SATAN'S BABY DOLL

SATAN'S BABY DOLL

Combining the atmospheric dark beauty of the traditional Italian Gothic with the exploitative fervour of 1970s exploitation, Malabimba was an inspired and fetishistic hybrid of various genre conventions. Equal parts Nunsploitation and scathing psychological parable, this Exorcist inspired Midnight Movie evokes the primal wonder inherent in demonology while celebrating the excess of sex and violence. While not as visually effective as Beyond the Door, and lacking the emotional resonance of the US hits on which the Italian devil sub-genre was so obviously based, Andrea Bianchi's nightmare of sordid perversion was a raw wound that followed its possession theme to its disturbing, sexually explicit conclusion. Remaking the film, Mario Bianchi's Satan's Baby Doll retains that film's sleazy, full-frontal approach while upping the sleaze factor. Planned as a hardcore film from the beginning, this lively piece of Italian smut is a love song to perversity, delighting in breaking taboos of moral conscience and entertainment norms. Revelling in various acts of sexual depravity, Bianchi creates a testament to the power of film to entice while disturbing. A mean spirited orgy of unapologetic sensationalism, this story challenges us visually, coating its provoking moments of sexual outrage and blasphemy with just enough spiritual context (and moral outrage) to keep the mind as busy as the senses. At the same time, it makes us question our enjoyment of such horrid situations. Severin Films, champions of confrontational exploitation, presents this pornographic flesh and blood show in a stunning new transfer, bringing to light as never before the film's unique combination of hardcore sex, supernatural horror, and moral breakdown.

A powerful if simplistic story whose narrative attacks its aesthetic goals head on with a minimum of subtlety or side-stepping, Satan's Baby Doll is as honest and brazen -- and as basic -- as its title suggests. Revolving around precisely what its title states, this ode to The Exorcist and its countless Occult/possession follow ups (many of which were Italian), follow in that sub-genre's creative footsteps, giving more gore and blasphemy -- more violence and sadism for the movie-goers buck. Whereas the original film Malabimba featured a s´┐Żance that made possible the infiltration of a demonic force into the lives of an unsuspecting family, possessing young sexpot Bimba, this story follows the possession of one Mirja, who, haunted by the spirit of her deceased mother, torments and sexually molests those around her. Her family's assorted malfunctions, scheming, and sexual perversions feed on/are fed by Miria's possession, manifesting themselves in increasingly violent expressions of taboo eroticism. Along the way we're attacked by such unapologetic displays of filth as filthy nuns, Miria getting it on with Church members, and sexually attacking members of her own family. Adding spice to the original film's already depraved plot, the director throws in some ridiculous if enjoyable zombie sequences. Miria's depth of depravity is incredible, as are her admittedly shameful scenes of hardcore sex amidst a psycho-sexual gothic framework.

If lacking the visual daring, thematic sincerity, or directorial style of either a Mario Bava or Dario Argento, and not as effective merging the sordid thrills of graphic violence with cynical philosophy as was Lucio Fulci, Satan's Baby Doll manages to tell a decidedly cruel, scandalous story with a maximum of exploitative effect. Daring to push the limits of both thematic stability and visual acceptance, this sexually charged, mean spirited assault against religious convention, moral principles, and audience expectations is as adventurous as it is devastating. Never taking the time or effort to develop the depth of character (or the complexity of plot) achieved by the Italian classics (many of which are attributed to the Golden Era, when suggestive and atmospheric supernatural terrors held sway), this picture is steeped in blood and cum. Casting caution to the wind, director Bianchi mirrors a broad, largely defined story with performances and effects just as colorful. Terror and sheer raunch share the stage, with the raw pleasures of sex, masochism, sadism, and blasphemy dripping from the celluloid. This is NOT a subtle, character motivated film. While the major personas are competently developed enough so that the story can move to its downbeat, salacious conclusion, they -- and the plot in general -- are clearly make-shift figures in which to drape memorable scenes of shocking sexual depravity. These purely physical scenes of lust and violence are mirrored by emotional states of characters just as disturbing. Likewise, the moral implications of the possession story are easily as dismaying as the politically incorrect madness that transpire. More tasteless than its predecessor -- and certainly more ferocious and unrestrained than its diluted Westernized counterparts -- Satan's Baby Doll understands that it's first priority is to shock and arouse -- it does this by breaking practically every moral construct it can! Exploited are such primal emotions as terror, arousal, and repulsion. An underground, underrated hybrid of horror and pornography, both the sex and fear are raw and unrefined, lending the picture a closer relationship to sordid realism. Not so much entertaining as it is shocking, the sex scenes are truly 'dirty,' lacking anything even slightly resembling love or emotional attachment. The sex, like the horror, is animalistic and reattached, crafted to disturb not to arouse. Truly the 'malicious whore' of the title, Bimba's occult evil is mirrored by the all-too-human pettiness, greed, and hunger of her family. Creating a world where there is no innocence, director Bianchi's film attacks us with all the disturbing rawness of rape -- precisely what his nihilistic nightmare set out to do.

While a remake (of sorts) of Satan's Baby Doll is almost superior, enjoying a more attainable atmosphere, evidenced by Severin's first rate transfer. The visual components look wonderfully vivid, with sharp picture quality and lush colors that add spice to the sinful imagery. Featured in anamorphic enhanced 1.66:1 widescreen, the technical quality surpasses Malabimba. The audio is featured in Dolby Digital Mono, in the original Italian, and includes English subs. This track is free of major defects.

Extras aren't as extensive here as on Malabimba but are informative and engaging nonetheless. The Trailer is saucy without giving the entire show away, and "Exorcism of Baby Doll," the interview with director Mario Bianchi, is candid. With this release, just in time for a horny Halloween, Severin rescues yet another slice of sleaze from exploitation hell. We salute you!

Review by William P. Simmons


 
Released by Severin
Region 1 - NTSC
Not Rated
Extras :
see main review
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