“ Genre: Horror / Theatrical Release: 1974 / Suitable for 18 years and over / Director: Luigi Batzella / Actors: Rita Calderoni, James Harris, Renato Lupi, Iolanda Mascitti, Luigi Antonio Guerra ... / DVD released 2004-03-29 at Redemption Films / Features of the DVD: PAL „
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A review of the Redemption DVD, which costs close to £10 on amazon.
Made in 1974, this is an Italian erotic horror about, um, Satan and nudity. For once, this is an exploitation film that more than lives up to its title. With plenty of gratuitous full frontal shots; a ton of psychedelia and lounge music; and the worst giant spider you will ever see, it's impossible not to like this on at least some level.
A dishy doctor, Benson, helps a young woman, Susan, whose car has crashed. They're miles from anywhere, so go to a nearby castle for assistance. Unfortunately the castle is owned by the Devil, who dresses as Jon Pertwee in Dr Who (sadly he doesn't have the same hair). It also contains evil doppelgangers of Benson and Susan; a really creepy servant; a slightly less creepy lesbian servant; spooky mirrors that keep breaking; and that spider I mentioned earlier. Truly, it never rains but it pours.
This is a preposterous film, but it gets the viewer on its side right from the get-go. It starts with a naked woman running in slow motion through the night while a synthesiser wails on the soundtrack. I can only think of one better way to start a film than that - it involves a man crashing through a wall, riding a dinosaur, and firing a shotgun into the air. No one has yet made that film.
Nude for Satan, perhaps predictably, keeps the viewer interested mainly by throwing copious amounts of female nudity at us. This works reasonably well, although it can get a little dull after a while. There's enough craziness to keep you going when the nudity begins to pall, though. The two naked women here are attractive and uninhibited. Susan is a delightful minx, while the serving girl is lovely (and I don't think we ever see her with clothes on, or learn her name. One could make a point about the objectification of women here, but in a film like this it rather goes without saying). We never see any hint of below-the-belt male nudity - this is a film that knows its audience.
The director, Luigi Batzella, later made the sleazy epic The Beast in Heat, and like that film, this is a bit more explicit than usual for this kind of thing. It's also every bit as silly as that film, but without the nastiness and misogyny. It's fairly generic in its plot - it kind of resembles other Italian exploitation films, the two most obvious being Lisa and the Devil for its old dark house/doppelgangers/devil aspects; and Emmanuelle for its soft-focus, billowy love scenes.
The direction itself is fairly standard - an occasional attempt at an arty camera angle just serves to emphasise the functional nature of the rest of it. There are some good lighting effects, though, and it has a pleasing tendency to throw in psychedelic visuals like the kind of thing you'd see on Top of the Pops in the era.
It's never exactly scary, but it is occasionally a bit uneasy in the way characters disappear suddenly into the shadows. It randomly switches between day and night (as part of the plot), which is a bit creepy. It's not really erotic in any meaningful way, although it tries its best. There's never a sense that any of the naked antics really mean anything to anyone, giving the whole thing a curious, Confessions-film feel.
The music is pretty good without setting the world on fire. Flutes dance over heavy piano chords, while moogs moan and bongos are used without restraint. It works well with what we see but could have been slotted into almost any tits-and-blood Italian film of the 70s.
The film rarely descends too far into stupidity, although the spider is worth a mention - imagine if Bagpuss had featured a spider; and then imagine that the very limited animation in Bagpuss somehow didn't work properly for the spider, and they just pulled him along on a very visible bit of string; and that instead of helping Bagpuss and those mice he'd instead constantly tried to ravish Madeleine the rag doll; and then imagine he added nothing to the plot whatsoever, and you're maybe one tenth of the way to understanding just how unimpressive and ridiculous this spider is...
The acting is surprisingly good, although none of the actors were familiar to me. Susan is every bit as sexy as she needs to be. The guy playing the Devil does a fairly typical enigmatic and sinister performance, but his bouffant hair and silly dialogue undermine any brief frisson of unease one might have expected to feel in the presence of the Prince of Darkness. Benson is a bit tiresome, but his evil twin is a simpering delight, with a great evil laugh.
This is a Redemption DVD, so the branding is beyond awful - naked women with fake boobs writhing around before you reach the menu, that kind of thing. The cover image bears no relation whatsoever to the film. Still, the picture quality on the film is good, and it's impressive that they've released a subtitled version rather than going for one dubbed into English. There are a few extras - posters, stills, a trailer, but they're not too impressive - probably there isn't much available for a film like this, which isn't well known. There's also a godawful music video for one of Redemption's bands, but you can ignore that.
I wasn't expecting much from this film beyond a bit of mild titillation. I was pleasantly surprised. This has a lot more charm that you'd imagine, is silly enough not to get boring, and is explicit enough to please my inner-15-year-old. It's not earth-shattering, it's not a lost masterpiece, but it does hit most of the right notes.