Unless otherwise noted in the post title, these are not
reviews, per se. They are articles for people who have already seen the film or read the book in question--meaning that there will be spoilers. If you're already familiar with the material being covered, or don't mind the plot being spoiled, please read on and leave a comment.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

[Satanophobia] Satan's Children (1975)

Fed up with being bossed around by his stepfather and teased by his seductive stepsister, teenager Bobby
Satan's Children - Theatrical Poster
Theatrical Poster
bids his family a less-than-fond farewell ("Go to hell!"). Popping his biggest and best butterfly collar, with nothing in tow but a bag of grass, he hits the desolate streets like a born hustler, ready to take this world by storm.

Stopping off at an all-night diner for a bottomless cup of coffee, he is hit on by an older man, until a kindly biker intervenes. Thankful for the help, Bobby offers to share his marijuana with his new pal, and they head back to the biker's apartment to get high.
Some guys have no luck at all. In short order, Bobby is held at knifepoint, stripped naked, hog tied, and passed around like a party favor between the biker and his buddies. Beaten and traumatized, Bobby is left unconscious in a field.

He's found by a group of freewheeling teenagers, and after some spirited debate, they bring Bobby back to their country commune to recuperate. What a swell bunch of kids they must be. Too bad they're also a bunch of murderous Satanists, and the decision to bring Bobby into their lives has caused dissension amongst the group.

Bobby and second-in-command Sherry strike up a romance, but their relationship is put on hold when their older leader Simon returns home from a trip. Not approving of the decisions that Sherry has made in his absence, she and her new boy toy are both marked to become human sacrifices for their dark lord and master.

Bobby offers up his allegiance to Satan in an attempt to save both of their lives, but Simon doesn't think that Bobby is Satan material. He has allowed himself to be kicked around by the world, and that makes him a loser. Satan doesn't want losers in his army, he's only interested in winners.

Bobby, a changed man after the ordeal he has been through, breaks free from the Satanists, returns home muddy and bloody, bashes in the skull of his stepfather, rapes his stepsister, kills—and beheads—his rapists, and then (and only then) rescues his one true love. He drops a bag full of heads on Simon's desk as evidence that he would make a good soldier for Satan, offers up his trashy step-sister as a replacement sacrifice, and then he and Sherry live happily ever after under Satan’s command.

The whole Bobby-Sherry love affair might appear highly unlikely. This is not due entirely to their spiritual beliefs—people convert religions for their spouses all the time. It's just difficult for many of us to believe that a victim of rape would so quickly jump into bed with someone else. We are inclined to think this way because the vast majority of rape depicted in the media is perpetrated against females. Recent studies, though, have shown that male victims are prone to question their own sexuality after the assault, and some may quickly seek to assert their heterosexuality. What better way for Bobby to do so than to bed down with the first pretty girl who shows any interest in him.

In the small cinematic universe that SATAN'S CHILDREN takes place in, it would seem that the worst thing Bobby could be is gay. Slurs are bandied about with casual aplomb, and Simon is quick to point out that Satan despises homosexuals (which seems an odd stance for an entity who supposedly stands for everything that the Biblical God stands against). It's really no wonder that he would want to prove that he was a "real man", both to himself and to those around him.

Satan's Children - Bobby's Tighty Whities
Bobby's Tighty Whities
Yes, this movie comes off as rather homophobic. The gay characters are all depicted as deviants, predators, and rapists (though, to be fair, so are the heterosexuals. Everyone is rather despicable in this film). And yet, I've never encountered a movie this homophobic that was so full of homoerotic imagery. For instance, when Bobby rapes his stepsister, the entire thing happens off-camera, but when Bobby is raped, we're treated to quite a glimpse of his bare ass as he lies, tied and helpless, on the floor like the centerfold of some particularly low-rent rough trade magazine. Even when he's not naked, Bobby is seldom fully clothed, and he spends the majority of the running time in nothing but a pair of dirty briefs.

Bobby is a dirty boy, indeed.

SATAN'S CHILDREN was a low-budget regional effort shot in the Tampa Bay Area of Florida. The crew was comprised almost entirely of employees of local television station WTVT, and the cast members were mostly students of the University of South Florida's theater department. Shot for somewhere between $25-50 thousand dollars (estimations vary), and utilizing a single set for all interior shots (which would be reconfigured and redecorated for masking purposes), the result is a down-and-dirty exploitation film that is not for everyone's taste, but is a must-see for fans of trash cinema.

The script was written by Gary Garrett and Rob Levitt, both of whom didn't continue very far in the movie industry. Only Garrett has an additional credit, having written the script for the TV movie RUN TILL YOU FALL (1988), starting Jamie Farr, Fred Savage, and Shelley Fabares.

Few of the cast members went onto other projects, and those that did never received sizable roles. Producer-director Joe Wiezycki had a short career in movies, but a long and interesting one in show business, which I shall attempt to summarize here.

Joe Wiezycki married Shirley, his high school girlfriend, and had two kids—son Larry and daughter Pam. After moving to Tampa from Chicago in 1959, Joe got a job as a mover. Despite the intensive manual labor involved, he showed up at work every day in a suit and tie. One of his clients was Ken Smith, an employee of WTVT, who was impressed with Joe's personal dress code and friendly demeanor, and their casual acquaintance eventually blossomed into a job for Joe at the television station.

Joe started off as a projectionist, but eventually worked his way up to production assistant for the mobile news unit, and then became its camera operator, on site to capture important footage of astronaut John Glenn after his return to earth. He became director of THE MARY ELLEN SHOW, and even cast his son in one episode in which he was captured by pirates.

Genre fans of a certain age may be interested to know that he was also the producer and director of the local
Paul Reynolds - Shock Armstrong
Shock Armstrong
edition of SHOCK THEATER, featuring host Paul Reynolds as the teenage ghoul Shock Armstrong, who introduced old sci-fi and horror outings. Joe himself was a semi-regular on the show, portraying the cantankerous neighbor Mr. Wilson who was often heard but never seen. On an interesting side note, when SHOCK THEATER was canceled in 1967, Larry told his young friends about it and suggested they picket the station. Other kids joined in, resulting in the show being reinstated.

After seeing the success of the low budget EASY RIDER in 1969, Joe decided to try his hand at filmmaking. Borrowing $1000 each from ten different coworkers, he set about crafting the drama WILLY'S HOME (tagline: "...a black and white story filmed in color, so powerful and believable it's frightening...", or, as the Evening Independent (11/17/72) summarized, it was about "a black youth from the ghetto who runs away and has adventures".) Once completed, the film was plagued with distribution problems, and it never earned back its investment.

WILLY'S HOME is now thought to be a lost film, but SATAN'S CHILDREN was all but lost for decades before the fine folks at Something Weird Video scrounged up a print and released it on DVD with William Girdler's ASYLUM OF SATAN, so fingers crossed that a print of the man's first film will eventually resurface as well.

Despite the poor return on WILLY'S HOME, the urge to direct a movie struck Joe again a few years later. This time around, it was SATAN'S CHILDREN. Larry worked on the set alongside his father, as a set-builder and production assistant. Again, this movie suffered distribution problems, as the distributor was misrepresenting ticket sales. To this day, it is unknown how many theaters it actually played in or how many tickets were really sold.

Joe became the producer-director of the show PULSE PLUS, on which hundreds of celebrities appeared—including presidential candidate Ronald Reagan, and later, Nancy Reagan in her first live interview as First Lady. Joe was a guest on the program himself when he retired from the station in 1989, having found it difficult to transition to computerized technology after working solely with pen and paper for thirty years.

He continued to work under his production company, Florida International Pictures, which stayed solvent by making training films. When he passed away from a heart attack in 1994, Joe was developing a script for a drama about Elvis Presley entitled THE KING OF ROCK AND ROLL.

Larry passed away in December 2012, but his son Larry, Jr. continues in the family line of work, acting as producer and editor. In what is perhaps the ultimate irony, Larry Jr. is a very active member in a Christian church.

I contacted Larry Jr. to gather what little information was yet to be uncovered.

"Joe was the kind of guy that could walk into a room, and you could feel it,” Larry Jr. said about his grandfather. “He was this gentle but commanding presence that caused everyone around him to straighten up... not out of fear but out of respect. A lover of great food and fine wine, he seemed to spend his money less on 'things' and more on people, and on doing things. Always quick to tip and quick to pick up the tab....Joe's manner and character in one word: 'gravitas.'"

He also recalled Joe talking about his idea for an Elvis movie for years, though nothing ever came of it.  Joe continued, "His only other film from back in the 70's was called WILLY’S GONE. You'll laugh, but I actually used to have portions of both the original films SATAN’S CHILDREN and WILLY’S GONE [boxed up] in my garage, but most all of it had deteriorated to a horrible smelly mess and I had to throw it out other than maybe a few pieces/reels. The history of those boxes runs something like this: Joe had them in a hot un-air-conditioned apartment for the 80's and the 90's until he passed away. Then my dad had them for a little bit and got my cousin John to store them in a shed along with some of Joe's old production stuff. When my cousin packed up his business from there, he no longer had space to store any of the boxes that were rotting and falling apart filled with rusty reels and conned me into taking them! So I hung onto it a few years in my garage until parting with most of it several years ago. 40 years is not kind to celluloid!"

Perhaps WILLY’S GONE truly is lost after all.

When asked what he thought of SATAN'S CHILDREN, Larry Jr. admitted, "I haven't actually seen Satan's Children myself...My cousin John, Joe's other grandson, has seen it though and told me it was awful. I kinda thought that was the point of 70's horror movies though! I actually didn't know much about the movie until my dad mentioned (a couple years before passing away in 2012) that he wondered if he should contact Something Weird Video to find out how they had rights to sell the movie on DVD! It wasn't something neither of us really pursued seriously and we both thought it ironic after all these years that the movie actually surfaced."

Curious, I contacted Something Weird Video to ask how they had acquired the rights to the film, but I have not received a response.


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