sca le Devil worshippers enterta in themselves by torturing rats and each other in squalid conditions. The film broke 1 970 boundaries for the sheer amount of blood on screen, its sanguinary scenes surpassing then-current goremeister Herschel! Gordon Lewis in realism. Redeemed by its black humour, I DRINK YOUR BLOOD is as sleazily entertaining as an urban legend. In Boris Sagal's THE OMEGA MAN (1971), Charlton Heston fends off a mutant race of cult-like vampires bred by fallout from a thermonuclear war. Based on Richard Matheson's novella I Am Legend, the film draws deeply from the '70s' pan icky awareness of youthful Satanism and occult sects. The clan gathers for nocturnal rituals, garbed in the black hooded robes sported by traditionalist black magicians. Indeed, the vampires' fashion statement and doomsday philosophy is more than reminiscent of the contemporary Satanic group Process Church of the Final Judgement, which had recently become notorious due to a pu rported connection with Charles Manson. In an unsubtle nod to the recent crime sensation, the cult even refer to themse lves as "The Family" Their albino guru, Matthias, is played with ominous charisma by Anthony Zerbe. The Satanic apocalyptic aesthetic of the film is und erscored by the final scene, in which the


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OAVIO hi. UUIMAN & MICHEl l£V£S0UE i.uCHEt.tEVESOUE :.-:.-::.·.:.�·0:, iiftfAHfARE CilnPORAliON cult crucify the last man on earth. 1 9 7 1 's catchily titled WER EWOLVES ON WHEELS, directed by Michel Levesque, borrowed several d istorted elem ents from the Manson myth. The Devil's Advocates, a biker gang led by Adam (Stephen Ol iver), pass through a desolate California desert. Tarot (Deuce Berry) "hung up on the occult", reads the cards for Adam's "mama" Helen, (D. J Anderson), prophesying dark tidings. The bikers


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encamp in a compound inhabited by an order of Satanic mon ks, where the mysterious leader of the cult, known only as One (Severn Darden), inca pacitates his guests with drugged bread and wine. Helen, entranced by a spell, rises from her sleep and joins the Satanists at their altar. There. she strips, and performs an erotic dance with a human skull, writh ing with a serpent as incantations are uttered. She's ordained as the bride of Satan in a ritual sequence that's actually more effective than many occult epics of the period. The bikers awaken, rescu ing the hypnotized Helen. However, the Evil One has already claimed her. for her passionate bite turns Adam into a werewolf. Although the Devil's Advocates destroy the werewo lves in their midst, they are powerless against One's cult. When the bikers return for a rumble with the Satan ists, they become the Devil's disciples themselves. This is a weirdly watchable concoction, a mutant of the '60s biker film and the '70s Satan flick. It d iffers from most exploitation films in that there are no "normal" characters; both its protagonists and antagonists hail from the anti-social fringes of society. The triumph of the Sata nic monks also comes as a surprise, adding this obscure entry to the short list of films in which the Devil preva ils. Hippy Satanism reared its shaggy head again in THE DEATHMASTER (1 972). The film's star, Robert Quarry, had achieved a certa in amount of success as the modern-day vampire Count Yorga in two clever American International films, which established h i m as the only '70s horror star in the Price-Lee-Cushing


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Taste Tbe Blood OfDracula.

mold. Inspired by the diabolical rumours swirling around the Manson case, Quarry co-produced this dismally conceived production in hopes of commingling his vampiric screen persona with freshly minted fears of black magical youth cults. Here, in the role of Satanic guru Khorda, the actor's distinguished features are hidden beneath a laughable long-haired wig and beard. The film begins with a striking image of Khorda washing up on a California beach in his coffin, but swiftly degenerates from there. The failure of the film must largely be attributed to d irector Ray Danton, who disp lays absolutely no sense of style. Quarry does his best, performing a n undead Mass with his usual flair, but his efforts are in vain. THE DEATHMASTER only retains interest today as a document of its occult­ obsessed times. An interesting Latin American mutation of the Manson-as-Satanist subgenre is GURU DAS SIETE CIDADES (1 972) by Carlos Bini. Otavio Terceiro p lays the diabolical guru of a black-robed hippy cult that amuses itself with Lucifer ian games and orgies. Rejane Medeiros, paralleling the rich celebrities who got their kicks by slumming with the Manson fami ly, is a Brazilian mill ionaire's jaded wife. She finds the thrills she's lacking in her marriage in the sect's Satanic rites. Losing all sense of moral propriety under the guru's spell, Medeiros suggests that her unsuspecting husband should be sacrificed to the Devil. Learning too late that her initiation into evil has gone too far to turn back, the guru decides that she will be sacrificed next. A heavy-handed warning against dabbling with diabolism, G U R U DAS SIETE CIDADES is just as sensationalistic as any of the North American films inspired by the Manson murders. It offers its viewers the excitement of a voyeuristic peek at sexually depraved Satanic youth at the same time as it clucks its tongue.


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1be Devils. Although their production of THE DEVIL RIDES OUT was released too early to capitalize on the worldwide vogue for black magic, Hammer Film executives were not slow in exploiting the new Satanic revival. The studio's profitable line of vampire films had a lways made subtle reference to the Black Arts. With Peter Sasdy's TASTE T H E BLOOD OF DRACULA (1 970), the fourth instalment in Hammer's most successful franchise, Dracula's diabolical connection was made quite explicit for the first time. Lord Courtley (Ralph Bates), a dissolute young diabol ist in Victorian London, makes the acquaintance of three older gentlemen, respectable pillars of society a l l . When the trio grow tired of the illicit p l easures to be found in their secretive visits to bordel los, Courtley introduces them to the Black Arts. Having squandered his own patrimony, he persuades the men to finance his purchase of a rare magical relic; the ashes of Count Dracula. Courtley's patrons are invited to a midnight ritual in a desecrated church appointed with Satanic regalia. There, before an altar decorated with the goat of Mendes, Dracula's disciple m ixes his own blood with the ashes of the Count, undergoing a deadly metamorphosis. Courtley, the Victorian magician of soiled reputation, is more than a little remin iscent of the young Aleister Crowley of the 1 890s, who must have been an inspiration. R a l p h Bates makes for one of the more charming Satanic characters of the 1 970s as the libertine aristocrat. TASTE TH E BLOOD OF DRACULA is by far the best of an unholy trinity of Satanic Dracula films produced by Hammer in the '70s. Ken Russell's THE DEVILS ( 1 970), despite its title, is really of only tangential importance to our study. This b r i lliantly executed examination of religious mania and the witch-hunting mentality does concern the historic accusations of Devil worsh ip mounted by

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Urbain Grandier. However, that's only a framing device for Russell to focus o n his real theme: the pathological nature of Christian sexual repression. Anticipating the possession hysteria that would so fervently take hold of the Satanic cinema in a few years, THE DEVILS takes a more sophisticated psychological look at such phenomena than the Biblically orthodox THE EXORCIST A scene in the later film, depicting masturbation with a crucifix, was actually seen here first. British sexploitation specialists Tigon, having dipped their toes i n the Satanic pool with their earlier CURSE OF TH E CRIMSON ALTAR plunged into softcore devi ltry again with the unabashedly lurid VIRGIN WITCH (1 970). The most explicitly sexual Satanic film up to that date, the scanty plot centres on the machinations of a depraved lesbian modelling agent who lures a pair of naive girls (sister team Anne and Vicki Michelle) to a country manor owned by a Sata nic cult. Of course, the only modelling required of them there is a terminal pose on the usual sacrificial a ltar. Underneath this thin veneer of trendy occultism, the film's real raison d'etre is a simple one: to assure that the siblings take their clothes off as frequently as possible. Director Ray Austin usually gets his stars i n frame and i n focus, paying only perfunctory attention to the peripheral building up of any diabolical mood. The classic exploitation title actually does have something to do with the story. Once the slow-on-the-uptake sisters realize that their modelling assignment is less than legitimate, they begin to develop hitherto unsuspected witchy powers to combat the lustful Devil worsh ippers. While this forgotten tentative step on the path of Satanic porn must have seemed fairly feeble at the time of its release, the patina of time has lent it an a lmost quaint air Spanish d irector Amando de Ossorio dipped into the blackest pages of


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Tombs OJ Tbe Blind Dead.

European h istory to create his inventive contribution to the Satanic cinema. LA NOCHE DEL TERROR CIEGO (1971) aka TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD. Rather than invent his diabolical menace from whole cloth. de Ossorio revived the 14th century legends surrounding the powerful Knights Templar. An Order of Christian crusaders accused of practising Satanism by France's King Philip, the Templars present one of the most intriguing mysteries in the chronicles of the Black Arts. Under torture, many of the brothers confessed to worshipping a god named Baphomet, trampl ing the cross, and participating in sexual rituals. Whatever the truth may be behind these accounts, the Templar mystique has had a decisive influence on the black magical tradition. While LA NOCHE DEL TERROR CIEGO only scrapes the surface of this potent material, de Ossorio created some of the most macabre imagery in the European cinema of the 1 970s with h is series of Templar films. Quite frankly, the plots are superfluous to the surreal poetry of the sightless Templar Knights, revived from their restless sleep of centuries as robed living corpses. De Ossorio films his superbly ominous Satanic Knig hts in slow motion, a cheap but effective trick which works just as well in a number of sequels. In EL ATAQ UE DE LOS M U ERTOS SIN OJOS ( 1 973) the Templars return during an annual celebration of their massacre, taking to horseback. EL BULQUE MALD ITO (1 974) finds the revenant Templars stalking their victims at sea. The last appearance of the undead Templars was in de Ossorio's LA NOCHE DE LAS


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1be Mepbisto Waltz.

GAVIOTAS ( 1 975) which took advantage of post-Franco Spain's new permissiveness by upping the sex quotient considerably. The d irector has claimed that his moldering Templars were intended as an allegory for the moribund Franco d ictatorship, but sometimes a corpse is only a corpse. THE MEPH ISTO WALTZ (1971), which takes its name from the devilishly complicated piano composition by Hungary's n ineteenth century keyboard genius Franz Liszt, has hardly been accorded the same classic status. Upon the time of its release the film was a lmost un iversally lambasted by critics as a pale imitation of ROSEMARY'S BABY Certainly, there's no denying that the Fred Mustard Stewart novel it's based on was clearly modeled on Ira Levin's basic plot. But even if the picture doesn't bear comparison to Polanski's masterpiece, it's still a cut above the many mediocre Satanic knock-offs the that earlier film inspired. Directed with a certain amount of polish by Paul Wendkos, it's rather subversive for a major Hollywood studio production, and deserves to be viewed as more than the experience in deja vu it's usually dism issed as. The plot revolves around the strivings of Myles Clarkson (Alan Aida), an ambitious but fatal ly nice young pian ist, who's taken under the Mephistophelean wing of Duncan Ely, a famous aging virtuoso who owes his tremendous success to a Lucifer ian pact. The similarity between this mentorsh ip and the relationship between ambitious actor Guy Woodhouse and the elderly Roman Castavet in ROSEMARY'S BABY need hardly be pointed out. However, the woman in Ely's life is not a cantankerous old meddler l ike Minnie Castavet, but his daughter Roxanne, played by the witchy stunner Barbara Parkins. Clarkson's wife Paula (Jacq ueline B isset) is suspicious of


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the E lys' influence on her husband, and especially so when she observes Sata nic goings-on at a bizarre New Year's Eve party held at the maestro's home. The party sequence boasts a few striking images, such as Roxanne's menacing black hound wearing a human mask. When Duncan Ely dies of leukaemia, Myles magically inherits h is mentor's stupendous talent, and his career as a musician soars. At the same time, he begins a passionate affair with Roxanne, much to Paula's dismay. She learns that Myles' body has actually been inhabited by the late Ely, who simply needed a new hea lthy body to continue the incestuous relationship he enjoyed with his daughter in life. Roxanne and Myles/Duncan nearly destroy Paula with black magic as she discovers their secrets. In a surprising twist on the usual finale, Paula forms her own pact with the Devil. She commits suicide so that her soul can reincarnate in her rival Roxanne's body, thus reuniting with her husband. As Duncan Ely, Curt Jurgens movingly portrays the black magician's furious will to live. The theme of attaining im mortal ity, a concept central to the left hand path, is convincingly handled. The notion that genius and artistic talent is inspired by a diabolical gift is also interestingly evoked. THE MEPHISTO WALTZ is greatly enhanced by Jerry Goldsm ith's score, wh ich showcases a darker than usual arrangement of Liszt's title wmposition. TH E BROTHERHOOD OF SATAN ( 1 97 1 ) echoed THE MEPH ISTO WALTZ's idea of aging Satanists seeking supernatural rejuvenation. Produced by low­ budget dynamo L.Q. Jones, and directed by Bernard McEveety, the film's off-beat rural setting and frequently poetic imagery make this one of the most original of the post-ROSEMARY's crop.


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La Plus Longue Nuit Du Diable.

The obliquely told story begins when a vacationing couple and their ch ild drive through an isolated New Mexico town whose children are inexplicably vanishing. Dr. Duncan (Strother Martin), the town's kindly physician, is actually the leader of the local coven, the Brotherhood of Satan. The sometimes tortuous na rrative slowly reveals that the elderly Brotherhood intend to inhabit the bodies of the missing children, who have been lured to the coven's otherworldly clubhouse. When the couple's daughter also disappears, the aid of the town priest is enlisted. He suspects "metaphysica l" motives, an idea Dr. Duncan naturally dismisses. The geriatric Brotherhood's ceremonies, held in an imagin atively appointed ritual chamber, have an odd air of authenticity about them, thanks especially to Strother Martin's fru ity but comm itted performance. Somethi n g about his delivery h a s a lways reminded me o f another eccentric religious leader, the Rev. Jim Jones. Satan's presence is ind icated simply but effectively by a sudden rush of wind and flickering lights, to which Martin responds, "Greetings, dear one." The child actors convincingly suggest the trance they've supposedly fallen into. The hero's m issing daughter arrives at a very sinister children's pa rty hosted incongruously by two sin ister robed figures. By the time the good guys have figured out what's going on, the Brotherhood of Satan are greeting their deaths glad ly, slain by flaming swords. When the heroic band arrive at the cu lt's manor, there's no sign of the lavish ritual chamber or the massacred Satanists. Only the (seeming ly) innocent missing children remain, possessed by the souls of the Brotherhood. Unnoticed are the small dolls laying on the floor in the same positions as the dead Satanists.


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Director McEveety instills THE BROTHERHOOD OF SATAN with quite a few visual flourishes, a n d slightly off-kilter cutting lends the whole affair a n intriguingly surreal tone. Many of the diabolical happenings here are never explained in any linear sense, which shrouds the film with a sense of mystery so often lacking in such pictures. LA PLUS LONGUE N U IT DU DIABLE ( 1 9 7 1 ) aka THE DEVIL'S N IG HTMARE is one of several stylistically attractive fantastic films produced in Belgium during the early 1 970s. Starring as the Devil's lethal succubus is Erika Blanc, an Italian Playboy model who graced many European horror films as victimizer and victim. Here, she plays the kind of vengeful sorceress role earlier written for Barbara Steele. She's the illegitimate daughter of the von Rumberg clan, and as such i s doomed to be that generation's servant of Satan, accord ing to a centuries-o ld curse. Seven travellers - representing the seven deadly sins - encounter a forbidding stranger in black (Daniel Emiifork}, who is apparently the Devil. He sends them to the gothic residence of the von Rumbergs, where the she-demon systematically kills them off during a night of relentless ghastliness. Blanc strikes when her victims reveal the particular sin they incarnate. A priest, apparently without sin, survives the carnage to confront the Devil. Although the fil m's obviously designed to serve as an excuse to show the series of violent deaths, first-time director Jean Brismee displays enough atmosphere and personal touches to d istract from the sometimes mechanical nature of the plot. Emi lfork makes for a fine fiend in human form, and Blanc plays her succubus with the right m ixture of Eros and Thanatos. 1 97 1 's LUST FOR A VAMPIRE, di rected by Jimmy Sangster, is one of Hammer Film's weakest productions. Although its lead vampirette, actress Yutte Stensgaard, has since become the object of a drooling cult of adm irers, its only relevance to this study is its Satanic sacrifice, conducted by one Count Karnstein (Mike Raven). An in nocent girl in white is laid out on an altar, as the red-cloaked Karnstein calls upon the forces of darkness to witness the resuscitation of a female vampire. M i ke Raven, the actor who played Karnstein, is an interesting footnote to the study of the Satanic cinema. A former DJ, his serious interest in the supernatural and the practice of magic preceded his stint as an actor in occult­ themed films. "I know a great deal about a l l aspects of the occult. I have one of the largest libraries in England, and I can claim to be fairly knowledgeable about a lmost anything in the field that you might care to mention; it's been a life-long interest," he told writer Denis Meikle in 1 995. Whereas many horror actors have been eager to prove their normal ity, insisting that they have nothing in common with the dark personalities they portray on screen, Raven revelled in styling an ominous image for h i mself in his private life. Usually clad in black attire, and sporting a devilish goatee, Raven's everyday persona was as sin ister as any of the uncanny characters he p layed during h is brief film career Concerning his role in LUST FOR A VAMPIRE, h e commented that, " I didn't want the character to actually be a vampire; I wanted him to appear as the devil's em issary - or an agent of evil. . . " Raven also contributed his own dia logue to his Satanic role, reca l l ing to Meikle that "there was no script there at all. All the invocations I did over the body I brought out of my magical books." The budding actor, eager to move into larger parts, wrote a script for his own Satanic film, which Hammer originally agreed to produce. When the independent film market suddenly collapsed, he resorted to financing it himself


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with an extremely skimpy budget, forced to film in the super 1 6mm format. Unfortunately, THE DISCIPLE OF DEATH (1 972) gracelessly co-directed by Tom Parkinson and Raven is a decidedly amateurish effort. In 1 8th century England, a demonic being called the Stranger is brought back to this world by a stray drop of blood left on his tomb by careless lovers. During h is quest for a virginai bride willing to share his hell ish existence, he makes a gory sacrifice of seasoned horror heroine Virginia Wetheral. Raven's authentic knowledge of magical tradition does


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surface here and there, but it's all wasted on this embarrassingly bottom-of-the-barrel visitation from Hell. Raven, whose amb itions exceeded his talents to a painful degree, wisely retired to the life of a sheep-farmer Hammer's TWINS OF EVIL (1 972), by John Hough, was a sequel of sorts to LUST FOR A VAMPIRE. Again, the Devil was used as a box­ office lure. Lest anyone miss the connection, the poster trumpeted: "They use the sata nic power of their bodies to turn men and women into their blood slaves." Peter Cushing, cast as the self-righteous slayer of the undead in so many previous Hammer films, is here the in­ tentionally unlikeable puritan do­ gooder G ustav Weil. As leader of a sect called the Brotherhood, he imparts Christian justice on twin Playboy models Mary and Madeline Collinson - an erotic double whammy sym bolizing the light and dark sides of fem ininity. One of the film's best scenes is a superior rendering of the Black Mass sequence from LUST FOR A VAMPIRE. The decadent Count Karnstein, this time played by Damien Thomas, performs a ritual in which h e inadvertently revives one o f the undead. After asking Satan to bestow undreamt­ of pleasures upon him, he falls prey to the vampire's kiss. Damien Thomas, who was being groomed by Hammer as their new horror star, is im pressively sinister Failing miserably with the same Satanic vampirism theme is DRACULA A.D. 72 (1 972), d irected by Alan G i bson. Despite the novelty of being set in a banal, and already dated "swinging London" milieu, another il l-advised attempt to appeal to increasingly juvenile audiences, entire plot devices are swiped from the previous TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACU LA. Again, Christopher Lee is revived due to the agency of the witlessly named Johnny Alucard, a young Satanist who gets hold of the Count's ashes. Again, the now obligatory revival scene is played out as a Black Mass in a defiled church. This shameless rehashing of scenes that had been executed with more verve the first time around attests to the general paucity of imagination. The Black Mass scene that worked so well in TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA was now being replayed again and again in Hammer's vampire films, as the studio desperately sought to wring new blood from their fading Gothic franchise. Bottom of the barrel sexploitation auteur Ted V. Mikels hopped unsteadily on the Satan bandwagon with BLOOD ORGY OF THE SH E-DEVILS ( 1 972).


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Necromancy- nude scene cur from final release.

Obligatory title psychedelia leads into - what else? - a blood orgy of naked she­ devils led by wicked witch Mara (Lila Zaborin). Reciting Mikels' incredibly stilted dialogue with Bernhardtian intensity, she leads the gals in the sacrifice of a male captive - a refresh ing change after all the damsels who've met their ends on the a ltar. Mara's coven dance around like the moonlighting strippers they appear to be, swaying in imitation yogic undulations to instantly dated electron ic noodlings. There is no plot; o n ly a series of strung-together rituals, each more inane than the last. When Mara isn't pompously procla iming maledictions, she's showing her new she-devils their past lives as witches in centuries past. All the buzzwords of the period are thrown about by the cardboard cast, who think heavy thoughts of karma, vibrations, reincarnation and astrology. Although Mara calls on Lucifer's aid, the coven's undulations are banished by four utterly square male parapsycholog ists. In its way, this inept film tells the viewer more about its times than many a more accom plished work. Bert I. Gordon's N ECROMANCY {1 972), with Orson Wel les, is yet another example of a mediocre witchcraft tale of that period attempting to add spice by including nude coven scenes - although in this case the scenes were cut out before release to ensure a PG rating. In February of 1 972, the 270 members of the Church of Satan were informed of their organization's first incursion into the movies via the official Church newsletter, The Cloven Hoof. Editor Michael Aquino notified h is readership that: "The Church of Satan recently completed technical assistance to the


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production of a new film entitled THE SATAN SPECTR U M. Last fall we were contacted by Louisville's Studio One Productions; they had decided to make a horror movie, and they wanted to outdo THE BROTHERHOOD OF SATAN. The Church of Satan was invited to review the setting and script of the ritual sequence and to coach the actor-Satan ists and the demon in their behaviour." The producers of the film were a small, Kentucky-based technical film company seeking to branch out into the theatrical market. The final prod uct, re­ titled THE ASYLUM OF SATAN, is one of the most excruciatingly unwatchable films in the entire genre. Its incoherently structured plot concerns a young woman who experiences a n ervous breakdown and is sent to a rest-home to recuperate. The sanitarium is run by the evil D r Specter, who we learn was "picked up for devil worsh ip" some years earlier. Dr Specter, who is killing his female patients, needs a virgin to sacrifice to Abaddon. The demon shows up for his hideous repast, but rejects the offering; her hymen's not intact after all. Specter, revealed to be a transvestite, is destroyed by the demon. Di rected and written with astounding incompetence by William G i rdler, and performed by comatose amateu rs, its only claim to minor fame is its climactic ritual sequence. The d irector had provided a copy of the script to Michael Aquino, then a Priest in the Church of Satan. U nsatisfied with the tepid invocation of Abaddon written by Girdler, Aquino added his own version, which briefly adds some colour to the final scene. Writing in The Crystal Tablet Of Set, the introd uctory manual for the black magical order he founded in 1 975, Aquino wrote that "the result of all this is a turkey of a movie, with, if I may say so, a rather zesty ritual sequence." The Devil suit used in ROSEMARY'S BABY makes a brief appearance at the end of the film, having been flown out from Ca lifornia. But William Girdler is no Polanski, a n d the infamous prop looks singularly uni mpressive here. The legend of the Satanic Knights Templar was revived in 1 972's ES ESPANTO SURGE DE LA TUMBA (HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB), a dreadfully boring and ineptly made film by Spain's Carlos Aured. Things start off with a bang when a Templar Knight (Paul Naschy) is gorily beheaded for practising the Black Arts during the M iddle Ages. His wife is stripped and compelled to witness his decapitation before her own bloody bisection. By now, you may have guessed that before Naschy's head is lopped off, he places the usual curse on his tormentors. Centuries later, the 20th century descendants of the Satanic knight's executioners locate the fiend's head, which still possesses malevolent powers. As with Armando Ossorio's Templar films, the potentially evocative legend is hardly explored beyond its barest rudim ents. The theme of a decap itated devil worshipper's head wreaking havoc in the present day is very reminiscent of the previously mentioned '50s B movie THE THING THAT COULDN'T DIE. Paul Naschy, Spain's only horror star, attacks his diabolical role with his usual ene rgy, but the film is essentially a disjointed series of unconvincing scenes of mayhem. Perhaps this undeveloped quality is due to the fact that Naschy, by his own admission, wrote the screenplay in only one night! One of the towering visionary masterpieces of Satanic literature is Matthew Greg ory Lewis' dizzyingly surreal 1 796 novel The Monk: A Romance. The tale of the morally pure monk Ambrosio, seduced into a life of unalloyed Lucifer ian ism by the beautiful succubus Matilda was considered the most shocking book of its time. When Ambrosio is condemned to burn at the stake for his wizardry, Matilda provides him with a grimoire that a l lows him to conjure the Devil. Lucifer is pictured as a being of inhuman beauty, who leads his disciple ever


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onwards to unimaginable adventures. Lord Byron and de Sade were only two literary outlaws who fell under the spell of a book condemned by Coleridge as "poison for youth, and a provocative for the debauchee" When the surreal ist writer Ado Kyrou announced that he intended to film the arch-gothic classic, with a screenplay by Luis Bunuel, connoisseurs of the fantastic expected great things. Alas, Kyrou proved a thoroughly uninspired d irector, a flaw which even Bunuel's script cannot redeem. Consequently, Kyrou's LE MOINE (THE MONK), filmed in France in 1 972, is a great disappointment. Franco Nero's performance as the title character is lifeless, and Nathalie Delon, as Matilda, doesn't suggest a fraction of the Satanic sex appeal described in the novel. The Devil is uncharacteristically pictured as the avenger of the wronged in Jean Rollin's off-beat but unfocused LES D E MONIAQUES (1 973). French


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sexploitation specialist Rollin, both reviled and revered, has been saddled with such low budgets throughout his marginal career that it's difficult to say whether the i n consistency of his work is due to his own lack of command of his chosen med ium. Such is the case again i n this picture, in which two attractive Rollin heroines are raped by coastal marauders. The duo ca ll upon the Devil (Misha Zimovir) in a n abandoned church, forging a pact to exact their vengeance. Rollin


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The Deuil ln Miss jones.

does achieve a few m oments of the nee-surrealism his disciples have ascribed to him, particularly in a sequence showing shipwrecked vessels on the desolate Belgian coast. According to Rollin, producer Lionel Wallman asked him to add hardcore sequences to the film. The director refused, protesting that they would interfere with what he described as "a poetic eroticism" he sought to create. Although his stars strip often enough, there's none of the weird sexuality that informs his earlier vampire films. One would have thought that the erotic aspect of Satanism would have inspired Rollin to more hallucinatory heights. A far more interesting take on Satanic sexuality was Gerard Damiano's hardcore porn classic THE DEVIL I N MISS JONES (1 972) Although it has never been thought of as an occult film, perhaps TH E DEVIL IN MISS JONES can be seen as the h i g h watermark of cultural acceptance of the Luciferian. Despite its confused ending, the film primarily celebrated the Satanic sexual awakening of a repressed woman, totally reversing the anti-erotic, anti-female mindset that characterizes right hand path domin ance of society. Furthermore, it had actually pushed the frontiers of what was considered acceptable on screen, a supremely Satanic deed. Relatively high production values, an actual story interestingly told, and an excellent lead performance by Georgina Spelvin elevated Damiano's film to a level porno films had never previously attempted to reach. The frumpy virgin Justine Jones (Georgina Spelvin) kills herself, despa iring of her drab existence. She finds herself in Hell, where a demon provides her with hands-on training in the erotic arts, which includes carnal knowledge of a serpent. Her dormant sexual ity activated for the first time, she's allowed back to earth, where she voraciously explores her new Luciferian lust. After a series of amorous


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The Salanic Rites Of Dracula.

adventures, she returns to the inferno, where she's damned to spend the rest of eternity alone in a room with a man tota lly uninterested in sex. After the unrestrained celebration of demonic Eros that informs most of the film, this moralistic climax (no pun intended) seems weirdly out of place. As one of the first critically acclaimed hardcore films, it became something of a phenomenon, attracting audiences that would never have previously entertained the idea of seeing a porno movie. For the first time, women entered the theatres where DEVIL IN MISS JONES played, briefly changing the furtive "dirty raincoat" image associated with erotic films. Georgina Spelvin was not the typical porno actress, and the realism of her performance al lowed women to empathize with her character as something more than a one-dimensional male fantasy. Appearing as it did at the height of the Satanic craze, the diabolical aspects of the picture were well-timed, tapping into an increasing fascination with the Devil and a rapidly expanding acceptance of sexuality. Although the period of social respectabil ity afforded the porno film proved to be short-lived, THE DEVIL IN MISS JONES remains a fasci nating detour in the Satanic cinema. The international success of the film inspired Swiss d irector Erwin C. Dietrich to create an inferior 1 974 ri p-off, DER TEUFEL IN MISS JONAS, for the German market. Interestingly, director Damiano tur¡ned to the Devil again in his next film, 1 973's THE LEGACY OF SATAN. Damiano's first "legitimate" non-porno film, it's a fairly standard Satanic horror film, lacking any of the inventive spark that marked MISS JONES. Talky and uncinemat ic, it had none of the previous film's impact, and Damiano returned to toil in the X-rated field. The final stake in the coffin for Hammer's downward spiral of black magical Dracula films was THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA (1 973). As the title


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ind icates, this was by far the most b latantly Satanic of British vampire films. Revived in modern London - but thankfully without the desperate attempts to seem hip that marred DRACULA A.D. 72 - Christopher Lee's Count is now running a Sata n ic cult in a Hampstead manor house. Participating in the implied orgies and Black Masses are the cream of British society, including a prominent General, a leading politician, and a noted scientist. It's interesting to observe how often Ham mer's Satanic films present Satan ism as the secret religion of England's elite, keeping with the Dennis Wheatley notion of aristocratic evil. The Satanic altar is naturally draped with a pretty assortment of Hammer pulchritude, and the sinister invocations are intoned by Lee and his demonic aide Chin Yang (Barbara Yu-Ling) with the appropriate fervour Still, there's something very perfunctory and tired about these potentially menacing goings-on. D irector Alan Gibson lenses the film with a flat TV episode look, emphasizing the faults of the shallow comic-book script. By 1 973, the imagery of Satanism had already become such a routine aspect of exploitation fi lms, that its addition lends little novelty to the exhausted vampire formula. While fascination with the Devil still ran high, audiences were ready for something different than recycled Wheatley or third-rate Polanski. Since the mid-'60s, the Devil was a potent symbol of subversion in movies, music, and popular fiction, representing the rebellious and revolutionary longings of the times. A backlash was inevitable, and the spirit of Salem set i n swiftly enough, ushered in by a religiously doctrinaire film that returned to the pious righteousness of yore. Turning the tide was William Fried kin's TH E EXORCIST (1 973), a big-budget Bib le-thumper that can be seen as the reactionary answer to ROSEMARY'S BABY One of the most culturally resonant - although artistically uninteresting - films in Sata nic cinema history, this Judaeo-Christian demonization of female sexuality brings us right back to the Middle Ages. The thin plot is so widely familiar that a brief sketch should suffice. The villain of the piece is Regan Macneil (Linda Bla ir), a twelve-year old g irl on the cusp of maturing sexuality. Her divorcee mother (Ellen Burstyn), an actress with no religious convictions, is increasingly terrified by her daughter's biza rre behavioral changes. When medicine fails to find an answer, she turns to the Church, in the form of Father Damien Karras (Jason M i l ler), a young priest strugg ling with his faith. In a series of dramatic confrontations in the girl's bedroom, Karras determines that Regan is possessed by the Devil. He calls in the well-known exorcist Father Merrin (Max von Sydow), who has recently had a spiritual encounter with the Babylonian demon Pazuzu in Iraq. When all of their efforts fail, Karras sacrifices himself, telling the Devil to "take me", instead of the girl. He is promptly possessed, and hurls himself out the window to his death. I am always astonished to hear how many viewers of this film consider it the most frightening film they've ever seen. I must admit that I've a lways found T H E EXORCIST one of the most laughable presentations of the Devil on screen. Regan's demonic voice strikes me as absurd, the kind of spook-house effect trotted out by evangel ists to scare their congregations. The celebrated scene of the demon twisting its head around also seemed more risible than terrifying. Most of all, one is struck by the triviality of the film's presentation of what is, after all, supposed to be Satan's most malignant expressions of evil. I t seems like the Devil could come up with something more threatening to the social order than pissing on Mom's rug, playing with herself, throwing up, or saying "fuck" As Christian scholar Jeffrey Burton Russell - an author I usually don't agree with - perceptively


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notes in Th e Devil: " I n THE EXORCIST, William B latty presents a Devil who is stupid enough to choose to possess a little girl rather than a national government . . . " Aside from the theological impl ications, it's this pettiness of vision that undermines the film. Especially after the atmospheric prologue set in Iraq, which seems to be leading into a spiritual struggle on a much larger scale, the actual body of the film seems l ike a huge anti-climax. In THE EXORCIST, Woman becomes quite literally the gate to Hell. I n this astoundingly conservative work, the fi lm-makers attempt to portray metaphysical evil by showing such physical actions as the girl's masturbation, and her use of sexua lly explicit language. Imbued with an almost hysterical dread of the budding fem i n i n e libido, the film pits two "good" male figures, in the form of Catholic priests, aga inst the diabolical wiles of the dangerously pubescent girl. Truly, it is a picture of the disturbed psychosexu al landscape of the American subconscious, filigreed with diabolic trappings. While the majority of viewers accepted d irector William Friedkin's interpretation of the film as "a conflict between the forces of good and the forces of evil", the film's anti-female undercurrents were noticed in some rather un expected quarters. Friedkin bewilderingly recalled that "Some clergymen suggested that the story was a homosexual fantasy, that Karras and Merrin were in a male bond to physically torture this little girl. The girl sta bbing the vagina was a gesture of female hatred, and the passionate involvement of these two men ends in death over the actions of this l ittle girl and her vaginal problems." While this curious reading of THE EXORCIST may not be exactly on targ et, it does


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suggest the unconcealed vein of misogyny that informs the film. While it is never stated explicitly, the implicit Cath olic code of the film suggests that the mother may be partially responsible for drawing the Devil into her home; as a sexually active d ivorcee, she is technically guilty of sin. Female sexuality is portrayed as an unholy aberration which must be chastised and expunged by the celibate male figu res. What Fathers Karras and Merrin are really striving to exorcise is their own horror of the feminine Other. It's appropriate that this most deeply Christian of Satanic films opened on the day after Christmas 1 973. Even before it was released, stud i o hype tried to elevate THE EXORCIST from the level of a simple horror film to a serious religious statement by emphasizing its purported reality. In fact, this much trumpeted verisimilitude was a part of the cooked-up EXORCIST legend years before the film was made. William Peter Blatty, the author of the best-selling 1 971 novel upon which the film was based, was himself inspired by "real" events. As a student at Georgetown Un iversity in the 1 949, Blatty heard rumours concern ing the demonic possession of Douglas Deene, a fourteen-year-old boy in nearby Mount Rainier, Maryland. Deene was supposedly seized by the traditional symptoms accepted by the Roman Catholic church as indicative of Satan i c possession; po ltergeist phenomena, the shouting out of obscenities, supposedly replying to his exorcist in correct Latin - a language unknown to him. Publicity hound Jesuit priest William Bowdern, who performed th irty exorcisms on the boy, went to The Washington Post with his story. It must have been a slow news day; the usually reputable paper pri nted the priest's account, and THE EXORCIST was born. Director William Friedkin has repeatedly stated his belief that Deene was really possessed by the Devil, thus lending credence to his fictionalized film of those unlikely events: " I am totally convinced that the events upon which the film is based occurred." Determined to maintain a sense of doctrinal authenticity unusual in Hollywood productions, Friedkin selected Jason Miller, an actor who had studied to be a Jesuit priest, to play the part of the troubled Father Damien Karras. Friedkin insisted that he was "not going to hire any actor who had not had a Catholic education" To buttress the legitimacy of the "factual" movie he was making, Friedkin relied on the counsel of a gaggle of bona fide men of the cloth. These theological advisers' expertise was called on in particu lar to vouch for the authenticity of the demonic behaviour displayed by the possessed girl. There was, for instance, the problem of the demon's voice, an essential component of the film's credibility. What did a demon sound l ike, anyway? The Reverend Thomas Birmin gham provided the director with a tape record ing of what was described as an honest to goodness exorcism conducted in the hallowed halls of the Vatican itself. Friedkin faithfully based Regan's abrasive sound on the purported demonic voice heard on the document from the Holy See. One of the man ifestations of Regan's inhabitation is her freq uent use of profanity. Accord ing to Father John J. Nicola, Pazuzu's obscene dialogue just wasn't filthy enough. Nicola insisted that the script needed beefing up; the demons he had encountered in the exorcisms he had presided over were capable of far more extreme locution. It is thanks to the good Father's dispensation, then, that the corru pted Regan utters such lines as "your mother sucks cocks in he l l ! " and "Let Jesus fuck you ! " A s part of the spooky real ity angle they were pushing, studio publicists also fed potential ticket buyers the tale of THE EXORCIST curse. Just as William Castle had cynically concocted the idea that the makers of ROSEMARY'S BABY had invited the Devil's wrath, so were similar stories circu lated around the latest


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The E=rcist.

Satanic blockbuster Hol lywood has never shied away from recycl ing a successful g i m mick. As evidence for this malediction - presumably unleashed upon the film­ makers for tampering with a subject matter meant to be left a l one - a number of incidents have been cited. A huge statue of the winged demon Pazuzu, shipped to Iraq for location shooting there, disappeared. Shooting was delayed for two weeks until the statue was located in Hong Kong, where it had been sent accidentally. The elements of water and fire seemingly turned malevolent: a fire destroyed the entire set of the house interior, delaying production for more than a month, when a studio sprinkler system failed. Actor Jack MacGowran actually died a week after shooting his on-screen death scene, and Max von Sydow's brother died on the day the actor arrived for filming. Despite h is brother's death, von Sydow has steadfastly refused to play along with the studio-generated scare stories. The actor has pointed out that THE EXORCIST had an unusually long shooting schedule of fifteen months, speculating that the same amount of mishaps would occur on any such extended production. Asked to comment on the alleged curse on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the film's release, von Sydow said, "it's wonderful publicity, isn't it?" Like the symptoms of a religious mania or a plague, un precedented visceral responses manifested in the film's aud iences. There were mass outbreaks of hysterical fainting and vomiting, reactions which became as much a part of the enterta inment experience as the movie itself. Disturbed watchers of the film went to priests convinced that they were possessed, and so many fringe religion ists took to the media with tales of demonic habitation that even the Catholic Church advised scepticism. Evangel ist Hal Lindsey, whose apocalyptic book The Late Great Planet Earth echoed the anti-occult tendencies of the time, warned that, "We are


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Abby.

entering a new dimension with THE EXORCIST. Satan is using fear and intimidation to manoeuvre and manipulate. There is supernatural power operative in this movie." I'll leave the last word on THE EXORCIST to the Zodiac Killer, that mysterious California based murderer whose astrologically based crimes have never been solved. In 1 974, he sent a letter to The San Francisco Chronicle stating that "I saw and thought THE EXORCIST was the best saterical (sic) comidy (sic) that i (sic) have ever seen." Unfortunately, the comedy had not come to an end with the salvation of dear little Regan. Canny producers a l l over the world contrived to capitalize on TH E EXORCIST's phenomenal success, unleashing an epidemic of im itations. And if there's anything worse than a really bad film, it's a score of tenth-rate copies of that film. Horror films had always been well received in the black American film market, and the addition of Satanic themes already familiar from churchly exhortations warning of sin and damnation -only intensified their appeal. In this sense, little had changed since THE BLOOD OF JESUS. American Internatio nal Pictures, under the always shrewd guidance of its mogul Sam Z. Arkoff, recognized the fiscal possibi lities. The canny producer commissioned white director William Girdler, Jr. - who had already made a stain on the Satanic cinema with his abysmal first feature ASYLUM OF SATAN - to create 1974's ABBY, AlP's blaxploitation answer to THE EXORCIST The tremendously dign ified


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Shakespearean actor William Marshall, who had created the first black vampire i n BLACULA ( 1 972}, was tapped for the role of ABBY's Blaxorcist. Just as THE EXORCIST's Father Merrin had discovered a statue of the Babylonian demon Pazuzu in Iraq, Bishop Garnet Williams (William Marshall) brings the demon Eshu back from Nigeria. Eshu possesses Williams' daughter-in-law Abby (Carol Speed}, inflicting her with one of the shoddiest make-ups ever seen and a penchant for profan ity and prom iscu ity. The Bishop frees Abby from the grip of Eshu in a seedy bar that recalls the demonic nightclubs of the black Baptist Devil movies of the 1 940s. American International Pictures had perfected the fine art of making cheap copies of other studio's bigger budget h its for years. With ABBY. the studio had crossed the line into larceny. Warner Brothers, which had first vomited forth TH E EXORCIST sent a plague of lawyers upon ABBY's creators, claiming that the AlP copy-cat was so derivative that it infringed on their copyright. Consequently, ABBY vanished without a trace, a rarely seen oddity from the era of EXORCIST mania. Even the most fiendish attorneys at Warner Brothers' command couldn't stanch the copious flow of equally plagia ristic EXORCIST rip-offs that made their way to screens around the world. More possessed girls than you could shake a holy water bottle at retched and blasphemed in cortex-numbing redundancy. To document all of these mostly mediocre films from around the world would be as painful for the reader as it would be for the author Suffice it to say that their name was Legion. The time-honoured theme of Satan ic possession portrayed in THE EXORCIST struck a particular chord in Catholic countries like Italy and Spain, steeped as they are in Holy Roman apprehension. Both countries em itted a pious series of Latinate takes on the theme of innocent children overtaken by the Archfiend. Spanish director Armando de Ossorio - who had already trafficked with magica negra in his BLIND DEAD series - made his und istinctive contr ibution to the subgenre with EL PODER D E LAS TINIEBLAS aka DEMON WITCH CHILD (1 974}. All the familiar elements are on display: A n ine-year-old girl whose body is inhabited by a hell-spawned hag, the hideous transformation of the girl's face, the climactic spiritual rescue by a brave reverend. Only a week later, Spanish cinemas were subjected to Juan Bosch's EXORCISMO (1 974). which continued the medieval castigation-of-evil-women theme that the American film had ign ited. Here, the Satanic possession of the pure teenager is brought on quite specifically by her m other's sinful behaviour; she is being punished for being unfaithful to her husband. When the cuckolded patriarch dies, he's transformed into a malevolent demon, entering the body of his daughter and forcing her to kill, hang out with a bad crowd, and say naug hty words in the name of Satan. Evil is portrayed as anything that threatens the all-important family - the mothers' affair, the daughter's impudence. Alberto de Martino's L'ANTICHRISTO aka THE ANTICHRIST ( 1 974) may be the best of a lousy subgenre, if only by virtue of its sometimes extravagant visuals. Carla Gravina, a Roman princess, finds her nubile body inhabited by the soul of one of her ancestors, a Satanist from the Middle Ages. A fairly explicit incubus scene shows the possessed girl surrender to the amorous attentions of an unseen demon lover The atmospheric Roman sett ing and the forbidding presence of the Catholic Church lend the picture an entirely different mood than its suburban American inspiration. A moody score by Ennio Morricone also elevates this from sheer mediocrity.


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L 'Anticbnsto.

Mario Gariazzo's L'OSSESSA aka THE SEXORCIST (1 974) largely did away with Fried kin's pretentious religiosity, shamelessly revea ling THE EXORCIST's barely hidden sexual agenda. It tells the tale of a young artist who seems to be possessed by the demon of erotic repression. Disturbed but excited by her mother's flagrant S&M l ifestyle, it takes the local Padre to release her from Satan's bondage. L'OSSESSA d iffers from its American role model in that the self-sacrificing priest performing the rites here is attracted by the possessed woman he seeks to exorcise. The would-be Orson Welles of Brazilian horror films, Jose Marins perhaps better known as Coffin Joe - was always drawn to the kind of religious m a n ia THE EXORCIST exuded. His EXORCISMO NEGRO aka BLACK EXORCISM ( 1 974), filmed crudely in black and white, actually has little to do with the Fried kin movie, save for a desire to cash in on the title. Here, Marins reprises his Coffin Joe character, incoherently playing up some of the Satanic themes his previous films had always suggested. A n acquired taste, Marin's films have never seemed as interesting to me as they are to his considerable cult following, but I mention this picture only to show how international in scope Exorcismania was at its height. LISA E IL DIAVOLI aka LISA AND THE DEVIL (1972) was an atmospheric Mario Bava film that touched tangentially on Satan through the character of Telly Savalas, who may (or may not) be the Devil haunting the heroine's imagination. Sadly, Bava's film was sucked into the EXORCIST black hole by an American distributor. Whole scenes were chopped out, and hack director Alfred Leone was hired to quickly shoot some cheapo Friedkin-like Exorcism footage that had absolutely nothing to do with Bava's picture. The butchered mess was then dropped on the market as HOUSE OF EXORCISM. An original cut of Bava's film has now surfaced, and deserves a second gla nce. M ichael Walter shot his terrible MAGDALENA - VOM TEUFEL BESESSEN (MAGDALENA - POSSESSED BY THE DEVIL) in 1 973, while THE EXORCIST was still


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in production, hoping to be the first in line to cash in on all the hype. Germany's single contribution to the possessed girl subgenre took a slightly more scientific approach to the theme. Rather than a Catholic exorcism, it's a doctor who leads Magdalena out of her Satanic predicament via hypnosis. Although the demon sets his sights on a more mature body to inhabit, B latty's novel is mined extensively all the same. There's verbal obscenity, demonic contact lenses and poltergeist phenomena aplenty. The most commercially successful of THE EXORCIST clones was Oliver Hellman's' execrable CHE SEI? aka BEYOND THE DOOR ( 1 974). Here, married woman Juliet Mills must pay for the sin of having an affair with a San Francisco Satanist by developing all of Linda Blair's distressing symptoms. Despite the American setting, this was actually yet another crude and unimaginative Italian exercise in Catholic horror The Faust theme was cleverly modernized into an instantly dated, but accurately portrayed, rock music industry milieu in Brian De Palma's THE PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE (1 974). A sincere but hopelessly naive songwriter writes a rock cantata of Faust, which is prom ptly stolen by the ruthless rock impresario Swan (Paul Williams, who wrote the film's score). Swan takes an especial interest in the work's theme as he has h i mself made a pact with the Devil to retain his youth for eternity. The pact is inventively portraved as a video tape encounter with Satan (also played by Williams) that Swan must frequently watch to retain his youth. The comparison of the small print on music industry contracts with the diabolical pact is typical of De Palma's pointed satire. While this Faustian element is only one of many fantastic subplots, it adds dark dimensions to a wicked black comedy. Paul Williams is surpassingly sinister as the Devil's agent, leading a cast filled with excellent performances. Jack Starrett's RACE WITH THE DEVIL (1 975) is exactly what it sounds like: a Satanic chase movie. Two perfectly nice All-American couples are passing through Texas in their luxury camper when they come upon a local attraction tourists weren't meant to see. The quartet witness a woman being sacrificed by the local Satanic cult (don't Satanic cults ever do anyth ing else but sacrifice women?) and become marked for death themselves. The cult is apparently well equipped with a fleet of cars and pick-up trucks which follow in the proverbial hot pursuit. There's really little to do with the Devil once the film degenerates into non-stop action, with the Satan ists clambering out of their vehicles to get at the terrified couples. Peter Fonda, typecast as a man on the hosti le road after EASY RIDER, is the principal good guy. Two cast members are of interest to observers of occult media. Lara Parker, Satanic sex symbol to .watchers of the 1 960s TV show Dark Shadows - in which she played the evil witch Angelique - is one of the screaming wives. Local yokel Delbert is played by Clay Tanner - secret star of the '60s Satanic cinema who Polanski cast as the Devil in ROSEMARY'S BABY DEVIL'S ECSTASY (1 974) fails in its attempt to crossbreed the Satanic horror genre with hardcore porno. However, it's an interesting experiment that captures the mood of its peculiar times, a curious era in which occult erotica briefly came into its own as a d istinct genre. The overly familiar plot is right out of Gothic 1 0 1 : Heroine Helen (Cyndee Summers) comes of age and is drawn into the sinister legacy of her cheesily low-budget ancestral home. There, she is defiled by black-robed orgiasts in pentagram bedecked ritual chambers, images that recall the lurid fantasies inspired by media reports on contemporary Satanism so prevalent in the mid-70s. Pred ictab ly, her clean -cut boyfriend (Rick Lutze) and a


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Race Wilb Tbe DeviL

kindly professor come to her rescue. Despite the cliches of plot contrivance that abound, DEVIL'S ECSTASY shuffles its narrative elements around in a pleasingly mysterious fashion, actually creating a modicum of suspense and uncertainty. The sex scenes are actually part of the story, rather than edited in as arbitrary icing on the cake. The fact that the performers are not the usual types cast in porno productions adds a tone of needed credibil ity to the proceed ings. Considering that sex magic is actually an important aspect of the authentic left hand path, it's significant to note that this may be the first film dea ling with Sata n ism per se that unflinchingly incorporates blatantly carnal rites. Even though DEVIL'S ECSTASY is groundbreaking in this respect, Spanish director Jose Larraz's rather similar LOS RITOS SEXUALES DEL DIABLO (THE SEXUAL RITES OF TH E DEVIL) from 1 981 is actually the more successful blending of sex and Satan. The short-lived Sata nic porno cycle in itiated by DEVIL IN MISS JONES included two less interesting vehicles from 1 974. Ernest Danna's DEVIL'S DUE plays on the early '70s folklore inspired by the omn ipresent teenage hitch-hikers thumbing rides all across America at that time. DEVIL'S DUE spins its own salacious version of this familiar urban legend, depicting the trava ils of young runaway Andrea (Cindy West). Fleeing her abusive home, poor Andrea is abducted by a sect comprised of Satanic lesbians. Once this flimsy plot is disposed of, the remainder of this uninspired film allows us to observe the cult's prolonged cunnilingual initiation of their captive. The late porn superstar John Holmes featured in SUBURBAN SATAN IST


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Other than its wonderful title, the only possible enterta inment value to be found in this d i m-witted waste of time lays in the highfalutin Satanic dialogue mouthed (along with other thi ngs) by the talentless cast. It's almost as funny as the ceremonial rhetoric indulged in by real-life suburban Satan ists. By 1 97 4, the fascination with occultism that had briefly made Anton LaVey a topic of interest to the popular press had all but died out. Like LSD, radical leftist posturing, and other manifestations of the counterculture quest, the simple pop Satanism LaVey peddled had lost its fizz. Sensing this, he nursed a desire to move away from overseeing his increasingly un profitable and contentious Church of Satan operation. He had always preferred hobnobbing with Hol lywood stars to serving as pastor to his credulous followers, and he hoped to find work as a tech n ical adviser for Satanic films. Robert Fuest, the brilliant Br itish director responsible for T H E ABOMINABLE D R . PHIBES (197 1 ) was offered the low-budget property THE DEVIL'S RAIN (1 975), scheduled for a tight month-long shoot in Mexico. Based on a trite Maud Willis novel, it was a farrago of cliches involving a reincarnated warlock's revenge on the family whose ancestors killed him centuries earlier - a plot identical to THE HAUNTED PALACE (1963) among many others. Fuest hired LaVey to add some "authentic" Satanic rituals to the tired script and to supervise the ceremonies on location. LaVey can be glimpsed for a few moments on screen during a ritual sequence. THE DEVIL'S RAIN has the dubious distinction of being John Travolta's first film, and LaVey poured the budding actor h is first legal drink on his 2 1 st birthday. Show business makes for strange bedfellows, indeed. Academy award winner Ernest Borgnine hammed it up as warlock Jonathan Corbis, who transforms into a go at-faced Devil in the final scene of the film. William Shatner, who played a heroic character named Marc in INCUBUS (1 965), here portrays a heroic character named ... Mark. It's Shatner who uncaps a "devil's rain bottle", unleashing a demonic downpour on the coven, who melt away i n what the press book promised was "the most incredible ending of any motion p icture ever made!" A slight exaggeration, to say the least. Surprising ly, Fuest, who bestowed a great deal of style into every other picture he made, seems to have lost his touch with this mediocrity. The production was supposedly dogged by interpersonal problems, so perhaps this explains the d irector's lifeless work here. The film enjoyed only a marginal release on the drive-in circuit before fading from view. When THE DEVIL'S RAIN turned out to be nothing more than a light drizzle, LaVey's hopes of making a financially reward ing transition from cult leader to Hell's man in Hollywood as Satanist to the stars faded. If nothing else, ALUCARDA, LA HIJA DE LAS TINIEBLAS (1 975) is easily the best softcore Satanic lesbian nun film that Mexico has ever produced. Juan Lopez Moctezuma's el cheapo exercise in Sapphic diablerie fol lows the carnal adventu res of novice nuns Alucarda (Tina Romero) and Justine (Susana Kamini), who turn to each other for forbidden comfort in a desolate convent. Adding to the smothering atmosphere of Catholic guilt is a demon who blasphemously disguises himself as a shepherd. The wayward sisters are seduced into an orgy after being possessed by the Devil. Of course, all of this sinfu lness must be scourged by the wrath of God, which comes in the form of a flaming finale that pits a vengeful Bride of Christ aga inst the forces of Good. The stiff mummery that passes for acting here is evenly matched by the meagre bu dget. Not exactly Bufiuel, but the film can hardly be surpassed for papal prurience. The discerning student of religious cinema may have luck finding


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this cove n-in-a-convent masterpiece under the a lternate titles SISTERS OF SATAN or INNOCENTS FROM HELL. Proving that children should be obscene and not heard is ANGEL ABOVE, DEVIL B ELOW ( 1 975), which entertainingly put the X into exorcism. This hardcore porno retread gleefu lly exposes the sexual undercu rrents lurking beneath T H E EXORCIST's mainstream veneer. More amusing than a n y o f its more legitimate competitors in the EXORCIST rip-off sweepstakes, the film replaces Regan with the appropriately monickered teenager Randy (Brittany Lane).


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Leon Deleon presents

TilE DEVlL lR�lDE JlEB. starring TERRI

HALL JODI MAXWELL and ROD DUMONT as �tt e"DEVIL" co-starring

DEAN TATE • ZEBEDY COLT • NANCY DARE wath a specaal appearance by ANNIE SPRINKLES DeLEON directed by HOWARD NORTH

While reading maled ictions aloud from a book of the Black Arts, Randy is aroused by the sounds of feverish sex emanating from her mother's bedroom. Pushing Linda Blair's original masturbation scene in THE EXORCIST to more explicit heights, Randy strokes herself while chanting a Satanic litany. The Devil appears and takes possession of her ravenous vulva, which continues to spew Pazuzu-style obscenities as it takes on a life of its own. Randy's loquacious labia are energetically exercised, then exorcised. Boasting a refresh ing sense of its own ridicu lousness usually lacking in porno, ANGEL ABOVE, DEVIL BELOW is the perfect antidote to the toxic Puritanism of THE EXORCIST TH E DEVIL INSIDE HER (1 976) just comes a few pubic hairs away from


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succeeding at pulling off the delicate balance between Satanic period horror and porno. Zebedy Colt's study of the demons un leashed by sexual repression may be the most extreme evocation on screen of the Devil's omn ivorous erotic appetites. The film is set in the New England of the early 1 800s, where a puritanical farmer (played by d irector Colt) zealously guards the budding sexu ality of his daughters from the temptations of fleshly sin. Enraged by his youngest g i rl's crush on a local farmhand, he sadistically punishes his entire family for her transgressions. The farmer's eldest daughter, instructed in the Black Arts by a witch of the woods, calls forth the Prince of Darkness to seek revenge. The Devil (Rod Dumont) uses his powers to transform himself into each of the cursed farmer's family members, methodically seducing them all as he sh ifts gender and shape. Appearing and disappearing in a cloud of smoke that recalls the quaint special effects of Melies' Sata n ic s ilents, the Devil anoints the entire clan with his fiery tool, By the film's end, the entire cast has succumbed to infernally inspired incestuous longings. Although TH E DEVIL INSIDE HER transcends its essentially exploitative nature by daring to plunge into genuinely subversive depths, there's one unforgivable flaw that spoils Colt's strange concoction. Although Roy Dumont performs manfully as the Devil and boasts the mythica lly appropriate phallic g i rth required for his role, his makeup and costume are nothing short of laughable. He's tarted up like a refugee from a Kiss concert, wearing a dog collar that anachron istica lly betrays the film's punk-era time frame. Save for this glaring gaffe, this little-known obscurity would have been one of the better hardcores from Hell. In the first ridiculous scene, third-rate diabolical doggerel is spouted from behind a cheap Satan mask as the usual naked blonde squirms on the altar. In the merciful finale, a botched "it's only a dream" twist ending is trotted out. I n between these undistingu ished plot points, SATAN'S SLAVE (1 976) tries hard t o shock with awkwardly staged spurtings of stage blood that would have been laughed off the stage of the Grand G u ignol. Veteran screen villain Michael Gough - the o n ly competent actor on hand - lures his niece to an English country manor, plotting to ritually revive the soul of an ancestral witch in the unsuspecting girl's body. Gough's sadistic son lurks in the shadows, gripped by a stabbing fetish ever since he witnessed Dad sacrificing his mother One unatmospheric softcore flashback, in which the family witch is seen being stripped and whipped by inquisitors in ye good olde days, typifies the production's superficial exploitation of the Satanic angle. Director Norman J. Warren fails to wring even a few cheap thrills from such sensationalist material; this mess can only be said to succeed as unintentional comedy. Just when EXORC IST fever had mercifully begun to wane, the screen gave birth to another demoniacal problem child in 1 976. Joining already established siblings Adrian and Regan was new kid on the block Damien, the sandbox Satan of THE OMEN (1976). Although mounted as a sl ick, big-budget Hol lywood entertainment, the film was in fact deliberately conceived as a way of spreading the apocalyptic evangel of the religious right to unsuspecting film audiences. Like THE EXORCIST before it, which had been inspired by the previously mentioned Jesuit Father Bowdern, THE OMEN was concealed Christian propaganda masquerading as a mainstream movie. The clever publicity campaign for the film commenced months before the actual release with a series of suitably ominous black advertisements in American newspapers simply announcing: "Good Morning.


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You are one day closer to the end of the world." Having garnered the public's attention with this declaration, aud iences were primed for producer Harvey Bernhard's pretentious lesson in Biblical conspiracy theory tarted up as a horror movie. At first glance, THE OMEN seems like nothing more than a succession of shock gore scenes couched in the bland, carefu lly mediocre style of most Hol lywood product. However, its central paranoid idea - that the imminent birth of the Antichrist will rise from the world political landscape and signal the end times - comes directly from a branch of the conservative fundamentalist movement at the centre of the American religious right. The film moved a central tenet of the theocratic agenda of extremist born-again Christianity into the m inds of its viewers, signalling a shift in American popular consciousness toward the rise of cultural Reaganism. The Devil seen in ROSEMARY'S BABY and the films it influenced was a primeval force operant outside of the dying world of Judea­ Christian values. Satan, as perceived in THE OMEN, has no other meaning than as a counterpart to Christian ity, a faith piously affirmed in the picture's solemn tone. As such, the film has l ittle to say about Satan ism or black magic as a phenomenon in its own right, and is purely an expression of B iblical orthodoxy. Considering this, I've always found it rather amusing that so many would-be Satanists are fans of this arch-Jehovan picture. Indeed, it's surprising how many modern Satan ists call themselves "Damien", after the film's Antichrist character. (In the 1 960s and 1 970s, pop Satanists were wont to dub themselves Adrian, after the name of Rosemary's child.) The film was elevated from sheer exploitation status by the participation of Gregory Peck, who does his best with some of the most wooden, awkward dialogue ever placed in the mouth of any actor. Screenwriter David Seltzer, hired by producer Bernhard to translate his theological message into script form, adm itted that "I did it strictly for the money. I was flat broke . . . " Peck is a n American ambassador posted i n Italy. When h is wife's child i s stillborn, h e is approached by a mysterious priest who offers a living baby in its place. He accepts the changeling, unaware that Biblical prophecy has already determined that the Antichrist will rise from the court of St. James. Sure enough, Peck is transferred to that post in England, and five years later, h is furtively adopted son, Damien Thorn (Harvey Stevens}, begins to demonstrate disturbing signs of his patrimony. Damien's nanny, under a diabolical spell, hangs herself at a birthday party in full view of the horrified guests. Her replacement (an admirably sinister Billie Whitelaw}, is an agent of the Satanic conspiracy surrounding the family. Among his other odd attributes, Damien shows a hysterical aversion to being taken near churches. Ambassador Thorn, wondering just what kind of creature he unwittingly adopted, is confronted by another eccentric priest, who warns him that the ch ild is in fact the Antichrist. The priest is promptly impaled by infernal forces for his meddling, leading Peck to do his own research in Rome, where he pieces together the unholy plot. He learns to his horror that a birthmark on Damien's scalp is the prophesied mark of the beast 666 (the film was originally entitled BIRTHMARK). When Damien kills Mrs. Thorn, he resolves to follow an old exorcist's advice, and slay the child with the daggers of Armageddon, specially crafted for just this eventual ity. When the police break into the church and discover the Abrahamic a mbassador about to plunge the dagger into his son, they open fire. In the film's coda, we see an apparently unmoved Damien attending his


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Tbe Omen.

father's funeral in Washington D.C. The Antichrist has been adopted by the late ambassador's friend, the President of the U n ited States. Thus THE O M EN places the Devil's influence directly in the seat of world power, presaging the final conflict of the Apocalypse. This was a parting message perfectly in keeping with


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the conspiratoria l gospel of the religious right, which interprets political events in light of supposed prophecies encoded in Biblical passages. While the film falls flat except for a few well-orchestrated death scenes, mention must be made of Jerry Goldsm ith's excellent music which provides some much needed atmosphere to d irector Richard Donner's film. The ambitious score - stolen shamelessly from Carl Orff's Carmina Burana - is a liturgical, Latinate High Satanic Mass featuring a chorus singing "Ave Satani" It's far more evocative than any of the images it accompanies. THE OMEN solidified an odd tendency in modern American Satanic films to depict the Devil as an innocent child. It's impossible to determine whether this is simply a rehash of one of the more successful ingredients in ROSEMARY'S BABY, or a particularly American unease about children and their uncertain place in the family unit. In the 1 980s, as religious fundamentalism became an increasingly vocal element in American society, there would be a great deal of hand-wringing over the vulnerability of chi ldren to the (imaginary) conspiracy of Satanic cults said to threaten the dominance of the cult of "family values" The elevation of Satanic horror movies into big budgets and into the mainstream of the film industry left Britain's Hammer Studios in an unsteady position. Their low-budget Gothics, often infused with Satanic elements, simply couldn't compete with the American majors. Hammer's president Michael Carreras, asked about the extraordinary success of THE EXORCIST, adm itted: "To be perfectly honest, I wish I'd made that fi lm. We are actually into this type of thing. It's not jumping onto anyone else's bandwagon because we have been closely associated with Dennis Wheatley for a number of years . . . " In 1 976, Carreras announced that Hammer would be producing TO TH E DEVIL. .. A DAUGHTER, based on the Wheatley novel. Somewhat defensively, the producer said that "of course, somebody will compare it to THE EXORC IST, but it's something Wheatley wrote a long time ago. Unfortunately I was unable to get the distributors interested in Wheatley until THE EXORCIST Now, of course, they think that anything to do with the occult is the new scene. So in one way, I suppose, I'm exploiting the general will ingness to get into that area now, but it's something we've wanted to make for ages." Origina lly, Christopher Lee's short-lived production company Charlemagne was set to produce the film, based on a personal agreement between Lee and his friend Wheatley. When financing for this project collapsed, Hammer took over along with German independent Terra Filmkunst. Wheatley's rather muddled 1 9 53 novel was placed in a contemporary setting by screenwriter Christopher Wicking, responsible for some of the most interesting British horror films of the '70s (including BLOOD FROM THE MU MMY'S TOMB and SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN). Wicking removed Wheatley's subplot concerning the trauma of World War II to concentrate on the oEcult theme. The film has often been criticized by those who prefer Hamm er's usual Victorian mode of Gothic storyte lling as incoherent and hard to follow, but a deliberately oblique handling of narrative was Wicking's specialty. Christopher Lee was a natural for the part of the Satanic Father Michael Rayner, an excommunicate Cath olic priest. Armed with their biggest budget ever - nearly a m i l lion dollars - Hammer sought to cast an immediately recognizable Hol lywood actor in the part of the hero, American occult author John Verney, an obvious Wheatley alter ego. Richard Widmark was engaged, but made no secret of the fact that he considered the subject matter distasteful and judged


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To The Devil.. A Daughter.

participation in a horror film to be beneath his dignity. During filming, he exasperated the fi 1m's producer Roy Skeggs, by frequently threatening to abandon the production and return to the States. Despite these behind-the-scenes problems, the on-screen battle of wills between Lee and Widmark is o n e of the picture's strengths. Due to his experience with occult matters, Verney is approached by Henry Beddows (Denholm Elliot) for assistance. He shame-facedly admits that he promised his young daughter Catherine (Natassja Kinski) to a Satanic cult when she was born, and now the sect are moving in on her. Catherine has returned from Father Rayner's Satanic convent in Bavaria, and Verney finds himself pitted against Rayner's considerable black magical powers as he tries to protect the girl. Rayner has presided over the birth of a demon child - a plot contrivance somewhat reminiscent of Crowley's novel Moonchild - and the creature is to be fused with Satanic n u n Kinski to bring the demon Astaroth to earth. The struggle between Verney and Rayner is very much like the one portrayed between Mocata and de Richleau in Hammer's earlier THE DEVIL RIDES OUT Peter Sykes directs the film with a quirky personal touch, avoiding the sometimes generic formula tone of H a mmer's later films. A strong supporting cast includes Denholm Ell iot, who turns in a superbly hau nted, neurotic and frenzied performance as Henry Beddows, a man in mortal fear of the Devil's powers. Honor Blackman, best known as Pussy Galore in the James Bond film GOLDFINGER, appears as Verney's London agent dragged into


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The Dwil's People.

the occult confrontation. Nastassja "N asty" Kinski, who was the scandalous teenage paramour of ROSEMARY'S BABY director Roman Polanski at the time of production, has the d istinction of being the last of many Hammer ingenues. She suggests a n appropriate sin ister eroticism. but her performance is hard to judge since her heavily accented voice was dubbed by an English actress. Kinski's final nude scene went much further than the pulchritude of earlier Hammer films, adding to her already notorious reputation. According to Christopher Lee, Dennis Wheatley disliked the film "because he felt the sexua l perverseness of it was gratuitous" The author particularly felt that the graphically depicted birth of the Satanic child went beyond the pale. Letting the film down terribly is the tepid ending, a n anti-climax that thoroughly deflates the atmosphere. In the final scene, the forces of evil are suddenly routed in an abandoned church when Rayner is suddenly hit on the head with a rock, and knocked cold. One leaves the film feeling cheated somehow, as if the real ending was left on the cutting room floor In fact, it was - a scene was originally shot in which Lee was devoured by demons guarding a magic circle. When the film was rel.eased i n the summer of 1 976, THE O M E N had already beat it to cinemas, stea ling much of its thunder H ammer's attempt to break into another level failed, and TO THE DEVIL. .. A DAUGHTER van ished quickly. It was the last of the Hammer horror films. Certa i n ly a flawed picture, it was nonetheless a more interesting take on diabolism than its more commercially successful competitors of the time. Lee's frequent co-star Peter Cushing also found himself playing the leader of a Satanic sect in 1 976. Unfortunately, the distinguished actor was given little to work with in the shoddy Greek production THE DEVIL'S PEOPLE. Di rected with


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a leaden hand by Costas Carayiann is, there's little to recommend this attempt at transferring the successful strain of Sata nic shocker to Hellenic climes. Cushing is the debased Baron Corofax, grand master of a cult venerating the M inotaur, that ancient man-bull of Greek legend. Despite the pagan nature of the Min otaur, we are left in no doubt as to the Satanic spirit of Corofax and his scarlet robed disciples. Scantily clad sacrifices writhe on the altar, and hemoglobin flows copiously, easily making this one of the most lurid films the usually restra ined Cushing ever appeared in. Cushing, a deeply religious man in his private life, does his sin ister best with the drab dialogue al lotted to what is the only Satanic character he played in his long career. At least Baron Corofax is given a worthy opponent in the form of the always interesting Donald Pleasence, cast against type as a heroic priest. A pall of predictabil ity informs the plot, which concludes u n imaginatively with a generic Blonde Victim (Luan Peters) barely eluding the dagger as a generic Evil Castle explodes. THE DEVIL'S PEOPLE is slightly redeemed by a moody Brian Eno score which far exceeds in qual ity the film it was attached to. German author E.T.A. Hoffmann crafted one of the best Satanic novels of all time with his The Devil's Elixir published in 1 81 6. In that book's sin ister pages, the Capuchine monk Medardus d iscovers an ancient wine flask said to contain the legendary Devil's e l ixir Unable to resist its temptation, he quaffs the perilous potion, which immediately opens occult gateways. In Rome, Medardus meets his own double, a fiend that sets about committing every sin imaginable, dragging the monk into hellish adventures. Hoffmann's novel was a decisive influence on the early Sata n ic cinema, and Hanns Heinz Ewers borrowed more than an idea or two from it for his film STUDENT VON PRAG. When Manfred Purzer set to bringing this classic to the screen 1 60 years after its first appearance, he failed a lmost completely in capturing its uncanny spirit. Purzer's DIE ELIXIERE DES TEUFELS (1976) pulls its punches on almost every score, leaving us with a superficial, uninvolving Classics I llustrated rendition. Its worst faults are the talky screenplay and superficial atmosphere, making for a terribly unci nematic film with none of the novel's luminous otherworldly imagery. Alison Parker (Cristina Raines) is a fashion model who d iscovers that she's fated to be TH E SENTINEL (1 977), the guardian of the gateway to Hell. She moves into a venerable - and apparently haunted - apartment house in New York, encountering eccentric and elderly Satanic neighbours obviously inspired by the residents of the Bramford in ROSEMARY'S BABY A sin ister Bu rgess Meredith, doting over his familiar (a black and white cat named Jezebel), is the livel iest of several veteran character actors who appear. John Canadine's wizened appearance is made the most of in his performance as the blind priest Father Hal loran, glimpsed sightlessly gazing out of a top-floor window of the apartment house. D i rector Michael Winner's handling of the material sometimes has the impersonal feel of a TV movie, but a few disturbing sequences and Albert Whitlock's im pressive special effects lift this out of the ordinary. Although the film was a failure at the box-office, a minor controversy was created by Winner's use of genuinely deformed extras in a scene unleashing the demons of Hell. Indeed, the self-righteous brouhaha over this politically incorrect scene has tended to unduly tarnish the reputation of a film that's actu ally of more merit than many better known occult films of its ilk. A rare non-horror Satanic manifestation in the '70s was Tony Richardson's


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The Senlinel.

JOSEPH ANDREWS ( 1 977), based on Henry Fielding's 1 742 novel. A follow-up of sorts to Richardson's earlier TOM JON ES, both films take place i n a fanciful 1 8th century Merrie England. Joseph And rews (Peter Firth), born an aristocrat, is swapped at birth for a commoner, and grows up to become a humble servant. Following his penis through a picaresque series of bawdy misadventures, h e crosses the class lines a n d takes t o the bed o f the l usty Lady Booby (Ann Margret). In the course of his travels, he finds himself in the sinister manor of a nam eless Wicked Squire, played with hell ish relish by the excellent Kenneth Cranham. The Squire, an unholy cross between the Hellfire Club's Sir Francis Dashwood and the Marquis de Sade, is given to the practice of the Black Arts. This infernal episode, considerably expanded from its brief appearance i n the original novel, makes for one of the more enterta ining segments of the film. Cranham's Wicked Squire is certainly one of the most elegant Satanic characters in a decade over-run by crude cardboard Devil worshippers with l ittle personal ity. As always, the more notable portrayals of diabolism ¡are to be found outside the form u la of genre. By the time EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC ( 1 977) reached theatres, the market had a l ready been saturated with innumerable i m itators of the Friedkin film. Subsequently, this absurd sequel - d i rected by the usually capable John Boorman - was a flop of catastrophic proportions. Pred ictably, Pazuzu returns to possess the now eig hteen year-old Regan (Linda Blair). Replacing the original team of


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Exorcist IL

Exorcists is a high-tech child psychologist (louise Fletcher) and Father Lamont (Richard Burton), a heretical Catholic priest. Admittedly, Boorman occas ionally creates a few visually impressive images (including a truly apocalyptic swarm of locusts), but they all seem oddly unrelated to the incoherent plot. A mach ine which hooks into Regan's mind seems awfully reminiscent of a similar gadget in the far superior QUATERMASS AND THE PIT, and indeed, the swarming locusts recall the scenes of warring Martian insect creatures in the earlier film. Richard Burton is at his worst here, a ham with a hangover mouthing lines of pseudo­ profound religiosity. A flat and unconvincing Linda Blair demonstrates none of the promise some critics saw in her original performance as Regan. The first screenings of the film were greeted with derisive laughter, leading to last-m inute editing that only made the senseless narrative more confusing. The cheerfully inane SATAN'S CHEERLEADERS (1 977) deserves a mention for its title alone. Whether director Greydon Clark actually intended this to be a comedy is unclear, but this ridiculous flick provides a few laughs all the same. While en route to a crucial football game, a qua rtet of high school rah-rah girls are abducted by the school jan itor, who just. happens to be an in itiate of the local Sata nic congregation. They escape, only to fa l l into the clutches of the leaders of the cult, the town sheriff and his wife (John Ireland and Yvonne De Carlo). Natura l l y, the Satan ists are itch ing to offer the nubile nymphets up to the dark master but one of the girls is actually in league with the Devil. In what must be the most banal representation of black magic i n any film, the demonic cheerleader (Kerry Sherman) leads her team to victory with Lucifer's aid. The discriminating


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John Carradine, always a guarantee of quality in any film, makes a brief appearance. 1 977 was definitely a vintage year for nymphettes imperilled by Satan. The precocious kiddies frolicking on that year's THE DEVIL'S PLAYGROUND included grown-up pornstresses Angela Haze and Desiree West, dressed up absurdly to appear roughly around the age of consent in fetishistic Catholic schoolgirl and Girl Scout garb. A lewd Lucifer (Kelly Guthrie) and his fallen partner in crime Angel (Bonnie Holiday) drag the innocents to a particularly tacky Hell set, where they're initiated into the pleasures of infernal concupiscience. Prolific hardcore auteur Rik Tazino guides Lucifer's playmates well beyond spin the bottle, documenting the girls' baptism into Satanic S&M. Not only is this pseudo-paedophile fantasy threadbare and run of the m i ll, it's completely unerotic. Completists will want to know that Tazino filmed his FINGER LICKIN' GOOD, a homosexual version ofTHE DEVIL'S PLAYGROUND, simultaneously on the same shabby sets. Marvin Birdt was the obscure agent who set the Devil film cycle into high gear when he sold the galleys for ROSEMARY'S BABY to William Castle in 1 967. Ten years later. he made h is own minor offering to the Satanic cinema, when he produced THE CAR (1 977). d irected by El liot Si lverstein. Actually not as silly as it sounds on paper, the picture's supercharged Satan is a sinister black car with no visible driver An updated version of countless folktales concern ing the Devil's riderless black horse, the p icture also plays knowingly on the i n nate apprehension about the soulless nature of machines. In the film's most striking scene, the flesh and blood protagonists manage to destroy the possessed vehicle by tricking it into a trap filled with dynamite. At the moment of impact, a Satanic visage forms in the fiery sky, vanishing in the inferno. Certainly no masterpiece, but the auto from Hell emanates more genuine menace than many an actor in feeble Devil make-up. Unwilling to let sleeping Antichrists lie, DAMIEN: THE OMEN II (1 978) attempts to reshuffle the successful elements of its blockbuster predecessor Replacing Gregory Peck as Damien's guardian is William Holden, another aging star from Hollywood's golden age. Now, Damien has reached the ominous age of 13, and he traumatically begins to unravel the mystery of h is Satanic heritage. Young actor Jonathan Scott-Taylor is very good at conveying Damien's pubescent confusion as he learns that he bears the Mark of the Beast, and he brings a sense of authority to the role once he accepts his destiny. Set in an exclusive military academy, Don Taylor's fil m is actually far better constructed than the original entry. The Presidential angle hinted at in the last film is dropped, and now Damien is the ward of a business magnate uncle. Now, the Devil is seen to have his eye on the sphere of high finance, a social strata that has always aroused superstitious conspiracy theories in the masses. When Holden learns that he's harbouring the false prophet of Revelations, he hastens to do right by the Lord and kill the child in the proscribed ritual manner. However, his wife (Lee Gra nt) is in league with Satan, and she manages to save Damien in a fiery finale that suggests a small-scale apoca lypse. Jerry Go ldsmith contrib uted another ambitious score, which was released in vinyl form with the subtitle of A Black Mass. Italian d i rector Alberto de Martino, whose L'ANTICHRISTO was the only interesting EXORCIST imitator, now borrowed liberally from THE OMEN series for his HOLOCAUST 2000 (1 978) aka THE CHOSEN. An odd mixture of the clashing British and Italian styles of horror, this is in many ways a more compelling picture


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than the movies it was so obviously pi lfered from. Instead of Peck or Holden, we have a slumming Kirk Douglas as a m i l lionaire corporate head who d iscovers that his son (Simon Ward) is the destined heir of Satan. A late 1 970s trend of associating Satanism with rampant capitalism continues to reveal itself here. The Apocalyptic fear factor is emphasized by centring the action around the construction of a nuclear plant in the suitably B iblica l locale of the Middle East. Antichrist Ward, in a notable


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performance of arrogant Evil, plans to usher in Doomsday by deliberately blasting the nuclear reactor, in accordance with an eldritch prophecy. Perhaps it has to do with an Italian cultural penchant for Cath olic spiritual angst, but the threat of the Antichrist seems more pointedly realized here than in any of THE OMEN movies. Adding an effective overlay of atmosphere is an undeservedly forgotten score by the great Ennio Morricone. Italian Devil films have almost all been derivative of Anglo-American models, but despite this shortcoming, HOLOCAUST 2000 is a minor triumph of Spaghetti Satanism. The Devil got down with his bad self in Rudy Ray Moore's blaxploitation vehicle PETEY WHEATSTRAW, THE DEVIL'S SON-IN-LAW. Moore, a veteran stand­ up comedian, was renowned for the scabrous obscenity of his live act. As the signifying sex machine Dolem ite, who he played in a successful series of films, Moore created a cha racter whose popularity in the flourishing Afro-American market briefly rivalled that of such stalwart black icons as Shaft and Blacula. D irector Cliff Roquemore's inane script has Moore basically playing himself as a comedian battling mobsters. Every imaginable '70s exploitation gimm ick is employed, including an attempt at tapping into the karate and kung fu craze. The Devil appears in an especially inept make-up to offer Moore a deal: he' l l apply his infernal powers against the gangsters if the comedian will marry his plug-ugly daughter and sire a Satanic heir This mind lessly amusing jaunt may well be the nadir of the "Devil child " motif that dominated the Satanic cinema of the '70s. Larger-than-life character actor Victor Buono's enjoyably flamboyant performance as the Devil adds some spirit to the otherwise routine haunted house picture THE EVIL (1 978}. A psychologist (Richard Crenna} and his wife (Joanna Pettet} have the bright idea of opening a drug rehab clinic in a notoriously spooked abode. When a malevolent force locked in the cellar is accidentally un leashed, a spectral murder spree ensues. Crenna plays one of those strict rational ists that dismisses any notion of the supernatural, until he comes face-to­ face with Buono's marvellous Lucifer h imself. Director Gus Trikonis tells his somewhat trite tale with enough suspense to maintain interest, but this adds little to the Satanic mythos of the cinema. A word to the wise: although Buono's Devil unequivocally steals the show, h is scenes were inexplicably cut from some prints. THE LEGACY (1 978}, a confused curio directed by Richard Marquand, is set into motion by the hackneyed contrivance of a couple (Katharine Ross and Sam Elliot) finding themse lves stranded in an isolated mansion after experiencing car trouble. Could there be any more tired cliche? Well, yes, there is, and this stubbornly routine film resorts to it. Elderly millionaire Jason Mountolive (John Standing) is on his death bed, confined to an oxygen tent. A motley assortment of characters have gathered in his gloomy estate to await the old geezer's demise. Each of them are mysteriously kil led by an unimpressive array of special effects. The only twist on these antediluvian cliches is the Satanic angle, dragged in rather arbitrari ly. Each of the guests have sold their souls to Lucifer, and the old man is making good on their debts by supernaturally dispatch ing them. Of note is the appearance of Charles Gray, one of the screen's finest villains - who so brillia ntly portrayed Mocata in THE DEVIL RIDES OUT ten years previously - as one of the Satan ists. The telekinetic heroine discovers that she's destined to become the Devil's earthly intermediate upon Mountol ive's passage. Yet another all too familiar cliche is revived - she's the reincarnation of Mountolive's mother, who was a witch burned at the stake. All of these warmed-up leftovers from a score of earlier films have as little life in them as the movie's wheezing geriatric villain.


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1be Legacy.

Only ten years after the Sata nic horror film genre had really been given momentum by ROSEMARY'S BABY, the cultural tide had turned against the dep iction of the dark and disturbing in mainstream pictures. Even the fantastic cinema - once at the forefront of adventurous film-making - became curiously bland. It was as if every trace of the shadowy and sinister had been banished from the screen. The new fantasy film largely projected uninteresting visions of mind less optimism, reflecting a society that seemed to be experiencing a psychotic retrogression into childishness. The guilty men behind this noxious trend were Spielberg and Lucas, whose anodyne films seemed to deliberately avoid any psychic depth, relentlessly focused on the bright shiny surface of things. The huge success of STAR WARS and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND was really the death knell of the Satanic film. The Lucas/Sp ielberg film factory churned o u t safe, u n challenging fantasies of Manichean simpl icity, a dreary twelve-year-old boy's vision of the universe where machines are neat, girls are icky, and everyth i n g moves really fast a n d explodes. The brave new world imagined by the Lucas/Spielberg team was strangely devoid of any eroticism, as squeaky-clean and wholesome as a 1 950s TV show - the ultimate reaction to the revolutionary tendencies of the 1 960s and early 1 970s, and the very antithesis of the black imag inations of such subversives as Polanski or Bunuel. As such, the Lucas/Spiel berg phenomenon was the barometer of the new social conservatism that domi nated the decade to come. The Devil could never thrive in such a sterile environment. Just as the age of Eisenhower and flying saucers had seen the virtual disappearance of the Satanic cinema, so would the era of Reagan and R2D2 witness a similar decline.


RAISINCi HELL IN THE REACiAN YEARS: THE 1980s Kenneth Anger, who had not released a film since the brief INVOCATION OF MY DEMON BROTHER in 1 969, was finally able to complete his decades-spanning project LUCIFER RISING in 1 980. Initially intended to be a paean to the spirit of the Age of Aquarius, its vision seemed completely out of step with the tenor of the decade that was dawning. Furthermore, he had turned against all the Luciferian muses who had inspired him since he had first started the film. M ick Jagger, originally intended to play Lucifer in the film, was now being berated by Anger for not contributing funds for the financing of his epic. The familiar accusations of theft were bandied about: " M ick got his idea for 'Sympathy For The Devil' from my idea of the film. He stole it from me." In another interview, Anger fumed that he finished LUCIFER RISING only to defy Jagger, who refused to contribute funds for the production. " H is little act is over the hil l," the Magus proclaimed. In the early '70s, Jimmy Page, gu itarist for Led Zeppelin, and an avid acolyte of Aleister Crowley, had contributed a gratis soundtrack for LUCIFER RISING, even a l lowing the film-maker to live in his home while he edited the film. Predictably, this collaboration ended in the customary manner, with Anger holding a 1 976 press conference to denounce Page and announce that he was throwing a curse on him. Shortly thereafter Anger had a brief reconciliation with the incarcerated Bobby Beausoleil, serving time for the murder of Gary Hinman. Beausoleil recorded a beautiful, stirring soundtrack to LUCIFER RISING, but it wasn't long before Anger began accusing the musician of theft again, reviving the old charges he had been making since the 1 960s. There was another bitter break between the two. The actual making of the film also added to this cloud of rancour Anger publicly bragged that he was responsible for the suicide of Michael Cooper, the talented photographer who filmed several sequences in LUCIFER RISING. According to Anger, he had "bawled ... out" the sensitive cameraman too often, leading h im to k i l l h imself. In her autobiog raphy, Marianne Faithful!, who starred as the demoness Lilith in Anger's magnum opus, wrote that she found the director to be " inept" as both a film-maker and magician. Thus LUCIFER RISING - described by Anger as a "love vision" during the mescaline glow of the 1 960s - became a monument to the endless antagonism and personal conflict that plagued its creator's life. If, like Anger himself, the film seems stranded in a '60s time warp, it also has moments of strange beauty that testify to its d irector's authentic magical gift. No recounting of the dense, symbolic narrative sheds light on this work's hermetic mysteries. Filmed in such locales as Egyptian ruins and Germanic pagan shrines, this is "a real invocation of Lucifer", just as Anger has described it. Essentially, this is a poem of mythic imag es, filled with the enactment of rituals and Thelemic arcana accessible primarily to in itiates of Crowley's teachings. After the succession of fallen angels Anger had cast in the starring role, a violent British hustler named Leslie Huggins was the final Lucifer. (Huggins disappeared from Anger's life a fu ll decade before the film was finished.) Seething with pictures of elemental nature about to erupt,


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the film is a l ive with a n u n m istakable sexual energy. Each image seems as limned with interiorized meaning as a hieroglyph. I've a lways felt that the work's overa ll power is weakened by the climactic appearance of some kitsch 1 950s flying saucers hovering over the ruins of Egypt. Furthermore, the scenes of Isis and Osiris performing a Golden Dawn-style ritual occasionally approaches campiness rather than mystical vision. While the montage of occult i l lustrations Anger presents are gripping, much credit for the film's success must be given to Bobby Beausoleil's haunting soundtrack. Veering between heroic grandeur to sinister circus textures, the soaring score ach ieves a l l the shadowed majesty of the film's elusive title character Beausoleil's score is far superior to J i m my Page's earlier attempt, and LUCIFER RISING benefits im measurably from the music of Anger's incarcerated angel. As Anger stated to his biographer B il l Landis, "the film contained real black mag icians, a real ceremony, real altars, real human blood, and a real magic circle consecrated with blood and cum" Compared to the hokum of so many patently fake rituals we've witnessed in other Satanic films, it's ultimately LUCIFER RISING's sense of authenticity that distinguishes it. Tragically, the nearly fifteen­ year struggle that occupied Anger from the first conception of the film to its actual release seemed to have drained the director's creative energies. He never made another film, retreating to the ninth circle of an artistic limbo from which he has yet to return. Like Lucifer, Kenneth Anger seems to have spent an eternity consigned to his own cosmic exile. The spark of Luciferian rebellion and creative energy with which Anger's film is suffused could not have been more absent from the majority of diabolic films of the 1 980s. I n a decade in which the reactionary backlash against the '60s spirit of subversion took on virulent political form, the archetype of the Rebel Angel was shunted back to the margins of social awareness. American secular and


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religious television spewed forth a torrent of misinformation concern ing the Black Arts, whipping up a genuine witch-hunt against any sign of suspected Satanic influence in the media. Panic-stricken mass delusions swirling around fears of Sata n ic serial kil lers, Satanic child abuse, and other imaginary ills entered into a currency not seen since the M iddle Ages. It was hardly an atmosphere conducive to the production of adventurous Satanic cinema. There were some exceptions to this rule, almost all of them created outside the borders of Ronald Reagan's fundamentalist theocracy of "family values" The Fa ust legend was p layed as political al legory in Hungarian d irector Istvan Szabo's M EPH ISTO ( 1 981). Klaus Maria Brandauer turns in a powerful performance as Hendrik HOfgen, a ruth less German stage actor of the 1 930s whose greatest role is Meph isto in Goethe's Faust. His metaphoric pact with the Devil is symbolized by his willingness to work for the new Nazi state, which serves as his patron. Here, Satan is represented as a secular force of power rather than a metaphysical being. Obviously, the main character is based closely on the controversial Gustav GrOndgens, the most famous interpreter of Mephisto on the German stage, who enjoyed the patronage of the Third Reich ¡in the 1 930s and 1 940s. The screenplay, written by Szabo and Peter Dobai, emphasizes the Faustian symbolism far more than the 1 936 Klaus Mann novel which inspired the film. Mann was GrOndgen's embittered brother-in-law, and the novel was rea lly a very personal poison pen letter disgu ised as a novel. There are several interesting ambig uities to the picture. Although it is Brandauer who's seen in the traditional make-up and costume of the Devil as he


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The Final Conflict- The Omen m

plays his signature role, it is actually the nameless Minister-President (Rolf-Hoppe), who represents Satanic temptation to the Faustian actor. Szabo occasionally summons the spectre of Expressionism from the German silent era in depicting his m u lti-layered tale of opportunism. Considering the director's own position as an artist working within the Stalin ist structure of the then-Communist Hungarian state, one gets the impression that Szabo is not only commenting on the Third Reich, but on the Faustian bargain impl icit in working within all tota litarian states. Brandauer's magn ificent performance carries the film, and the scenes depicting him onstage as Meph isto compare favourably to Griindgen's incarnation of that figure in FAUST (1 960). Producer Harvey Bernhard had originally intended his OMEN series as an increasingly elaborate four-part epic tracing the rise and fall of Antichrist. When audience interest slackened, the saga was cut short with the muted and perfunctory TH E FINAL CONFLICT- THE OMEN Ill (1981 ), directed by Graham Baker (although a TV movie, OMEN IV - THE AWAKENING appeared in 1 9 9 1 ). If Bernhard had followed Damien Thorn's apotheosis to its logical conclusion, this ultimate episode could have been a visionary spectacle depicting all the fantastic imagery of the Apocalypse. U nfortunately, this low-key anti-climax boasts no seven-headed beast rising from stormy seas,¡ no Whore of Babylon, and no furious cosmic battle. Scenarist Andrew Sirkin's imagination falls considerably short of St. John's Revelations in every particular. Damien Thorn (Sam Neill) is now the president of Thorn Industries, poised to fulfil his bid for world hegemony. When a strange trinity star appears in the night sky, Thorn realizes that "the Nazarene", his hated adversary, has returned to earth. He orders his worldwide agents to track down and kill every baby born


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under this new star of Bethlehem. An order of monks, armed with the same daggers of Megiddo seen in the fi rst two films, sets out to assassinate the Antichr ist. Thorn makes short work of this holy hit squad, and much of the film recou nts their grisly deaths i n a series of gory set-pieces. A lud icrous soap opera subplot attempts to add some human d i mension to Thorn's villainous character The Antichrist falls for a mortal woman (Lisa Ha rrow}, and is temporarily d istracted from h is diabolical quest by some rather mundane relationship problems. It's characteristic of the film's conservative morality that the depth of Thorn's Sata nic nature is rather lamely suggested by his fondness for anal sex, which is presented as an unnatural sin of the highest magnitude. One would have imagined that the Devil on earth was made of stronger stuff. Thorn's rampant capitalism is also condemned as another Mark of his Beastliness, in keeping with the general Biblical hostility toward worldly success. Like so many other pictures that attempt to depict abstract "Evil" in terms accessible to a mainstream aud ience, THE FINAL CONFLICT never dares to truly disturb. In lieu of the dreaded worldwide Armageddon promised by all three O M EN films, Damien is easily routed by the last-minute apparition of a giant Jesus. "You have won nothing ! " are Damien's defiant dying words to the Nazarene. Sam Neill, a n accomplished actor with considerable presence, does his best with his underwritten Antichrist. Adding to his repertoire of weird religious figures, Neill later went on to play Pope John Paul II in a TV movie. Spanish director Jose Larraz successfully exposed the seething sexual ity implicit in the legend of the undead in his relentlessly venereal VAMPYRES { 1 975). He took the same approach to Sata nism in 1 98 1 's LOS RITOS SEXUALES DEL DIABLO (THE SEXUAL RITES OF THE DEVIL) released in Britain under the more


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poetic title BLACK CANDLES. Larraz's celebration of polymorphous perversity is very much a creation of its time and place. Under Franco's oppressively Catholic regime, Spanish film-makers were forced to adopt the state-approved attitude of pio usness, avoiding explicit sexuality at all costs. Franco's death unleashed a wave of reaction to this conservative aesthetic, and LOS RITOS SEXUALES DEL DIABLO deliberately pushes the boundaries of what was al lowed to be seen on Spanish screens. Larraz leads h is characters through a succession of taboo-breaking erotic rituals designed to set poor General Franco spinning in his tomb. In the film's prologue, Fiona, a Satanic High Priestess, uses a voodoo doll and sex magic to kill her husband, who is planning on betraying her coven. The slain man's sister, Carol, and her boyfriend Robert, a defrocked priest, are invited to Fiona's mansion in the English countrysid!!. When they arrive, there's a power blackout, and their flirtatious hostess lights black candles. The rest of the film is a series of Satanic seductions, as the couple are lured into the sex sect by the randy diabolists. Fiona spies on her guests as they have sex, which inspires her to vigorous masturbation. The heroine dreams of necrophiliac incest with her dead brother Robert is ind ucted into the coven during an orgy, which inspires him to force himself anally on Carol. (Of course, we've already learned that buggery is a sure-fire symptom of Satanism in TH E FINAL CONFLICT.) While Carol is in mid-orgasm, being penetrated by the coven's High Priest, she awakens to realize this has all been a dream, and that she's only just arriving at Fiona's home. Director Larraz, who began his career as an artist, embellished the sexploitation with some stylish photographic set-ups, but was u ltimately dissatisfied with the film. THE OMEN series inspired two minor derivations in the 1 980s, both of which drew especially on the " I Was A Teenage Antichrist" plot of DAM IEN - TH E O M EN II. Frank La Loggia's low-budget FEAR NO EVIL (1981) is the kind of God­ fearing, Bib le-affirm ing Satanic film you could show at the local church without raising a single peep of protest. In the film's prologue, an elderly priest destroys Lucifer's earthly incarnation with a crucifix-laden staff that zaps a holy laser beam at the fallen angel. In 1963, the d issident archangel is born again to an ordinary family in u pstate New York. When the child is baptized, demonic special effects materialize, spooking the congregation and causing Mom to rush her evil infant away from God's house. When Lucifer matures into sullen eighteen-year-old Andrew Williams (Stefan Arngrim), he begins to realize his metaphysical identity. Andrew's unusual degree of intelligence marks him as an unpopular "brain" with the high school jocks, who regularly persecute him. He begins to fight back with his developing powers. J ust as Lucifer is coming into his own, an old woman in the neighbourhood and a girl in And rew's class learn that they are the incarnations of the angels Mikhail and Gabrielle, reborn to combat the Fiend on the dawn of the second coming. The awakening of the two cosmic do-gooders to their angelic natures is portrayed with a cloying tone of earnest reverence that's far creepier than any of Andrew's mild Satanic symptoms. Few mainstream horror films have been so firmly grounded in Christian ity as FEAR NO EVIL. The plodding screenplay is heavy with prayers and quotes from scripture, and the priests in the film are presented as inhuman paragons of Good. If the Vatican ever goes into the horror film business, this is the kind of thing we might expect them to produce. As for Stefan Arngrim's Andrew, he's got to be the weakest, wimpiest Devil in the Satanic cinema. He's a petulant spoiled brat, whining in a querulous voice that's anything but sin ister. It's no wonder that the


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two reincarnated angels easily kick his disobedient butt in the final special effects confrontation, after forcing h i m to recite the Lord's Prayer. In an effort to candy­ coat a l l this solemn relig iosity for the teen market's consumption, a jarring assortment of '80s new wave and punk fills the sou ndtrack, which only makes sense when we hear Johnny Rotten annou nce that " I am an Antichrist ! " Also aimed a t the anxieties of teenage audiences was Eric Weston's EVILSPEAK ( 1 9 82), plagiaristically p layed against the exact same mil itary academy setting as DAMIEN - THE OMEN II. Former child actor Clint Howard plays Coopersmith, one of those precociously bright but socially unskilled nerd characters that were such a staple of '80s horror films. Naturally, he's the favourite target of his classmate's cruelty, and the perpetual bullying awakens a desire to settle the score. Like many another unloved misfit in this subgenre, he turns to Satan. Unearthing an ancient black magical grimoire, he feeds the demonic data into his home computer. This puts him online with the Devil, who assists h i m in turn ing the tables on his tormentors. In one of the film's sill ier scenes, a brood of demonic wild swine are un leashed on the academy's jocks. In the end, a supernaturally savvy reverend intervenes for Jesus. A routine retread of exhausted themes from other films, EVILSPEAK was at least prescient in predicting the rise of the Satanist as computer geek, a trend which would actually emerge during the '90s epidemic of Internet addiction. Ten years after Justine Jones' cinematic damnation first became a socio­ sexual phenomenon, director Henri Pachard's THE DEVIL IN MISS JONES II (1 982) continued the tale where it had left off - in Hell. Pachard eschews the darker tone of Damiano's original, crafting instead a breezy porno comedy. We find Miss Jones (Georgina Spelvin, reprising her role) in flagrante delicto with Cyrano De


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Evilspeak. Bergerac's infamous nose. Orgasm is forbidden in Hell, and just as Justine is about to come, alarms beg in ringing and Satan's phallocephalic storm-troopers haul her off for punishment to their master, Lucifer (Jack Wrangler). When Justine succeeds in coaxing a (literally) fiery ejaculation from Luc ifer, he rewards her by sending her back to the world of the living to satiate her demonic lust. The Devil perm its Justine's damned soul to inhabit the busy bodies of a bevy of '80s porn starlets, including Jacqueline Lorians as Roxanne, a top dollar call girl. One of her more memorable tricks is a john whose unique fetish it is to disguise himself as the Devil, replete with a Satan-visaged french tickler to complete the outfit. The real Lucifer, keeping a watc hful eye on Justine/Roxanne, is not amused by this mortal impertinence. As Justine shifts from o n e body after another in her quest for the ultimate orgasm, Lucifer becomes helplessly smitten with his faithless charge. Tortured with a n all too human jealousy as he observes Justine's array of amours, the Devil transforms her into the virginal nun S ister Angela (Samantha Fox), hoping to remove her from temptation. Such historical ladies of sin as Marie Antionette and Cleopatra make cameo appearances as eternally frustrated denizens of Hell. Despite its X-rated excesses, there's something almost quaintly romantic about DEVIL IN MISS JONES II, which provides a heart as well as a hard­ on for its sympathetic Satan. The lucrative DEVIL IN MISS JONES saga continued in two lesser made-for-video sequels in 1986 and 1987. THE KEEP (1983), based on an F. Paul Wilson novel, is an ambitious horror film with p h ilosophical pretensions, an allegorical tale of Good and Evil set in Romania during World War II. A German army troop seizes an ancient fortress in a Carpathian mountain pass. When an unknown entity begins k i l l ing his soldiers,


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the u nit's commander (Jurgen Prochnow) realizes that the well-fortified keep his men are guarding was built to prevent something from breaking out. A fanatical SS officer (Gabriel Byrne) suspects that the troops are being executed by enemy partisans in the nearby vi llage, and begins taking reprisals. Prochnow, who is one of those "good" Germans that Hollywood films occasionally portray, learns from a local Jewish occult scholar that the keep is a prison for a Satanic being known as Molosar. The mortal evil of the Nazis, according to the professor, has awakened the metaphysical evil of Molosar from its slumber. All of this is handled in a tense, atmospheric manner, with quite a few scenes possessed of a mysterious poetry. However, when Molosar's spiritual adversary, a mystic warrior of Good (Scott Glenn) arrives to combat the resurgent creature, the film slides headfirst into a pompous preachiness it never recovers from. Spouting fortune cookie New Age metaphysics, the cosmic do-gooder is approximately as profound as David Canadine's Caine in the old Kung Fu TV series. To make matters worse, after all the sinister build-up leading to the emergence of the Sata nic being, Molosar turns out to be just than another man in a monster suit. THE KEEP ultimately overreaches itself in its failed attempt at making a profound statement on the nature of human Evil. However, director Mann provides enough visually arresting scenes of dreamy eeriness to partially compensate for the sophomoric p h ilosophy lesson that accom panies these memorable images. When the film does attain the hypnotic force Mann was obviously striving for, it's very often due to the score by German electron ic ists Tangerine Dream. Gabriel Byrne, who played the villainous SS officer, graduated to the part of the Devil h imself in 1999's END OF DAYS. One of the few truly imaginative renditions of the Devil i n the 1980s can


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be g limpsed briefly in the British film COMPANY OF WOLVES (1 984), di rected with surreal brilliance by Neil Jordan. Adapted from a pair of Angela Carter's cruel Gothic short stories, the picture is essentially Little Red Riding Hood presented as a lycanthropic fairytale of erotic awakening. Of especial interest to us is one jarring scene in which the rest of the film's quaint ambience is deliberately interrupted by the arrival of two ghostly lig hts shining through a desolate forest clearing. The lig hts reveal themselves to be the headlights of a n automobile, a s i n ister anachron ism in the fairytale forest. An ado lescent boy has gone to a cross-roads to summon the Devil, who turns out to be the limousine's passenger (Terence Stamp). Dressed in a twentieth century business su it, he's seen coolly exam ining a child's skull, before dispensing a magic draug ht. Satan's driver is a trollopy blonde girl in a deceptive a ll-white chauffeur's u n iform. Stamp's aloof attitude believably exteriorizes the inhuman emotions of a n ancient intelligence. By eschewing the predictable appearance of the horned fiend of tradition, Jordan avoids presenting what would be an almost comforting image, in favour of something entirely out of place with the rest of h i s film's atmosphere. Here, the Devil is not a creature from a romantic past, but a disturbing herald of an entirely unknown future. The icy otherness of Stamp's performance, and the sheer simpl icity and inventiveness of this brief scene captures something essentially diabolical that none of the special effects-laden images of Satan in other modern films ever come close to realizing. Some things are simply too unspeakably Evil to bear more than passing reference. One of these disturbing phenomena is OH, GOD! YOU DEVIL! (1984) a torturously unfunny comedy starring comedian George Burns in a dual role as Jehovah and Lucifer This merciful final sequel to the series of squeaky-clean OH GOD! films concerns a sappy songwriter who makes a pact with the Devil (Burns, doing his usual cigar-chomping schtick). D irector Paul Bogart was responsible for this painful morality play, filled with an unending stream of one-liners designed to warm the hearts of the whole family. Not to be forgotten among the select company of thespians who essayed the role of Satan in the 1 980s is the notorious Traci Lords. That erstwhile princess of porn donned the Devil's horns in the Dark Brothers' NEW WAVE HOOKERS (1985}. A pair of ne'er-do-wells dream of operating the ultimate call girl agency. In one imagined sequence, a client named Angel makes an unusual request: He wants to be serviced by the Devil. No fantasy is left unfulfilled by the agency. Angel finds h i mself prone on a rock in what appears to be Hell, replete with phallic serpent. Through the bil lowing smoke, the Devil (Traci Lords) appears. She's decked out in red lace, long black boots and horns, brandishing a flail. As Satanic d i a logue goes, Traci's Devil is not exactly on a Miltonian level. "You want to see my burning cunt?" she inquires, before treating Angel to a whipping. Lucifer loses h e r horns during the frenetic fornication that fol lows, but through the miracle of editing, she's horned again by the climax of the scene. Lords was only sixteen at the time of her diabolical debut, making NEW WAVE HOOKERS an officially forbidden entry in her filmography. Once upon a time (1985, to be exact), British director R i dley Scott spared no expense in trying to create an enchanted fairy tale for the ages with his LEGEND. In a mag ical forest swarming with excruciatingly cute and Tolkienesque critters, the innocent Princess Lili (Mia Sara) is abducted by a proto-Satanic being with horned hooves and ram's horns known only as Darkness (Tim Curry). Surrounded by so much saccharine whimsy, Curry's flamboyant performance


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Legend.

provides the only sign of life in this too-sweet-for-its-own-good confection. His impressive make-up creates one of the most aesthetically pleasing images of the traditional Satanic archetype in the cinema. It's too bad that nothing else in the picture reaches the same standard. The mass media's interest in contemporary Satanism had changed appreciably since the height of the early '70s black magic fad. Now, sensation­ seeking journalists focused on allegations that heavy metal music was being deliberately used to convey hidden Satanic messages to impressionable youth. According to this particular strain of conspiracy theory, heavy metal music was a Pied Piper leading a n entire generation into a vortex of animal sacrifice, murder, a nd drugs - a l l in the name of Satan. Consequently, the popular perception of Satanism began to change radically. Black magicians had previously been perceived as a threat to society largely because of their presumed religio­ philosophical transgression of cultural norms. In the '80s, a far cruder understanding asserted itself, and Satanism began to be thought of as a branch of juvenile delinquent criminal activity rather than a magical worldview. Parental


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action groups and Baptist television ministries across America began a vociferous attack on the phantom menace of rampant teenage Satanism. As the film industry found itself pandering to an increasingly younger audience in the '80s, the currently hot topic of supposedly diabolic heavy metal was bound to inspire a small subgenre of the Satanic cinema. TRICK OR TREAT (1986), a teen horror film directed by Charles Martin Smith. was inspired by the then prevalent urban legend of " backward masking"- a recording technique said to allow demonic messages to be hidden in a music track. A nerdy high school


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student conjures up the spirit of a recently deceased rock star by playing his last recorded song backwards. With the infernal aid of the Satanic musician, the student wreaks revenge on his jock tormentors. Essentially a teenage wish­ fulfilment fantasy, the film approaches the Satanic music controversy from a satiric perspective. For instance, heavy metal pioneer Ozzy Osbourne - frequently accused of exerting an evil influence on his fans- plays a born-again televangelist on a crusade against occult rock. Mildly amusing in its modest way, TRICK OR TREAT is easily the best of this negligible '80s niche, which also included such thoroughly expendable junk as ROCK'N'ROLL NIGHTMARE and BLACK ROSES. Along with FEAR NO EVIL and EVILSPEAK, the film provides another example of how Satanism in '80s cinema was frequently seen as the revenge mechanism of unpopular teenagers - as evinced in the true-life case of "Satan Teen" Ricky Kasso, whose murderous activities inspired Tommy Turner's unfinished WHERE EVIL DWELLS (1985), Tim Hunter's RIVER'S EDGE (1987) and Jim VanBebber's MY SWEET SATAN (1994). This development was quite a departure from the Satanic image in films of previous decades, which tended towards rich, sophisticated black magicians whose diabolism was part and parcel of their established position of power in the world. As this trend developed, screen Satanists would become an increasingly vulgar and proletariat bunch. A small oasis of imagination during a fairly dismal period for the Satanic cinema was PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1987). A novel premise and John Carpenter's directorial intelligence distinguishes this low-budget horror/sci-fi crossbreed with a genuine aura of metaphysical dread. By placing the timeless Satanic mythology in a far-fetched but intriguing interstellar context, Carpenter succeeds in creating his own vivid cinematic universe. A Catholic priest (Donald Pleasence, giving one of his best later performances) discovers a seemingly ancient canister bubbling with phosphorescent green ooze concealed in the basement of a Los Angeles church. (The church is named St. Godard's, a homage to the French director Jean­ Luc Godard.) Near the mysterious vessel is an unknown version of the Bible, dating from an era far older than any known scriptures. Disturbed by the sinister ambience surrounding his find, the priest invites a professor of physics and his team of researchers to perform a detailed scientific analysis. Deciphering the text's arcane dead language, they discover that the hidden canister is the temporary resting place of Satan's son, who has been slumbering for thousands of years, waiting for the right moment to free his father from exile. This proto-Bible reveals that the Catholic Church have concealed knowledge of the canister's existence, suppressing the interesting fact that the Devil and Christ are actually extraterrestrials. At a pre-ordained time, the essence of Evil locked in the church basement is destined to reach into a parallel dimension and pull its alien progenitor back into this world. The radian.ce of a many millions year old supernova has now reached earth, and this celestial energy is already unlocking the Pandora's box. Carpenter has acknowledged that the central idea of the Devil as alien being was inspired by 1967's QUATERMASS AND THE PIT As a tribute to that earlier Satanic science fiction film, Carpenter credited his screenplay to the pseudonymous Martin Quatermass. . As signs of the imminent Satanic awakening, a shuffling legion of zombie street people are drawn to St. Godard's, and members of the research team are beginning to become possessed by the ominous entity they've been studying. As the revival of the Prince of Darkness draws nearer, those in the church begin to experience blurred visions of the future. These fuzzy glimpses of a dimly perceived


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demonic being are all the more effective for their deli berate vagueness. Carpenter's choice to tantalizingly suggest rather than show the appearance of his Satan is a refresh ing change from the unimpressively literal Devils so common in horror films. Kelly (Susan B l anchard), one of the young scientists monitoring the


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church, is inhabited by the diabolical force dripping from the container Having taken physical form, she proceeds to reach into an ordinary mirror. In the alternative dimension beyond the looking glass, we see the Devil's hand reaching out, waiting to be pulled out into earthly reality from the region referred to in the film as "the dark side" Another scientist sacrifices herself by pushing Satan's son, and herself, into the mirror. The pr iest smashes the g lass, effectively blocking the Devil's means of ingress into the material world. Carpenter's poetic image of the surreal mirror world is clearly inspired by similar scenes i n Jean Cocteau's ORPHEUS. This is only one of many deliberate echoes from art cinema h istory enliveni n g PRINCE OF DARKNESS, one of the few mainstream horror films to be informed by something other than the usual low-brow aesthetic common to the genre. Although the film's intellectual themes certainly make this one of the cinema's more thoughtful Satanic ta les, it must be said that Carpenter's few compromises with '80s horror film conventions prevent the picture from completely achieving its ambitions. Things bog down considerably when the plot focuses on an inevitable series of systematic slasher-like killings, and the shambling zombie subplot leads to several dull patches. Despite such flaws, this evocation of the dark side beyond the Devil's looking glass bears looking into. Certa inly, the most talked-about mainstream Satanic film of the 1980s was Alan Parker's gore-smeared ANGEL HEART (1987). Although the story- based on William Hjortsberg's far superior novel Falling Angel- is supposedly a descent into a Satanic underworld, the occult rites seen in the film are actually grossly caricaturized Voodoo ceremonies. The film's depiction of the Black Arts is reflective of the '80s' "Satanic panic", a mood of paranoid conspiracy theory engendered by right-wing Chr istian groups during that decade of America's Moral Majority movement. The New Age fad - with its mish-mash of m ulti-cultural pop mysticis m - was also on the rise, and Chr istian fundamentalists even accused those angel-obsessed crystal-gazers and spirit channelers of trafficking with the Devil. This jumble of occult ideas floating around in the zeitgeist contributes to ANGEL HEART's confused presentation of Satanism. Set in 1955, ANGEL HEART is an allegorical noir detective story shadowing private investigator Harry Angel (Mickey Rourke), hired by an elegant, goateed gentleman named Louis Cyphre (Robert De Niro) to locate Johnny Favourite, a 1940s big band singer who broke a contract with h i m some years ago. The crooner was last seen in an insane asylum where he was being treated for amnesia, but disappeared over a decade earlier. The detective travels to New Orleans, where h e interviews a rogue's gallery of Favourite's old flames and other past associates, all of whom seem to be involved with black magic and voodoo. They also have a peculiar habit of ending up brutally murdered - in a seemingly ritualistic manner - shortly after speaking to Angel, and he begins to be haunted by bloody nightmares. Told entirely from Angel's perspective, the complex storyline eventually reveals that the detective h imself is the missing singer, a Satanist who reneged on a pact with Louis Cyphre - whose name is more correctly pronounced Lucifer. Still suffering from amnesia after escaping from the sanitarium, Favourite altered his face with plastic surgery, and in the guise of Angel, slaughtered h is former friends and lovers. The name Harry Angel was app ropriated from a young sailor whose "Angel" heart he devoured as a sacrifice to conjure Lucifer. Favourite/Angel realizes that a voodoo priestess who he had sex with is actua lly his own daughter, and he discovers that he's kil led her too


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Angel Heart.

during one of his homicidal blackouts. With the search for his missing self terminated, he prepares to descend into Hell. Robert De Niro's subtly delineated Devil has been justly praised as one of his finest performances, and his scenes are the most memorable i n the film. Parker il lustrates his convoluted tale with a slick, flashy style but the visual razzle dazzle doesn't make u p for a n underlying emptiness. The non-stop piling u p of viscera quickly becomes tiresome, and this ambitious but fallen ANGEL ultimately plummets, weighed down by an excess of self-conscious symbolism. 1987 found Jack Nicholson trading on his public image as a lecherous roue


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in the Luciferian comedy THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK. It's the most superficial kind of "feel-good" flick, pandering to a certai n New-Agey brand of Wiccan feminism. Based o n John Upd ike's slight novel of the same name, the film focuses on the antics of three (supposedly) lovable divorcees (Cher, Susan Sarandon, M i chelle Pfeiffer) in a small New England town. The Devil, in the guise of rich mystery man Daryl Van Horne (Jack Nicholson) swoops into town, moving into a gaudily decorated mansion built on a site where witches burned in Puritan times. The women fall under the spell of the charming lothario, who seduces them and awakens their innate magical powers. They gleefully cast curses o n their enem ies, revelling in their newly acquired Satanic sorcery. When one of their curses leads to the murder of the local paper's editor, the novice enchantresses are suddenly


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He/Jraiser.

conscience-stricken, and they break off all relations with Van Horne. When the Devil can't lure the women back to his bed, he spitefully works black magic on them. Beset by a host of afflictions, they conspire to use the witchy powers Van Horne gifted them with against their Satanic mentor Seducing the arch-seducer, they persuade him that they've returned to their previous arrangement, moving back into his pleasure palace. Nearly destroyed by the women's triple hex, the furious Van Horne reveals his true demonic appearance and inflates himself into a giant Satanic beast in a climactic special effects sequence. Of course, male chauvinist Evil is defeated by feminist Good in the film's smug finale. The fact that white magic - rather than an increasingly irrelevant Christianity - is portrayed here as the ultimate antidote to Satan, reveals how thoroughly New Age folk mysticism was beginning to replace traditional religion in mass media depictions of Good vs. Evil. THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK's feminist fairytale demonizes rampant male sexuality as a malignant energy that only female witchcraft and white magic can conquer. Although the film is produced in the competent but unprovocative Hollywood blockbuster manner, action film director George Miller proves to have a maladroit comedic touch. Worse still is Jack Nicholson's irritatingly affected histrionics,

which

descend

into self-parody. With

arched

eyebrows

fixed

permanently in place, he seems to be doing a bad Jack Nicholson impression, mechanically repeating a repertoire of overly familiar mannerisms. Many of the best Satanic films of previous decades were products of the British horror film. By the late '80s, this durable genre seemed to have died out altogether. Considering that fact, and the climate of the times, H ELLRAISER (1987) is a surprisingly subversive offering, rising quite unexpectedly from the morass of


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Thatcherite Britain. Clive Barker adapted his short story The Hellhound Heart into a screenplay, obtaining a measly budget from the American company Canon to di rect the picture h i mself. Telling the tale of a contemporary London magician Frank Cotton (Sean Chapman) who contacts a quartet of demons known as the Cenob ites, Barker created one of the first significant fictional occult worlds since H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos. Like the Old Ones who haunt Lovecraft's stories, the Cenobites are not merely reworkings of established Satanic lore. Instead, they are elemental reflections of Barker's own psychosexual concerns, drawing on the increasingly open practice of S&M that surfaced in the 1980s. For although the Cenobites were quickly adopted by mainstream audiences as franchise horror figures ofthe Freddy Krueger variety, their appearance is blatantly der ived from the fetish subculture just starting to appear on the radar. The image of Cenobite leader Pinhead (Doug Brad ley) is one of the few demons in recent movies that actually manages to disturb, touching unexplored psychic territory that the traditional Satanic imagery of horned, goat-hoofed beasties no longer reaches. Another innovation was the pleasingly designed puzzle box that opened the gate to the Cenob ites' dimension. After decades of movie black magicians reciting invocations from Necronomicon-like grimo ires, Barker's eerie contraption offered a means of summoning beings from the dark side that was genuinely cinematic. H ELLRAISER's characters react to their interactions with the demonic in a refreshingly un predictable manner rarely seen in the Satanic cinema. For example, when the title hellraiser's girlfriend Julia (Claire Higgins) learns that her lover has come back to life as a flesh less skeleton, she doesn't run screaming, but amorally helps him acquire a new skin by killing strangers that she seduces and brings back to their apa rtment. Considering that this was his first film, Barker made the transition from page to screen with considerable style, suggesting new d irections in the presentation of black magic on the screen. Pedestrian and uninspired in every way is SPELLBINDER (1988), Janet Greek's m isfired attempt at exploiting the then-current fear of Satanic cult indoctrination. Drawing on anxieties of the on e-night-stand from Hell, the picture opens with a young, upwardly mobile attorney's attempt to save an attractive young woman from a seemingly random street attacker. He becomes romantically involved with the grateful stranger, learning too late that she is a Satanist trying to escape from the c lutches of a murderous coven. Almost a l l of the devilish urban legends currently circulating were incorporated into the script. "Devil worshippers" (to use the term most favoured by the media at that time), are revealed to be waging a vast conspiracy from their carefully concealed positions of power in law enforcement, and other social

institutions. The

predictable trick ending, in which the heroic rescuer is revealed to have been lured into an occult subterfuge, is stolen stra ight from the vastly superior T H E WICKER M A N (1972). Although the film died a quick and well-deserved death at the box-office, it's a pertinent example of how major Hollywood studios - M G M , i n this case - eagerly tapped into the Satanic Panic hysteria generated b y '80s tabloid television programs. Equally without merit is Camilo Vila's T H E U NHOLY (1988), which would have been more equitably titled THE UNWATCHABLE. The film's hero is Father Michael, a sensitive young Catholic priest (Ben Cross), who's assigned by his superiors to clean up the bad vibes i n a demon-infested New Orleans church. Two other p riests were hideously slain at the altar several Easters ago. Although the


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The Unholy.

priest manages to win back a congregation for the failing parish, he d iscovers depraved happenings at a nearby Satanic nightclub for disaffected youths. His Good Samaritan instincts are moved by a pretty teenage runaway caught up against her will in the stagin gs of black magic rites at the club. His attempts to save her virginal soul arouse a succession of nasty supernatural episodes, which culminate when an unclad crimson-haired succubus (Nicole Fortier) shows up to sed uce a n d slay him, just as she destroyed his predecessors. When his tormented, celibate soul resists the sins of the flesh by reciting some choice passages from scripture, the spurned Satan summons a duet of preposterous demons, and transforms into an equally ridiculous monster. That spiritually mixed-up ru naway enters the church, and apparently her virginal G oodness is sufficiently powerful to allow Father Michael to vanquish the fiend. The film's producers were so d ispleased by THE UNHOLY's original ending that they hired another director to shoot a hastily executed replacement. They needn't have bothered; the Saviour himself couldn't have redeemed this mortal sin against the cinema. In Spain, Paul Naschy - whose previous flirtations with the Devil had


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Howl Of The Devil.

included INQUIS ITION (1976) and the Faustian EL CAMINANTE (1979)- appeared as Satan (as well as many other iconic horror figures), in the feeble, self-directed EL AULLIDO DEL DIABLO (HOWL OF THE D EVIL, 1988). Rather like a pantomime, both film and star were by now hopelessly outdated. HELLB OUND : HELLRAISER II (1988) tries valiantly, but falls short of the subversive power of the original. Series creator Clive Barker only provided the treatment for this film, leavi n g the screenplay to Peter Atkins, a long-time collaborator. Barker was also replaced in the d irector's chair by Tony Randel, who never q uite brings the intriguing elements of this sequel into a cohesive vision. Although it boasts a splendid villain in Dr. Channing (Kenneth Cranham), the Sata n ic d i rector of an insane asylum, this return to the ecstatic pains and agonizing pleasures of the Cenobites quickly loses steam. Channing is using his mental asylum as a field h ospital for his researches into demonology. Seeking the hidden gate to Hell, he has amassed a colle<rtion of those sinister puzzle boxes we first saw in HELLRAISER. When the psychiatrist allows one of his psychopathic patients to kill h i mself, the suicide's blood revives the seductress Julia (Claire Higgins, reprising the role she created in the first instalment of the series) from the netherworld. She rewards Channing for restoring her to life by leading him into the infernal kingdom of the Cenobites. Unfortunately, the cheap special effects and flimsy set design in the


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He/lraiser D.

seemingly interminable Hell sequence are just not up to realizing the necessary dark grandeur of the concept. A particular let-down is the film's botched depiction of the Devil, referred to in the film as Leviathan, after the apocalyptic dragon of Revelations. As seen here, this mighty creature of darkness is a sil ly­ looking optical effect that utterly fails to convince. Kenneth Cranham, who also excelled as the Satanic Wicked Squire in JOSEPH ANDREWS, brings a wicked sense of black humour to his Dr. Channing. The perverse glee he exudes as he's given the grand tour of Hell's weird wonders provides some much needed vitality to the picture. Eventually, Channing achieves the transformation he seeks, mutating into a particularly hideous Cenobite. Pinhead (D oug Bradley), the Cenobite leader from the first film, returns in the sequel. However, his dialogue is not qu ite as pointed as it was in HELLRAISER, just as the entire film misses the fresh approach of Barker's directoria l debut. The 1990s would see two further H ELLRAIS ER sequels, but they were of such inferior q u a lity that B arker's sinister original vision was entirely compromised. Steve Miner's WARLOCK ( 1 988) is a d isposable attempt at creating a sequel-friendly horror icon in the tiresome mold of such '80s crowd-pleasers as Freddy Krueger and his ilk. The title character (Julian Sands) is a smarmy 1 7th centu ry devotee of the Devil sentenced to burn at the stake. He uses black magic to escape through time, and has the rotten luck to end u p in 1 988 Los Angeles. In between gratuitous scenes of m u rder, the plot is hung cavalierly on the search for the missing sections of a powerful occult spellbook. Sands' dia logue consists of a non-stop patter of smart-ass one-liners that consistently fail to amuse. The script trades i n many of the current Satanic urban legends, including one scene in


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which the Satanist assaults an unbaptised child at a playground so that he can use his victim's boiled fat in a magical recipe. Also marking this as a typical '80s movie is a scene in which the Devil is contacted via the agency of a New Age chanrieler This g l i b mediocrity is really just a mindless slasher film with a Satanic twist, but it was successful enough to inspire the celluloid-wasting WARLOCK: THE ARMAGEDDON (1993), which makes the original seem like a work of genius in comparison. The Satanic cinema of the 1980s clearly reflects the general dumbing­ down of world culture that, in retrospect, seems to be the hallmark of that decade. Although a few worthwhile oddities emerged from unexpected quarters, it was a time in which a crude aesthetic of ugliness distorted the cinematic m irror of the Satanic archetype. (Even Walt Disney had dabbled, producing the lamely comedic THE DEVIL AND MAX DEVLIN [1981], with Bill Cosby wearing the horns.) One searches the '80s in vain for the evocative sense of mystery and transformative vision so integral to the best diabolical films of previous eras. Indeed, it is the first decade since the advent of the cinema not to have produced a single Satanic masterwork of truly enduring power.


EVEN HELL HAS ITS HEROES: THE 1990s As we move into the final decade of the twentieth century's diabolic cinema, one is struck by the transformation that public perceptions of the Satanic archetype have undergone since our chronicle commenced in the Paris of the 1 890s. At the turning of that fin-de-siecle, the Black Arts were very commonly associated with the refined artists and aesthetes of the Symbolist movement, who cast Lucifer as an icon of the creative imagination. He was seen as a creature whose prideful beauty and Promethean rebellion had much in common with the artist's aristocratic disdain for the masses. One hundred years later, the Prince of Darkness was no longer celebrated as a noble elitist in the M i ltonian sense; his image had instead been appropriated as an easy shock symbol for heavy metal bands and the like, who painted the Devil as a god for losers and ne'er-do-wells, the last refuge of the marginal underachiever. Mysterious Mephistopheles, once understood as a cultured being who offered his adherents infinite knowledge, had degenerated into a one­ dimensional cartoon representing adolescent nihilism. With popular Satanism projecting such an infantile and aggressively dumb persona, it's perhaps understandable that few film-makers of intelligence were drawn to the subject in the '90s. Of course, a small number of authentic practitioners of the Black Arts continued to explore the mysteries of the left hand path, but, as always, this obscure reality had less impact on the mass media's portrayal of the Luciferian principle than the wild fantasies and speculations of the public. Although a well­ known FBI investigation called the Lanning Report authoritatively stated that there was not a single shred of evidence to support the hysterical allegations of children abducted and sacrificed by hidden Satanic cults, the urban legends persisted among the u neducated. This had a strange impact on the Satanic cinema. Satanism on screen became the exclusive province of the police thriller genre. Hollywood had previously sold the stereotype of the Devil's disciples as rich, powerful elitists practising occult rites in their elegant manors. Suddenly, the cinema Satanist of the '90s was far more likely to be a stupid, degenerate thug living in squalor on the fringes of the law. With monotonous regularity, Satan was seen in mainstream American films as a symbol for brute criminality. The Satanic films of the past had once presented the Devil as a metaphysical entity that could only be conquered by recondite magical knowledge, or - at the very least - the intervention of a priest. Now, Lucifer was reduced to a mundane crime problem, a social u n pleasantness that called for police action. In considering the paltry amount of relevant films produced in the '90s, I have deliberately excluded the scattered Satanic appearances in several eminently forgettable d irect-to-video releases. If a picture didn't actually play in the cinema, it goes unmentioned here; I gladly leave the documenting of these dregs to a more masochistic researcher than myself. B y 1990, one would have hoped that the seemingly endless rehashing of left-over split pea soup from THE EXORCIST would have come to a merciful end. Alas, the demon Pazuzu had two last gasps left. REPOSSESSED (1 990) proves Karl Marx's truism that what first plays as tragedy is repeated as farce. After the epidemic of EXORCIST im itations that had satu rated screens since 1 973, there was


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Exorcist !D.

little left to do with the exhausted material but play the familiar story as comedy. Linda Blair, unable to build a credible career from under the indel ible shadow of her role as Regan, is reduced to repeating her famous performance for laughs. Here, her cha racter's name has been changed, although we are never in any doubt that she is our little Regan all grown up. When the film begins, it's been years since she was exorcised by Father Jedediah Mayii (Leslie Nie lsen). The banishing failed to stick; those old, untidy symptoms of possession have returned. Father Mayii, played by Nielsen in the bumbling mode of his AIRPLANE and NAKED GUN rol es, comes back for a repeat showdown with his eternal Adversary. Yes, a l l of the wearisome plot points - bed-ridden vomiting, sacrilegious masturbating, a young priest's crisis of faith - are trotted out again, desperately stra i n i n g for an elusive chuckle. None is forthcoming from this witless and predictable reshuffling of stereotypes. When the film was test-marketed, the a l l ­ i mportant teenage aud ience didn't get the references to THE EXORCIST, released some seventeen years before their time, and substantial editing ensued. By the time William Peter Blatty, the insufferably pretentious author of The Exorcist novel, got around to revisiting his most successful property, there was l ittle juice left in the lemon. Undaunted by h i s marginal g ifts as a film-maker, he bravely took the directorial reins h imself, producing the utterly unnecessary T H E EXORCIST Ill. Based on his own 1983 novel Legion, and set i n the same Georgetown neighbourhood as the original book, Blatty's film has a l l of the terribly self-


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The First Power.

important hand-wringing about the Nature of Evil that is his trademark. Like too many writer's films, the picture is clogged with an overabundance of dialogue and a decided lack of visual substance. George C. Scott, usually a fine actor, walks through the part of a police detective, working himself into the trademark Scott blusteri n g rage, but to no effect. It's been fifteen years since Pazuzu was banished with the self-sacrifice of Father Damien Karras. Now, the dead priest's friend, homicide investigator Kinderman, is on the trail of a vicious serial killer. The murderer's victims include two priests, one slain in his confessional. The crimes recall the modus operandi of the Gemini Killer, who was executed years a g o for a similar s l aughter spree. Kinderman locates Patient X, a nameless a mnesiac in a mental hospital who has the disconcerting habit of shifti ng his appearance from that of the late Father Karras (Jason Miller, returning from the dead to recreate his role from THE EXORCIST) to the dead Gemini Killer (Brad Dourif). Satan has possessed the incarcerated patient's body, and is stalking his victims astrally. B latty's characterization of the Devil as a psyc hopathic serial killer is yet another example of how the '80s stereotype of Satanic crime had infected the imaginations of film-makers. Brad Dourif, who's made a career of expertly portraying psychos since ON E FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST, is riveting as the Gemini Kil ler, but his energetic performance doesn't rescue the film from tedium. When the producers realized that Blatty had failed to include an actual exorcism in the film. an obligatory scene with an elderly priest performing the rite was inserted. THE EXORCIST Ill's Satanic serial killer is more than reminiscent of the amnesiac murderer seen in ANGEL HEART, which tells us something about the low level of inventiveness dominating this period. The same shrill tone of anti-Satanic hysteria shades every frame of director Robert Resnikoff's absurd THE FIRST POWER (1990), which like THE EXORCIST I l l


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Mr. Frost.

concerns a Devil-possessed murderer who kills from beyond the grave. Following the bloody trail of the "Pentagram Killer" is the young police detective Logan (Lou Diamond Phillips). When the murderer is apprehended and executed, the killings continue, and it becomes apparent that the Devil is afoot. According to the film's firmly Reaganite morality, drug addicts and alcoholics are particularly vulnerable to Satanic influence, so the demonic killer inhabits the bodies of junkies and bag ladies. With the help of a spunky clairvoyant love interest yakking New Age psycho-babble, and a grim nun armed with a blessed cruciform knife, the plodding hero defeats the Pentagram Killer. The last scene, in which the police rush in just when the detective is about to plunge the holy knife into the Satanist. is stolen right from THE OMEN, as is the very concept of the consecrated weapon needed to vanquish evil. As in THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK, New Age white magic is as efficacious here against the Fiend as is the paraphernalia of Christianity. In one scene, the psychic heroine brandishes a right-side up "good" pentagram in the Satanist's face, just as more traditional do-gooders of old scared vampires away with their crucifixes. At the same time that Hollywood was waging a smear campaign against Satan ism. portraying black magic as a form of criminality, it increasingly painted white magic as a socially acceptable practice. The All-American Satan-as-serial-killer syndrome also found its way into at least one European film, Phillip Setbon's Anglo-French production MR. FROST (1990). Jeff Goldblum is the puzzling title character, a convicted serial killer of great intellect who's racked up an impressive body count. Alan Bates, the third anti-Satanic homicide detective to be spotted in 1990, is convinced that the courteous but silent murderer is Lucifer himself. Naturally, his supernatural


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suspicions are not believed. Frost, who has refused to speak a word to the battery of psychologists and crime experts who are trying to delve into the notorious murderer's mind, breaks his silence and confides all to a young shrink (Kathy Baker). The Devil has especially chosen to reveal his identity to the cool, rational psychologist so that she can convince a sceptical modern world that Satan still exists. Refreshingly free of the corny demonic special effects that were then de rigueur, the conundrum of the Devil's existence is handled in a surprisingly cerebral manner. Unlike its American cousins in this Satanic killer subgenre, MR. FROST is not an action-packed thriller filled with car chases and non-stop mayhem. The script, co-written by director Setbon and Brad Lynch, actually has somewhat philosophical aspirations, and Frost's mystical musings are occasionally thought­ provoking. Although the film is to be commended for attempting to stimulate the mind rather than trotting out the usual tiresome shoot-em-up sequences, its narrative seems to entirely unravel at the half-way point. Long scenes of increasingly awkward and pretentious dialogue exchange never evolve into the gripping spiritual drama that seems to have been intended. Goldblum plays his

en i gm a tic Devil with an unpredictable affability, creating a complex and ambiguous Satan that doesn't rely on the usual crudities to suggest Otherness. If only because it has a bit more on its mind than arbitrary shock and gore, MR. FROST is one of the 1990s' very rare attempts at approaching the Devil with some degree of originality and intelligence. Like a dimly remembered nightmare, 1990's LA SETIA (THE SECT) aka THE DEVIL'S DAUGHTER leaves a lingering impression of agitation long after its admittedly incoherent images fade from the screen. Italian director Michele Soavi does not so much tell a linear narrative as he aims to establish an arresting mood through a series of atmospheric vignettes. The story- what little there is of it­ was devised by director Dario Argento, whose dream-like imagery was clearly an influence on LA SETTA. In· a brightly coloured apocalyptic desert that we are supposed to believe is somewhere in California, the leader of a Satanic biker cult confers with his Master, an unidentified gentleman of means seated in a limousine. Apparently, some cosmic malfeasance is being planned, although the details are sketchy. Even the most careful viewer will be hard-pressed to figure out exactly what Satan's plan is as Soavi elliptically illustrates Argento's bare-bones plot. Cut to Frankfurt, Germany where everyone seems to be as inexplicably Italian as they were in the California prologue. Ordinary schoolteacher Miriam (Kelly Curtis) is drawn into the Devil's plot by the Satanic sect that gives the film its title. Presiding over the skullduggery is cult leader Gran Vecchio, played with panache by underrated screen villain Herbert Lorn. Miriam, like so many other hapless heroines in the genre before her, is targeted for demonic insemination by the sect. A leering Lorn engineers this less than immaculate birth by sticking a rather Egyptoid scarab up Miriam's nose, one of many scenes that occupies a twilight zone between the ludicrous and the surreal. It's all linked together by a few obligatory giallo slashings and the sketchily defined presence of a Lovecraftian entity stalking subterranean depths beneath the city. It must be said that for all of Soavi's stylistic power, LA SETIA finally runs out of steam with a traditional happy ending that spoils some of the imaginative creepiness that has preceded it. For those that don't insist upon a movie always making sense, LA SETIA is an undeservedly ignored highlight of genuine oddity,


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La SelJa.

unusua l in the homogenized '90s. After only a few agonizing minutes of watching HIGHWAY TO HELL ( 1 99 1 ), the viewer realizes that the tortures of the damned would be far preferable to sitti ng through this abysmal attempt at infernal horror-comedy. A vapid young couple take the wrong road on their way to Las Vegas, where they plan to be married. Ignoring the warnings of the cryptic old-timer at a desolate last stop gas station, they inadvertently drive onto the otherworldly thoroughfare of the title. There, a scarred, demonoid cop - wearing an inverted pentagram for a badge - pulls them over and brutally abducts the bride-to-be. Seeking advice from the grizzled gas station attendant, the confused hero learns that his girlfriend has been kidnapped by "Hel l-Cop", and that he has only 24 hours to rescue her from Hell City. This latter-day Orpheus crosses the border into a surreal desert hellscape, determined to rescue his insipid (and virginal) heart-throb from the Devil's depredations. Theoretically, this may seem like a mildly promising premise. However, in the hands of director Ate de Jong, this is a work of such breathtaking incompetence that it almost defies description. Amateurish acting; a tinny, irritating score; witless and

hopelessly unfunny dialogue; sluggish

pacing;

atrocious special effects; it a l l coalesces into. a painful ordeal not to be entered into lightly. This has the flimsy feel of an extended heavy metal music video, and the picture's trite depiction of the Satanic realm is firmly grounded in that juvenile aesthetic. An adolescent mistrust of female sexuality adds another unpleasant layer to the film. Veering between gag-inducing sentimentality (a far from endearing "cute kid" character exiled in Hell) and sophomoric black humour (Hitler ranting and raving to the damned in a seedy diner) the script never finds


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Highway To Hell

a consistent tone. The Devil - who we know must be evil because he has a Br itish accent - is g iven some particularly pompous verbiage to recite, which seems totally unconnected to the stale one-liners falling from the mouths of the rest of the cast. Dante said it best: Abandon all hope ye who enter here. Fraser C. Heston's NEEDFUL THINGS (1993), a mediocre adaptation of a Stephen King novel, suffers from the generic style that typifies modern


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Highway.

commercial cinema. However, it does feature a skilful performance of Satan, in the person of Swedish actor Max Von Sydow. Twenty years after his starring role in THE EXORCIST, Sydow played Leland Gaunt, a worldly fellow of mysterious background, who opens a shop in a small town in Maine. Called Needful Things, the store offers consumers a unique service: the one object they most desire can be found on it shelves. Refusing to accept anything so vulgar as money for his one-of-a-kind wares, Gaunt only asks that his customers play a (seemingly) harmless practical joke on one of their neighbours. The town - crammed with the usual just plain folks that people most Stephen King novels - soon becomes a hotbed of rancour and suspicion, as the pranks Gaunt asks for in exchange for his "needful things" become nastier and more malevolent. Small tensions and conflicts that had simmered for years turn into outright hatred, and petty feuds lead to murder. The local sheriff (Ed Harris) begins to suspect that suave stranger Gaunt is responsible for the escalating chaos. Mob violence and rioting break out in the town, which seems to be on the brink of a m i n i-Armageddon. When the church is destroyed in an explosion, the sheriff exposes Gaunt as the Devil, which inspires one of his victims to blow up Needful Things in an action of suicidal self-sacrifice. The Devil, utterly unruffled, exits the smoking ruins and takes off in a limousine, promising to return. King's heavily moralistic E.C. comic book of a story, in which the pettiest of human greeds is attributed to the Devil's influence, is reminiscent of some of the preachier episodes of The Twilight Zone. Despite this essential superficiality, Von Sydow's witty and engaging performance adds a much needed edge to the sometimes mawkishly sentimental fable. The ultimate message here is as old as the Flood:


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Faust 0994).

small-town values are best, and watch out for them fast-talkin' city slickers in them fancy clothes. David Lynch's LOST HIG HWAY (1 994) may not immediately come to mind as an example of Sata nic cinema. Nevertheless, there are clues in Lynch's typically opaque script hinting that one of that film's most intriguing characters may actually be the Devil. This nameless personage is referred to in the credits only as the Mystery Man. A black-clad grotesque of leering clown-white face and enigmatic dialogue, it is the Mystery Man who sets the puzzling plot in motion. As played with grinning mal ice by imaginatively cast character actor Robert Blake, this agent provocateur seems to be the only one of Lynch's dramatis personae who actually u nderstands the maddeningly incoherent events that comprise the film's narrative. LOST HIGHWAY is a tale of split identity and doubling that never resolves the paradoxical situations it presents, relying on a sometimes inconsistent mood of perverse crime, infidelity and metaphysical disruption to hold together its fractured imagery. When the film's anti-h ero d iscovers the Mystery Man in his home, the stranger knowingly declares, "You invited me. It isn't my custom to go where I'm not wanted ." Although Lynch does not press this point, it's a commonly known aspect of Satanic lore that the PriAce of Darkness only appears where he has been invited. Even if LOST HIG HWAY lacks the vision of Lynch's best work, the film's Mystery Man serves as a potent i l lustration of how the timeless mystique of the Devil can be reinterp reted for an era free of traditional Judeo-Christian symbolism. The g ifted Czech animator Jan Svankmajer's FAUST (1 994) told the death less folk tale in his own inim itable, quirky style. In a g rimy, modern-day


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Prague of crumbling buildings and desolate moods, an ordinary man on the street (Petr Cepek) is given a strange map which leads him to what appears to be a shuttered theatre. Discovering a hidden key, he enters a shabby backstage area where he dons a theatrical costume of Faust and begins reading aloud from a script of Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus: "I resolve my soul to free through blackest magic and dark alchemy." The border between d ifferent levels of real ity begins to blur and he finds himself on stage in a production of Marlowe's play, an audience waiting for his performance. Cutting through a painted backdrop into a steaming alchem ist's lab, he seems to have really become Faust presiding over the birth of a homunculus. The creature comes alive in an impressive sequence featuring Svan kmajer's distinctive, jerky stop-motion clay animation. The legend is conveyed in a series of elliptical episodes switching back and forth between antique puppets, recreations of scenes from Marlowe's play, Gounoud's opera of Faust and long stretches of surreal, non-linear imagery completely without dialogue. The Devil, seen first as a slightly ridiculous marionette, is finally revealed to be Faust himself, a dual performance which Petr Cepek handles with subtlety. Consistently disturbing and inventive, Svankmajer's FAUST is at once a tribute to the established classical versions of the tale and a bold experiment in the language of una l loyed cinema. Filled with sin ister humour and magical dream images, this is a fiercely personal meditation on Satan and self, a rare example of pure film-making that will irritate some and enchant others. Alex De La Iglesias' EL DIA DE LA B ESTIA aka THE DAY OF THE B EAST ( 1 995) is a remarkably original Spanish film that hand les the Antichr ist legend with bracing humour of the blackest pitch. Cynically skewering the pretensions of the Catholic church, pop Satanism, and the New Age movement with impartial irreverence, the film's aggressive subversion presents a chaotic n ightmare world worthy of Bunuel. The film opens with a parody of the kind of ominous scene we've witnessed innumerable times in other Sata nic films, particu larly in THE OMEN series. I n the gloom of a venerable church, a provincial priest (Alex Angula) confides to a fellow padre that he has uncovered a diabolical plot. The older reverend fearfully cautions that "our enemy is powerful", and is promptly crushed under a large wooden crucifix that topples from the altar. Undeterred, the little priest arrives by bus in nocturnal Madrid, where he has ascertained - by deciphering a numerical code in Revelations - that the Antichrist is about to be born on Christmas Eve. Un less he can locate the Beast and destroy it in the next 24 hours, the world will end and the Devil's reign will commence. As the p riest wanders into the threatening metropolis, the end times seem to have already started; random violence is everywhere, police sirens are screaming, and he watches as the victim of a fiery car accident succumbs to his burns. The film's dark humour is largely based on the priest's b l i n d credulity as he zealously explores every lead that will reveal the location of the Beast's birth to him. At first, he turns to Jose Maria (Santiago Segura) a slovenly black metal fan who owns a shop specializing in Satanic rock music. Assuming that the dim­ witted headbanger must be an accomplished adept of the Black Arts, the priest implores him to invoke the Devil for him. Jose Maria adm its that he's not qu ite that advanced, but suggests that the famous lV psychic Professor Cavan (Armando De Razza), host of a sensational occult talk show called "The Dark Side" would probably know how to arrange the desired infernal contact. They break into


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Day Of Tbe Beast.

Cavan's home and hold h i m hostage, terrorizing him into instructing them on the correct procedure of conjuring Satan. Cavan, whose vaunted occult wisdom is just a cynical act, h u mours his seem ingly demented abductors by providing a recipe of v i rgin's blood, unholy wafers and other hocus-pocus. The p riest returns to his pension where he drugs a young woman who he suspects of being a virgin, and blithely draws some blood from her with a syringe. In the process, he is d iscovered by the landlady - Jose Maria's mother - who chases him with a shotgun, assuming that he's a murderer. She falls to her death in a stairway accident while pursuing h im, a scene of mayhem he ignores in his single-minded obsession with finding the Antichrist. At Cavan's apartment, a pentagram is drawn on the floor, and the p riest forces Cavan and Jose Maria to ingest the blood-soaked wafers while he recites h is pact with the Devil, signing it with his own blood. Cavan laughs at them as they wait for Satan to appear. At first, only a humble cockroach shows up, but this is followed by the more impressive manifestation of a sin ister black goat who strides into Cavan's living room and defiantly bears itself up on its hind legs. Until now, we've been led to believe that the priest's search for the Beast is a dangerous psychopath's delusion. Now the film takes an even darker, more savage turn, as the hour of the Antichrist's birth draws nearer. Terrified by the entity they've called up, the psychic, the priest and his black metal sidekick escape from Cavan's apartment by climbing out of a window over a huge neon advertisement. Stoned and hysterical, Jose Maria loses grip of Cavan, who tumbles to the street below, only narrowly avoiding death. The priest


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Charlie's Family.

continues his grim search for his adversary, seeking the Antichrist at a meeting of Nostradamus adm irers and at a black metal nightclub called lnfierno, where he's beaten brutally by the crowd. The similarly battered Professor Cavan, now a believer after his encounter with the goat. has survived his fall to crawl into the TV studio to go on the air live with a special Christmas Eve broadcast of "The Dark Side" Seeing a police drawing of h i mself on the show, the priest calls in from a pay-phone. Cavan tells him that he now knows where the Antichrist will be spawned, having discovered the true mark of the Beast by examining some ancient documents that supposedly bear the Devil's signature. The three bumbling Devil-hunters rush to "Satan's temple", which turns out to be a futuristic twin office tower constructed in the shape of the mark of the Beast. There, they hear the mewling of a new-born infant but are interrupted by the arrival of sinister thugs guarding the building. Jose Maria is viciously beaten by the toughs, and the horrified priest sees that one of the attackers is the Devil himself, a goat-headed being who drops the idiotically laughing Jose Maria to his death from the top of the skyscraper. (De La Iglesias wisely only allows us a shadowy, fleeting g l impse of the elegantly designed Satan figure, rather than indulg ing in the elaborate and usually unconvincing special effects typical of the period.) In the end, although Cavan is nearly k i lled when he's set on fire by the Devil's agents, the priest's mission is successfu l, and Doomsday is averted. We last see the pr iest and Cavan as filthy bums, their heroic effort to save the world forgotten and unappreciated. De La Iglesias' bleak, absurdist comedy of terror demonstrates a masterful d irectorial control, pulling off the difficult m ixture of humour and horror with vibrant style. EL DIA DE LA BESTIA, despite its facetious tone, possesses a far more disturbing atmosphere of num inous, metaphysical fear


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than the solemn Satanic films it parodies so incisively. The three lead players, Angula, De Razza, and Segura, each create credible characters that ground the fantastic events in reality. We're never told what we should think about these unsympathetic heroes, who operate in a post-Christian, morally ambiguous u n iverse rarely evoked in Satanic films. Battista Lena's sweeping score perfectly supports the ever-darkening mood. Underground filmmaker Jim VanBebber dedicated a decade to creating his CHARLIE'S FAMILY (1997), an ambitious retelling of the Mansonoid murder mythology. During the film's well executed - if innaccurate - depiction of the Tate mu rders, convicted Manson Family killer Tex Watson, played by Mark Pitman, is seen to metamorphose into a rapacious horned Satan. This brief psychedelicized hallucination makes for one of the Devil's more memorable cameos in the sparse underground film world of the '90s. Although it's a potent illustration of the Manson legend as popularly understood, VanBebber's epic is strangely orthodox in its acceptance of the Vincent Bugliosi/Ed Sanders version of events. It's unfortunate that VanBebber's undeniable cinematic vision was wedded to the fam il i a r folk myth of the '60s clim actic crime, rather than seeking to u ncover more disturbing hidden realities. VanBebber had already revealed a fascination with the pu rported l i n k i n g o f pseudo-Satanic symbolism and violence in h i s earlier short film MY SWEET SATAN (1994). In this effective evocation of teenage suburban mayhem, based o n the crimes comm itted by addled adolescent and diabolic dabbler Ricky Kasso, VanBebber essayed the lead character himself. THE DEVIL'S ADVOCATE (1997) tried to capitalize on the u n iversal loathing of the public for lawyers by wedding a John Grisham-style legal thriller to a Sata n ic moral ity play. Young attorney Kevin Lomax (Keanu Reeves) ignores his conscience and successful ly defends an elementary school teacher he knows is gui lty of child molestation. When his slimy client is freed, he's contacted by a h i gh-powered Manh attan law firm, led by the personable John M i lton (AI Pacino), who becomes Lomax's mentor. Mi lton has been keeping an eye on the younger attorney's career, noting that he has never lost a case, no matter how dubious the defendant. Reaffirming '90s mass media n otions of Satanic crime, the Devil's advocate not only defends a child molester, but a practitioner of animal sacrifice, and a known murderer Lomax doesn't suspect that M i lton is, in fact, the Devil, until long after even the most dull-witted audience member has come to that conclusion. Lomax's wife a n d mother instantly loathe Milton; much is made of his eccentric habit of on ly trave lling through the "underworld" of the subway. His very name, borrowed from the author of Paradise Lost, should ring a bell, but clueless Keanu doesn't seem like the type to pick up o_n literary allusions. Even when M ilton's seen engaging in a menage a trois - presented in Hollywood's typically Puritan manner as a certain sign of Satanic perversion- Lomax doesn't get it. Eventually, after corrupting Lomax sufficiently, Milton reveals his identity in a bravura monologue. Pacino, at least, seems to be enjoying himself, as he delivers his over­ ripe dialogue with u n i n h ibited theatrical hamminess. It turns out that Lomax is the Devil's son, and that he's being groomed to give birth to the Antichrist. Milton orders his progeny to impregnate his own ha lf-sister, Christabella (Connie N ielson). Rather than go through with this infernal incest, Lomax finds his missing conscience and kills himself and the Antichrist's prospective mother, saving the world from Satan's scheme. His self-sacrifice is rewarded when he is sent back in


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time to the child mo lester's trial that began the film. Having learned his lesson, Lomax quits the case, but the eternal temptations of the Devil appear again, this time as a journal ist promising to make the attorney famous for his good deed. Director Taylor Hackford never seems quite sure if he's playing a l l this moralizing for black humour or for darkest drama. Adding to the uncertain air is Pacino's overwhelmingly flamboyant performance. It's on such a grand scale i n comparison to the rest of the cast that it may as well have been edited i n from some entirely different film. Like so many high-concept Hol lywood films of the period, there's no s ubstance behind the surfeit of bombast.

THE DEVIL'S

ADVOCATE's concentration on a strictly criminal portrayal of the powers of darkness merely recycles the urban legends of the '80s, offering no fresh insight into the deeper currents of the Sata nic myth. Considering the inherent legal istic complications of the traditional Faustian pact with the Devil, the infernal attorney theme could have been handled with far more imagination than is ever exercised here. As if THE EXORCIST Ill and THE FIRST POWER hadn't thoroughly done the idea to death, Gregory Hoblit's FALLEN (1 998) presented yet another Satanic serial killer who keeps slaying after his execution. This time, Denzel Washington is the homicide detective on the Fallen Angel's · trail, identified here as the demon Azazel.

Although

its

a

more

technically

accomplished

film

than

its two

predecessors, this derivative re-run is entirely superfluous. In the solemn, religiously inspired atmosphere of gloom in which the Satanic myth was wrapped during the '80s and '90s, the Devil was rarely viewed through a comedic perspective i n North American films. One notable exceptio n was the irreverent animated musical SOUTH PARK: BIGGER, LONGER & UNCUT


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(1 999), directed by Trey Parker with an eye toward stepping on as many sacred cows as possible. One of the film's subplots found Iraq's President Saddam Hussein damned to Hell, where he carries on a passionate homosexual love affair with Satan . It's ironic that Hussein, a devout Muslim who often denounced the U n ited States as "the Great Satan" was the world leader most often associated with the Devil during the '90s in the popular imagination. Like Napoleon and Hitler before him, Hussein was considered so "evil" that he was commonly considered to be the Antichrist by disciples of the Biblical prophecy movement. 1999, a year stamped with apocalyptic hysteria and expectations of world cataclysm, produced the final Satanic films of the cinema's first century, END OF DAYS and THE NINTH GATE. Each of these pictures provide us with perfect examples of two diametrically opposed visions of the Devil that have clashed with each other since the genesis of the movies. By far the least interesting of the two was Peter Hyams' E N D OF DAYS (1999) a bloated and empty-headed action extravaganza designed as a vehicle for the dubious talents of Arnold Schwarzenegger. The plot is easily summarized: Arnold Good. Satan Bad. Everything go BOOM! Defeated even before it gets started by the unworkable premise of fighting the metaphysical powers of darkness with the Austrian he-man's sheer brawn and firepower, this is Hollywood corporate product at its most lifeless and generic. Aimed squarely at the lowest common denominator, END OF DAYS was released just in time to capitalize on mass fears of the coming millennium. Schwarzenegger, while publicizing the film, stated: " Everyone's very aware about the millennium and this is the only movie coming out now that explores all the themes: Will the world come to an end? Will Satan return? It's a story of Bibl ical proportions." In a prologue set in 1979, the Pope learns that a girl-child has been born in New York City with birthmarks designating her as the future bride of Satan. According to scriptural prophecy, the Devil will return to earth when the ch ild matures to mate with her and usher in the " End of Days" Cut to December 28, 1 999. Schwarzenegger - saddled with the Bibl ically unsound moniker of Jericho Cane - plays a spiritually bu rnt-out security specialist who ends up protecting a young woman named Christine Bethlehem (Robin Tunney). She's threatened by both Vatican assassins and a powerful individual known only as the Man (Gabriel Byrne), who is, of course, Satan. In between explosions, Cane experiences a red iscovery of Christian faith that gives him the strength to destroy the Devil's m i n ions and thwart the Man's eschatological plans. The overwhelming message of the film, which revolves around Cane's attempts at preventing the Devil from consummating his union with Christine, is anti-sexual in a way that recalls the first American Sata nic films of the silent era. This deeply ingrained hatred of the flesh is underscored by the mindless monotony of endless gunplay that makes up the majority of the thin plot. All of this is combined with a n arch-reactionary attitude of respect for the Catholic Church which would have seemed archaic in 1 899. Indeed, the film taps into such deeply conservative waters, it could have been produced by the doomsday-obsessed fundamentalist movement so visible on American cable television. Gabriel Byrne, a n actor of intelligence and presence, is given a trite and un derwr itten role in the Man, one of the cinema's blandest modern Satans. Andrew W. Marlowe's unimaginative script predictably draws on a theme a lready utterly exhausted by earlier Satan i c blockbusters - the fear of Satanic pregnancy i l lustrated in ROSEMARY'S BABY and THE OMEN films - and does absolutely


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nothing new with it. Despite E N D OF DAYS' one-dimensional attempt to cash in on the m illennium madness of late 1 999, the film was not the enormous success it needed to be to recoup its massive budget. If this pious monument to Puritanism has any importance to the history of the Satanic cinema, it can only b e that the obscene amount of money required to produce i t makes END O F DAYS the most expensive diabolic picture produced in the 20th century. Operating with a fraction of that budget but a thousand times more artistry and imagination, Roman Polanski returned to the subject that brought him his greatest commercial and critical success with ROSEMARY'S BABY over thirty years earlier That Polanski would turn his talents to conjuring the Devil again is rather surprising, considering that he'd spent three decades trying to extricate himself from the unwanted diabolical aura that the overwhelming success of ROSEMARY'S BABY projected around him. Polanski's Span ish-French co­ production T H E NINTH GATE (1 999) is not only the final major Satanic film of the 20th century, it's one of the most significant works of the entire field. While developing many of the themes raised in the black magical films that preceded it with u nprecedented complexity, the picture deftly plays with the audience's expectations of hoary Satanic film cliches, subverting and transcending them in a wholly unanticipated fashion. Polanski has stated that he made the film as a reaction to the noisy, frantic movies of the '90s that so offended his aesthetic sensibilities. It's a work filled with silence and shadow, unfolding its complicated narrative in a stately pace completely alien to the quick cut attention spans of the MTV/computer game generation. There are the inevita ble action sequences one would expect in what is essentially a thriller, but Polanski emphasizes atmosphere and character. Centring on the labyrinthine quest of several obsessed bibliophiles for a volume reputed to have been co-authored by Lucifer, the film is almost shockingly cerebral, a true anomaly i n a post-literate age mesmerized by electronic media and visual overload. While the Satanic theme is sensational enough to in itially attract the average thrill-seeking audience's attention, Polanski's fi lm is peopled almost entirely by intellectuals passionately discussing rare books. Considering that most '90s films were aimed at a young aud ience for whom books were an i r relevant archaism, making a movie focusing on the metaphysical musings of book collectors and the arcane details of the library arts was practically a radical act on Polanski's part. An audience primed to expect the crude roller-coaster ride provided by mainstream Devil movies of EXORCIST and OMEN ilk would be utterly perplexed by the p h i losophical Satanists of THE NINTH GATE. This most literary of films was in fact adapted from a literary source. Spanish author Arturo Perez-Reverte's 1 993 novel Le Club Dumas served as inspiration. Major changes were made i n reworking the material for cinematic treatment. However, the core of the narrative, following an unscrupulous book detective's quest for the rarest of rare black magical texts, the 1666 edition of De Umbra rum Regni Novem Portis (The Nine Gates Of The Kingdom Of Shadows), was retained. There's no denying that the centra l conceit, that of a powerful grimoire of grimoires, is influenced by Lovecraft's Necronomicon. Nevertheless, Le Club Dumas is something much more than just another tiresome Lovecraft pastiche. It is a profoundly original meditation on the Satanic mythos, an erudite Luciferian puzzle worthy of Umberto Eco. A clever note of metafictional realism is added to Le Club Dumas by the n i n e perfectly executed faux woodcut i l lustrations included, purporting to be


EVEN HELL HAS ITS HEROES: THE 1990s

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233

Frank U!ngella, The NinJb Gate.

reproductions of the original prints in The Nine Gates Of The Kingdom Of Shadows. Polanski has stated that he was inspired to purchase the rights to the

book because he was so impressed with the cinematic possibil ities of these engravings. Polanski's streak of black humour runs through the film, despite the ominous events portrayed. This gallows humour is also present in L e Club Dumas, but the sarcastic undertone informing the film is purely personal to the d irector This biting irony, which is subtly handled, was hardly noticed by critics, who received TH E N I NTH GATE in deadly earnest, often wildly misinterpreting it as a standard horror film. Dean Corso, the film's antagon ist, is initially contemptuous of the various black magicians he encou nters, scoffing at their conviction that the ancient text they seek is a key to the existence of the Devil. By the final scene, h e has been transformed into Satan's chosen apprentice. Several earlier films, notably TH E N IGHT OF TH E DEMON, depicted the transformation of rationalism into acceptance of a magical worldview. However, in these films, this acceptance of the reality of black magic usually only allows the transformed hero to more efficiently defeat the Satanic villain. Here, Corso's metamorphosis leads h i m to voluntarily come into being as Lucifer's own. Furthermore, any traditional notion of hero and villain is completely reversed. Polanski's entire cast, from the leading players to the briefest supporting roles are a l l u niformly excellent. Frank Langella is g iven a particularly juicy role in the darkly sardonic Boris Balkan, and he makes the most of every scene he's in. Emmanuelle Seigner as the film's unlikely Devil in jeans and sneakers capably projects both a knowing sense of secret wisdom and a seething eroticism. The rich score by Wojciech Kilar perfectly captures the carefu lly shaded moods, veering


234

â&#x20AC;˘

THE SATANIC SCREEN

Johnny Depp, The Ninth Gate

between deep foreboding and jaunty irony. The film's bleak prologue shows us a desperate man hanging h i mself. Polanski's camera then g lides to a nearby bookshelf, lined with antique volumes. Telling ly, there is a clear gap between two of the volumes. We are drawn into the darkness where the missing book was placed, and the credits are revealed i n a sequence which shows nine ancient gates opening into deeper shadows. When the camera moves beyond the ninth gate, the screen fills with a burst of golden light suggesting mystical illumination. The picture follows the journey of Dean Corso (Johnny Depp), paid well by wealthy New York publisher Boris Balkan (Frank Langella) to compare his recently acq u ired copy of The Nine Gates with the two other known copies. It becomes obvious that Balkan is not only interested in affirming the book's authenticity as a collector of rare books; he needs a complete copy to contact the Devil. Balkan allows Corso to take the incredibly rare volume with h im. H e soon crosses the border into a shadow realm that his thoroughly materialistic worldview has not prepared him for. In New York, he's seduced and post-coitally attacked by the chic widow Liana Tefler (Lena Olin), who needs Th e Nine Gates for the rites of her Satanic sect, the Order of the Silver Serpent. In Spain, he encounters two sinister twin bookbinders who reveal that some of the nine engravings in the legendary book are said to be signed by Lucifer h imself. In Portugal, he compares Balkan's copy of the book to one owned by the impoverished aristocrat Fargas, learning that the engravings in the two copies are subtly different from each other "Some books are dangerous, not to be opened with impunity," Fargas tells the book h u nter In Paris, he meets the a rch Satanic author Baroness Kessler, who admits to falling in love with the Devil at first sight when she was only fifteen. Wherever


EVEN HELL HAS ITS HEROES: THE 1990s

â&#x20AC;˘

235

Emmanuelle Siegner, 1be Ninlb Gate.

Corso goes in the world, he's threatened by the presence of an ominous black man in shades and watched out for by an enigmatic young woman (Emmanuelle Seigner), who seems to be his guardian angel. The n i n e symbolic engravings from the much sought after diabolic book take on a gruesome life of their own. Someone is following Corso, kil ling anyone who comes into contact with The Nine Gates in the manner portrayed in the engravings. Eventually, he starts to realize that the cryptic drawings form some kind of puzzle, and that an unknown party is playing a menacing game with him. At the scenes of the grisly murders of Fargas and Kessler, he finds their invaluable copies of The Nine Gates burning, intact except for the engravings, which have been torn out. With the mysterious girl's aid, Corso breaks in to a secret ritual of the Order of the Silver Serpent, held at Liana Tefler's chateau. Boris Balkan intrudes on the ceremony, killing Tefler, and ridiculing the pretensions of her cult, declaring that only he is advanced enough to attain the Devil's knowledge. Balkan strangles Tefler to death with her pentagram medallion before her horrified followers. Corso now realizes that it was the publ isher who had been using the n i n e engravings as a model for murder. In the process of his journey, Corso has come to accept that the nine engravings are keys to Satanic power, and now he seeks their power for himself. The book detective traces his homicklal patron to a French castle known as the Tower of the Devil. There, Balkan has spread out the nine engravings before him and is preparing for h is expected e ntrance into the ninth gate of the kingdom of shadows. Balkan gloats to Corso that he is "taking the road that leads to equal ity with God ... entering uncharted territory", one of the more precise descriptions of left hand path practice in the cinema. Certain that he has now attained imm ortality through his pact with Lucifer, Balkan douses himself with


236

â&#x20AC;˘

THE SATANIC SCREEN

N. NC

SC.O

TE N.BR. LVX

gasoline, deliberately l i g hting himself on fire to prove his invincibil ity. But something has gone wrong with the ritual, and he dies realizing that he's failed. Corso shoots the agonized Balkan who dies writhing in the agony of his self­ immolation. Seizing the nine engravings, Corso exits the burning castle as it's consumed by flame. As he watches the inferno, he's joined by the nameless woman. She


EVEN HELL HAS ITS HEROES: THE 1990s

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237

bestows a passionate kiss upon his l ips, and she furiously rides him as the castle burns in the background. Her eyes glow with unearthly light, her face contorted with demonic lust. D u ring this frenzied copulation, we realize the true identity of Corso's mysterious protector. Guardian angel she may be, but if so, she is the Fallen Angel. This sexual in itiation rite confirms that Corso is the Devil's chosen adept. The next day, they are seen driving. "Is that it, is the game over?" Corso asks. She reveals that Balkan's ritual failed because one of the engravings, the n i nth, was a forgery. When they stop at a gas station, Corso's companion vanishes, as she has frequently throughout the film. She has left a brief note on the windshield directing him back to the Cenazza brothers, the twin bookbinders in Spain. Now as obsessed with finding the engraving as Tefler, Balkan or Kessler had been, he returns to the dingy Spanish shop. He finds that the brothers have moved, and a crew of workmen are clearing out the last piece of furniture, a tall shelf. As they pull the shelf away from the wall, a dust-coated piece of paper falls from the top. It's the ninth engraving, in which a naked woman, looking very much like Emmanuelle Seigner, holds a book while she rides a seven headed beast. The image clearly represents the Whore of Babylon, the Scarlet Woman, astride the dragon Leviathan (known in Babylon as Tiamat, and in Egypt as Apep). Behind her, a castle is in flames. As soon as Corso sees this image, Polanski cuts to a stylized dream-like shot of a transfixed Corso opening the door to the castle we have seen so often in the engravings. The screen, and Corso, are enveloped by the same resplendent glow that we saw at the start of the film. The in itiate enters the n inth gate. THE NINTH GATE is a dense work, concea ling more than it reveals, building up a genuine sense of mystery as Corso's multi-layered search unravels. It's tempting to compare the film to Polanski's earlier ROSEMARY'S BABY, but other than the obvious parallel of the Satanic theme, there are surprisingly few similarities. Upon first viewing, one is struck by how unl ike any other Satanic film this is. First of all, there is the ambiguous portrayal of the Devil. As played by Polanski's wife Seigneur, this is an entirely sympathetic Satan, a wise being g u iding the hero to spiritual awakening. She is not the traditional Judaeo­ Christian symbol of evil we've encountered in hundreds of other films, but an essentially benevolent entity of i l lu m ination. Although Polanski has repeatedly stated that he has no metaphysical or occult bel iefs, Seigneur's Devil is closer to the nature of the left hand path than any previous depiction. Another departure is the unusual characterization of the film's Satan ists. Usually, screen Satanists are pictured as united in a common diabolical conspiracy. Here, the literate a n d wealthy Boris Balkan, Liana Tefler and Baroness Frieda Kessler are in competition with each other, each of them taking an " u nholier than thou" attitude in regard to their rivals. Polanski's most effective and amusing reversal of Satanic film cliche is demonstrated in the elaborate ritual sequence set i n Liana Tefler's chateau. In what must be the most lavishly appointed Satanic ritual chamber ever constructed for a film - replete with an attached bed for orgiastic use - Liana, High Priestess of the cult presides. She sternly recites from the pentagram-bedecked Latin text of The Nine Gates, exhorting her enraptured fol lowers. Although the scene is beautifully lit and photographed by Darius Khondji, and the set is a triumph of art design, it reca lls a score of similar scenes in earlier Sata nic films.


238

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THE SATANIC SCREEN

This resemblance ends when Boris Balkan makes a surprise entrance, strid ing through the robed cultists in his business suit. "Mumbo Jumbo! Mumbo J u m bo ! " he shouts, his voice cutting throug h Liana's earnest Lucifer ian litany. Balkan mounts the podium, upstaging the bewildered Liana. He derides the pious asse mblage of would-be magicians, mocking them as "a bunch of buffoons in fancy dress" Laughing, he assures them that the Prince of Darkness would "never deign to appear" before the likes of them. In this brilliantly conceived scene, Polanski pointedly harpoons the hackneyed conventions of the Satanic genre. Balkan's ridicule of the visually impressive but ultimately em pty ceremony indulged in by the Satan ists as a pathetic excuse in make-believe typifies the film's subversive black humour. Balkan suggests that if real magical power can be said to exist, it can't possibly be generated by such formulaic theatrics. The n u minous nature of the Other, personified here by the myth of Lucifer, resists a l l attempts at standardization. Conceivably, this satiric scene would also offend most contemporary black magical grou ps, addicted as they are to the same kind of " m umbo-jumbo" and d ress-up games depicted - and deflated - in THE NINTH GATE. It may be that Polanski's avoidance of familiar cliches worked against the commercial success of the film. Receiving spotty distribution a n d l u ke-warm revi ews, TH E NINTH GATE - like many of Pola nski's post-sca ndal pictures - didn't receive the attention it deserved. Reportedly, the director had a difficult time garnering financing for this untimely and distinctly untr.endy picture. While its disappointing showing at the box-office assures that it wil l never have the same kind of impact on the Satanic cinema that ROSEMARY'S BABY achieved, it is i n fact the deeper and more thoughtful film. Breaking free of negative Judaeo­ Christian definitions of the Devil, it proves that this ancient archetype can be given new life in the hands of an original artist. As the second century of Satanic film commenced, it remained to be seen whether this new approach was a sign o f things to come or merely .a n anomaly (initial signs were not good - 2000 held little in promise save a pointless remake of B EDAZZLED and the Adam Sandier vehicle LITTLE NICKY, featuring Harvey Keitel as the Devil). In 1 896, Melies' black and white Mephistopheles, the first to be recorded on celluloid, vanished in a puff of smoke, a villain vanquished by the sign of the cross. In 1 999, the Other, presented in its purest left hand path form as a sexual initiatrix of the Feminine Daemonic, is unambiguously embraced. Lucifer is established as the heroine, redeemed fallen angel, and Princess of Darkness who provides the key that a l lows the in itiate to attain the knowledge of the kingdom of shadows. In THE N I NTH GATE's last reversal of the expected Satanic imagery, the hero's entrance into the other realm is not pictured as a frighten ing descent into a n abhorrent Hell. On the contrary, when Corso fulfils h is hidden fate, he is welcomed by a triumphant blaze of illumination. As he had read earlier on the title page of the coveted book which led him to this apotheosis: Sic Luceat Lux ­ Thus shines the Light. The final image of the Devil's first century on film is radiant with the bringer of light's mysterious brilliance, threatening to some, alluring to others. That l i ght, as penetrating as a movie projector's beam, and possessed of the same magical ability to conjure vividly imagined worlds, will continue to inspire and alarm mankind as it is reflected in future media as yet unimaginable.


INDEX OF FILMS Page numbers in bold indicate an illustra tion.

A ABBY

172-173 177 218 76-77 43 178-179 207-208, 208, 219 75, 75-76 173, 174, 189 163, 172 84 172,

ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES, THE AIRPLANE ALIAS NICK BEAL ALRAUNE ANGEL ABOVE, DEVIL BELOW ANGEL H EART ANGEL ON MY SHOULDER ANTICHRIST, THE ASYLUM OF SATAN, T H E ATTACK OF THE FI FTY-FOOT WOMAN

B BACK FROM THE DEAD BARBARELLA BARON MUNCHHAUSEN BECKET BEDAZZLED BEDAZZLED

(1 967) (1999)

BEYOND THE DOOR BIRTH OF A NATION BLACK CAT, THE

33, 42, 49-56, 50, 51,

BLACK CROOK, THE BLACK EXORCISM BLACK MASS BLACK ROSES BLACULA BLOOD FROM THE M U M M Y'S TOMB BLOOD OF JESUS, THE BLOOD ON SATAN'S CLAW BLOOD ORGY OF THE SHE-DEVILS BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, THE BROTHERHOOD OF SATAN, THE

55,

86 130 57 106 1 24, 1 25 238 175 46 86, 89, 104, 1 07, 141 29 174 111 205 173 183 64, 64-65, 74, 172 148, 148 7, 161, 161-162 56, 57, 79 157, 157-159

c CABIN IN THE SKY CABINET OF MEPH ISTOPHELES, THE CABINET OF DR CALIGARI, THE

26,

73-74, 74 19 26-27, 3 1 , 40, 44, 49, 50


240

â&#x20AC;¢

THE SATANIC SCREEN

19

CAKE-WALK INFERNAL

1 89

CAR, THE

76 70, 99

CASABLANCA CAT PEOPLE CHARLIE'S FAMILY

228, 229

CITY OF THE DEAD

95-96, 96, 1 2 1

CLOSE E N COUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND

1 92

COMPANY OF WOLVES

202 29

CONSCIENCE

147-148

CRY OF THE BANSHEE

D 189, 190, 1 98, 1 99

DAMIEN: THE OMEN II DAMN YANKEES DAMNATION OF DOCTOR FAUST, THE DAMNATION OF FAUST, THE DANCE O F T H E VAMPIRES DANTE'S INFERNO DAUGHTERS OF SATAN, THE

5, 91, 9 1 -92 19 19 1 09-1 10, 123, 1 23-1 24, 1 3 3 57, 5 8 19

DAY OF THE BEAST

226-229, 227

DEATHMASTER, THE

1 51 , 1 5 1-1 52

DEMON WITCH CHILD DEMONIC I N ART, THE D E R STUDENT VON PRAG ( 1 9 1 3)

1 73 95 5, 23, 24-27, 25, 36, 40, 46, 76, 1 86

DER STUDENT VON PRAG (1 926)

43-46, 44

DER STUDENT VON PRAG ( 1935)

49, 59, 59-60

DER TEUFEL I N MISS JONAS DEVIL, THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER, THE DEVIL AND MAX DEVLIN, THE DEVIL I N A CONVENT, THE DEVIL I N LOVE, THE DEVIL I N MISS JONES, THE

1 57 28 42, 6 1 -64, 63, 80 215 19 1 1 6-1 1 7 5, 1 66, 1 66-167, 176

DEVIL I N MISS JONES II, THE

1 99-200

DEVIL INSIDE HER, THE

179, 1 79

DEVIL RIDES OUT, THE DEVIL WITH HITLER, THE

9, 86, 89, 1 20, 1 26-130, 127, 129, 147, 149, 1 53, 1 84, 1 9 1 30, 65, 65-66, 86

DEVIL WORSHIPPER, THE

3 1 , 55

DEVIL'S ADVOCATE, THE

229-230, 230

DEVIL'S BONDSWOMAN, THE DEVIL'S DUE

29 1 76

DEVIL'S ECSTASY

1 7 5-176

DEVIL'S EYE, THE

97, 97-98

DEVIL'S MANOR, THE DEVIL'S MESSENGER, THE DEVIL'S M ISTRESS, THE DEVIL'S N IGHTMARE, THE DEVIL'S PARTNER, THE

5, 17-1 8 100-102, 1 0 1 , 105 5, 1 17-1 1 9, 1 1 8 1 58, 1 59

89, 90


INDEX OF FILMS DEVIL'S PEOPLE, THE DEVIL'S PLAYGROUND, THE DEVIL'S RAIN, THE DEVIL'S TOY, THE

â&#x20AC;¢

241

185, 1 85-186 1 89 177, 1 7 8 29

DEVILS, THE

1 53, 1 53-1 54

DEVILS O F DARKNESS

1 1 4, 1 1 4-1 1 5

D IE ELIXIERE DES TEUFELS DISCIPLE OF DEATH, THE DOCTOR FAUSTUS DRACULA ( 1 9 3 1 } DRACULA A.D. 72 DUNWICH HORROR, THE

1 86 1 60-161 6, 1 2 1 3 1 , 49 1 6 1 , 1 68 146-147, 1 47

E EASY RIDER

175

E L ATAQUE D E LOS MUERTOS SIN OJOS

1 55 1 55 213

EL BULQUE MALDITO E L CAMI NANTE E N D O F DAYS EVEN AS YOU AND I EVIL, THE EVILSPEAK

2 0 1 , 216, 2 3 1 -232 29 191 199, 1 00, 205

1 73 7, 13, 76, 168-172, 1 69, 1 7 1 , 173, 1 74, 1 7 5, 1 78, 1 79, 1 80, 1 83, 1 89, 2 1 7, 2 1 8, 2 1 9, 224, 232 1 87-1 88, 188 EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC EXORCISMO

EXORCIST, THE

EXORCIST Ill

2 1 8, 2 1 8-219, 230

F FAHRMANN MARIA FALLEN FANTASIA

57 230 5, 61, 62

FAUST (1 926}

6, 3 1 , 41-42, 42, 57, 80, 99

FAUST (1 960}

42, 98, 98-99, 1 96

FAUST (1 994}

57, 225, 225-226 19

FAUST AND MARGUERITE FEAR NO EVIL

1 98-199, 1 99, 205

FINAL CONFLICT - THE OMEN Ill

196, 1 96-197, 1 98

FINGER LICKIN' GOOD FIRST POWER FOUR HUNDRED PRANKS OF THE DEVIL FREAKS

1 89 2 1 9, 2 1 9-220, 230 18, 1 9, 20

48

G GLEN OR GLENDA?

79, 80


242

â&#x20AC;¢

THE SATANIC SCREEN

GOING TO G LORY, COME TO JESUS GOLDFINGER GOLEM, THE

(1914) (1920)

GOLEM, THE

GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD, THE GURU DAS SIETE CIDADES

76 1 84 27, 44 31-33, 32, 34, 40, 52, 54 111 1 52

H HAND OF THE DEVIL, THE HANS WESTMAR HAUNTED PALACE, THE HAxAN H EAVEN CAN WAIT H ELLAVISION HELLFIRE CLUB, THE H E LLRAISER H E LLRAISER II H IGHWAY TO HELL HIMLASPELET HOLOCAUST

2000

HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB HOUSE OF EXORCISM HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL HOWL OF THE DEVIL

I DRINK YOUR BLOOD I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE INAUGURATION OF THE PLEASURE DOME INCREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES INCUBUS INQUISITION INTOLERANCE INVISIBLE MAN, THE INVOCATION OF M Y DEMON BROTHER

68-70, 69, 83 58 84, 1 04-106, 105, 1 7 7 6, 7 , 33-35, 34, 47, 1 1 1 73 57 99 2 1 0, 2 1 0-2 1 1 , 2 1 3, 2 1 4 2 1 3-214, 2 1 4 222-223, 223 68 1 89-191 1 63, 1 64 174 133 2 1 3, 2 1 3

1 49 70 79-83, 82, 1 03 146 1 1 5, 1 1 6, 1 77 213 30 76 5, 103, 1 4 1-142, 1 42, 193

J JOSEPH ANDREWS

1 87, 2 1 4

K THE KEEP KISS OF T H E VAMPIRE

200-201, 201 1 08-109, 109, 1 1 1 , 124


INDEX OF FILMS KURFURSTENDAMM

243

3 1 , 40

L LA BEAUT� DU DIABLE LA NOCHE DE LAS GAVIOTAS LEAVES FROM SATAN'S BOOK LEGACY, THE LEGACY OF SATAN, THE LEGEND LES D�MONIAQUES LES VISITEURS DU SOIR

20, 77-78, 78 1 5 5-156 30, 33 1 9 1 , 1 92 1 57 202-203, 203 1 64-166, 1 65 20, 66-68, 67, 1 1 7

LISA AND THE DEVIL

174

LITTLE NICKY

238

LOST HIGHWAY LUCIFER RISING LUST FOR A VAMPIRE

224 1 0 3 , 130-132, 1 4 1 , 1 9 3-1 94, 1 94 1 59, 1 60, 1 6 1

M MAGDALENA - POSSESSED BY THE DEVIL MAGIC SKIN, THE MAGICIAN, THE MARGUERITE DE LA NUIT MASCOT, THE MASK OF THE DEMON MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH, THE MASTER AND MARGHE RITA, THE M E ET MR. LUCIFER M E PHISTO MEPHISTO WALTZ, THE M ETROPOLIS MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, A

1 74-1 7 5 28 7, 8, 37, 39-4 1 , 41, 73, 89 20, 83 56-57 9, 93-95, 94 84, 1 06, 106-108, 1 08, 1 26 1 32 80 99, 1 9 5, 1 9 5-196 156, 1 56-157 9, 3 1 , 42-43, 43, 57, 94 80

M I LKY WAY, THE

1 14

MONDO FREUDO

1 1 6, 1 1 7, 1 4 5

MONK, THE MR. FROST MY SWEET SATAN MY TALE IS HOT MYSTERIES OF BLACK MAGIC

1 64 220, 220-2 2 1 205, 229 111 90

N NAKED GUN

218

N E CROMANCY

1 62, 1 62

NEEDFUL THINGS

223-224

NEW WAVE HOOKERS NIGHT OF THE DEMON

202 8, 72, 86-89, 87, 88, 1 03, 1 1 5, 233


244

â&#x20AC;¢

THE SATANIC SCREEN

NIGHT OF THE EAGLE

102, 102-103 99-100, 100 23 1 , 232-238, 233, 234, 235 7, 31, 35-37, 36, 44

NIGHT TIDE NINTH GATE, THE NOSFERATU

0 OH, GOD! YOU DEVIL! OMEGA MAN, THE OMEN, T H E O M E N IV - THE AWAKE NING ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S ORPHEUS

202 149-1 50 13, 180-183, 182, 1 85, 1 9 1 , 220, 226, 231 , 232 196 NEST 219 207

p PERFORMANCE PETEY WHEATSTRAW, THE DEVIL'S SON-IN-LAW PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE, THE POISONS AFFAIR, THE PRINCE OF DARKNESS

130, 1 3 1 191 175 83 205-207, 206

Q QUATERMASS AND THE PIT

1 2 1-122, 1 22, 1 88, 205

R RACE WITH THE DEVIL

1 7 5, 176 146 REPOSSESSED 2 1 7-2 1 8 REPULSION 133 RESTITUTION 30 205 RIVER'S EDGE ROCK'N'ROLL NIGHTMARE 205 ROSEM ARY'S BABY 70, 77, 123, 130, 133-1 40, 1 34, 1 3 5, 1 36, 1 43, 1 44, 1 45, 146, 149, 1 56, 1 57, 163, 1 68, 1 70, 1 7 5, 1 8 1 , 1 83, 1 85, 1 86, 1 89, 192, 231, 232, 237, 238 RAT PFINK A BOO-BOO

s SANTA CLAUS SATAN'S CHE ERLEADERS SATAN'S SLAVE SATANAS SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA

92, 92 1 88-- 1 89 1 80 30-3 1 , 32, 40 167, 167-1 68


INDEX OF FILMS

245

â&#x20AC;¢

SATANIS: THE DEVIL'S MASS

143, 144, 1 4 5

SCORPIO RISING

1 03-1 04, 104

SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN SECT, THE SENTINEL, THE SEVEN FOOTPRINTS TO SATAN SEVENTH VICTIM, THE SEX RITUALS OF THE OCCULT SEXORCIST, THE SEXUAL RITES OF THE DEVIL SIMON OF THE DESERT SINTH IA, THE DEVIL'S DOLL SISTERS OF SATAN SKULL, THE . SORROWS OF SATAN, TH E SOUL OF A MONSTER SOUTH PARK: BIGGER, LONGER & UNCUT SPELLBINDER SPIRITISM SPIRITS OF THE DEAD STAR WARS STORY OF MANKIND, T H E SUBU RBAN SATANIST SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL

1 83 2 2 1 -222, 222 1 86, 187

48,

48

7, 70-73, 7 1 , 86 146 174 1 76, 197, 197-198 1 1 3, 1 1 3-1 1 4 1 46 1 77- 1 78 1 1 1-1 1 3, 1 1 2 46, 46-47 74-75 230-231 211 99 1 32 1 92 30, 66, 85, 85-86 1 76-177 132

T TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA THAT NAZSTY NUISANCE THING THAT COULDN'T DIE, THE

1 52, 1 53, 1 6 1 66 9 1 , 1 63

TING LER, THE

133

TO HEX WITH SEX

141

TO H E LL WITH THE KAISER TO THE DEVIL. .. A DAUGHTER TOM JONES TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD TORTURE GARDEN TRICK OR TREAT TWINS OF EVIL

29-30 1 83-185, 184 1 87 1 55, 1 5 5 120, 1 2 1 204, 204-205 161

u UND EAD, THE

83-84, 84

UNH OLY, THE

2 1 1 -2 1 2, 2 1 2

v VAMPYR

30


246

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THE SATANIC SCREEN

VAMPYRES VIRGIN WITCH

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CINEMA

ISBN 1 - 8 4 0 6 8 - 0 4 3 - 1

OCCULT

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