Color, 1977, 82 mins. 9 secs.
Directed by Carlos Puerto
Starring Ángel Aranda, Sandra Alberti, Mariana Karr, José María Guillén
Vinegar Syndrome (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD), Screenbound (Blu-ray & DVD) (UK R0 HD/PAL), Scorpion Releasing, Mondo Macabro (DVD) (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.66:1) (16:9)
While jetting around town looking for a good vacation spot for the weekend, happily married expecting couple Andy (spaghetti western actor Aranda) and Anna (Karr) are approached at a traffic light by another couple in a car. Claiming to be an old classmate of Andy's, Bruno (Guillén) and wife Thelma (Alberti) extend an invitation to join them at their country home for a couple of days away from Madrid. At the house, Andy and Anna spend a little quality time in the bathtub and then join their hosts for dinner, following by that ultimate after-party activity, breaking out the Ouija board. A few nasty revelations later, the marrieds decide to leave but are trapped by a nasty storm. Even worse, Anna hears weird noises at night and goes downstairs to investigate, only to be assaulted by a man in black who disappears moments later. Baffled, the twosome investigate only to find Bruno and Thelma naked, greased , and waiting for them in front of the fireplace... but a little nocturnal orgy is just the first of many strange and ultimately horrific experiences in store over the next 24 hours.
A film that truly lives up to the label of erotic horror, Satan's Blood (Escalofrío) was one of the first productions to take full advantage of post-General Franco relaxations in Spanish film censorship and earned itself a nasty reputation in the process. Packed with unabashed frontal nudity, bloodshed, and downright spooky visuals(including a really creepy doll that comes into play in the second act), this is quite a bit harder than most previous Spanish horror films like the Paul Naschy monsterfests. The final ten minutes are especially potent, delivering a nasty frisson that lingers after the end credits. Though director Carlos Puerto didn't go on to do much else, horror fans will certainly recognize another name in the credits: producer and art director Juan Piquer Simón (a.k.a. J.P. Simon), who wormed his way into the hearts of sleaze fans worldwide by directing such films as Pieces, Slugs, The Pod People, and Cthulu Mansion. This is more accomplished and atmospheric than Simón's usual fare, and much lighter on the ridiculous (but highly quotable) dialogue. Moody, shocking, and wonderfully constructed, this one's a definite keeper.
Another European horror title long-abused by mediocre tape releases, Satan's Blood received a significant bump in popularity thanks to its first English-friendly DVD from Mondo Macabro in 2006. The picture is considerably brighter and more detailed than past VHS transfers, revealing quite a few additional naughty bits previously lost in murky older editions. Contrary to the packaging, the soundtrack is mono and can be played either in English or Spanish with English subtitles. '70s horror junkies may prefer the former as it features the usual gang of English dubbers, but the latter is much classier and more beneficial to the film itself. You want extras? First up is an additional opening sequence (supposedly shot by Simón) concocted to slip this film past the Spanish censors, with a lecturer justifying the proceedings as a demonstration of the practices of evil in the modern world and a necessary counterpoint to support the power of good. Talky and heavy-handed, it's an interesting curio that can be played as an intro to the main feature or as a supplement by itself; stick to the latter option, as any passion for the movie will be snuffed out by the time you get to the opening credits. A new featurette, "The Devil's Disciples," features Church of Satan leader Gavin Baddely discussing various aspects of the religion and its presence in popular culture, clearing up a few misconceptions along the way and offering a lucid chat that's accessible even to those offended by the basic subject matter (though they probably wouldn't be watching this disc anyway). Other goodies include written liners about the feature and the participants, a rather large still gallery, and that familiar Mondo Macabro promo reel.
When the Mondo Macabro disc went out of print and started commanding silly prices online, the time was ripe for a reissue. Scorpion Releasing's DVD from 2011 contains what appears to be the same transfer (detail, color timing, and framing are identical), packaged as part of their entertaining horror hostess line, Katarina's Nightmare Theater. Katarina Leigh Waters appears in optional bookending segments around the film, gently sending up the Satanism aspect of the film while dishing out a few handy facts and figures about its history. There's no Spanish language track this time around though; the only related extra is a stills gallery, and you get additional trailers for other Scorpion titles including Final Exam, The House on Sorority Row, Humongous, Nothing but the Night, Human Experiments, and The Incubus. In 2016, U.K. label Screenbound brought the film to Blu-ray and DVD featuring an HD scan that does a reasonable job of presenting the film with either English and Spanish-language DTS-HD MA mono options with optional, annoyingly tiny English subtitles. As with the previous two releases, the aspect ratio is 1.66:1 for the feature itself with the tacked-on prologue presented at 1.78:1. As with the Mondo Macabro disc, you can play the film without the prologue.
In 2021, Vinegar Syndrome bowed the title on American Blu-ray including the usual limited slipcover edition to dazzle your more cultivated house guests. The packaging cites a new 4K scan from the original camera negative, and the difference is extremely obvious with significant improvements across the board in terms of color timing, detail, and framing, with quite a bit of additional image info visible on the edges and flesh tones now looking much healthier and more convincing. The prologue is also side matted to 1.66:1 here to match the rest of the film, which is fine since it's just a guy sitting at a desk anyway. The DTS-HD MA Spanish and English tracks both sound great, with optional yellow-ish English subtitles. A new audio commentary with Samm Deighan and Kat Ellinger is an energetic appraisal of the film and its place in Spanish horror, a sort of companion to earlier tracks like Secta Siniestra and all those Larraz releases as they chat about Simón, devilish orgies, other occult-themed films from Spain and abroad, Larraz, pregnant women who smoke, and the joys of Luis Barboo. The fun featurette "Recuerdos de Escalofrio" (46m55s) has Puerto, Alberti, and editor Pedro Del Rey waxing nostalgic about the production including its genesis with Simón, the desire to shoot something quickly with only two available sets, the need to make something for the burgeoning S-rated, adults-only film market in Spain, the DIY street shooting in Madrid, the nervousness levels of the various cast members for the nude scenes, the sources for some of the spooky house decor, and lots more. A gleefully NSFW gallery (1m51s) is also included with various marketing materials including the pressbook. The reversible sleeve art spotlights both the English and Spanish poster art.
Vinegar Syndrome (Blu-ray)
Scorpion Releasing (DVD)
Updated review on February 2, 2021.