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.

Monday, February 9, 2015

[Satanophobia] Satan's Slave (1976)

Catherine Yorke and her parents are traveling to the countryside to visit her uncle, a physician who has, up until now, been strangely absent from her life. Literally the moment that they pull into the property, though, they are involved in a freak car accident that claims the lives of both her parents.

Catherine suddenly finds herself in the hands of three total strangers: her uncle Alexander, her cousin
Satan's Slave - Theatrical Poster
Theatrical Poster
Stephen, and Alexander's secretary/Stephen's jilted lover Frances. Under their care and guidance, Catherine works through her grief remarkably fast. In fact, at times she hardly seems fazed by the whole thing. The only roadblocks on her road to recovery are all of the gory psychic visions that she has to endure. Alexander insists that they are just hallucinations brought on by the trauma, but there's actually a far more sinister reason behind them. 

A few hundred years back, a powerful witch named Camilla was tortured and executed by puritans on the very same land now owned by Alexander. Alexander, a devoted Satanist, has made it his life mission to return her from the dead, which can only be accomplished by offering Camilla a new body which she can occupy. He has tried—and failed—at least once before, resulting in the death of his wife, but has since learned of a few crucial requisites: the fleshy vessel must be a direct descendent of Camilla (which, surprise surprise, Catherine is); and she must be age 20, the same age that Camilla was when she was killed. With Catherine's twentieth birthday just around the corner, this dastardly trio just have to keep her close for a few more days.

When the big day comes, Frances has an unexpected (and not fully explained) change of heart. She warns Catherine of what is to come, and is brutally disposed of by Stephen because of it. Catherine makes a break for it, running through the woods, and bumps right into her supposedly-deceased father.

Although initially skeptical, Catherine eventually comes to believe his explanation that she, in fact, was the only one injured in the car accident, suffering a head injury and going in and out of consciousness ever since. Everything that has taken place since has, of course, been a construct of her own imagination.

Or has it?

Although it appears at this point that the film is going to give itself over to a nonsensical and ambiguous ending (very much in the same vein as BLACK CANDLES, already covered here), it turns out that this is a fake fake-out ending...though one that still seems to confuse some people. As Catherine is ushered back into the safety of the house, her father steps away for a moment, only to return in satanic ceremonial garb. The hunt is once again on, though this time, there is no escape.

While some insist that the reappearance of Catherine's father was merely an illusion drummed up by Alexander's devilish hoodoo, it seems painfully obvious to me that he is the genuine article. He caused the accident and faked his own death—remember, Catherine didn't see her father in the car when it burst into flames, it is only assumed that he was still inside—and has been in hiding ever since, secretly in collusion with his brother. Exactly what faking his death was intended to accomplish, however, is unclear, and I believe this is where the confusion stems from.

I don't know what it is about satanic cinema that demands so much nudity, but there's plenty of it on (full frontal) display here, too. There's also an unhealthy abundance of sex, sadism, and sleaze. One of Catherine's hallucinations/psychic visions shows the treatment that Camilla received at the hands of her enemies—including being stripped naked, tied to a tree, lashed with a whip, and branded like cattle. The first time we lay eyes on Stephen, he is plying a young woman with alcohol in preparation for date rape, the threat of sexual mutilation, and eventually murder. If that didn't make him deviant enough, he also seduces—or allows himself to be seduced by—Catherine, who not only sleeps with him, but immediately afterwards professes her love for him and begins planning their lives together. We probably shouldn't expect anything better from Stephen, but it is a bit surprising that Catherine would so gleefully jump into bed with him. Not only have both of her parents died only days before (as far as she knows), and not only does she have an apparently-serious boyfriend waiting for her in the city, but Stephen is her first cousin! If she were to get knocked up, we would have a whole new horror movie on our hands. Satan loves incest, it would seem, so it's a theme that pops up with some regularity in these movies.

Satan's Slave - The Devil's Butler
The Devil's Butler
Another thing that Satan must love? Garish silky red robes with purple capes. A lot of his devotees seem to dress like bad Batman villains from the 1960s TV show. Which is almost fitting here, as Alexander is portrayed by Michael Gough, who played Bruce Wayne's butler Alfred Pennyworth four times, beginning with Tim Burton's BATMAN in 1989.

There are a couple of scenes that may seem somewhat familiar to fans of the horror genre, even the first time they see them. One of them is something of a twist on possibly the most sacrilegious scene depicted in THE EXORCIST, which was released three years prior, as a nude woman is sexually violated by another with a wooden cross as part of a satanic rite. The other is when Stephen kills Frances for her disloyalty, and Catherine finds the woman's corpse pinned to a door by a butcher knife stabbed through her gaping mouth. It is a reveal straight out of just about any slasher franchise that you can imagine, though it preceded just about all of them.

The knife-through-the-mouth gag wasn't the only impressive piece of special effects here. Catherine's boyfriend, under a satanic influence directed from afar, leaps to his death from a tall building, resulting in a gruesome splatter; and when sicko Stephen finally meets his fate, it comes in the form of a nail file in the eye, wielded by none other than his incestuous lover.

SATAN'S SLAVE was written by David McGillivray, so you can blame him if you're offended by anything in the film. He's also the scribe behind such genre films as HOUSE OF WHIPCHORD (1974), FRIGHTMARE (1974), HOUSE OF MORTAL SIN (1976), SCHIZO (1976), and TERROR (1978). He has also done some work in the adult film industry, on television, and in recent years has scripted a number of short films, as well. Director Norman J. Warren also helmed the aforementioned TERROR; the sex sci-fi flick SPACED OUT (1979; written, in part, by Bob Saget!); ALIEN PREY (1981); INSEMINOID (1981); and BLOODY NEW YEAR (1987).

Candace Glendenning, who played Catherine, mostly played on television, but she did appear in the genre
Satan's Slave - Candace Glendenning
Candace Glendenning
films TOWER OF EVIL and THE FLESH AND BLOOD SHOW (both 1972). Frances was played by Barbara Kellerman, who can also be seen in QUARTERMASS and THE QUARTERMASS CONCLUSION (both 1979); the HAMMER HOUSE OF HORROR episode entitled "Growing Pains" (1980); THE MONSTER CLUB (1981); and the rabies horror mini-series THE MAD DEATH (1983). Martin Potter, who portrayed Stephen, also appeared in the twin-based thriller GOODBYE GEMINI (1970); the horror comedy CRAZE (1974); and the Chris Boger adaptation of MARQUIS DE SADE'S JUSTINE (1977).

Besides his appearances in the BATMAN films, Michael Gough can also be found in HORROR OF DRACULA (1958); HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM (1959); KONGA (1961); THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1962); DR. TERROR'S HOUSE OF HORRORS (1965); THE SKULL (1965); THEY CAME FROM BEYOND SPACE (1967), as The Master of the Moon; the Joan Crawford circus thriller BERSERK (1967); the witchy CURSE OF THE CRIMSON ALTAR (1968); the infamous TROG (1970); THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE (1973); the Oscar nominated THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL (1978); killer snake flick VENOM (1981); THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW (1988); SLEEPY HOLLOW (1999); CORPSE BRIDE (2005); and ALICE IN WONDERLAND (2010).

SATAN'S SLAVE is also known as Evil Heritage, which is a much better title. Not only is it never really explained who the slave of Satan is supposed to be, but it would also prevent the film from being confused with the Indonesian horror movie SATAN'S SLAVE (1982).


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