Wednesday, 19 August 2009

An Angel for Satan (1966)

An Angel for Satan (Un angelo per Satana) is not one of the more highly thought of of Barbara Steele’s Italian gothic movies. Which is perhaps a pity because it’s really a highly entertaining slice of eurohorror.

Freak weather conditions have caused the water levels in an unnamed lake to drop dramatically. The receding waters have revealed a statue, a statue with an evil reputation. This statue of a nude woman is apparently cursed. Nevertheless the owners of the estate have commissioned an up-and-coming sculptor to restore the statue. But in fact the Count who awards this commission is not the real owner of the estate. The real owner is Harriet Barbara Steele), a young woman who has been at school in England.

The statue is a likeness of one of Harriet’s forebears, and bears a striking resemblance to her. The statue ended up at the bottom of the lake as a result of the jealousy of another woman, a woman who cursed the statue. The curse has endowed the statue not only with the property of bringing misfortune to the local villagers, but with an ability to exert an uncanny influence on Harriet. She takes on aspects of the personality of her ancestress, with unfortunate results. Her lusts cause chaos and misery. The unlucky sculptor finds himself drawn into her web, while her personal maid and the local school teacher with whom she is in love are also drawn into her plots and her general taste for creating mayhem.

This might not be one of Barbara Steele’s best films, but it features some of her best acting. She gets to play a character inhabited by two conflicting personalities, a task she handles with great skill. And she gets to be extremely wicked. It’s one of her most erotic performances. There’s quite a bit of implied nudity but no actual nudity. Barbara Steele certainly has no need to take her clothes off in order to project an overwhelming and malevolent sexuality.

Director Camillo Mastrocinque does a competent job. The movie is well-paced and consistently entertaining. It lacks the visual brilliance of a Bava movie but it still looks quite impressive. The acting overall is quite adequate but Barbara Steele dominates proceedings so completely you scarcely notice anyone else. There’s no need to talk about the special effects because there aren’t any. It’s a movie that doesn’t require them. It does have plenty of atmosphere, and the sets and costumes look good.

An Angel for Satan is available on DVD paired with another great Barbara Steele gothic horror film, The Long Hair of Death. The good news is that An Angel for Satan is sub-titled rather than dubbed, and the print looks pretty reasonable. This film is an absolute must for anyone who is a fan of gothic horror and/or a fan of the great Barbara Steele. A classic of erotic horror, and one of her most underrated movies.

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