Color, 1974, 68m.
Directed by Gerard Damiano
Starring John Francis, Lisa Christian, Paul Barry, Jarrar Ramze, Ann Paul, James Procter, Deborah Horlen

Color, 1973, 69m.
Directed by Andy Milligan
Starring Allan Berendt, Hope Stansbury, Patricia Gaul, Michael Fischetti, Pamela Adams, Eve Crosby, John Wallowitch, Pichulina Hempi
Code Red (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)

Legacy of Satan

Legacy of SatanNow here's a double feature that must've had viewers questioning their sanity by the one-hour mark when Bryanston unleashed it in 1974: the sole legit horror film by Deep Throat director Gerard Daminao, shot in between his dark hardcore masterpieces The Devil in Miss Jones and The Story of Joanna, and a melodramatic story of vampirism and killer plants by prolific, bargain basement Staten Island auteur Andy Milligan. Both are still fascinating viewing today, albeit not for newbies to the horror genre, and a limited edition Blu-ray from Code Red distributed through Screen Archives preserves them both in all their grubby glory.

As you'd probably expect from an early '70s film called Legacy of Satan, our first film kicks off with a protracted satanic ceremony over the opening credits presided over by a nameless priestess of the dark arts (Horlen) who has to select a new queen every thousand years to serve with her leader, Dr. Muldavo (Francis). Fortunately they have a strong candidate in Maya (Christian), whose photograph makes its way into Muldavo's clutches, and her husband George (Barry) and friend Arthur (Procter) are a little put out by watching her get seduced to the dark side. As Maya is consumed by hallucinations and bloodletting impulses, it's up to George (and a handy glowing magic sword during the climax) to try to fend off the forces of darkness.Legacy of Satan

Though there's zero evidence to back it up, rumors have persisted for years that this was originally shot as a hardcore film but had all of its XXX content removed by Bryanston. That seems to be more conjecture on the basis of Damiano's name than anything borne out by the film, which doesn't show any signs of having explicit footage removed and features no significant actors remotely connected to hardcore. In fact, keep your eyes peeled for an early, nameless role for beautiful TV actress Christa Helm, now most famous today for her brutal murder three years after this film's release. It certainly wasn't unheard of for erotic directors to try a switch to more mainstream horror, with Joe Sarno making Veil of Blood around the same time and Armand Weston directing The Nesting a few years later, so it's probably more likely that this originated in script form as an adult film but morphed into something far more legit along the way (a la Last House on the Left). What we're left with is a real oddity filled with garish colors, a pounding electronic score that will either send you into retro ecstasy or having you reaching for painkillers, and highly erratic acting reminiscent of a particularly grim soap opera. Legacy of Satan

A drab, highly compressed transfer of this one popped up in Brentwood's Blood Bath 2 set on DVD, but you can skip that one in favor of the fresh HD transfer on the Code Red disc, which looks excellent with vibrant colors, excellent contrast, and satisfying widescreen framing. The DTS-HD MA mono audio sounds much, much better than ever before; the bass and clarity of the music in the opening credits will definitely make your ears perk up.

Our co-feature on the same Blu-ray is one of the lesser seen Andy Milligan horror films, often overlooked in favor of more widely distributed titles like Bloodthirsty Butchers and The Ghastly Ones. This would actually prove to be his penultimate horror film of the decade, only followed in 1978 by the interesting but now badly butchered Legacy of Blood, and it fits snugly with his formula at the time: get some cheap theater actors together, dress them up in period clothing in Milligan's two-story house in Staten Island, have them spit Legacy of Satanpages of acidic dialogue at each other, and throw in some gore or a sex scene every ten minutes.

Lawrence Orlovsky (Berendt) and his wife, Regina (Stansbury), have just rented a new house and make for very odd tenants indeed. He's always busy in his laboratory doing experiments by day, and she never goes out in the sunlight due to a rare skin pigmentation disorder. As it turns out, Regina looks like a rotting fanged mess until she gets her regular medical injections Lawrence generates from the bloodsucking plants he keeps cultivating in his lab, which are nourished by the couple's oddball servants. Trouble starts when a man named Carl (regular New York cabaret performer Wallowitch) shows up accusing Orlovsky of thieving from his dad's estate and pulling dirty deals Legacy of Satanbehind in his back, which sets off a chain of murders exacerbated by the fact that the Orlovskys are very unhappily married with Lawrence frequently chasing other women in the vicinity. As it turns out, the married couple's monstrous secret keeping them together could be enough to be the undoing of everyone in the entire household.

For reasons best left undisclosed, this one feels like the closest thing to Milligan's take on an Al Adamson film with lots of ridiculous monster activity, hammy performances, and some of the bitterest dialogue ever written in a career filled with nasty exchanges. Of course, it wouldn't be a real Milligan film without a deformed assistant, and in this case we get three of 'em, with top honors easily going to the mentally damaged Carlotta (Hempi), a frizzy-haired collection of tics you have to see to believe. In what is sadly not a first in Milligan's films, there's also a pretty vile bit of barbarism committed against a live mouse, which serves little purpose and should tick off any animal activists watching this at home.

For some reason this film has remained stubbornly unavailable on legitimate home video until the Blu-ray release, with a handful of bootleg copies and unauthorized downloads pulled from a very soft, ugly, and severely cut version clocking in at a mere 57 minutes. This much longer print (presumably the same one that surfaced at Exhumed Films in 2014) is presented as is with scratches, scuffs, and faded colors intact; it's definitely not pretty but fans of Milligan should be used to seeing 35mm blow ups of his work looking like this, and it's easily the best version you'll find (as well as the only official one). Tons of fun if you're in the right mood, and if you're determined to see every Milligan horror film out there, it's obviously essential viewing.

Reviewed on October 27, 2015.