Fetching lass Candance Glendenning (TOWER OF EVIL) discovers her evil heritage during a family reunion in Norman Warren’s SATAN’S SLAVE, uncut on DVD from Scorpion Releasing.
Despite ominous premonitions, Catherine Yorke (Glendenning) is going to the countryside with her parents (ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE’s James Bree and THE SHUTTERED ROOM’s Celia Hewitt) to spend the week with her father’s brother Alexander (Michael Gough, LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE). Although she will miss celebrating her twentieth birthday with her boyfriend John (Michael Craze, TERROR), she feels compelled to go along on the family trip. Once they reach the grounds of the Yorke Estate, Catherine’s father suffers a strange migraine and crashes the car into a tree. Catherine gets out to seek help from the main house only for the car to explode seconds later killing her parents. She is taken in by her uncle, his “secretary” Frances (Barbara Kellerman, THE MONSTER CLUB) and his son Stephen (Martin Potter, GOODBYE GEMINI). Alexander, a former doctor, tells Catherine that she is in shock and welcome to stay as long as she likes. In between grisly hallucinations while wandering the estate’s enchanted gardens, Catherine falls in love with Stephen – who is more than a bit psychotic with a penchant for mutilating beautiful women – which makes Frances jealous. Frances informs Catherine that Alexander and Stephen are obsessed with necromancy, and have been trying to bring back the spirit of their witch ancestress Camilla Yorke in a new body. After several unsuccessful tries – usually involving nude women spread-eagled on an altar – Alexander has discovered that the ritual requires a direct descendent, and it just so happens that Camilla was burned at the stake on her twentieth birthday and Catherine bears a striking resemblance to her.
After a couple softcore sexploitation pics, director Norman J. Warren embarked on a quartet of horror films starting with SATAN’S SLAVE (conceived with cinematographer/producer Les Young and his wife Moira who also produced and did continuity – in addition to playing the opening sacrificial victim when the intended actress did not show up – and scripted by David McGillivray [HOUSE OF WHIPCORD] in nine days). As with Pete Walker’s horror pictures, the slump in the British filmmaking industries during the mid-1970s afforded Warren some screenworthy talent in front of and behind the cameras. The story is largely predictable with the exception of an interesting backstory for Stephen and a pretty good ending twist. The film makes no bones about who the villains are, but Catherine spends much of the middle of the film seeing things and saying “but it seemed so real” to Stephen, Alexander and Frances. The audience is way ahead of Catherine, and both Warren and McGillivray know it; as such, most of Catherine’s hallucinations involve lots of censor-baiting boobs and blood (as well as an EXORCIST-inspired bit with a wooden cross and the branding/whipping of model/softcore actress Monika Ringwald [EROTIC INFERNO]). Glendenning and a handful of other actresses (credited and otherwise) are undraped, and make-up artists Robin Grantham (THE LEGACY) and Nick Maley (THE KEEP) provide some suitably grisly slashings, stabbings and eye-piercings (as well as a lame body splattered on the pavement after falling from a great height) in the service of audience entertainment. It helps immensely that Glendenning is a likable and sympathetic lead, Gough dials himself down to sinisterly avuncular for much of the running time, while Kellerman and Potter make the most of their characters’ complex love-hate relationship (which is just there for more running time filler).
Glendenning worked regularly in television from the late 1960s to the early 1980s, but had only a few film credits (including a small role in Franklin J. Schaffner’s big-budget NICHOLAS AND ALEXANDRA; however, SATAN’S SLAVE formed a memorable exploitation triptych with her appearances in Pete Walker’s THE FLESH AND BLOOD SHOW and Jim O’Connolly’s TOWER OF EVIL. Potter struck big early as the lead of FELLINI SATYRICON and also had a small part in NICHOLAS AND ALEXANDRA. Besides GOODBYE GEMINI and SATAN’S SLAVE, Potter also made exploitation appearances in Sidney Hayer’s ALL COPPERS ARE…, Freddie Francis’ CRAZE, and Chris Boger’s De Sade adaptation JUSTINE/CRUEL PASSION (with Koo Stark). Kellerman might be familiar to PBS viewers as the “White Witch” of BBC’s 1980s miniseries adaptation of THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE. Her horror credits are sparse, but she would later appear in the “Growing Pains” episode of THE HAMMER HOUSE OF HORROR as the mother of an adopted (and apparently possessed) child, tangled with a Shadmock in one of the stories of the late British horror portmanteau THE MONSTER CLUB, and was terrorized by various alien entities in two of the 1970s QUATERMASS miniseries. Michael Craze was well-known as one of DOCTOR WHO’s companions and would appear in Warren’s next film TERROR (during the shooting he had an epileptic fit and his unshot scenes were re-written for a new character played by James Aubrey).
The score by John Scott (GREYSTOKE) builds effectively on a simple melody with clarinet and shrieking, stabbing horns, and gets shrilly, unnervingly experimental during the psychic attack on John. Scott also composed the minimalist scores for Jose Ramon Larraz’s British pictures SYMPTOMS and SCREAM AND DIE, and would go fully electronic for Warren’s later film INSEMINOID. Cinematographer Les Young – who also produced – lensed the film in Techniscope format, a format on which twice as much footage could be shot per reel since the widescreen image was produced on two of the 35mm negative’s four perforations per frame; since an anamorphic squeeze was not required to produce the wide image, spherical lenses were utilized which requiring less light than anamorphic lenses (an anamorphic squeeze was imposed when the negative was converted from 2-perf to 4-perf interpositive and internegatives for CinemaScope projection-compatible release prints). Here he combines psychedelic wide-angles and superimpositions with the mossy greens and burnished wood paneling of traditional gothic horror. Young served as camera operator on Warren’s first feature HER PRIVATE HELL under Pete Walker’s later go-to cinematographer Peter Jessup, and on Gordon Hessler’s THE OBLONG BOX, SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN and CRY OF THE BANSHEE under John Coquillon (WITCHFINDER GENERAL). Young also produced and shot Warren’s TERROR. Although Young is indeed the director of photography, he conceived of his operators, focus pullers, and loaders as a single unit; thus, he shares the simple credit of “photography” with John Metcalfe (who later served as DP on INSEMINOID as well as XTRO and RAWHEAD REX), John Simmons, Steve Haskett, and Dennis Balkan. Production designer Hayden Pearce previously collaborated with Warren on LOVING FEELING, and would work on Warren’s subsequent features through BLOODY NEW YEAR. The Tudor manor house – which also appeared in TERROR – belonged to French aristocrats and already contained the expensive furnishings seen in the film.
Although part of the Crown International catalog, SATAN’S SLAVE was not issued on VHS in the United States in the early 1980s when United Home Video (now VCI) distributed much of Crown’s output. The first legitimately available DVD release was a cropped version of the export cut as part of Rhino Video’s HORRIBLE HORRORS DVD collection (which also included a fullscreen print of Warren’s TERROR). The presence of the cropped, uncut SATAN’S SLAVE suggested that a 1” master was struck by Crown even if it was not picked up for VHS release in the states (although it is rumored to have been released in Canada by CIC; if so, it was probably cut on a territory-by-territory basis). The first widescreen DVD was made available through Anchor Bay Entertainment in the UK as part of their five-disc NORMAN WARREN COLLECTION. That version – which featured upmixes in Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS and optional English HoH subtitles – was easily the best the film had ever looked up to this point; however, fans were disappointed that it represented Warren’s preferred domestic cut, which featured an alternate version of Potter roughing up Gloria Walker. Walker met her make-up artist husband Nick Maley on this film, and they later contributed the script and special effects for Warren’s INSEMINOID as well as the creature effects for Tobe Hooper’s LIFEFORCE (Maley also appears in one of Catherine’s hallucinations as a monk along with producer Richard Crafter). The version that went out for export featured Potter cutting away Walker’s clothes with scissors and running them over her body (a big no-no for the BBFC). The print used for the Anchor Bay disc did indeed feature this scene, so Warren substituted his preferred softer version from an inferior source. The export version of the scene was available in cropped form via the grey market from a Dutch-subtitled cassette and the aforementioned Rhino disc. It was hoped that this would be rectified when BCI released their double-feature disc that paired the film with a new anamorphic widescreen transfer of Warren’s TERROR (which they had already paired with the PG-rated US cut of THE DEVIL’S MEN titled LAND OF THE MINOTAUR on another double feature disc); however, the Crown International 35mm print used for the transfer was hacked up and missing most of the film’s nudity and violence. A French disc from the sadly defunct Neo Publishing reportedly utilized the Anchor Bay master.
Scorpion’s cover has a big “uncut” stamp on it, and their progressive, anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) transfer is the film’s complete export version featuring the aforementioned “scissor” scene and the rest of the nudity and gore intact. The Scorpion transfer also lacks the slight greenish tinge on the UK transfer and features slivers of additional info on the top and sides of the frame. Following an appended Crown International logo (which may have been the one created for spherical prints, since it looks a bit stretched horizontally), the presentation opens with the lengthy Brent-Walker Film Distributors intro absent from the UK transfer. The blacks are deep and the greens and reds are striking (the grain in the dark scenes is down to the original cinematography). The restored export scene has some minute white speckles, but it seems to match the rest of the transfer. Late in the film, there is a shot that drifts into slow motion for a second as if damaged frames were digitally-smoothed over, but it’s not a gore shot. The Dolby Digital mono audio is generally clean and bold (when it comes to Scott’s score); however, there are a couple rare but annoying clicks and snaps.
The film is viewable with optional wrap-around segments by Katarina Leigh Waters that start off with an amusing skit before she gives us a rundown on the cast and crew. The extras are ported over from the Anchor Bay set. “All You Need is Blood” (13:11) is a vintage making-of documentary. A young Warren classifies the film as more of a thriller than a horror film. Gough seems to be enjoying himself (“It’s always nice to play the beast”), and expresses an enthusiasm to be working during the 1970s slump in British filmmaking. We see Les Young performing double duties as cinematographer and producer, Grantham and Maley working on make-up and effects, Kellerman getting her head smashed through fake glass by Potter, as well as a touching group portrait of the cast and crew to cap things off. The fullscreen 16mm featurette seems to have been lengthened slightly by adding new letterboxed clips of the finished versions of some of the scenes either shown being rehearsed or shot from another angle by the documenter’s camera. Craze’s smashed body on the pavement looked like it was covered in ketchup in the final film, and in the behind the scenes segment we see Nick Maley with a big bottle labeled “Heinz”.
“Creating Satan” (29:47) is a longer retrospective documentary put together by Warren himself, and features input from Les Young, Warren (in the same film office seen in TERROR with the SATAN’S SLAVE/THRILLER [THEY CALLED HER ONE EYE] double bill poster still on the wall), McGillivray (who met Warren in the cutting room during the editing of HER PRIVATE HELL), actor Martin Potter, art director Hayden Pearce, Moira Young and Ken Dowling of the film’s distributor Brent-Walker. Young discusses the financial motivations for picking the horror genre – at the time, it was either do a horror film or a sex film for that budget – and the resources available to him as a cameraman for the production, promoting various assistant and junior crewmembers in other productions to primary roles here, and how game the house’s owners were to have them shooting there. Warren discusses the casting – including dealing with Gough’s agent – and revisits locations (including the house which was found by Pearce). Potter discusses the research he did to make his psychotic character realistic (whether that actually comes across, aren’t we glad that actors like him, Gough, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing do put so much effort into even the smallest horror film roles). McGillivray discusses rounding up some friends to shoot the hotter scenes for the export versions (Warren mentions that most of the cast and crew found the scissor scene unpleasant). Pearce mentions that the painting of Camilla Yorke was actually a photograph of Glendenning augmented with oil paint. He also discusses the title sequence that he designed. Moira Young discusses being volunteered by her husband when the actress for the opening scene was apparently arrested. Dowling discusses the film’s first release supporting American International’s edit of THRILLER and its second even more successful double bill with Curtis Harrington’s RUBY (“A devilish combination of women and hell!”). Since Warren produced the featurette himself, his remarks nicely bind the comments of the rest of the participants together into a whole.
“Devilish Music” (12:31) features a contemporary interview with composer John Scott who starts off playing the theme on his piano. Unlike most scoring assignments, Scott was brought in at the scripting stage. He came up with various themes throughout the shooting stage, but could not actually compose individual cues until the film had been edited and he knew how long they had to be. Some of the unusual sounds in the score were created with gongs of various shapes and materials that he had been collecting. He describes the final product as “deceptively simple” and clips from the film demonstrate the tensions between the music and the images. Two deleted scenes are included in black-and-white workprint form with commentary by Warren (the sound is missing because the magnetic tape has disintegrated). The “Tea Party” scene (2:56) was eliminated solely to speed up the film. The “Dream Sequence” (2:06) was part of Catherine and Stephen’s drive into the countryside and is triggered by her spilling red wine on her dress (which remains in the final cut). It’s a neat sequence but it’s kind of tame next to the other hallucinations. The silent footage is scored with some random bits of Scott’s score. Also included are two trailers. The shorter U.K. trailer (2:03) is preceded by a UK “X” certificate warning. The second trailer (3:12) seems to be a U.S. release trailer since it is followed by an MPAA R-rating card, but the titlecard still features the “Distributed by Brent Walker” subtitle. It runs longer than the UK trailer, but seems like a similar assemblage. Warren’s 1966 short film FRAGMENT (10:03) is included here. It tells the story (without dialogue) of a woman contemplating suicide after her beau leaves her for another woman. It features Michael Craze (who also produced), Simon Brent (who would star in Warren’s LOVING FEELING) and Maureen Roche (whose only other credit was set decorator on Roger Corman’s VON RICHTHOFEN AND BROWN). The film was scored by John Scott (as Johnny Scott) and co-photographed by Peter Biziou (TIME BANDITS) and Mick Messenger (who later worked on the Donald Cammel-scripted THE TOUCHABLES). FRAGMENT is presumably mastered from the same source as the Anchor Bay disc (the running time is the same). BFI has since remastered the short in high definition for the Blu-Ray/DVD combo of Warren’s first feature HER PRIVATE HELL. Sadly missing from the disc is the amusing Norman Warren/David McGillivray commentary track, although – as with Scorpion’s longer transfer of TERROR – the track would not be able to synchronize with this version. Even so, this is the best looking version of SATAN’S SLAVE, and it is more than fairly comprehensive even without the commentary. Trailers for Warren’s TERROR and the British/Canadian co-production DEATH SHIP round out the package (a promo reel with clips from more Katarina titles follows her post-script comments). (Eric Cotenas)
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