• An Angel For Satan (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: October 26th, 2021.
    Director: Camillo Mastrocinque
    Cast: Barbara Steel, Claudio Gora, Ursula Davis, Anthony Steffan, Marina Berti, Albdo Berti
    Year: 1966
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    An Angel For Satan – Movie Review:

    Directed by Camillo Mastrocinque and released in 1966, An Angel For Satan is set in the 1800s in a small Italian village where an ominous statue that was found in a lake has recently been recovered. The superstitious locals aren’t exactly happy about this discovery as they believe the statue’s likeness to be that of a local witch from years ago. A nobleman named Count Monteburno (Claudio Gora) doesn’t seem to care what they think as he goes ahead and hires an art expert named Roberto Merigi (Anthony Steffan) to work his magic on the statue and fix it up. The count’s housekeeper, Ilda (Marina Berti), who is also his lover, is nervous about the pending arrival of the count’s heiress, Harriet (Barbara Steele), who is on her way back to the family home from her stint away at school.

    Upon her arrival, Robert is quite taken with her and her with him and soon enough, they’re falling for each other. It isn’t all good news, however, as Harriet, who looks an awful lot like the woman depicted in the statue, starts acting rather strange. Before you know it, Harriet is using her feminine wiles to coerce the gardener into a little hanky-panky and even manages to talk a local hunk into killing his wife and kids. Oddly enough, Robert is the only one who really notices Harriet’s behavior, so he sets about trying to figure out why she’s acting this way and how he can get her back to normal before it is too late.

    Like in Mario Bava’s better known 1960 classic, Black Sunday, we once again see horror icon Barbara Steele effectively playing two parts, even if the two characters she portrays are linked in a way. She does well here, going from doe-eyed innocent to sexualized vamp and back again with ease. The camera loves her here, as it so often did during this period of her career, and the moody cinematography definitely favors her striking features. Steele’s many fans will enjoy the evocative shots of her prowling around in slinky attire, and she really does look great in this picture, making it worth seeing for her presence alone. Anthony Steffan makes for a decent enough male lead here, but this is Steele’s show, and that’s made very obvious early on in the film by the way in which she’s portrayed as the object of everyone’s desire, male and female alike. The rest of the cast are also pretty solid, but again, there’s no denying the fact that Steele is the main draw.

    The film moves at a fairly deliberate pace, Mastrocinque’s direction building things nicely to a satisfactory conclusion in which enough is explained to please viewers without ruining the air of mystery and suspense that has been so nicely constructed over the preceding hour and a half. A few welcome plot twists keep the story interesting though like many gothic horror films it’s the visuals that keep us enthralled. The cinematography by Giuseppe Aquari does a great job of doing just that, painting the film with some beautiful, shadowy visuals and using some dramatic close ups to very good effect. Throw in a very moody score from Francesco De Masi and this one shapes up nicely as an excellent example of Italian gothic horror at its best.

    An Angel For Satan – Blu-ray Review:

    An Angel For Satan arrives on Blu-ray from Severin Films on a 50GB region free disc with the feature taking up 28.7GBs of space on the 50GB disc and framed at 1.85.1 widescreen and taken from a 2k scan of the original 35mm negative. This is quite a nice picture, showing a bit of minor print damage during the opening (English language) credits but otherwise in really nice shape and, overall, looking very clean. Contrast is fine throughout - we get good black levels, clean whites and a nice greyscale covering evertyhing in between. There are no problems with any noise reduction or edge enhancement issues and the picture is, thankfully, free of obvious compression problems. Detail, depth and texture are quite strong throughout, and this is quite a massive upgrade over the older Midnight Choir (unauthorized) DVD release from 2009.

    24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono tracks are provided in English and Italian with English subtitles offered for the Italian track and English SDH options for the English track. Interestingly enough, the English track doesn’t appear to have been released anywhere before, at least on home video, with earlier versions of the movie (mostly grey market offerings) having only the Italian option. Both tracks do have a bit of minor background hiss throughout but otherwise sound pretty decent, with the Italian track having a bit more power behind it.

    Extras start off with an audio commentary featuring Barbara Steele, horror film historian David Del Valle and Severin's own David Gregory. They note that this was her final Italian film, and that it serves as a book end to Black Sunday. They note how the film has been unavailable in a proper edition, how the film is one of Steele's best performances (Steele and Del Valle hadn't seen it until recently) and how Steele was unaware of the cult following she developed around the time the movie was made. Del Valle dominates the track, offering up lots of information about the different cast and crew members involved in the picture but as the conversation goes they cover Steffan's career, what it was like making films in Italy in the sixties and why Steele left the scene, the locations used for the shoot (which was conducted in the dead of winter), Steele's own thoughts on the horror pictures that she made, the healing qualities of a gin and tonic, the wardrobe in the film, Steele's theater work from her younger days, the quick fifteen day shooting schedule and lots more.

    A second audio commentary features Kat Ellinger who goes over the significance of the title, Steele's run in Italian gothic horror pictures, how the film compares to pictures made by Hammer and Roger Corman around the same time, the film's slow but deliberate pacing, the literary bases that the picture draws from, the influence of French symbolism on gothic art, thoughts on the different characters that pop up in the picture and plenty of biographical details on Barbara Steele and a few of the other cast members. She also covers the supernatural elements of many works of gothic fiction, the costuming in the film, the use of witchcraft and occult themes in the picture, the use of femininity and sexuality in the movie, the power of Steele's presence in the film and quite a bit more.

    The Devil Statue is an interview with actor Vassili Karis that runs for eighteen minutes. He talks here about how he got into acting, what he learned while doing, some of the early pictures he appeared in and working constantly in those days. Movie historian Fabio Melelli then shows up and goes on to talk about working on An Angel For Satan, Mastrocinque's work as a director, how he got his start doing comedy pictures, his shift to horror at the end of his career, his knack for compositions. He also goes over Steele's career and importance. Karis cames back to talk about how great Mastrocinque was to work with, how he originally didn't want to do horror movies (he hates the genre), interacting with Bruno Mattei, working in The Philipinnes, thoughts on the part he played in the film and more.

    Also included on this disc is Barbara & Her Furs, a short film from 1967 by Pierre Andro that is based on Venus In Furs and which stars Barbara Steele. You can watch this with or without a partial commentary from Steele. This nine minute piece sees Steele playing Venus. We see her early on brushing her hair and then talking on the phone and then relaxing with a book. From here, it gets more abstract as she struts about and poses with some whips, the odd narration from Ado Kyrou going on about the battle of the sexes, pain, tyranny, cruelty, ego, ambition and property. Steele continues to strut about, enjoying some fur coats and looking quite amazing as she tries them on complete with black go-go boots. It's a pretty interesting addition to the disc and it shows Steele in a role very different from those she's played in the horror pictures for which she is best known.

    Rounding out the extra on the disc are a trailer and extended trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection options. Also worth pointing out is that if you purchase this release directly from Severin Films, you can get yourself a limited edition, embossed slipcover.

    An Angel For Satan – The Final Word:

    An Angel For Satan is a beautifully made gothic thriller with a fantastic performance from Steele and some absolutely gorgeous visuals that makes for great late night viewing. Severin Film’s Blu-ray release is impressive, offering the picture up with a great transfer, solid audio and a nice selection of extra features. All in all, a very fine release for a very fine film.

    Click on the images below for full sized An Angel For Satan Blu-ray screen caps!