Saturday, 28 November 2009

Satanik (1968)

Both the title and the poster art would lead you to believe that this 1968 Spanish-Italian co-production is going to be somewhat in the style of Mario Bava’s Danger: Diabolik! but in fact Satanik has nothing in common with Bava’s classic. Although it’s also based on a European comic strip there are no masked criminals or masked crime-fighters in sight.

In fact it’s a horror movie that owes rather a lot to Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. A scientist is developing a potion that can not only reverse the ageing process but also cure all kinds of skin blemishes. As it happen the scientist’s female assistant Dr. Marnie Bannister suffers from horrible facial disfigurements, so she’s understandably anxious to try out the formula on herself. The professor is concerned because although the formula works on animals it does seem to have the side-effect of turning them savage. Dr Bannister is prepared to take the risk though, and when the professor tries to stop her she kill him.

The potion transforms her into a beautiful glamorous blonde. She soon finds herself a rich playboy boyfriend, but the effects of the drug are only temporary. She must keep getting another fix. Meanwhile the police are on her trail, but they don’t realise she’s now young and gorgeous. The plot becomes increasingly obscure from this point on, but her new boyfriend is some kind of criminal, jewel theft is involved, and there are further murders.

This is is a movie that no online reviewer seems to have a good word to say for. I can’t help feeling they’re missing the point. It's not a Bergman film. It’s a silly fun B-movie. It’s supposed to be silly. And no eurotrash film worth its salt has a comprehensible plot! If you compare it to one of the better giallos, or one of the classics of gothic eurohorror, or to a masterpiece like Danger: Diabolik! then yes, you’re going to be disappointed. If you’re prepared to accept it as lightweight low-budget fun then it’s reasonably entertaining.

There’s a very modest amount of nudity, and hardly any gore. There’s not a huge amount of actual horror either, but I don’t really think it’s a movie that is trying particularly hard to scare us. It’s an odd mix of genres and it might have worked better had they decided to make it an all-out horror film

Magda Konopka is slinky and seductive as Dr Bannister. There’s some wonderful 60s lounge music for those who like that sort of thing. And it has the obligatory 1960s European movie sexy night-club dancing scene. If you enjoy off-beat 60s European cinema it’s worth a look. At worst it’s a harmless time-killer.

This one probably isn’t going to be all that easy to track down. It’s not a movie I’d recommend anybody to pay a fortune for, but if you can pick up an inexpensive copy it’s amusing enough, and it does have a certain camp appeal.

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