Norman J. Warren's first horror film, an effectively eerie satanic horror, starring Michael Gough. ABUK R2 boxset release.
Horror films revolving around cult and demonic worship were big in
the 1970s. The notions of cult ceremonies had been a feature of a
lot of horror films, dating back to the silent movie days with the neo-documentary Häxan (1922) on the legends of witchcraft and devil worship across the ages. Universal's The Black Cat
(1934) brought Satanic worship to mainstream cinema and with the return
of the gothic horror films in the late 1950s came Mario Bava's Black Sunday (1960) and Hammer's Kiss of the Vampire (1963). The genre really kicked off in 1968 with Hammer Film's effective The Devil Rides Out (1968), based on a book by very popular horror writer Dennis Wheatley, and Tigon Film's Witchfinder General (1968)
starring Vincent Price as the titular Witch Hunter who sought out
alleged devil worshippers. The films quickly became popular with the
incredibly graphic semi-follow-up Mark of the Devil
(1970) being filmed in Germany and spawning a variety of unofficial sequels. Tigon
quickly followed up their sucess with the more moderate Curse of the Crimson Altar (1968) and Blood on Satan's Claw (1971) while Hammer mixed the notion of vampires and devil cults again in Twins of Evil (1972) with Peter Cushing as a 'witchfinder'. Acclaimed British horror The Wicker Man (1973) brought the idea of cult worship into the modern day, while The Exorcist
(1973) brought the notion of demonic possession into mainstream cinema
and spawned dozens of imitators. 1976 saw more devil worship with big budget British
productions, The Omen (1976) and Hammer's final horror film, To the Devil a Daughter (1976), it also saw a variety of low budget exploitation films on similar themes - including Paul Naschy in Spanish film, Inquisición (1976), Peter Cushing in Greek production, Land of the Minatour (1976) and Michael Gough in the all-British production Satan's Slave (1976):
After opening with scenes of a Black Mass, we meet Catherine
Yorke and her parents preparing to drive into the countryside to visit her long lost
Uncle. As they arrive, her father crashes the car into a tree and as
Catherine runs for help, the car explodes, apparently killing both of
her parents. Suffering from shock, Catherine is cared for by Uncle
Alexander (Michael Gough) and his son Stephen (Martin Potter), but
starts to suffer from premonitions, and there are hints that something
sinister is going on.
is a pure exploitation film, capitalising on the big budget demonic
films of the era, and hoping to recapture the fleapit audiences from
the wave of Spanish and Italian productions - fortunately, unlike many
films of the genre, it benefits from a surprisingly well written
script. The opening shots of a demonic ceremony, and the following
scene showing Stephen as a twisted murderer with an eye for the ladies,
sets the scene for a very uneasy atmosphere throughout the film and the
viewer is never quite sure what intentions any of the family have
towards Catherine. Due
to its exploitation nature, the film's producers insisted on a lot of
blood and nudity which the script provides in abundence, but you do get
the feeling that the film might have worked better with more subtlety
and many of the low budget gore effects look laughable.The dialogue is
well written, although the story has a number of loose ends and the
incredibly rapid relationship between Catherine and Stephen
seems very implausible. The build up to the film's climax is effective
film was shot on a very low budget (about US$200,000 in today's money)
but looks surprisingly good. The British location shoots give the film
a sense of authenticity, and although not quite 'documentary style',
the film does have a grittly realistic edge. Warren uses an incredible
number of clever tricks to give the film an effective feel and makes
good use of the scope format to present some good compositions. The
soundtrack is particularly strong, with a mix of dark piano and
The small cast give
surprisingly good performances. Michael Gough was a familiar face in
horror, appearing in a variety of Hammer horrors in the 1960s as well
as Tigon's demonic worship horror, Curse of the Crimson Altar
(1968). He gives a wonderfully kind yet menacing performancing, and
convincingly disguises his motives. The rest of the cast look good in
their roles, and bring a good level of authenticity. The female extras,
given little to do but strip off are far from the Hollywood bimbo
types, and the presence of visible bikini lines on one of the models
meant to be a 17th Century Witch does rather take away from the realism.
With a gritty look, and a good script, Satan's Slave
boasts an effectively eerie atmosphere and some good tension that helps
to lift the film above its exploitation roots that do dominate much of
the run-time. 1976 was the end of the gothic horror era that Hammer had
defined in the late 1950s, and had proven popular in both Europe and
the USA for over a decade - Satan's Slave
still shows some hints of the Hammer style, with the middle class
characters and rural locations, but its gritty atmosphere was more in
keeping with the popular American horror films of the time, and
gives the film a realistic edge that Hammer rarely achieved with their
bright colours and elaborate sets. A suitably entertaining film and one
of the better realised demonic horror films of the period. Recommended.
famous in it?
Michael Gough - star of Hammer's Horror of Dracula (1958), and played Alfred in Batman (1989). Martin Potter - little known British actor with the lead role in Fellini's Satyricon (1969)
Directed by anyone
Norman J. Warren - One of Britain's few exploitation horror directors, best known for Inseminoid (1981).
Is it scary?
are a few atmospheric scenes that might prove scary.
Some very bloody
A lot of topless and nude scenes, not really erotic.
Who is it for?
Recommended to fans of exploitation and demonic horror films.
A very well composed score from John Scott that adds to the film's atmosphere.
Aspect Ratio - 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour. The
print is decent with faded colours, some grain and print damage throughout. A few scenes have notably lower quality.
English original mono sounds good, plus rather unnecessary 5.1 and DTS remixes.
Audio Commentary from Norman Warren and writer David McGillivray. Full of information with a good chatty nature.
Devilish Music - interview with John Scott about the soundtrack, with clips from the film. (13m 03s)
All you need is Blood
- a contempory TV documenary about the film with lots of interesting
behind the scenes shots and interviews with the cast and crew.
Fullscreen, rather ropey quality but watchable and very interesting.
Deleted Scenes - two short scenes from the workprint that never made it into the film. Presented in black and white.
Original cinema trailer full of spoilers.
A documentary and more interviews about this film are present on the boxset bonus disc.
film presented here is Warren's 'director's cut' which includes the
gorier versions of many scenes, but does not included the infamous,
alternate bedroom sequence which Warren only shot due to producer
pressures. This scene was later rejected by the BBFC for inclusion as a
An effectively eerie, well written and directed film, although with rather obvious exploitation roots. Recommended.
A decent looking print and audio with some good special features. The best release this film is likely to get.