Satan's Wife (1979)

MARCH 16, 2012


Before I begin reviewing Satan’s Wife (aka Ring Of Darkness) proper, I should warn everyone that the actress playing a teenaged girl in the film, who has a few topless scenes, was actually in her early teens during filming. The laws are different in Italy and since I can find nothing about a ban or any sort of legal issue concerning its release, I guess no one had much of a problem with it – but it’s still worth noting, I think. I watch batshit Italian horror movies to be entertained, not to be weirded out.

And batshit it most certainly is. It’s easy enough to sum up the plot – Satan returns to exact revenge on three women who backed out of a deal they made with him, striking against their children – but on a scene by scene basic the movie doesn’t make a lick of sense. From start to finish, scenes come and go without any buildup or resolution, with characters appearing/disappearing at random throughout. As it is a 70s Italian possession film, obviously there are shades of The Exorcist here, but director “Peter Karp” (Pier Carpi) tosses in some Rosemary’s Baby and The Omen as well, further confusing matters.

Luckily, it’s chock full of hilarious moments. There’s a lengthy bit where a guy explains how to win at chess, comparing black and white as if they were football teams or something with different abilities and methods of play (he also drops “In a perfect world, white would always win” – sounds kind of racist). The daughter throws a gift into the river, explaining that a doll that was bought (as opposed to stolen) is of no use to her, and in another scene she explains how Satan played a part in the story of Charlemagne, which is funny enough on its own but elevated by a cutaway to a student nodding as if it made total sense. Also, she fights her mother in the nude for the finale, which even with the underage ickiness is admirably insane.

The score is also pretty funny, because while Carpi was ripping off Friedkin and Polanski, composer Stelvio Cipriani apparently had Goblin’s Dawn of the Dead soundtrack on a loop – his oft-repeated main theme barely even differs from theirs. I was also amused with the fact that the guy playing Lucifer (Ezio Miani, who never appeared in another film after this) looked like Michael Bay – it’s the world’s first “before its time” in-joke! Basically, the fact that it’s impossible to decipher at times doesn’t really take much away from its entertainment value.

However, it IS deathly slow. Nonsense and bad dialogue can only provide so much amusement – we need to see some action! The girl burns a classmate’s chest and there are a few quick bits of violence near the end, but otherwise it’s just talk, talk, talk. Well, except for the lengthy ritual scene at the top of the third act, in which the movie offers only the faux Goblin soundtrack for the better part of ten minutes. A few good death scenes could have helped immensely, especially considering that Satan doesn’t do much besides stand around glowering at people. I mean, fellow evil young girl movie Cathy’s Curse is just as incoherent, but at least folks die with some regularity.

The DVD is from MYA Communication, so you know not to expect anything approaching a quality transfer. It’s anamorphic, but very washed out and with an occasional warbly soundtrack. A very hissy original Italian track is also available, but without subtitles I had no use for it. As for cuts, I have no idea; IMDb lists the existence of a 104 minute version, but this one is only 87 and I could find nothing about what could be longer. My guess is that this is merely incorrect; they certainly didn’t cut down on talky stuff to make it more exciting for drive-in audiences, and if they left in underage nudity I can’t imagine what COULD upset any censors. Thus: this is probably as good as it gets, for whatever it’s worth. For Exorcist ripoff completists only!

What say you?


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