(A.k.a. RING OF DARKNESS; UN'OMBRA NELL'OMBRA)
The film opens to what looks like a 1970s dance routine from Legs & Co, only here their theme is decidedly Satanic - and I don't ever recall them being so scantily clad.
This black mass concerns several women who eventually disrobe and give themselves unto a mysterious male figure. Just as things appear to be getting juicy, Carlotta (Anne Heywood) awakens. The scenario is a recurring nightmare it seems, harking back to an ill-advised ritual her and a group of female friends took part in some thirteen years earlier. Their goal at the time, Carlotta's narration informs us, was to gain power through sacrificing their bodies to a man they believed to be in league with Satan. Alas, they have each been left with a disposition that robs them of appreciating affection, and a curse that threatens to take their children in due course.
This latter point in particular worries Carlotta when she begins to see odd behaviour from her daughter Daria (Lara Wendel). Not only is the young teenager surly, but she's prone to doing bizarre things like burying her fingernails once they've been cut - in the belief that no-one must have access to any dead part of her body.
Meanwhile, Carlotta's old pal Rafaella (Irene Papas) has become a high-class whore in an attempt to find the physical contentment she's been denied since their Satanic shenanigans all those years earlier. Alas, Satan (Ezio Miani) has a habit of appearing before her punters and terrifying them into scarpering before getting their leg over.
Elena (Valentina Cortese), also part of that group from the past, now works as Daria's teacher at school. She, too, has been blighted with an inability to find sexual pleasure in the meantime.
Carlotta eventually meets with her pals and persuades them to join her to a ritual being held by Agatha (Marisa Mell), which will hopefully help their individual causes. She's also got in touch with an exorcist (John Phillip Law), so convinced is she that Daria is actually possessed by Satan...
A mess in terms of pacing and logic, Pier Carpi's 1979 film is also rife with continuity errors and some of the cheesiest dialogue conceivable. The actors each look like they're drugged and simply sleepwalking through their lines, something that I doubt the lousy dubbing makes any worse.
With cheap sets, clumsy effects (artificial clouds of mist billowing rather obviously from a just-out-of-shot smoke machine; poor superimposed visuals) and some of the ugliest camerawork this side of Herschell Gordon Lewis, SATAN'S WIFE certainly is a bad film.
But it's also a highly watchable, curiously compelling prospect. Be it the corny dissolves which end almost every scene, or Stelvio Cipriani's characteristically excellent score - which at times sounds like a forerunner to Fabio Frizzi's CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD soundtrack - there's something almost hypnotically compelling about it.
It helps, of course, that the film is blessed with an almost unfeasibly interesting cast. Where else are you going to find Heywood (GOOD LUCK MISS WYCKOFF), Law (DANGER: DIABOLIK), Mell (PERVERSION STORY), Wendel (TENEBRAE) and one of Britain's great actors - Frank Finlay (MURDER BY DECREE) - all in the same film? And with Cipriani providing the score?!
And did I mention that the cinematographer here is Guglielmo Mancori, who also lensed SPASMO and LIVE LIKE A COP, DIE LIKE A MAN)? Or that the production design was overseen by Pier Luigi Basile, whose credits also include DON'T TORTURE A DUCKLING and THE INGLORIOUS BASTARDS?
Indeed, there's a collective talent at work here. It's fascinating to have it all pooled in the one place, even when its efforts are being undone at every turn by writer-director Carpi's ineptitude. He has no grasp on how to elicit emotion from his actors, or how to sustain a pace (the film is terminally slow during its mid-section). Set-pieces feel sleazy but never quite unbridled in the manner you imagine they would be in the hands of another; there is no tension or fear at any point.
Still, the film works almost despite itself. You can't take draw your eyes away from Heywood's natural magnetism ... or the frequent nudity ... or the cheap optical effects ... or the insane climax which, without wishing to spoil things for first-time viewers, surely contravenes modern laws when it comes to minors being presented naked onscreen ...
Cheezy Flicks' DVD is region-free. It presents the film uncut and in a full-frame aspect ratio.
Baring the original title UN'OMBRA NELL'OMBRA, this presentation is pretty abysmal. Cropped, drained of colour, soft in focus and overly dark. The quality can best be described as "old VHS". I found it watchable, but those with a penchant for crystal-clear visuals or similar HD-type qualities are sufficiently forewarned to expect no such fineries here.
English audio fares slightly better, with clear dubbed dialogue and only the occasional wobble whenever the score fills the soundtrack. Minor noise can be evidenced at times, but never to the point that it overwhelms or even majorly distracts.
A static main menu page leads into a similarly inanimate scene selection menu allowing access to the film via 10 chapters.
The only bonus on this disc is a 4-minute trailer reel for other titles in the Cheezy Flicks range: LISA AND THE DEVIL, I DRINK YOUR BLOOD and PSYCHOMANIA (under its alternate title DEATH WHEELERS).
SATAN'S WIFE is an intriguing film, one which not only rips off the likes of THE OMEN and THE EXORCIST but takes their themes to illogical, sleazy new areas. The climax really is something else.
It's a terrible film; it's a great film. But it looks bad here. If someone comes along and remasters the film at any point, I like it enough to upgrade. Until then, Cheezy Flicks' DVD will have to do.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by Cheezy Flicks|
|see main review|