The brief running time (a pert 74 minutes) and minimalist plotting do little to relieve the tedium of this torpidly paced exercise in bare-bones ‘horrotica’ from Italian exploitation producer Gabriele Crisanti. Released in 1982 and ostensibly a porno remake of his 1979 film “Malabimba”, “Satan’s Baby Doll” recasts Crisanti’s then wife, the actress Mariangela Giordano, in another of the producer’s dubious sexcapades, with relatively muted Gothic flavouring supplied by director Mario Bianchi - a filmmaker whose body of work appears to consist exclusively of porno pictures as far as I can ascertain; perhaps explaining why this mediocre attempt to recreate the crepuscular, cobwebby atmosphere of - for instance - mid-period Antonio Margheriti horror films or of Roger Corman's Poe adaptations, falls completely flat more often than not.
The film begins with the members of the Aguilar family solemnly assembled in the main hall of their battered, cliff-top Italian castle dwelling, where the corpse of Maria Aguilar (Marina Hedman) is laid out before them for the final time before it is to be interred in the family crypt. Husband Antonio (Aldo Sambrell), his paraplegic brother Ignouzo, and Sol - the wimple-wearing care worker employed to tend to his everyday ‘needs’ (Mariangela Giorfano) - are joined by Antonio and Maria’s surviving daughter Miria (Jacqueline Dupré - an ‘actress’ who one can only imagine was cast in this, her one and only screen appearance, simply because of her unique ability to appear comatose at all times even when frantically pleasuring herself!) as well as the shifty-looking family doctor and a dourly hawk-faced castle valet. While the traditional gothic-tinged thunderstorm rages outside and Nico Catanese’s repetitive organ-based theme wigs out on the soundtrack, they all eye each-other suspiciously and sweatily over the blonde corpse; and the viewer is immediately apprised of the fact that this merry lot probably have more than a few moldering skeletons in their dungeon closets.
The tense atmosphere has hardly dissolved when Maria’s corpse suddenly twitches back into life for a brief second. But the doctor dismisses this unusual development with a few curt words on the theme of ‘muscular spasms’that seem to satisfy everyone apart from the creepy valet, who prophetically proclaims that they are all cursed and that the soul of the deceased will soon enough return to destroy them all.
While we wait for the inevitable sex-based supernatural shenanigans to arrive, the predictable Gothic cliches are laboriously rolled out one by one in a couple of sequences that quickly and effortlessly inform the viewer exactly where this is all heading: a guarded conversation in the castle grounds between the twitchy, mustachioed Antonio and the bluff doctor, establishes that the death of Maria has been conveniently recast as a heart attack as a favour to the husband, in order to avoid the intimation of suicide suggested by her fatal overdose of some illicitly supplied digitalis (or was it murder? Clue: of course it was!).
This secret conversation is clandestinely observed by at least two of the other members of the household - namely, Sol and the valet - whilst they’re busy casually skulking behind various buses and vine-laden walls. Antonio also establishes during the conversation that the doctor ’loved’ Maria. “But we all did!” exclaims the medic. How true these words turn out to be. What’s more, Antonio is secretly stashing the supplies of cocaine the doctor is illegally supplying as aid intended for the relief of his wheelchair bound brother’s back pain, and shooting it up in his dimly lit private chambers instead!
Meanwhile, the taciturn paraplegic is getting his own special form of ’relief’ by secretly perving on white-clad nun, Sol, as she strips off her habit and down to some unlikely, and very un-nunlike undies consisting of stockings and suspenders, before disrobing completely for an extended self-pleasuring sess on her luxurious bed. Her chamber door is conveniently wedged open just enough for Ignouzo to be able to cop a decent eyeful. One of Sol’s duties, we later learn, involve giving this excessively hairy fella an all-over bed-bath; she seems to spend an inordinate amount of time on one particular small area of his horribly hirsute anatomy as well! One might almost think that she was secretly getting off on it … Oh yes - she is secretly getting off on it!
Miria is not taking her mother’s death too well, and the doctor recommends a prolonged vacation in one of his remote clinics (this after a 'consultation' in front of the rest of the household, during which Miria is made to get almost completely naked, simply for the sake of a perfunctory stethoscope examination!) But the secrets and perverted desires of this secluded cast of unwholesome characters are gradually exposed one-by-one after the mysterious death of the family doctor while he’s in the process of administering some embalming fluid to Maria’s (also now completely naked) corpse in the barren depths of the castle's crypt: the body springs to life again, and causes him to accidentally jab himself with his own hypodermic!
With Miria’s trip now off, Antonio takes charge and has the valet dump the doctor's body in the grounds of the castle and dispose of his car in a nearby lake. But this death is only the prelude to the really weird stuff as the mother’s restless spirit now takes full possession of her comely blonde daughter’s body and uses it to dispose of the rest of the inhabitants of the castle, despite attempts by the perceptive valet to perform various ineffective magick rituals down in the crypt in order to defeat the curse (these involve biting the head of a chicken Ozzy Osbourne-style, and performing a spot of what looks like Reiki healing on a crumbling bandaged skeleton). None of it works though, and the valet becomes just one more unhappy victim: throttled to death by that rotten zombie-skeleton, now returned to life by the power of a sex mad spirit.
Elsewhere, Antonio also takes rather a shine to the forbidden, nun-tastic delights of Sol, and expresses a violent desire to find out just what she keeps hidden beneath her wimple - and everything else she's wearing! Both she and his brother are on the vengeful spirit’s shit list though; it seems that during her life Maria was having it away with just about everybody, eventually leading a jealous Antonio to both cause his brother’s disabling accident and to murder Maria by strangling her after he discovered (and tape recorded the evidence) that she’d also been engaging in torrid lesbian trysts with her brother-in-law’s nun care worker, Sol (you didn’t see that one coming, eh!?), on top of all the other affairs she'd been having. Maria takes a diabolical revenge on her former spouse, though, by seemingly materialising in his bed chamber and clambering on top of him for some rather un-edifying (neither party is particularly attractive) licking, sucking and nuzzling, before finally revealing her true form - whereupon Antonio learns he’s just been groping and rogering the possessed body of his own daughter!
Yeeeuck! No wonder he falls off a balcony in confused self-disgust!
Admittedly, this probably all sounds quite entertaining in the disreputable way so much Italian exploitation often is: a sexy gothic throwback about a corpse in a castle that wants to be rejoined with its numerous lovers (by killing them all) and take revenge on those who have wronged her in life (also by killing them all!). But wobbly acting, stilted direction and some painfully slow pacing do little to enhance the intrinsic hammy melodrama behind the cliched gothic material, and the listless and fairly uninventive sexual content isn't even all that exciting. The two music cues the film possesses are repeated over and over again on a loop until they do your head in, and the whole thing lacks the deranged energy of, say, a freeform smut-art offering by Jess Franco when he’s in his prime.
This is a ‘Shameless Rebuild’ edition, by which it is meant that the company have taken the XXX footage originally only available in an obscure German cut of the movie, and incorporated it back into the body of the ‘soft’ version so as to build up their own, much more comprehensive, hybrid composite cut. Of course, the BBFC will have removed the really heavy material so it still isn’t complete, but the idea is that you get a slightly longer, saucier edition than would have been provided via just the straight soft-core version being released as it stood. Shameless have made it their policy in the past to reintegrate rare footage into their releases, which might only be elsewhere available via badly authored private video tapes etc - even though this will mean that there will inevitably be a variability in quality when the obscure material is incorporated back into the body of the original film. Usually, this isn’t too distracting, but there are a few instances in this particular case when it makes an already rather sloppy-looking effort seem even more off-putting and disjointed, and the quality of the re-inserted footage is particularly poor in comparison to the rather nice looking transfer (which I assume is the same one used for the U.S. release by Severin) that surrounds it.
Anyway, the disc also includes an alternative opening title sequence involving an arty lesbian scene between Hedman and Giordano, which also originally comes as part of the German cut but is included here as an alternative sequence extra. Perhaps, in this case, all of the XXX material should have been presented separately as an extra rather than shoehorned gracelessly into the main feature. A snappily written bio of Mariangela Giordano is also included (the text coming from an article written by Alan Jones and Mark Ashworth), along with a trailer and a trailer reel of Shameless titles. The film is presented in Italian with optional English subtitles and you apparently also get a collector’s poster of the original artwork for the film packaged with the disc. So, all together not a bad little haul for true aficionados of Eurosleaze.