Which is sexier - Satanism or the 1970s? Yep, ignoring the un-sexiness that was 1978, it's a tricky question that once sparked many interesting debates and was responsible for more than a few Mensa meltdowns, I'm afraid. Thankfully however, and with the threat of another think tank riot looming, some prescient individuals foresaw the sexiness inherent in each of these elements, and like mixing chocolate and milk, had the genius idea of combining this most delicious of duos. Despite ongoing debate along the Canadian border, Satanic cinema henceforth became synonymous with the 1970s, and thus, this somewhat futile quandary was quashed forever. So why mention it and run the risk of rekindling the flames of this once-fiery debate? Because the posse of cineastes over at Mondo Macabro are releasing a sex-filled, Satanic-seventies romp from Spain titled Satan's Blood, that in addition to allowing me to write an S-filled sentence, should provide more answers, and perhaps quell any unrest that might require some much needed quelling (you know who you are).
The film opens with a Satanic ritual in which a group of men wearing black (surprise!) converge around a seemingly unconscious woman clad in a white, translucent gown. A grizzled man with a beard emerges from the pack of Satanists, unveils the woman's milk-white breasts, and begins mauling her mammaries with the gusto for which those who dabble in the dark arts are renowned. This devilish bit of groping is accompanied by what sounds less like organ "music" and more like the convulsive nightmare of a virtuoso using the organ's keys for his pillow. Amidst this orgy of nightmarish notes, the circle of Satanists watch as their lecherous leader pulls out a long dagger to penetrate and dispatch their long-legged sacrifice to the devil.
Following this attention-getter, we meet Ana and her fuddy-duddy hubby Andres. It's the weekend and Ana is bored silly, Spanish-style. She wants to go out dancing, but Andres who evidently doesn't and is running low on excuses, reminds Ana that she is pregnant and that dancing might harm the baby. Before Ana can perhaps quip that it is only her feet that risk being harmed, Andres lights up a cigarette, adding to his already doubtful smokescreen.
Nevertheless, the young couple paint the town red - and even if dancing isn't part of the evening's palette, Ana and Andres appear to have a pretty good time driving, walking, smoking and drinking coffee like only two lovebirds uncaged really can.
However, all of this brakes to a screeching halt when stopping at a stoplight, Andres notices a male and female in the next car staring over at them. Andres forfeits the title to "stoplight staring contest champion" when he looks to his wife and asks if she knows the couple. Ana doesn't. However, the friendly mystery man claims to be one of her husband's old school chums. Thusly, Andres and Ana decide to join the couple at their remote and ominous country house with the slightly less ominous prospect of some wine and cheese in their future.
True to their word, the hosts ply their guests with appetizers, but when the hosts themselves do not partake, it becomes quite clear that they are saving their appetites for the unsavory Satanic delights that the film's title blatantly promises.
While Satan's Blood isn't going to have anyone's head doing 360s, it is a decent little, largely unseen low-budget affair that's worthy of adding to the pantheon of Satanic seventies cinema. The story relies on an old formula that while shopworn, does manage to work fairly well, and Satan's Blood provides enough of a variation to keep things interesting – moderately speaking. In general, Satanic cliches most certainly abound, yet, it's all part of the fun for today's viewer and probably seemed slightly less stale in 1977 (or at the very least in Spain, due to that country's prior governmental constraints on cinema).
The characters are from the run-of-the-mill, dime-a-dozen variety, but are perhaps because of this, for the most part, serviceable. Logic is rarely something that troubles the film's protagonists, so viewers who are willing to follow their lead and let reason slide will have a better time than those who nitpick over the often willy-nilly nature that "characterizes" this type of film. To be honest, the film's labored attempts to keep the couple from leaving the house become somewhat farcical towards the end, but to take such things too seriously would be beside the point I think. To nitpick a little, however, there are ominous characters who exist at the edges of the film and its story, yet this is where they remain and I would have liked for them to have been integrated into the film proper at some point.
The large house in which much of the film and its action takes place works quite well. The trees that border the house seem to be vomiting an excessive amount of dead leaves into frame, but that's really neither here nor there (or is it?!?). The interiors are adequately atmospheric, and are decorated with the odd skull, Ouija board and creepy doll, which lend an unsettling air to the proceedings. The film is lit effectively, bolstering the eerie atmosphere, and the camera work, which is understated but never stagnant, is also rather good.
While not overly violent or gory, Satan's Blood features a couple of nice moments in this regard. The film also has a decent dose of sex and nudity, my only caveat being that after witnessing it, I had to question whether I really ever wanted to see the participants bereft of clothing after all, which brings us to the "scary" aspects of the film. There is no doubt that Satan's Blood is a horror film, but I would be hard pressed to call it a horrifying or scary film.
There are a few creepy bits here and there and the film evokes a disturbing mood at times, but its entertainment value exceeds any chills and thrills it may have originally elicited. Mondo Macabro does another excellent job with this release. Satan's Blood is presented using a "new Hi Def digital master" and with only a few minor exceptions, the film looks exceptionally good. The DVD comes with both English and Spanish language options and English subtitles. Additional features include a short Pete Tombs essay which describes the film and puts it into the context of the Spanish film industry of that time, and a very interesting documentary titled The Devil's Disciples, in which Gavin Baddeley (an expert on the subject of Satan worship, who is himself a Satanist) talks about the history of Satanism, and its place in many of the horror genre's most popular films. It's an engaging addition, thanks mainly to the intelligent and effusive Baddeley, and is far from just a throw-away extra.