B&W, 1968, 61m.
Directed by Zoltan G. Spencer
Garagehouse Pictures (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD)
One of the more mysterious and memorable names unearthed during the heyday of Something Weird Video's VHS reign is Zoltan G. Spencer, the exotic-sounding moniker behind the filmmaker of such perplexing, genre-mashing softcore films as Danish & Blue, The Hand of Pleasure, and especially his final film, 1972's Terror at Orgy Castle, the story of an innocent couple sucked into an occult maelstrom involving sacrificial sex and giant animal headpieces. The origins of that last film can be now be traced to his first credited feature, 1968's The Satanist, a black-and-white meditation on similar visual ideas. Once thought lost with only a smattering of promotional material to ever prove it unspooled in a projector, the film has been brought back to life by Garagehouse Pictures on Blu-ray with an extra Spencer film in pristine condition as a bonus, too.
Shot mostly without sound and featuring a plot conveyed mainly through voiceover (and frenetic Middle Eastern-style music with lots of sitars), our film chronicles the descent into hell experienced by a hirsute nameless writer ("Joe") who takes off with his wife ("Mary") for a stay in the country so he can recuperate after an unspecified breakdown. He starts seeing visions of a mysterious, alluring black-haired woman, and it turns out to be more real than he expected when he spies on his next door neighbor to find out that it's his dream woman ("Shandra"). On top of that she likes to oil herself up and enjoy intimate bedroom time with other women, but on the other hand, she also tends to perform arcane rituals in the buff involving powder circles and strange symbols. When the newcomers are invited to come over for a dinner party, it's no surprise that all hell starts to break loose... all minus clothing, of course.
Aside from roughie staple Pat Barrington (Agony of Love), this obscurity from Bob Cresse's Olympic International is filled with unfamiliar faces and fills out much of its running time with the usual long, breast-focused soft sex scenes, complete with percussive music that almost never stops. It's a curiosity for sure that turns into a must see in the home stretch with that big satanic orgy (including a guy in a black goat head) and a nifty twist ending that makes this a forerunner of sorts to the great Spanish horror film, Satan's Blood. Scanned in 4K from the only surviving print (which turned up in 2014 and debuted at Exhumed), it looks pretty fantastic for a film once thought to be extinct. The moody photography makes this one of the better looking Spencer films, and it has a nice spooky feel to it even when the story goes for long stretches without anything especially alarming going on.
Also on the disc is another Spencer film (with Barrington in a small role), the following year's biker chick nudie Sisters in Leather. The plot's only slightly more robust here as married guy Joe (Mondo Bizarro's Dick Osmun) finds his afternoon extramarital activities disrupted by a gang of blackmailing, girl-loving female bikers. As it turns out, the clothing-averse ladies want even more from Joe when they track down his wife and try to initiate her into their club, which seems to consist of disrobing and riding their bikes around in circles. Needless to say, it's pretty amazing. This one's also in monochrome and comes direct from the original negative in absolutely gorgeous quality; unfortunately a few bits of audio have been lost (including a significant patch at the beginning), so music and a few subtitles have been put in to help you keep track of the not exactly labyrinthine storyline.
Temple of Schlock's Chris Poggiali and The Rialto Report's Ashley West provide a fascinating audio commentary for the main feature, including notes about the film's tenure at the Pussycat theater chain and some fun info about Spencer, such as his proclivity for mountain climbing and his day job making industrial travelogue films. Along the way you'll hear about Cresse and other related exploitation figures like Manuel Conde and David Friedman, too, as well as some context for the commercial demands of softcore films at the time. Some of the stories here are pretty wild, including tales of white slavery, the movie star dating scene, and murderous cops; great listening all around, as you'd expect. The disc itself features a Blu-ray teaser for The Satanist and bonus trailers for Ninja Busters, Trailer Trauma, and Trailer Trauma 2. Also included on the reverse of the sleeve is a set of liner notes by Poggiali about the odd rise of black-and-white dirty movies in the '60s and the nature of how titles end up on his Endangered List (and thankfully are still being found).