Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Satan’s Wife (1979)

Satan’s Wife (Un ombra nell'ombra), a 1979 British/Italian co-production, is one of those movies that sounds quite promising on paper, but fails somewhat in the execution.

The plot is a fairly standard kind of satansploitation plot, and that’s a sub-genre that is usually reasonably entertaining. And it has a cast that (in theory) should be capable of carrying it off.

Marisa Mell (Eva from Danger: Diabolik), Anne Heywood, Valentina Cortese and Irene Papas are middle-aged women who had pledged themselves to Satan some years earlier. Now they have children approaching adulthood, and they’re starting to realise that Satan intends to claim those children as well. These teenaged children know far too much about things they shouldn’t know anything about, and are developing disturbing powers. One of the teenaged girls, Daria, is becoming particularly disturbing.

Part of the deal these women had made with Lucifer year earlier (although they apparently didn’t realise it at the time) is that they’re expected to remain faithful to him, and any involvement with any other men tends to bring rapid and destructive intervention. And they fear their daughters will also be prevented from having any relationships with any mortal men.

So now the mothers have to find a way to extricate their children from this rather worrying situation.

At least I think that’s what the plot is about. The movie is not exactly strong on coherent story-telling!

The mothers enlist the help of a disillusioned priest (John Phillip Law) but Daria proves to be strong for him. They have resorted to a difficult and dangerous ritual, and failure is likely to bring very unpleasant consequences.

Lack of coherent plotting isn’t necessarily a huge problem in a horror movie, especially a European horror movie, if the movie has sufficient visual flair and general outrageousness to offer as compensation. Unfortunately Satan’s Wife isn’t terribly strong in these areas either. Director Pier Carpi (who also wrote the screenplay) doesn’t have either the energy or the imagination to provide these much-needed ingredients.

The movie relies to a large extent on exploitation elements. There’s quite a bit of nudity, and some definite hints of perversity. But again it’s not done with sufficient style, and again the movie falls rather flat.

The movie’s one great asset is Lara Wendel as Daria. She’s genuinely creepy and scary and manages to be one of the screen’s classic evil spawns of Satan. She has real charisma, a disturbing intensity and she has very very definite hints of perversity.

Mya DVD have attracted a lot of criticism for the quality of their DVD releases, In many cases I think the criticism has been a little unfair. They clearly don’t have the resources that companies like Blue Underground have, and they are releasing some very obscure films so they probably don’t have very good surviving source materials to work with. Some of their releases are obviously sourced from VHS, but in the case of movies like Evil Face and Lucifera, Demonlover they’ve at least found very very good VHS sources and the picture quality is acceptable.

Sadly that isn’t the case here, and this movie looks simply dreadful. The main flaw being that the picture is so very very dark and muddy. The lack of sub-titles on the Italian track is another major problem, since the English dub is atrocious even by the standards of 1970s English dubs of eurohorror movies. The movie is presented in a widescreen format, but appears to be cut, and quite severely cut.

So it’s difficult to judge this movie fairly. If it were possible to see a decent quality uncut print with sub-titles it might turn out to be a reasonably adequate movie. The plot might even make sense!

In its current state I can’t recommend this DVD at all, unless you’re a eurohorror/eurosleaze fanatic who owns absolutely every other such movie available on DVD and you’re also an obsessive completist.

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