Seven Women for Satan
France / 1974
Directed by Michel Lemoine
Starring
Michel Lemoine
Howard Vernon
Joelle Coeur
Color / 84 Minutes / Not Rated
Format: DVD(R0 - NTSC)
Mondo Macabro
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Guest Review by Troy Howarth
A reclusive businessman (Michel Lemoine), last in a line of not-so-noble noblemen, is haunted by fantasies of sadomasochism and torture. His fantasies start coming true, thanks in no small measure to the influence of his mysterious butler (Howard Vernon)...
    Michel Lemoine, veteran of films by Mario Bava (The Road To Fort Alamo, 1964) and Jess Franco (Succubus, 1967), helms this interesting mixture of eroticism and horror, originally banned in its native France for several years and only now rescued from complete obscurity via this Mondo Macabro DVD presentation. The film plays very much like a Franco film, but it's no mere imitation. Lemoine, who plays the tormented lead, brings a sardonic sense of humor to the proceedings, as his pathetic character is thwarted at every turn and the devious plans of Vernon's villainous butler go pretty much for naught. The film's dreamy atmosphere blurs the line between reality and fantasy, while characterization and plot are de-emphasized in favor of cataloguing various images of eroticism and torture. Compared to some of the films Franco was making in France during this same time frame, however, the film seems rather tame, making its stormy reception/banning seem rather curious in hindsight.
    Despite its many good points, the film is far from perfect. Without giving away any spoilers, it can be said that the 'shock' ending is much too campy, thus undercutting the impact of the final developments in the story. Also, in de-emphasizing character, Lemoine's screenplay makes it impossible for the audience to really identify with the protagonist he remains much too vague and illusive, as do his prospective victims.
    On the upside, Howard Vernon gives his usual solid, silkily villainous portrayal he even gets to play his character's father, complete with a gray wig and beard for an all-important flashback sequence! Lemoine does what he can with his underwritten characterization, and if he never becomes as compelling as one would like, his striking presence and perverse gaze go a long way in compensation. There's also plenty of Euro eyecandy in the form of Joelle Couer, Nathalie Zeiger and a couple of other actresses, all of whom display plenty of skin
.
    Technical credits are solid, with the delightfully tacky music score by Guy Bonnét standing out as one of the film's best attributes. A nice addition to the subgenre of "horrotica" specialized in by Franco and Jean Rollin, Seven Women for Satan is sure to entertain fans of Eurohorror.

Mondo Macabro's DVD continues their standard of excellence, previously seen in such releases as The Diabolical Dr. Z (1966) and The Living Corpse. This incredibly obscure film, scarcely released in the U.K., has been cleaned up and looks about as good as one can hope for. The letterboxed (1.66) image is enhanced for widescreen TVs. Print damage is evident throughout and the image looks a little washed out in parts, but overall it's a satisfying transfer. The DVD offers the option of a French track (with or without English subtitles) or an English one; the English dubbing, as can be expected, is rather stilted and even replaces Howard Vernon's silky voice (he normally dubbed his roles into English personally). Thus, the French track is a superior alternative, although it contains a bit more static and popping than the English one. Both tracks do justice to the infectious music score.
    Extras: a fascinating documentary on Lemoine (Formidable! The Michel Lemoine Story, which includes reminiscences by the actor on his collaborations with Bava and Franco as well as comments on his career as a director), a theatrical trailer, onscreen liner notes by Pete Tombs, and talent bios on Lemoine, Vernon and Couer. 4/05/04
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