Friday, July 1, 2011

Nude For Satan (1974)

Background: The '60s and '70s were bumper times for Italian cinema. The spaghetti westerns and horror movies are now considered to be some of the best ever made. Sergio Leone and Dario Argento were heralded even in our neck of the woods, hard to believe in these modern times that a foreign film could achieve mainstream success. Today's foray into the depths was not made by either of those two legends, but rather Luigi Batzella. Batzella is described on Wikipedia as "an Italian Z-movie director," and a "hack-of-all-trades," and perhaps most damningly "the Italian Ed Wood." His article goes on to call Nude For Satan "arguably [his] best film," so it can't be all bad, right?

It should be noted that this movie is distributed by a company called Redemption U.S.A. A company with a singular vision to release all the erotic movies it can find, usually with a vampiric or satanic vibe, like Nude For Satan. The title card they put at the beginning of this movie is a full minute long, featuring a blood drenched set of breasts being attacked by a vampire queen of some sort, all filmed on what looks to be a decades old VHS tape that had been lost for quite some time in a damp basement.

It's surprising though that a movie such as this would get lost on Netflix. Two of the most popular categories on Netflix are Horror and anything that sounds like it might have boobs in it. I can't tell you how many times I've been recommended I Am A Sex Addict or Strictly Sexual

Plot: After the long title card comes a scene of a naked woman running through the forest which may or may not be part of the movie itself, it's really hard to tell. After the credits, a man in a white Beetle speeds off into the lightning filled (though curiously rainless) night. This man is Dr. William Benson. He swerves off the road after seeing a woman standing in his path. After checking out the scene hears another crash. After checking out the scene of the crash and finding an unconscious woman, Susan Smith, he goes to find help. A mysterious man with a gothic Liberace vibe points him to a mysterious castle, shot exclusively in day-for-night goodness.

In the castle, William finds a woman who looks exactly like Susan, except dressed in Victorian garb and far more awake than he left her. Curiously, this woman insists on calling him Peter, which confuses William, but he blames it on shock. Susan also makes her way into the castle after she wakes up, where she runs into a fake William who calls her Evelyn.

From here the plot gets almost impossible to explain because frankly there isn't a whole lot of it. What little forward momentum there is moves at such a glacial pace that it's hard to tell when things actually happen. Gothic Liberace lurks around to offer stiff, hamfisted monologues about time and souls, Susan has lesbian fantasies about a servant girl (none of this makes any sense thematically or as part of the plot), Evelyn seduces William, Susan gets attacked by the worst looking fake spider ever, etc, etc..

We eventually learn that Peter and Evelyn are the evil versions of William and Susan. The scene where Peter reveals this fact to William is pretty much the only scene in the entire movie that has any clue how a movie should be paced. The evil persona incarnate is certainly not an uncommon twist, but most movies usually have the courtesy to set up the fact that the characters might have an evil side, unlike this movie, which just kinda chucks it at you.

Spoiler: Gothic Liberace is the devil. Probably.

Why Was It Forgotten? To be frank: this is not a good movie. I get that movies moved a lot slower in the '70s, especially horror movies. There was a time when movies could be actually scary and not just a two hour assault of gross imagery and jump scares, but this is not that kind of movie. There is barely a half hour sitcom worth of plot in this 90 minute movie. The rare story beats are cut through with slow motion eroticism that lasts way too long. It seems to actually make looking at boobs into a chore.

And then there's the dialogue. Never mind the fact that it sounds like it was spoken by the original Italian actors reading phonetic pronunciations of their translated dialogue, the words that are being said are terrible. It's impossible to follow any one conversation, all the talk from the devil about being lost in time being particularly egregious.

What Went Right? Well. There's one music cue that I really like. It's just a progression of minor chords, but it works. The rest of the music is trash, but at least there's that one cue that's cool. There are times that the movie actually succeeds at creating a spooky mood too. Those moments are fleeting, however.

Verdict: A moody, nonsensical mess of ineptitude.
Score: 8%

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