1977, Spain, Directed by Carlos Puerto
Colour, Running Time: 82 minutes
Review Source: DVD, R1, Mondo Macabro; Video: Anamorphic 1.78:1, Audio: DD Stereo
It was comparatively late in the game that I discovered the macabre cinematic beauty that can sometimes emanate from the slightly offbeat world of Spanish horror. Until a few years ago I generally considered the Italians to be the gruesome kings of genre in its European variety but several brushes with some of Paul Naschy’s better known films along with things like the truly nightmarish The Vampire’s Night Orgy, the oddly enticing A Bell From Hell, etc., have illustrated that the Spaniards once gleefully produced their own (now unfortunately dead forever) peculiar brand of sexy ghastliness, a brand that happily coexists and complements the output of their Italian neighbours. DVD has brought some of these delights to us in a quality that enhances their appeal as far as I’m concerned - for example, back in the grim old days of bootlegged video tapes I had a copy of Horror Rises From The Tomb, a film that I considered at the time to be worthless excrement. Picking up the BCI Eclipse special some time ago however, diametrically shifted my opinion. A few years before that I stumbled across the wonderfully titled Satan’s Blood (AKA Escalofrío) for the first time, thanks to those amazing people at Mondo Macabro, and it has since become one of my perverse favourites. Considering the originality of the plot one has to remember that this was made in the seventies and it’s not really a bad stab at the Satanism/occult arenas that were repeatedly pummelled by screenwriters throughout those classic decades. Bruno and Berta, a young and relatively happy couple, are out driving one day when the passengers of another vehicle beckon them to pull over. One of them claims to have been to school with Bruno and despite him not actually remembering the man they’re persuaded to accompany the strangers to their country mansion for an evening of drinks. After an hour or so of driving they arrive at the remote house and settle down for apparently harmless chat, however certain clues indicate that their hosts lead unorthodox lifestyles, while there is an omnipresent sense of palpable unease. Later that night there are disturbances in the house - Berta is indecently attacked by an intruder, then Bruno and Berta stumble across the other couple engaging in sexual activity downstairs. Seemingly entranced they join in for a transcendental orgy (is there any other kind?). But it’s not all good - as the weirdness snowballs the couple find themselves unable to leave the premises as the dog they brought with them initially goes missing, their car won’t start, and they’re stranded in the middle of nowhere with two people who appear to be worshippers of the devil.
Typically manic for a Spanish production Satan’s Blood zips along at a fair pace, taking time to build an aura of the supernatural often without resorting to overt manifestations of the unseen world. The couple who befriend the protagonists are suitably mysterious throughout and there are thematic resemblances to Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby in some respects: the strange, beguiling neighbourly people who pretend to be working in your best interests but are actually aiming to seduce you over to demonic forces largely unseen. I’m impressed with Puerto’s conveyance of the sinister couple and their macabre intentions, contrasted with the innocent proclivities of the ’good’ couple. Whilst there is a little of the titular blood on display here and there (in the sense that it’s consumed of course) the film’s references to sex are more pronounced, this being epitomised by the show-stopping orgy sequence that our couple discover downstairs in the middle of the night and hypnotically become involved in. Psychedelic and adequately deranged it is both titillating and haunting in equal measure. The film also reaches a satisfyingly creepy finale following the couple’s desperate attempts to release themselves from the captivity of the sinister duo and their imposing mansion. It’s one of those movies I feel I can watch repeatedly and never really grow tired of, hence Satan’s Blood remains one of the more interesting and satisfying examples of the Spanish contributions to the genre.
Those wonderful people at Mondo Macabro again grant us an otherwise very obscure Euro gem on DVD, presented attractively in an anamorphic widescreen ratio with an essential Spanish language soundtrack and English subtitles (along with optional English audio). This is the perfect way to bring a film like this to fans and it’s a shame that the likes of Mya Communication can’t do the same with the mountain of great films they keep releasing without original language/English subtitle combinations. Whilst we are also bestowed with a documentary and some previews of other MM releases (always fun), this the icing on a brilliant disc and there’s no other version to own.