Monday, 26 September 2016

Satan's Blood

Director: Carlos Puerto
Writer: Carlos Puerto
Producer: Juan Piquer Simon
Cast: Mariana Karr, Jose Maria Guillen, Sandra Alberti
Country: Spain
Year of release: 1978
Reviewed from: UK DVD (Redemption)

The latest release from Redemption is this 1970s Spanish offering which is one of those Dennis Wheatley-esque, middle-class Satanism films where the orgies look about as interesting and inviting as the dinner parties.

Young professionals Ana (Argentinean soap actress Mariana Karr making one of her very few big screen appearances) and Andres (Jose Maria Guillen, who was in a 1964 Spanish TV version of The Canterville Ghost) are out for a drive round Madrid with their Alsatian Blackie when they meet Bruno (Angel Aranda: Planet of the Vampires) and his wife Berta (Sandra Alberti, who has a face like a man). Bruno is adamant that he went to school with Andres but Andres doesn’t remember him and their memories of the school seem to differ.

Nevertheless, A&A accept an offer to go to B&B’s place for dinner and drinks, although this turns out to be a very large house, behind a high wall, in the middle of nowhere over an hour’s drive from the city. Further claims of shared schooldays between the two men continue to seem flawed but the visitors don’t want to be rude to their hosts. They are persuaded to join in a Ouija board session which reveals that Ana may still have the hots for Andres’ brother Juan and that Bruno will die by suicide.

And ever onwards, things get weirder, leading to A&A - persuaded to stay over - venturing downstairs in the middle of the night to find their hosts naked in a pentagram, which leads to a four-way romp that fails to be even slightly erotic. Andres’ car is tampered with, Blackie is found dead and strung up in the pantry, Bruno is shot (offscreen) and when Berta calls a doctor he all but accuses Andres of murder. Berta tries to commit suicide, someone unidentified tries to rape Ana, etc etc etc.

There are some interesting ideas but they’re never developed and nothing is ever explained. Things perk up briefly about ten minutes from the end when the whole house becomes embroiled in supernatural strangeness but the film swiftly falls flat when it descends into illogical, inconsistent, inexplicable, gratuitous weirdness, before juddering to a halt with a ‘twist’ that we have been expecting since the film started. (I forgot to mention the pointless pre-credit sequence in which a woman is ceremonially raped on an altar by a beardy bloke.) I know it’s meant to be like a nightmare but it’s also meant to be a conspiracy and in respect of the latter it just doesn’t add up.

The highlight - such as it is - is a sequence when Ana awakes to find a large, porcelain-headed doll (featured prominently in the background of earlier scenes) walking into her room, followed by a knife-wielding Berta clad in a diaphanous shift, intent on sapphic seduction. This swiftly turns out to be a dream but it is at least imaginative. For the most part, Satan’s Blood is simply rather dull.

There have been some good Spanish horror films and some bad ones. This is not as unwatchable as much of Jess Franco’s oeuvre but it’s not nearly as enjoyable as a Paul Naschy monsterfest. The direction is competent but that’s all. There’s not much actual horror - it’s all one long build-up which doesn’t really know what to do when it reaches the pay-off. And far, far too much of it is unexplained or inexplicable or both.

Writer-director Carlos Puerto’s best known credit, apart from this, is scripting the 1976 Journey to the Centre of the Earth starring Kenneth More. The director of that film, which shares numerous cast and crew with this one, was Juan Piquer Simon. Executive producer on this picture, his other credits include Supersonic Man, Extraterrestrial Visitors and Pieces.

The only recognisable name in the cast is Luis Barboo (credited here as ‘Luis Bar-Boo’) whose 120+ films include A Fistful of Dollars (and numerous other paella westerns), Daughter of Dracula, The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein, Dracula - Prisoner of Frankenstein, A Virgin Among the Living Dead, The Loreley’s Grasp, Night of the Werewolf and the aforementioned Journey to the Centre of the Earth.

Redemption’s usual lucky dip of extras includes ten stills, presented almost full-frame, and two unrelated trailers: an un-narrated English one for Requiem for a Vampire (also on the Night of the Bloody Apes disc) and a deliriously awful one for British sex-comedy Au Pair Girls, one of Val Guest’s less noteworthy efforts (I doubt if Gabrielle Drake puts it prominently on her CV either). “They’re here to help us - and Gawd help us!” intones the voice-over, which also points out guest appearances by John Le Mesurier and Rosalie Crutchley. To be honest, this one trailer is more entertaining than the whole of Satan’s Blood. There are also sampler tracks from 15 albums released on Redemption’s two music labels, some of which are unlistenable and most of which have titles and artist names so clicheed that one wonders whether they’re a spoof. The only one I was able to suffer for more than ten seconds was ‘Webcam Girl’ by the Courtesans which sounds like the Primitives or the Darling Buds. [Just realised, many years later - that's Eileen Daly's band! - MS]

The sleeve says that “this rare film has been remastered for this DVD from a new hi-def master and looks stunning!” Well, I don’t have an HD TV so neither know nor care about that side of things. The subtitled print looks good in terms of colour and contrast and the only noticeable imperfections are some flicks and flecks at reel ends. However “84 mins approx” is a bit cheeky as this runs 79’40”. There are no obvious cuts so this may just be the 82-minute version, available elsewhere, time-compressed for PAL. The sleeve also claims that the film dates from 1971 which might be believable, given the fashions and hairstyles on show, were it not for a huge Star Wars poster clearly visible about five minutes in.

(The film’s original title, Escalofrio, was also the Spanish title for both the Bill Paxton-directed horror-thriller Frailty and Larry Fessenden’s snowbound monster flick Wendigo.)

MJS rating: C+
Review originally posted 17th June 2007

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