Pete Tombs' Mondo Macabro label has been unearthing cinematic obscurities for almost two years now, digging up such oddball entries as Pakistan's THE LIVING CORPSE, Italy's THE NUDE PRINCESS (with transsexual superstar Ajita Wilson), and Indonesia's MYSTICS IN BALI. Now, they have uncovered a long-lost French sexploitation film, SEVEN WOMEN FOR SATAN, directed by Franco regular Michele Lemoine and starring familiar Franco face Howard Vernon, and reportedly banned in its home country.
Lemoine plays Count Boris Zaroff (hold your chuckles, please), a stuffy aristocratic businessman to unassuming eyes, but get him in the bedroom and WOW! Zaroff has deep unidentified psychotic tendencies, especially when confronted with beautiful women. Case in point: he picks up a lovely brunette hitchhiker, spends the evening tying her up in front of the fireplace, pouring champagne over her body and licking it off, then drives her to an isolated woods area, beats her, tries to apologize, then runs her down with his car as she tries to run away! His manservant Karl (the great Howard Vernon, who also plays Zaroff's dying father with a scraggly fake beard) acts as his accomplice, aiding in selecting candidates for Zaroff's violent outbursts. There is barely a coherent plot here, SEVEN WOMEN is a clothesline for beautiful naked women to writhe, moan, dance, and be tortured and murdered. The ghost of Zaroff's fiancé, whom he accidentally murdered (played by Jean Rollin favorite Joelle Coeur), reappears and waltzes with him in the loft of the barn, and continues to reappear to haunt him! A beautiful blonde secretary is invited over, drinks some wine, then does a wild dance on a stage, writhes naked on Zaroff's bed while rubbing a blue boa over her abundant curves, then is chased through the house and out a window by Inga, Zaroff's bloodthirsty dog! Muriel and Francis, a young couple whose car broke down, happen upon Zaroff's mansion and stay for the night. As punishment for snooping around the house in the middle of the night, the young lovers meet their ends in the torture chamber!
Mondo Macabro's batting record was 11-0. Ultimately, they have tentatively scored again with SEVEN WOMEN FOR SATAN. All the exploitation elements are here, sex, violence, action, go-go dancing, laughable dialogue, a frenzied musical score, but it's all here in well-balanced proportions. The film is reminiscent of the French exploitation company Eurocine's 70s output, many of which are infamous for not delivering the sleazy goods. Sure, SEVEN WOMEN has great-looking women in the buff and wild violence, but it's not entirely successful in its delivery. There are many long stretches of boredom in-between the outrageous setpieces, some of which are well-shot moments that are lovely to look at, but for the most part could have been sliced from the running time to ensure a smoother pace. However, there are enough kooky moments to warrant the purchase: the opening MOST DANGEROUS GAME chase of a nude woman through the woods by Zaroff and Inga; Muriel go-go dancing to cheesy music, stopping to see the dead body of the secretary out of the window, then continuing to get down with her bad self; the English dubtrack holds several nuggets of awful dialogue; and Lemoine has chosen some marvelous locations for the film, including the foreboding mansion and the beautiful surrounding French countryside. There is enough nudity and violence to quench the thirst of undiscriminating Eurocult fans, just don't expect an unsung masterpiece.
SEVEN WOMEN FOR SATAN is presented anamorphic in 1.66:1 widescreen, its original aspect ratio, and unfortunately doesn't look all that hot. Colors are soft and muted, for the most part, and is again identical to Eurocine productions, which can be attributed to cheap film stock. Still, given that the film has seen few public screenings or home video appearances since the 1970s, it is bright and clear, acceptable enough. You have the option of either an English dub or the original French audio track with English subtitles; the English dub is pretty funny, with classic quotes like "I hate having both my hands tied up so I can't push you around!," and the French track gives the film an arthouse feel. I prefer the former, as it sounds more full and less muffled.
The extras served here do a good job discussing the history of the film, even if there aren't many included. The real meaty supplement is "Formidable!," a video interview with director Michel Lemoine. First off, he discusses how to make love to a woman on-camera if you despise her and shows us that he still has the portrait of Joelle Coeur seen in the film hanging on the wall in his home!! He discusses the beginning of his acting career, working with Jess Franco (too bad little is said about his wife, Janine Reynaud, the star of SUCCUBUS) and Mario Bava, how he got started as a director, his softcore sexploitation films, and briefly the making of SEVEN WOMEN FOR SATAN (finding a producer for a French horror film proved to be quite difficult). Lemoine gives a great anecdote about low-budget films and why they should not be ridiculed. The original theatrical trailer (presented in fullframe) looks a tad muddier than the actual feature, but still sells the film incredibly well, highlighting all the great nude scenes and over-the-top violence. A well-written history of the film is included, written by Pete Tombs and hits all the bases about the film's genesis, its roots in mythology, and the hidden poetry Lemoine brought to the exploitation. Also included are exceptional bios of Michel Lemoine, Howard Vernon, Joelle Coeur (who needs to be found pronto!), and editor Bob Wade.
While not one of Mondo Macabro's defining discs, SEVEN WOMEN FOR SATAN is a nice surprise for Eurocult fanatics everywhere, who like their horror spiced up with sex, camp value, and splashes of poetry. It's not as good as Internet buzz has been claiming, but it's a film well-deserving of preservation and Mondo Macabro is the right company to do it! (Casey Scott)
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