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Satan's Slave
Tonight's Feature Presentation

SATAN'S SLAVE (1976)

Starring: Michael Gough, Martin Potter, Candace Glendemming, Barbara Kellerman, Michael Craze

Written By: David McGillivray Directed By: Norman J. Warren

The Short Version

It’s like The Jerry Springer Show meets a Satanic cult, only everyone’s generally reserved about being nuts.

You’ll often wonder if the cast is even awake.

The pacing and direction could use some serious work here.

The formula appears to be: “The audience is probably bored enough now that we need more random blood and nude shots.”

Don’t bother unless you’re really into Satanic cult flicks; it you are, Satan’s Slave ends well enough.  Maybe.

The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?

GUILDFORD CHEESE.

They don’t make this stuff anymore.  Some will say that Guildford is the only type of cheese that was made in Surrey at any time in recent memory; obviously, those people didn’t know that Satan’s Slave was made there, too.


Pairs Well With...

GOATS DO ROAM RED.

A blended red wine to match the red spatter that appears on the screen whenever someone’s afraid the audience might be getting bored, with a nod to the goat masks we see at the beginning of the movie.  Be warned: you’ll need the whole bottle if you intend to sit through the entire movie.

“Don’t look at me like that.  I know you’re trying to get me drunk.”


I’ll say it right away: Satan’s Slave actively gave me a headache.  With its poor pacing, random inconsistencies, and generally uninteresting performances, I was prepared to recommend it to absolutely no one until the ending came along.  At that point, what happens is interesting enough that if Satanic cult movies really are your thing, it’s probably worth a peek.  Just barely. 

For everyone else, though...

Our story as presented begins during a Satanic ritual.  All of the participants are wearing robes and giant goat masks with big red eyes.  Well, all of the participants expect for the naked woman on the altar, anyway.  The man we assume to be the leader of all of this starts making incantations.

This, by the way, is a huge mistake.  Since future scenes of Satan worship in the film will not feature the goat masks, we can only assume that they’re here to conceal the participants’ identities.  With that in mind, they probably shouldn’t have let this person speak, because the voice is very distinctive and will be picked up by the audience right away.

Anyway, the incantations lead us to understand that the point of this ritual is to beseech some other spirit to possess the body of the naked woman on the altar.  You don’t get to see how it turns out, though.

Cut to what looks like a charming little dinner date in a wealthy Englishman’s country home.  We’ll later learn that the gent is Steven Yorke (Martin Potter).  His date is an American woman he’s met recently; the intentions of the evening are obvious, and she has quite well indicated her intention to go along with them.  Indeed, she leads him up to the bedroom, and lies back in perfect willingness for what happens next… but Steven would apparently rather things get a little rougher, and so what was about to be consensual sex threatens to become an assault.  The woman manages to get away from the bed after having most of her clothes torn off, and yells that Steven is insane.  He, in turn, tells her to get out.  She makes it as far as the front door, at which point Steven slams her head in it to rather gruesome and lethal effect.  At this point, a car pulls up, and another woman walks in… and she’s apparently unsurprised to find Steven with a still warm corpse on the floor.

None of what’s happened so far actually needed to be in the movie.  While providing the initial shocks that the filmmakers were no doubt after to grab the attention of the audience, what these scenes really do is take away from the suspense element during the rest of the film.  Scene One gave away a secret, and Scene Two realistically has no point whatsoever.

Our story really begins with Catherine Yorke (Candace Glendenning), who’s about to leave her London apartment to join her parents for a weeklong getaway to visit her Uncle Alexander (Michael Gough), whom she has never met before.  Her boyfriend, John (Michael Craze), would rather she didn’t go, especially since her 20th birthday falls during the week she’ll be out, but Catherine has had some premonitions, and she feels that something important will occur during her visit.  As it turns out, she doesn’t know the half of it…

What follows is a poorly paced mess, where the director has apparently decided that the only recourse he has to keep the audience from getting bored is to throw in flashbacks or mysterious visions involving full female nudity, blood, and the occasional whipping.  He knows that his cast sure isn’t going to generate any interest, and the screenplay’s characterizations are so haphazard that they make the random nude scenes seem entirely sensible.

Seriously, folks; these characters are nuts.

The Jerry Springer Show didn’t actually debut until 1991.  Had it been around in 1976, the members of the Yorke family and pals from Satan’s Slave (originally intended to be called Evil Heritage, which sounds like it should be the name of a creepy ice cream flavor for some reason) would have been a prime candidate for getting their own episode.

Our first guest is Catherine Yorke.  Catherine seems like a very nice girl, don’t you think?  When we first meet her climbing out of her boyfriend’s bed, it seems like she’s got herself a stable relationship that’s going pretty well, too, especially after we seem him give her some jewelry that used to belong to his mother.  Speaking of mother, so sorry to hear that her parents were killed when their car exploded after they crashed it in front of Uncle Alexander’s house…

Taking sedatives to cope with the shock, eh?  Well, that’s understandable.  And then there are those visions she starts having whenever the audience gets bored; visions of naked women and Satan worship and whips and blood.  However to cope with these things?  Well here in Springer land, the answer is obvious: it’s time for her to have sex with her first cousin, Steven!  Never mind the boyfriend who just days before gave her a bracelet that had belonged to his mother; he’ll understand, right?  Especially the part about not just screwing Cousin Steven, but falling in love with him, too.  Just call John in the morning.  “It’s only fair.”  Oh, wait, John’s dead!  Surprise, Catherine!

But now let’s meet our second guest, Steven Yorke!  Making the moves on and having sex with his cousin Catherine certainly isn’t his first foray into trouble.  We’ve already seen him try to assault another woman earlier on in the movie and accept crushing her skull by slamming a door on it as consolation.  But he has other issues, too.  Turns out that he watched his mother die when he was a little boy, and has had trouble with committing random murders ever since.  But his cousin is so nice… much better to wine and dine her, right?

Of course, that does cause problems with his other relationship.  It seems that he’s also been having steady sex with his father’s live-in secretary, Frances, but now that his cousin’s in the picture, Steven’s all about giving Frances the cold shoulder.  Let’s meet Frances and see how she feels about this, shall we?

Frances seems like the absolute ideal girlfriend for any homicidal psycho with issues.  She even says flat out that she doesn’t care if Steven goes gallivanting about and shagging random trollops.  She’s even happy to help him clean up the mess after he kills them.  All she asks is that he come back to her bed and give her a good flourish when he’s done.  Is that so terrible?  Oh, and screwing the first cousin isn’t cool beans, either.  Given all of the benefits of the arrangement in place, are these two little provisos really so much to ask, especially since Frances seems to be in heat 24/7?

Poor Frances; Steven doesn’t seem to appreciate her at all anymore.

Is that why she’s sneaking around the house, stealing keys and papers and such?  She talks about some kind of blackmail, but no one ever really figures out what’s going on with that.  It’s all so random.

But now let’s meet our last guest, her boss, Dr. Alexander Yorke.  He knows all about the fact that his son is screwing his secretary, and he doesn’t seem to care.  He also knows that his son has started to screw Catherine, and he doesn’t seem to care about that, either.  Indeed, he sounds rather amused when he sees Frances looking down through the window with jealousy as the two cousins kiss.  “The thing I admire most about you, Frances, is your ability to suffer in silence,” he says.  “Don't ever change.”  What a wonderful guy, huh?  He’s even been nice enough to keep poor shocked Catherine sedated as much as possible and made sure she’s comfortable in the days leading to the happy occasion of her 20th birthday.  I wonder what amazing surprise he has in store for his niece then, don’t you?

One would think that with all of this Jerry Springer style gallivanting about, Satan’s Slave would be at least a little but fun and entertaining, but honestly, it’s not.  As noted earlier, the pacing of the film is so dreadful that the director has apparently given up and decided that boobs at regular intervals are the only answer.  (The movie does, however, perform the public service of turning its music up really loud whenever something violent is going on so that any dozing audience members might be jarred awake.)  The cast, almost from top to bottom, take the “dry British” act to the extreme, providing dull, wooden performances that drain any possible life out of any scene they’re reading for.  The only exception is Candace Glendemming, and she’s actually worse; her performance is that of a whiny wet noodle, generating no sympathy whatsoever, which is never a good thing for a leading role.

The final straw comes from the fact that all of the crossing relationships mentioned above play out at random; characters’ personalities change from one moment to the next, and so do their allegiances.  It’s just a mess, and when it came down to the last five minutes, I was ready to suggest turning the disc into a drink coaster.  For fans of Satanic cult flicks, however, the very end of the movie is just good enough that it might provide sufficient appeal, but really, it’s a long, long slog to get there.

Bottom line, Satan’s Slave is a poorly paced headache of a movie with very little appeal for the general horror audience.  Even fans of its own niche may find that the going isn’t worth it; at the end of the day, it’s probably best to leave this one backstage at The Jerry Springer Show and find something more worthwhile.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, October, 2011


You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


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