THE SATANIST (1968) Blu-ray
Director: Zoltan G. Spencer
Garagehouse Pictures

The lost occultist nudie flick THE SATANIST has been recovered and made available to the masses on Blu-ray from Garagehouse Pictures.

Having suffered a nervous breakdown, novelist John takes his doctor's advice for total relaxation and moves away from Los Angeles with wife Mary to a remote cottage. No sooner do they arrive than they are watched making love by a mysterious woman who turns out to be neighbor Shondra (Pat Barrington, AGONY OF LOVE), an occult enthusiast who invites them to be her guests of honor for a party on the night of the Black Sabbath. Shondra provides John with a book on the occult that stimulates both his mind and body, and he dreams of being seduced by succubi. When he peeks in Shondra's window and sees her female lover transform into a male incubus, he believes he is going crazy. When his wife also witnesses a demonstration of Shondra's powers, they decide to have nothing more to do with her after the Sabbath party, but it may be too late by then.

Shot without direct sound and accompanied only by music, a couple synched sound effects, and John's narration (presumably director Zoltan G. Spencer who is credited with narration on some of his other nudie flicks), THE SATANIST has some occasionally pretty images and a spottily evocative atmosphere, but the main point of interest is that it was lost up until 2014. The performers keep their underwear on during the sex scenes no matter how heated or pagan (the Satanic orgy stays half-clothed) and are rather listlessly edited. There are a couple naïve but effective in-camera effects, but some viewers may be wishing instead that some of the more noteworthy rare, already recovered sexploitation films of the period looked quite as good as the source and Garagehouse's overall presentation.

The 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC pillarboxed 1.33:1 presentation of this monochrome film looks spectacular considering that it is a film long thought lost and that only a few prints were struck. Contrast is a bit high during the sunny exteriors but this may be an effect of the photography and of the generational loss of the print, but the blacks are deep and the image generally slick. The audio is provided in uncompressed LPCM 1.0 mono, and the narration and music are cleanly conveyed.

Temple of Schlock's Chris Poggiali and The Rialto Files' Ashley West provide an audio commentary in which Poggiali that he learned of the lost film's recovery when a friend from Exhumed Films sent him a list of 35mm prints for sale and asked him to point out anything noteworthy. He reveals that director Zoltan G. Spencer was an industrial filmmaker who helmed a few nudie films on the side (the more explicit HAND OF PLEASURE and TERROR AT ORGY CASTLE having already been released on DVD by Image and Something Weird Video). The film's first contemporary screening was at Exhumed Film's Lost Festival but Poggiali also reveals that it has been screened alongside one of Spencer's industrial films at another film festival. West goes into detail about Spencer's career as a documentarian who got into nudie pictures through brother-in-law Bruce Brown, surfer and director/cinematographer of THE ENDLESS SUMMER (he also shot the wave footage for the titles of HAWAII FIVE-O), and that Spencer's Satyr IX company was a collaboration with cinematographer Manuel S. Conde (DEEP JAWS). West also covers the life and career of Barrington who got into exotic dancing to get away from her mother and multiple stepfathers, though she found safety and security with jazz musician Melvin Rees only for him to be arrested by the FBI as a suspected serial sex killer (he was arrested in 1955 and maintained his innocence until 1985), crossed to the West Coast where she was a headline dancer at The Classic Cat. She also worked as a nude and commercial model before her boss encouraged her to try motion pictures. She had dated Lenny Bruce and Robert Mitchum and maintained a friendship with Samuel Fuller but made her debut in Russ Meyer's MONDO TOPLESS followed by Ed Wood's ORGY OF THE DEAD. She appeared in sexploitation films and a couple mainstream TV assignments through the sixties (with an uncredited appearance as a belly dancer in MARLOWE). With a rocky start and constant paranoia of her past with Rees being discovered, she changed her name for every line of work she tried (including a couple film credits as Camille Grant, a name picked by Fuller who loved the character Camille and whose hero was Ulysses S. Grant). West also covers her life after retiring from film and dancing much later. Poggiali reveals that the film probably had six to nine prints struck for its theatrical play at the Pussycat chain in Los Angeles, and that these were in circulation as late as 1970 as a B-feature, so it is fortunate that the print quality is as good as it is on the disc. THE SATANIST made the Pussycat circuit through Bob Cresse's Olympic International, and discussion is included about Cresse's shooting by undercover police who he witnesses roughing up a prostitute. The wide-ranging discussion also touches upon Michael Findlay's 3D process and his death in a freak accident atop the World Trade Center.

Fortunately, the feature is not all there is, as Garagehouse has also included another Spencer work SISTERS IN LEATHER (63:42) in its entirety. In this Spencer Satyr IX production, businessman Joe (Dick Osmun, LOVE IS A FOUR LETTER WORD) falls victim to the Badger Game twice when a gang of girl bikers blackmail him for two thousand dollars with a photograph of him making out with a hitchhiker who is actually part of their gang. When the gang share the photograph with his wife Mary (Kathy Williams, THE RAMRODDER) as prelude to some nude cycle riding and sunbathing before they spirit her away to their lair for a forced lesbian initiation. Meanwhile, Joe warns a gang of male bikers that some "dykes" are riding around with their insignia and leads them to the girls' hangout to teach them a lesson. Shot with live sound in a mix of bright exteriors and flatly lit ramshackle interiors (the couple's home looks like a hotel suite), SISTERS IN LEATHER is relatively slick and perhaps delivers the goods better than THE SATANIST even if the love scenes are once again half-clothed and the ending is rather "conservative." Barrington appears here again as a stripper in the male biker bar.

Restored from the original camera negative, SISTERS IN LEATHER's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC pillarboxed 1.33:1 monochrome image looks crisp and spotless. The first two-and-a-half minutes of audio was missing from the source and has been replaced here with music from the film and explanatory narration subtitles, but the LPCM 1.0 mono audio delivers clear narration and dialogue when the original soundtrack resumes. Other extras consist of a new Blu-ray Teaser for THE SATANIST (0:51) and previews for NINJA BUSTERS, TRAILER TRAUMA, and TRAILER TRAUMA 2. (Eric Cotenas)