Asylum Of Satan/Satan's Children (1975)
By: Mr Intolerance on February 15, 2010  | 
DVD
Something Weird Video (USA). Region 1, NTSC. 4:3. English DD 1.0. 162 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: William B Girdler; Joe Wiezycki
Starring: Charles Kissinger, Carla Borelli, Nick Jolley, Pamela Gatz; Stephen White, Eldon Mecham, Joyce Molloy, Kathleen Archer, Rosemary Orlando
Screenplay: William B Girdler, J Patrick Kelly III; Gary Garrett, Ron Levitt
Country: USA
External Links
IMDB IMDB Purchase
This long out of print Something Weird double feature fetches ridiculous prices from third party sellers on amazon.com, so let's see if we can find out why, with these two Southern-fried Satanic tales of dark forces, dementia and debauchery.

Asylum Of Satan

Asylum Of Satan was the first feature length film from William B Girdler, director of Jaws rip-off Grizzly, The Exorcist rip-off Abby and other favourites of the drive-in crowd like The Manitou or the delicately and subtly titled Three On A Meathook. Girdler's career was in the ascendant after this rather shaky start when he tragically died at the age of thirty in a helicopter crash.

Lucina Martin (played by soap actress Carla Borelli who went on to star in shows like Days of Our Lives, and who must have wondered how the hell she got herself into a film like this) is a concert pianist who's had a bit of a breakdown, and is admitted to Pleasant Hill hospital as a rest cure. She's a little concerned by the fact that she has no idea how she got there. Personally, I'd be more concerned by the fact that the first person she meets at the hospital is the doctor's assistant, and is obviously a man in drag, who immediately has her drugged. This is not likely to aid her recovery, methinks.

Neither is the fact that things really aren't normal at Pleasant Hill. Doctor Specter runs the place with an iron fist, and many strange things occur – Lucina's first meal at Pleasant Hill is quite bizarre to begin with; while she and a bunch of other patients get to dine on proper food, the majority of the mentals in the place, hooded and cowled, simply get an egg in the middle of their plate. Lucina's questions about Dr Specter bring the meal to an abrupt ending, and then all of a sudden, Lucina's on her own and the place is a shambles! Is it all a figment of her imagination?

Of course it isn't – this is exploitation cinema! And if you think things are weird by this point, well baby, like Bachman Turner Overdrive once told us – you ain't seen nothin' yet! The patients and staff at Pleasant Hill have complete devotion towards Dr Specter, much to Lucina's consternation, as she has no idea what the hell's going on, and spends much of the movie in a state of fright. Considering there's something very strange going on in the basement with lots of chanting, not to mention other weird noises she hears in her bedroom, she's right to do so.

Anyway, Lucina's fiancee Chris has noticed that she's gone off the radar and is trying to find her, clad in the most eye-cancer inducing plaid sports coat ever seen. Honestly, you look at her (all elegance, good looks and grace) and then you look at him (unkempt, badly dressed even by the standards of the early 70s, overweight and smoking cheroots), and you do have to wonder – how the hell did that happen? Regardless, Dr Specter and his unfeasible beard finally turn up, and the 70s fashion bar is yet further lowered with his Dickensian frock-coat and pirate shirt complete with frilly sleeves and ruffled front. He's a shifty character and no mistake (although we get the sneaking suspicion that we have indeed seen him before…), and he gives no credence to Lucina's story of having been transported to the wrong hospital.

The story gets a little more twisted when we find out that Lucina's committal to Pleasant Hill has been done under shonky pretences, as Chris tries to investigate Specter's past in a skivvy and plaid slacks, both with her previous doctor, and with the cops (Detective Walsh speaks for the audience when he tells Chris, "Alright, I'll take you out to Pleasant Hill – I want you see how ridiculous you really look" – couldn't have put it better myself). When Chris tries to take the local fuzz down to the nuthatch, the place looks like it's been closed for years, boarded up and in bad repair. To say the cops don't believe him is to put it mildly. His assault on the caretaker (who looks more than a little bit like you-know-who) doesn't really aid his case.

Meanwhile, back at the asylum things are not going swimmingly for the inmates (that's a dreadful pun, if you've seen the film), and Specter's real intentions start to become a little more apparent, and that chanting in the cellar seems to be a whole lot more sinister. It's worth mentioning at this point that the makers of Asylum of Satan actually sought out the help of Anton LaVey's Church of Satan in order to give certain scenes in the film a little more authenticity and oomph, and that help was duly given by Michael Aquino, editor of the Church's periodical, The Cloven Hoof, who flew down to Louisville on his own dime to lend a hand with the script. So, in some scenes of the film, the dialogue you're hearing is actually from Aquino's own rituals (he was quite a highly ranked member in LaVey's organization at the time), and also from LaVey's The Satanic Bible.

Inmates at Pleasant Hill are starting to disappear in increasingly nasty ways (death by bugs, snakes, immolation or worse yet, the deformed maniac in the attic) – be very worried when Dr Specter tells you you're having your final treatment – and Lucina is the last to go. Chris hasn't given up on his gal, and even Detective Walsh is having second thoughts about Chris' story, and basically everyone is drawn together for the climactic final scene, where we get a Black Mass, inappropriate soundtrack music, Specter's true plans are revealed and even Satan himself turns up in the form of the Devil suit from Rosemary's Baby (which puts paid to the rumour that Anton LaVey wore it in that film – at six foot and 200 pounds, there was no way he was getting in that costume – Girdler had to cast a rather small woman in the role of the Arch-Fiend), topped off with a hilarious mask that has to be seen to be believed.

It's a little anti-climactic despite the "twist" ending, but Asylum of Satan is definitely some hokey 70s exploitation popcorn-munching fun, and should be viewed with that in mind.

Satan's Children

Everyone loves a Satanic cult, that favourite whipping-boy of early 70s cinema, and this movie presents us with a beauty. But before we get to meet them, we've got to meet Bobby, a teenage boy with a crappy home life – a horrible twat of a step-sister and an appalling step-father – and a rather curious attitude to his sexual identity. Finally goaded into running away from home, Bobby doesn't have too much luck in hooking up with folks, initially being set upon by predatory homosexual after predatory homosexual, culminating with being tied up by some good ol' boys and used as a plaything before being dumped roadside, nekkid, like roadkill.

Luckily (if that's the right word) for Bobby, he's then taken in by a bunch of dope-smoking hippy Satanists. Right from the outset we're told that these Satanists don't like homosexuals of either persuasion, and Bobby, obviously bearing some marks of his gang rape ("Your ass is sore…Poor little boy got raped by some queers"), is viewed as possibly a bit fruity and therefore unclean. Rather a prudish gang of Satanists, these.

In-fighting and internal bickering within the group escalate the tension until Simon, the rather effete head of this groovy coven, returns to see what's what, and generally sort things out. Bobby wants to join the Satanists, but they aren't too sure they want him – after all, as Simon states, he's a loser, and "Satan only wants winners." Well, they certainly got the LaVey vibe right. Actually, they do a very good job of getting across the casual cruelty and general superiority complex of the elitist modern Satanist, even if it is done in a rather melodramatic and oddly (for this film) camp way.

And so Bobby flees in his Y-fronts, spending a little bit too much time lolling about spread-eagled for my liking – dude, I have no interest whatsoever in your package. Mind you, in the face of adversity he shows a surprising amount of inner resource for a character who's initially depicted as an utter wuss. But therein lies the rub…

Now, I can't tell you much more than that, because this is the point where the film descends into utter lunacy – that's a good thing before you ask – and to give you any idea of what happens next would not be doing you any favours. Matter of fact, it'd be downright cruel and would probably take away from the gleeful insanity on the screen before you. All I will tell you is that you won't see it coming, it'll entertain the pants off of you, and you'll be telling all your friends (well, the ones with good taste in movies, anyhow) to check this bad boy out. Yes, it's that good.

While Satan's Children is one of the more entertaining exploitation films I've seen of late, it does contain a little bit too much padding, with some shots just lingering on well past their use-by date, sometimes embarrassingly so. The homophobia is truly jaw-droppingly incredible, and pretty much, in this day and age, sadly guarantees this film a lifetime of obscurity.
Video
The video quality of Asylum of Satan is quite poor: speckly, grainy and the image is so soft at times it is like watching a poor quality VHS, and a rather dark one at that. Sadly, Satan's Children doesn't fare much better, with a washed out look to the at times badly degraded print. I guess pristine quality DVD does spoil you, huh?
Audio
The audio on Asylum of Satan is not the best, rather quiet and a bit muffled - I had my audio at nearly three-quarters volume to be able to hear it, and that's at night with no background noise. Satan's Children has superior sound - it's louder at least and has greater clarity, but is still nothing much to write home about.
Extra Features
As usual, Something Weird haven't stinted on the Extras. First up there's a commentary track on Asylum Of Satan with Girdler biographer Patty Breen (who also writes the four page booklet "The Devil Went Down To Louisville", an essay on the film, that accompanies the disc) and Jeffrey C Hogan from Majestic International Pictures, the original trailer for Asylum of Satan (which incidentally has better audio and video quality than the film itself) and seven minutes of behind-the-scenes footage from the film's production (the footage is silent, given a suitably goofy Satanic score), mainly from the climactic Black Mass scene – lots of Carla Borelli dancing about like Kate Bush in that video for "Wuthering Heights".

We then get treated to Satan's Dance, rather an odd little number which features burlesque dancer Lorraine Lane and a Satan doll doing a bit of a dance which I think was meant to be Old Nick tempting the lady, but I was a bit non-plussed by the whole affair. Next cab off the rank would be the half hour featurette The Soul Snatcher, a strange little oddity indeed about a woman who can't get a job, and is approached by the Devil who promises her "fun, excitement, love, romance and success in business" in return for wearing a pair of Satanic golden shoes. It's one of those dialogue-free, narrated jobs from back in the day, and kinda quaint and old fashioned. And more than a little bit silly. I guess it was meant to be a bit risqué, but what determines that kind of changes with time, and this hasn't kept up.

You want more? We got more, baby! How about some trailers for Don't Look In The Basement, Dr Tarr's Torture Dungeon, Horror High, The House of Missing Girls, House of the Damned, The House That Vanished, Mansion of the Doomed and The Murder Clinic? And finally, there's a gallery of some pretty neat comic book art accompanied by music from The Dead Elvi.

Now that is indeed value for money!
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Who doesn't want to watch a film called Asylum of Satan? Like many drive-in classicks, the title is enough to get your attention, even if the film itself is not the greatest. But the scoop here is that Satan's Children is the reason to buy this disc. It's definitely the superior piece of trash fun, with a sleazier vibe, diabolical acting and a mean-spirited vein of nastiness running all the way through it. I wouldn't recommend paying the exorbitant amounts being charged at the moment through third party sellers, but if you can find a reasonably priced copy, fork out your hard-earned with confidence, entertainment awaits.

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