• Satanis: The Devil’s Mass/Satan’s Children (AGFA) Blu-ray Review



    Released by: AGFA
    Released on: July 16th, 2019.
    Director: Ray Laurent, Zoltan G. Spencer/Joe Wiezycki
    Cast: Anton LaVey, Diane LaVey/Stephen White, Eldon Mecham, Joyce Molloy, Kathleen Marie Archer
    Year: 1970/1975
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    Satanis: The Devil’s Mass/Satan’s Children – Movie Review:

    AGFA doubles down on devilish delights with their double feature of Satnis: The Devil’s Mass and Satan’s Children! Here’s what’s in store…

    SATANIS: THE DEVIL’S MASS:

    Satanis is an interesting and oft times hilarious (Intentionally? Probably not.) look at Anton LaVey, the late infamous founder of the Church Of Satan. Filmed back in 1969, the documentary focuses on the events and happenings surrounding his notorious "Black House," a den of depravity which he ran in San Francisco.

    No shortage of evil-doings occur in the film as we witness some of LaVey’s minions (mostly a group of rather unattractive women with a penchant for strange, naked rituals and assorted hippy types) doing their thing under his leadership. LeVay himself is interviewed quite a bit on and off during the more exploitative footage of the rituals (highlighted by a truly bizarre scene where the women in the Church Of Satan whip one of their male members, all in the name of Satan!) and he comes across as an intelligent and interesting man. This is in spite of the fact that he spends a good part of the film decked out in a really, really, really silly looking cape and cowl with some fancy devil horns set atop it and sounding rather pretentious most of the time. To say that the man had a flair for the theatrical would be an understatement and you get a very definite impression that much of this is a put on for the camera.

    “It seems that most religions now are buying oats for a dead horse.”

    Rounding out the cast of interviewees are some of LaVey’s neighbors. They speak decently enough of the man and most of them don’t have a problem with his congregation. This is despite their not necessarily agreeing with their world view. Clearly some of them feel he truly has sold his soul to Satan. We also spend some time with other assorted members of the Church Of Satan, and a few other locals who had run ins or discourse with the esteemed Rev. LaVey.

    How much of the film is a legitimate documentary and how much of it is staged for the cameras is quite debatable, but honestly, as you watched the film, you didn’t really care. Entertainment value is truthfully what counts and, in that respect, as a total curiosity piece this film really delivers. It’s a bizarre time capsule of a legitimate counterculture movement and an intriguing document of a man who clearly earned his strange place in history. And if nothing else, you’ve got to love the scene where the aforementioned whipped man climbs into a coffin with some of the ‘lovely’ ladies of the church (you can’t help but see shades of Ed Wood’s Necromania here)!

    SATAN’S CHILDREN:

    While Satanis might be an intriguing little cultural oddity, the second movie on this disc is the real winner from this double feature. A film that could have only come out of 70’s Florida, director Joe Wiezycki’s picture tells the sordid tale of a teenaged boy named Bobby Douglas (Stephen White). He lives with his grouchy stepfather (Eldon Mecham), who seems to always want him to mow the lawn, and his curvy, greasy, tease of a stepsister, Janis (Joyce Molloy). As such, Bobby’s home life is a bit of a mess. He doesn’t get along with the old man and Janis seems interested in little more than giving him boners! When she finds out he’s got a little bit of pot stashed in his bedroom, she threatens to rat him out. Rather than stick around and deal with the aftermath, he runs away from home and heads to the city.

    Along the way, a biker offers Bobby a ride and a place to stay. Bobby, clearly an idiot, takes him up on this offer and before you know it the biker and his burly buds have roped poor Bobby up and had their foul way with him in a car! After they’ve used and abused the poor bastard, Bobby is left for dead in a field. Thankfully, or so it seems, for Bobby a group of Satanists happen to be playing in the same field and when they find him, they take him back to their compound where kindly snaggle-toothed Sherry (Kathleen Archer) plays nursemaid to our downtrodden hero. Soon, with Bobby back to health, he realizes that Sherry isn’t as kind as she seems and when cult leader Simon (Robert C. Ray II) shows up, well, it all hits the fan and let’s just say that Bobby is about to spend a whole lot of time running through the woods in his underwear, whether he likes it or not!

    “Your ass is sore. Poor little boy got raped by some queers. And he's perfectly willing to forget all about it. You must believe in Jesus.”

    Yeah, it’s that kind of movie. Political correctness be damned, Satan’s Children delivers the stupid, sleazy goods in huge, greasy, sweaty dollops. Poor Bobby is put through the ringer and then some, used and abused by everyone that he comes into contact with. All he wants is a bit of grass and some pieces and quiet, maybe an unhealthy romp with his stepsister – but he doesn’t get that. When it seems like things have settled down and that maybe… just maybe… Sherry is the one? Nope, she hangs people and then gets buried up to her neck in the sand and attacked by fucking ants. The whole thing is nuts, and it has that super scuzzy, low budget vibe to it that makes regional exploitation oddities like this one so interesting to watch.

    Yeah, fine, the sets are limited (suburban house, ranch, woods) and the cinematography less than inspired. The acting is no great shakes, though Stephen White commits in a big way in the last fifteen minutes or so and both Kathleen Archer and Robert C. Ray II are at least effective. Joyce Malloy is also kind of awesome as the bitchy, teasy Janis. Clearly, this was made with limited means. But if you’re a fan of low budget trash pictures then you’ll love it. It’s mean spirited at times, completely wrong in its depiction of homosexuals (it doesn’t seem to know if it wants to be intentionally homoerotic or intentionally homophobic and somehow manages to come across as both – you could have a field day analyzing all of this!), and more than a little misguided with whatever messaging might be in there but it offer up some solid shocks, a killer MOOG score, and some unforgettably bizarre set pieces.

    Satanis: The Devil’s Mass/Satan’s Children – Blu-ray Review:

    AGFA brings both of these Satanic sickies to Blu-ray on a 50GB disc and in AVC encoded 1080p high definition presentations. Would it have been nice to get full-blown restorations from the original negatives for these films? Sure! Was that realistically possible? Probably not, it would seem that only prints are left at this point.

    Satanis is presented in 1.33.1 fullframe and taken from a new 2k scan of an original 16mm theatrical print. It looks fine, considering the elements. There’s far better detail here than there was on the old Something Weird Video DVD (which paired it with Ray Dennis Steckler’s Sinthia: The Devil’s Doll), and colors and black levels are improved as well. The image is naturally grainy and shows mild print damage and associated wear and tear throughout but is, for the most part, quite stable. It also retains its filmic qualities, showing no problems with noise reduction, edge enhancement or filtering.

    Satan’s Children is framed at 1.78.1 widescreen and taken from a new 2k scan of a 35mm theatrical print. Again, there’s some print damage here and some color fading but we get a nice improvement over the older DVD release, again released by Something Weird Video (where it was paired with William Girdler’s Asylum Of Satan). Detail doesn’t hit reference quality but it’s not bad at all and the image is free of compression artifacts. A natural amount of film grain is present throughout, there are no problems with noise reduction or edge enhancement. Skin tones look okay, if slightly pink in spots. The previous DVD was fullframe but the framing here looks fine, there aren’t a lot of missing heads or anything like that and given that it did play theaters it isn’t such a crazy assumption to make that it would have played in a widescreen aspect ratio.

    Both films are presented with English language DTS-HD Mono audio. Quality here is more or less on par with the video presentation – imperfect, but better than we’ve had before and not bad considering the elements. Dialogue is, for the most part, easy to understand and follow. There’s a bit of hiss here and there and the occasional snap, crackle and pop but nothing that should really upset anyone familiar with the material at all.

    As far as the extras go, we get a selection of ‘sizzling shorts from Beelzebub's vault!’ The first of these is a really strange nine-minute short called Satan In Church. It’s a bizarre animated piece where a bunch of strangely illustrated black and white characters (nuns?) run into a church where a naked lady appears and haloed saints play cymbals. She lights a cigarette, blows a smoke ring and seemingly summons the devil, at which point it goes from weird to really weird. The second short is the fourteen-minute Boys Beware (3rd edition), wherein we learn how sexual predators don’t just go after young girls, but boys as well. We learn why boys shouldn’t hitchhike or talk to strangers, or accept rides from gun-toting weirdos that they don’t know. We also see a kid go to a party where adults are jamming down to records, smoking weed and drinking beers and learn why you should never, ever trust a little league coach.

    Additionally, AGFA include a nice assortment of ‘torrid trailers from Lucifer's archive!’ In this section, we get vintage trailers for Magdalena: Possessed By The Devil, The Devil Times Five, The Devil Within Her, The Devil's Wedding Night and last but certainly not least, The Touch Of Satan.

    Menus and chapter selection are also included and hey, we get some neat reversible cover art for this release as well. Oh, and as this is a combo pack release we also get a DVD that includes both features and the same extras as are found on the Blu-ray.

    Satanis: The Devil’s Mass/Satan’s Children – The Final Word:

    AGFA’s Blu-ray release of Satanis: The Devil’s Mass/Satan’s Children brings two cinematic oddities to high definition in a release sure to please fans of arcane documentaries and drive-in trash pictures alike. The first picture is a strangely compelling time capsule and the second a sordid slice of unrepentant sleaze. The presentations are decent, given the elements available, and the extras are fun. Recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized Satanis: The Devil’s Mass/Satan’s Children Blu-ray screen caps!