Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Nude for Satan (1974): or, Castle of Boobs


I'm not going to kid you folks--Nude for Satan is a bad film. Depending on your ability to revel in the absurd and roll with the punches, you'll either spend the 82-minute running time rolling on the floor holding your sides or staring open-mouthed at the screen, aghast at its unrelenting awfulness.

Ordinarily that qualifies as a good recommendation from me, but in this case I couldn't help thinking the movie could have been so much more. I mean, there's plenty to enjoy here--hilarious dubbing, unstoppable overacting, bad FX and as much nudity and sex as the title promises. But like so many near misses, Nude for Satan doesn't have quite enough coherence to pull a genuinely interesting plot out, nor does it go quite far enough into batshit insanity to make it an out-and-out "I Can't Believe What I'm Seeing" joy. While it provides elements of both kinds of movie-going experiences, it finally settles into a sort of limbo state where time slows down and happy experiences come round only once in a while...which is actually the state of the characters in the movie, come to think of it.

Huh. Maybe director Luigi Batzella was being cleverer than I thought.

We open with one of my favorite ways to start a movie: a Eurobabe in a see-through gown running in slow motion through a storm-tossed forest. It's a solid minute or so of mood-setting excellence that even the tell-tale shadow of a cameraman in one particularly bright flash of lightning can't knock off course. However, Batzella inexplicably cuts from that scene to a static close-up of a Volkswagen Beetle's grille for the entirety of the extended opening credits (which includes at least one egregious typo: "Sobject and Screenplay by..."), a decision I can't help but second guess. I mean, you've got the slo-mo chick in the diaphanous gown, Luigi--USE HER!

Night and Shadow

Eventually we get to the story proper, wherein Dr. William Benson (Stelio Candelli) is piloting the featured white Bug along a rural road on a dark and stormy night, searching for his midnight house call. After stopping at a foreboding inn for directions and getting the brush off from an evil Irish innkeeper (the first of James Harris's multiple roles), he heads back out on that highway and--after a minute or two of scintillating real-time driving--rounds a bend and nearly runs over a ghostly girl in white! Screeching to a halt on the shoulder, Benson gets out to investigate, finding the expected NOTHING where his almost-victim had been standing mere seconds ago.

Before he can ponder that little mystery too much, another car rounds the bend and crashes into a ditch--or we assume it does, since we only see Benson standing there with a worried expression, then hear a car-crash sound effect and see a tire roll past him on the road! That's just economics, I guess. He rushes to the seemingly un-damaged wreck (that tire must have been the spare) and finds love interest Susan (Rita Calderoini) sprawled unconscious in the front seat.

Transferring the girl to his VW, Benson then drives on down the road looking for help. At the gate of a creepy mansion he meets a mysterious man in full Shadow regalia. Explaining that "My orders are not to move...not even if I wanted to!" the Shadow (Harris again) sends Benson to the manor house. Benson turns to look, then glances back to find that the guard has vanished! Some people are just no good at following orders.

"I know what evil lurks in your heart, you DIRTY BASTARD!"

Leaving his likely concussed patient in the car, Benson stumbles into the house through the self-opening door to find it a dilapidated ruin. Not dissuaded by the cobwebs or the thick coating of dust over all the furniture, the doctor decides to try a few doors. Behind door number one he finds a sinister footman (Renato Lupi) lying on the ground with a knife in his neck! The old guy has a sense of humor about it, though, glaring at Benson and laughing an evil, maniacal laugh--which is actually almost creepy.

The doc shuts the door quickly, but then calmly follows the sound of squealing to another door. He opens door #2 and--JACKPOT! There's a hardcore orgy goin' on! It's like the PERVIEST CARNIVAL SPOOKHOUSE EVAR! With candelabras and cobwebs all around, a lesbian couple engage in outre tongue-kissing and nipple nippage, while behind them a hetero couple bump and grind and perform acrobatic cunnilingus--I can only assume in the service of SATAN. Benson slams the door again--after a much longer interval--and finally starts to look a little concerned.

So all this is well and good--Batzella, who should know what he's doing when it comes to the sensual and the gothic (after all, this is the man behind the excellent Devil's Wedding Night) has managed a few visuals that are borderline creepy, while throwing in some craziness and non-linear nonsense to boot (a shot of a rotating classical bust under red light, while incongruous, is striking). However, he's hampered by Candelli's laughable acting and his own clumsy script, which even taking dubbing and translation into account is nothing short of horrible. (And I don't know if Candelli did his own dubbing, but whoever it is seems to be reading the lines phonetically.) The real-time driving from set to set and suspense-less creeps through the over-lit sets don't help, either.

"Don't ask me folks--I'm as confused as you are."

Still in sex shock, Benson wheels around to find the girl from the car standing before him, only now in period dress and calling herself Evelyn. Showering him with passionate kisses, Evelyn obviously has the doc confused with someone else. "Oh Peter!" she gushes, "This marvelous, marvelous world of ours! It exists once more! Beyond all sentiment, beyond all thoughts!" Benson tries to sort it all out, but is distracted by Evelyn's tongue in his mouth and her continued nonsensical rambling. "Don't think about the past, or the present," she advises, "Just think about NOW!" Well, oka...hey wait, what?

The next morning Susan--who's been outside in the car THE WHOLE TIME!--comes stumbling up t othe house and is greeted by Harris again, this time in a totally Dracular costume and working the goat-headed cane. (Harris is listed in the imdb credits as "The Devil," but I have my doubts about this name assignment, as later he participates in a ceremony meant to pull in the powers of Astaroth...which Satan would presumably not need.) He invites her in to a newly refurbished and squeaky clean mansion, on the pretense of looking for her friend.

Batzelli gives us some more entertaining weirdness in this sequence, as Harris undresses Calderoni with his eyes in a psychedelic sequence, and at one point vanishes again, much to her surprise...only to reappear seconds later in EXACTLY the same spot! Despite all this, Susan agrees to stay for the night and even to let him draw her a bath--because, you know, being concussed is sweaty work.

I think we've all had this dream.

Things go COMPLETELY off the rails at this point, as we get a gratuitous bathing scene with Susan twirling in the tub in a most un-OSHA-approved manner. Out of nowhere a female servant dressed in footman's livery appears with a towel (and a smoke machine, apparently) and quickly begins making out with Susan! The lesbian action begins...but before it gets explicit, we cut to ANOTHER pair of actresses in a bathtub (NOT the same one, I think), who I guess we're supposed to believe are Susan and the servant, even though we get lingering face-shots that show they are not the same people--hell, except for skin coloring, they don't even LOOK alike. It's like the hardcore inserts in Alfonso Brescia's The Beast in Space, except Batzella doesn't even bother framing in tight on the torsos and genitals only. Bizarre.

Meanwhile, out in the garden, Benson and Evelyn are rolling around on the grass and she's STILL talking nonsense: "In this dimension, where time no longer exists, I'm forever waiting for you. And I always find you again...to obey the commandments." The confused doctor lights a cigarette, at which point Evelyn FREAKS and runs away. That's foreshadowing, kids. Write it down.

Post-lesbonic Susan comes out into the garden next, and is accosted by Candelli in period costume, also talking balls and referring to himself as "Peter." Viewers who haven't seen Brigadoon might well start thinking we've got a Castle of Blood situation going on here, and they wouldn't be far off. Susan and William have found their ghostly doubles haunting this mansion, with Harris lording over it and trying to seduce them to the Devil's side with lots of hairy Italian sex. Will they escape, or will they be cursed to stay in this castle watching the worst 70s porn Ol' Scratch can throw at them, FOR ALL ETERNITY?

"It's MAGIC!"

To his credit, Batzella does his best to spice things up. We get a lot of long shadows that could be atmopsheric if the rest of the lighting weren't so bright, along with some seasick handheld camera movement and borderline psychadelic cut-ins that I guess are supposed to be edgy. But mostly his seasonings take the form of ugly porn--Susan having a gauzy lesbian dream that transmutes into another stand-in sex session, the footman whipping an unknown servant to bloody welts before giving her the business end of a candle/dildo in lingering close-up, and "William" and "Evelyn" getting it on with some limp oral and frankly off-putting hardcore. Which is funny at first, but sadly, incredibly, starts to get pretty boring toward the end.

But before you can dismiss Nude for Satan ENTIRELY, it also gives you a couple of scenes to remember. The concluding Black Mass/Orgy is quite the set-piece, with Susan going over to the Dark Side--which here means making out with Evil Benson amid some crypts and flaming skulls, with Harris glowering on a throne in the background. Their sex magick also raises some lesbians from the dead, apparently, one of whom has the strangest ribcage I've ever seen on a naked lady--I've heard stories of women having ribs removed cosmetically, and I think I now have proof.

But the big Scene to Watch for is the out-of-nowhere GIANT SPIDER ATTACK! After witnessing Harris conducting his eeevil ceremony, Susan flees only to fall into a pit where she immediately becomes entangled in a clothesline-cord web. Helpless, she's attacked by a spider the likes of which I haven't seen since the local third-grade Halloween Carnival arts and crafts show. Calderoni does an admirable job selling the terror of her situation, screaming and writhing to beat the band, but it's really all for naught. The prop is just too damn silly. When William shoots it to put us out of our misery, I swear you can see the newspaper stuffing fly out.

The Sicilian Boob-Spider Stalks Its Prey



Nude for Satan is a frustrating movie in many ways. I mean, I laughed out loud, I grinned, I shook my head in entertained disbelief--but I couldn't help thinking it would have been more fun had Batzella either paid more attention to detail or else just thrown caution to the winds and gone completely over the edge into gibbering insanity. The middle ground doesn't work here, serving only to point out the distance from either extreme. The director would do much better--a subjective term here if ever it was one--with the Nazisploitation sleaze-meter exploder The Beast in Heat, aka S.S. Hell Camp. He certianly wasn't holding back THERE, and it showed.

As for this effort, your mileage will definitely vary, and it's hard to resist giving a movie with this title at least one viewing, regardless of the quality of the product. Still, it left me lukewarm, and therefore I give it the bland 1.5 thumb rating. Having said that, I do encourage everyone to get out there and get nude for Satan--the results will be at least as entertaining as this flick. At least for me.

9 comments:

Tenebrous Kate said...

Holy crap! I totally forgot "NfS" was a Luigi Batzella joint!!!! You're SO right in your wrap-up--he shoulda and COULDA gone there, knowing the full sleaze potential of his other movies. Sad to say, but "the Beast in Heat" is his masterpiece. I've also seen "Acthung! Desert Tigers," which is notable for two reasons: 1) it has an exclamation point in the title and 2) the lighthouse has its own theme music that plays every time it's on screen. Weird.

Your review is spot-on, in my never-humble opinion. Your observations regarding pacing and weird intercut porn mirror my own WTF'ery when I watched this flick. I think the movie would've benefitted from additional ridiculous spiders and perhaps a rapey half-mans-half-monkeys. But... sadly I was not consulted before the making of this film (the fact that I was not yet born at the time might have something to do with this).

Rev. Fred Phantom said...

Yet another film in my Netflix queue that you've made me question. I can't say I'm a huge fan of Batzella to begin with (I've only seen SS Hell Camp and The Devil's Wedding Night), but I'm a glutton for punishment w/these kind of films, so I'll probably still give it a viewing. As usual, a very entertaining review.

The Vicar of VHS said...

Empress--yeah, it's a bit strange to fault a movie with hardcore candle-dildo penetration as not being sleazy *enough*, but somehow that's the feeling I was left with. I agree with your assessment that More Giant Spiders == More Better. I mean, the spiders in Fulci's The Beyond were almost as bad, but there were BUNCHES of them, which somehow made it work.

As to this:
>>2) the lighthouse has its own theme music that plays every time it's on screen

I probably shouldn't even ask why there's a lighthouse in a movie about "DESERT Tigers." :S

Reverend: I'm sorry to keep harshing your mellow, man! :) Though as always, this is only one man's opinion, and there are some entertaining things here, as I said. Just be ready to hit the FF button anytime someone climbs into a car.

Fred said...

1974 was some year for stripping nude. You had Nude for Satan, Strip Nude for Your Killer...With all this nude going on, why wasn't I getting any? Oh yeah, that's right; I was only 10 years old at the time.

I actually liked the Devil's Wedding Night, but Nude for Satan seemed like a bad remake of the Devil in Miss Jones without all of the positive aspects of that Georgina Spelvin/Harry Reems masterpiece. Well, at least Batzella could claim Nude for Satan has the chick with the high rib cage (I dated a woman 20 years ago with the same type of rib cage and no, she didn't have cosmetic surgery). And does Batzella meant "bat shit crazy" in Italian?

prof. grewbeard said...

actually it was the soundtrack that got me through this one. well, that and the fact i was too stoned to work the remote anymore. which is probably why i liked the soundtrack...

does anyone else think James Harris was going around pretending to be Paul Naschy?

The Vicar of VHS said...

Fred--I bow to your greater experience in rib-cage arena. :) I was kind of thinking the girl might have donated two of her ribs to create the red-and-blue painted male dancers who add their nonsense to that scene, in a blasphemous imitation of God's creation, but I guess maybe she was just sucking it in. Still, she seems inhumanly wasp-waisted and -thoraxed.

You may be right about Batzella's deeper meaning, though when I read it I think he should have been making giant monster movies. Giant, sexy monsters.

Professor--sounds to me like you probably had the optimal viewing experience for this movie! As to your Harris question, all I can say is that if he *was* trying to channel Jacinto, it was an EPIC FAIL. This movie would have been a million times awesomer with Naschy in the role of the devil. But of course that's true of every movie ever made. ;)

Michael said...

Just discovered your site late last week. Well done, guys! I've quickly come to enjoy reading your reviews almost as much as I like watching the movies -- and in the same time it takes to watch a movie, I can read two or three reviews. If I don't move my mouth much. Great captions to go with your screen grabs too. They've been making me burst out in sudden, unprovoked gusts of laughter. (The wife's getting a little jumpy, I tell ya.)

Gotta take umbrage on your review of "Nude for Satan", though -- and this is significant because I'm normally a sans umbrage kinda guy. This movie is one of my desert island staples, due to its copious amounts of Euro-nudiness, Rita Calderoni's extremely generous Euro-nudiness, and Luigi's Bat-shit crazy story and direction, which I believe give the wonky proceedings a filmed-dream quality. (David Lynch -- You've been schooled, bitch!) So give it another shot, will ya? I mean, 1.5 thumbs? You can't even drink a 40 of Schlitz malt liquor with 1.5 thumbs!

The Vicar of VHS said...

Hi Michael, thanks for stopping by! And for all the kind words...makes all my hard work (i.e., fucking off geeking out on movies when I should be working) seem somehow worthwhile! ;)

As to your tender feelings toward "Nude for Satan," I guess we'll have to agree to disagree. I don't begrudge you your enjoyment in the movie, though, since Old Scratch knows I find inordinate amounts of glee in flicks other people would count it a War Crime to be forced to watch. It takes all kinds to make a world. :)

However, if you enjoyed this one so much, I *highly* recommend you try to find an uncut copy of Vampire Ecstasy (1974). It was much more up *my* alley, and something tells me you'd enjoy it up yours as well.

Or...something like that. :D

Thanks for reading!

Ezreal said...

I just recently saw the version without the hardcore inserts. From what I'm reading the hardcore portions were not filmed by Batzella, but were put in later. In the version out on Redemption Video right now, for instance, the lesbian scene between the servant and Susan ends shortly after the kiss, and the whole dream sequence is heavy petting (featuring Calderoni instead of an insert) rather than hardcore action. It probably serves to make the film a bit more coherent, but not much. I still agree with 100 per cent of your review.

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