Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Satan's Baby Doll (1982)

Producer Gabriele Crisanti was so pleased by his 1979 sleazefest Malabimba, the Malicious Whore that he decided it was too good an idea to only film once. So three years later he made it again, under the title Satan's Baby Doll (La bimba di Satana).

This time he acted as screenwriter as well. Malabimba had contained just about every exploitation element you could think of, and some you hadn’t thought of. But it was complicated by having a plot, which was now stripped back to the absolute basics.

In fact the plot is so stripped down that even though it’s much simpler than in the first version it’s also much more difficult to follow. The wealthy and powerful Aguilar family is headed by Antonio. His wife Maria has just died. But his loyal family retainer (who appears to have some experience in the field of Satan-worshipping) has serious doubts that she will stay dead. And he is right. She takes over the body of their daughter Miria to return to life, or a semblance of life.

The family has a resident nun named Solo (in Malabimba she was part of the family buy I have no idea where she fitted in in this one). Solo and Maria had been conducting a clandestine lesbian affair behind Antonio’s back and now Maria intends to continue the affair. So this one character manages to introduce a whole swag of exploitation elements.

There’s also Antonio’s wheelchair-bound brother who provides opportunities for even more exploitation elements. The plot, having been set up rather sketchily, isn’t really developed in any great depth. There’s some mayhem, and copious quantities of assorted illicit sex.

Malabimba had been directed by Andrea Bianchi, not exactly one of the shining lights of Italian cinema perhaps but a guy who knew how to combine sleaze and horror in a fairly entertaining way. To direct Satan's Baby Doll Crisanti hired Mario Bianchi (apparently no relation to Andrea Bianchi). Unfortunately this left the film in much more dubious hands.

While Malabimba had managed to work reasonably well as both horror film and sleaze-fest the same cannot be said for Satan's Baby Doll. The horror elements are there but they just fall flat.

Mariangela Giordano plays the nun, as she had in Malabimba. She’s a capable actress and evidently one with few inhibitions. It’s with the rest of the cast that further problems arise. They’re at best adequate. One of Malabimba assets had been Katell Laennec as the possessed girl. In her one and only film role she brought a quality of rather scary twisted eroticism to her performance. In Satan's Baby Doll the equivalent role is taken by Jacqueline Dupré (also in her one and only film role) but sadly she just doesn’t have the same presence.

Of course criticism of such things is somewhat beside the point. This is not Citizen Kane. It’s not aiming at anything more than providing as much sleaze as possible with a token nod to the horror genre. And it delivers the sleaze.

I would hesitate to claim that Malabimba had been made with any higher aspirations but it’s more successful in providing actual chills and it’s also more successful at creating an atmosphere of claustrophobic unhealthy overheated decadent and generally kinky eroticism. So if the plot outline sounds like it’s right up your alley then you should definitely go for Malabimba in preference to this less than stellar remake.

The Shameless DVD release includes as much of the surviving footage of this movie as could be located, including some previously cut material. Whether this is in fact an uncut edition is uncertain but it’s probably as close as we’re likely to get. And the Shameless DVD appears to have the same running time as the R1 Severin release.

The lack of extras is mildly disappointing but it’s probably not the sort of movie that the people involved would be overly keen to talk about today! If you absolutely adored Malabimba and want more of the same then it’s perhaps worth buying; otherwise just buy Malabimba instead.

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