Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Nude for Satan (1974)

You could be forgiven for assuming that this 1974 slice of eurohorror would have been pretty much guaranteed of box office success. It has the words nude and Satan in the title after all. When you discover that in fact Nude for Satan (Nuda per Satana) was such a spectacular commercial disaster that the distributors locked it away in the vaults and forgot about it then you could also be forgiven for thinking that this is going to be an extremely bad film.

Actually it’s quite entertaining, in its own strange way. It’s that characteristically 1970s European blend of horror, art and sex. A doctor is driving along a deserted road and witnesses a car accident in which a young woman has been injured. Luckily there’s a creepy obviously haunted horror movie gothic castle nearby. When they get there strange events start to unfold. Things start to go all Edgar Allan Poe, with mirrors, mysterious paintings and doubles. All the ingredients for an intriguing movie are there.

Director Luigi Batzella isn’t a skilful enough chef to blend them into something really interesting, but he approaches his task with commendable enthusiasm. The movie also has sufficient ingredients to make it work as an exploitation flick. Lots of sex and lots of nudity. Unusually for an Italian horror film of this period there’s almost no violence and no gore. There’s definitely horror, but it’s psychological horror. And the sex doesn’t have any of the sometimes disturbing qualities of sexualised violence that are so common in 70s eurohorror.

Technically it’s an odd mix of the very good (some nice stuff with paintings, and plenty of effective gothic atmosphere) and the very bad (the spider scene). The spider scene is in fact so outlandishly ludicrous and campy that it actually becomes positively surreal. It becomes art. It has to be seen to be believed. The whole movie has a weird artificial quality to it, not so much stagey as reminiscent of a marionette theatre, which gives it the required dreamlike feel.

I don’t want to give the impression that this is a neglected masterpiece, but if you approach it in the right frame of mind there’s definite entertainment value there, and the eccentric mix of artiness and camp is quite appealing. The Redemption DVD looks extremely good. Recommended if you have a taste for slightly bizarre 70s eurotrash.

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