• Lucifer’s Women

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: January 30th, 2018.
    Director: Paul Aratow, Al Adamson
    Cast: Larry Hankin, Paul Thomas, Clair Dia, John Carradine, Geoffrey Land, Jane Brunel-Cohen
    Year: 1974
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    The Movies:

    Paul Aratow’s 1974 film Lucifer’s Women tells the story of a renowned author named John Wainwright (Larry Hankin) who, after developing more than a passing interest in Satanism and the occult, has recently published a book about reincarnation in which he posits that he himself is the reincarnated version of a magician named Svengali. As luck would have it, his publisher, Sir Stephen Phillips (Norman Pierce), believes himself to also be reincarnated, having been the leader of a cult named The Society Of The Bleeding Rose some years back in a past life. Stephen believes that John has been brought to him so that he can use his abilities to replenish their coven’s energy. How? A human sacrifice, of course!

    Wainwright, who has some genuinely strange powers, decides to work his evil magic on Trilby (Jane Brunel-Cohen), a gorgeous (and virginal) burlesque dancer who he feels will be the perfect accomplice in their plan – when she turns twenty-one as the clock strikes midnight, she’s to stab Stephen as she reaches orgasm so that his lifeforce can move to another body and continue his work. There’s a catch though, as it seems that Wainwright has become cognizant of the fact that he’s being controlled by Svengali and that his own powers are starting to weaken. Meanwhile, a pimp named Roland (Paul Thomas) is trying to get Trilby’s drug addicted roommate, Barbara (Tweed Morris), to help him deflower her and make her one of his hookers! That fact that Wainwright himself is starting to fall in love with Trilby doesn’t make things any easier…

    Lost in its original form for decades (footage from the film was cut into the Al Adamson/Sam Sherman collaborations that is Doctor Dracula – more on that in the extras section below!), Lucifer’s Women was best known for featuring The Church Of Satan’s own Anton Lavey as a creative consultant. The film itself, which takes its subject matter very seriously, is surprisingly dialogue heavy when compared to others cut from the same cinematic cloth, but it’s an interesting picture. Visually the movie has some interesting moments, most of which involve Satanic ceremony and all the visuals that tends to entail (goat masks, pentagrams and dark cloaked participants). This keeps things intriguing even when the story slows down a bit, which it does here and there though never to the point of serious detriment. The film also features a fair bit of sex and nudity, enough certainly to keep our attention on the screen!

    As to the performances, it’s interesting to see Paul Thomas here in an early role before he became an A-lister in the adult film industry. He’s good in the part, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has seen him handle the more dramatic side of his XXX filmography. Jane Brunel-Cohen is super cute and quite well cast as a puzzlingly virginal stripper. She’s not the world’s greatest actress but she does alright with the material and she looks great doing it. Tweed Morris does fine as her would-be lesbian roommate. Norman Pierce is quite fun and given a big role here, but the real star of the show is Larry Hankin who has gone on to have a sizeable career in television. He’s appeared in everything from Breaking Bad to Ellen to The Tony Danza Show to Home Improvements! He’s got a very distinct look, you’ll doubtlessly recognize him even here in a reasonably early part. He gives this movie his all and is just a lot of fun to watch in the picture. Clair Dia from The Cheerleaders has a small part here as does Ken Scudder. Director Paul Aratow would go on to make China Girl starring Annette Haven the next year in 1975.


    Lucifer’s Women arrives on Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome “newly scanned and restored in 2k from 35mm negative elements” in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.85.1 widescreen. Normally that would mean that we’d be presented another sterling picture from VS, but that’s not quite the case here. The elements used for this previously though to be lost film were obviously in less than perfect condition. Softness isn’t quite constant but it’s certainly frequent enough to notice, while color fading happens from time to time as well. Minor print damage is also easy to spot throughout, while grain tends to be really heavy in spots. That said, this is a more than watchable effort and it would seem that pretty much all of the issues stem back not just to the elements used but to the original photography itself. Detail looks great in some scenes, not so great in others but even at its softest this should still be a more than acceptable presentation for those familiar with the film and its history. As you’d expect if you’re familiar with the label’s output, the disc is well authored in that there are no compression artifacts, nor are there any digital quirks like edge enhancement or noise reduction to complain about.

    An English language DTS-HD Mono track handles the audio chores. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. The audio here is okay, but again limited by the source at hand. Dialogue is easy enough to follow but occasionally a bit flat. The score sounds decent and the sound effects are fine. Some occasional hiss is heard now and then but it’s nothing major or particularly distracting.

    The big extra is the inclusion of the alternate Doctor Dracula cut that was essentially made by hiring Al Adamson to go out and shoot a whole bunch of additional footage to be cut into what Aratow had already created. Interestingly enough, extra scenes with Barry, Carradine, McIver and Land appear in this version and additional narration from Larry Hankin is included here too, presumably in an attempt to make more sense out of all of this. It sort of works, but if nothing else it’s a very different film. In addition to the extra bits with the aforementioned cast members it also adds four murders, pretty much all of the sex and nudity has been excised in an attempt to make a TV-friendly version. The music used in this version is also quite different at times. In short, it’s not quite an entirely different film but it’s close enough that if you enjoyed Lucifer’s Women, you’ll want to check out Doctor Dracula as well (particularly if you have a soft spot for Adamson/Sherman collaborations).

    Producer Sam Sherman provides an optional audio commentary over this cut of the movie and as you’d expect if you’ve heard any of his other tracks, it’s well worth listening too. Sherman has a very sharp memory and is a great story teller. He talks about how he came to get Sherman to do the work on the picture, the additional actors that were recruited for the movie and why certain decisions were made as to the alterations that make this cut unique.

    Also well worth your time is an excellent twenty-minute interview with none other than Paul Thomas. He speaks quite candidly here about his time in the acting business before he shifted over to adult films pretty much exclusively. As such, there are stories here about his live theater work, his appearance in Jesus Christ Superstar and, of course, his work on Lucifer’s Women (which he seems quite pleased with), including how he got along with lovely co-star Jane Brunel-Cohen. He also talks about how he got into adult films and a fair bit more. It’s a genuinely interesting piece, whether you’re fascinated by the history of vintage porn or not.

    Rounding out the extras we get a text-essay on the disc from Samm Deighan that talks about the history of the film and its two cuts, a theatrical trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection. As this is a combo pack release we also get a DVD included inside the case that features the same extras as the Blu-ray disc. Some nice reversible cover art is included here, while those interested in slipcovers may want to purchase from Vinegar Syndrome direct to get the exclusive slipcover option available from their webstore.

    The Final Word:

    Lucifer’s Women gets its home video debut from Vinegar Syndrome four and a half decades after it was made! The movie itself is fairly zany stuff, a low budget Satanic thriller with enough sleaze to notice and an interesting, albeit quirky, cast. The presentation is probably as good as we’re ever going to get and the extras are impressive. All in all, a very fine release for a film that, up until now, was impossible to see.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!