The French are hardly the most prolific when it comes to producing homegrown horror films. Aside from the works of Jean Rollin, what is there really to speak of? Well � other than BABY BLOOD, HAUTE TENSION and any of the films featuring the disclaimer "directed by Gaspar Noe" �?!

But although the French may not be a nation renowned for a high horror output, they at least tend to apply excess to the genre flicks that they do serve up. As the above examples testify.

SEVEN WOMEN FOR SATAN is an early 70s foray into French horror that exercises the same principal. OK, it's nowhere near as graphic as the aforementioned Gallic offerings - but does contain enough absurdity, madness and sexual depravity to ensure it was banned in it's native country for almost a decade!

The film opens with well-shot scenes of Boris Zaroff (Michel Lemoine - SADISTEROTICA; SUCCUBUS etc) on horseback, chasing a naked woman across an expanse of French countryside. By his side, a Doberman assists in his chase � until finally the screaming woman is cornered and forced to leap off a cliff to avoid the crack of Zaroff's whip.

But, wait, it was just a dream set to inappropriate (but brilliantly so) funky early-70s music. Zaroff is actually a mild-mannered (and very wealthy) businessman by day, and owner of his late father's estate - which includes a huge foreboding castle set atop a hill in the country.

As if the opening credits sequence didn't explain it graphically enough, we're treated to another dream/reality crossover scene wherein Zaroff takes his girlfriend Stephanie (Stephane Lorry) for a walk into the countryside and, following some heavy petting, gives her a slap then pushes her face into the soil and starts tugging at her attire. Understandably, Stephanie tells the would-be rapist to fuck off (not in so many words) and makes her getaway. Zaroff does the honourable thing and boots her in the arse, telling her he's sick of her moaning.

While trying to apologise to Stephanie for his actions Zaroff accidentally squashes her beneath his car (really - don't ask). With the love of his life dead, Zaroff pines over her corpse for five seconds before remembering a meeting he has prearranged and, fearing he'll be late, shuffles his dead girlfriend into the boot of his car.

And so on.

The name Zaroff may intimate to some that what we have here is a translation of THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME. Yes, and no. A very loose, disloyal version if anything. At best, Zaroff's fantasies largely seem to centre around given nubile women a game head-start before he and his hound chase them across the vast acres of his isolated estate �

Zaroff sees the opportunity to put his sadistic fantasies of sexual torture into practice when a beautiful young woman and her bespectacled boyfriend visit his castle for the weekend. She is aware of the legend surrounding Zaroff's late father (famed for his S&M persuasions) and wants to see the infamous family torture chamber � Cue soft-focus sex scenes, plenty of red-hued photography and minor gore on occasion as Zaroff Jr finally graduates from daydream to full-on kinky perversion.

Which all may sound quite lame? But it's the off-kilter performance of Lemoine (looking like an evil Lionel Blair), the freaky funky soundtrack, the skewed photography and frequent nudity in odd circumstances that make SEVEN WOMEN FOR SATAN live up to the description on the back of this DVD release's box: "A wild psychedelic nightmare of love, lust and damnation �". Couldn't have put it better myself!

Though well-shot (in the same way that, say, Jaekin's EMMANUELLE is) the film is an episodic mess of silly allusions towards male sexual repression and psychosis.

Lemoine not only plays the male lead - he also directed this trash. Stylishly, as it happens. Many scenes are lovingly shot in soft focus and the beautiful outdoor locales are often used to good effect.

But nice cinematography cannot excuse or compensate for the total lack of pacing prevalent throughout this 84 minute torrent of tits, whips, bad acting and pointless grimacing towards camera.

On the plus side it's got Howard Vernon in it as Zaroff's trusty assistant and chauffeur, plenty of young ladies getting naked (and dancing, at times!), minor gore and many well-framed long-distance shots of the castle's exterior �!

Picture quality is decent considering the age and general rarity of the title on offer. The 1.66:1 anamorphic transfer seems a little oddly stretched vertically, but overall this doesn't prove to be much of a distraction. Colours are vivid and reasonably sharp. There is minor grain evident, and the opening credits sequence seems more worn than the rest of the film � but for a 30 year old obscurity, Mondo Macabro have done a good job. The film is fully uncut.

You're given the option of listening to the film in it's original French mono soundtrack, with removable English subtitles, or in it's English language dubbed mono variation. I concentrated on the latter and found it to be clear, consistent and free from external interference.

The most interesting extra here is an onscreen interview with Lemoine. He's fared well considering the film is 30 years old. The interview is conducted at the actor's home and he speaks enthusiastically about his association with Jean Cocteau, filming with Jesus Franco, his transition from actor to director �

The original theatrical trailer is in pretty good shape. At 95 seconds long, it plays as a succession of the more gratuitous scenes from the movie.

A nine page text essay on the film's background follows, written by Mondo Macabro mastermind Pete Tombs. These are informative and well written.

Biographies for Lemoine, Vernon, Joelle Coeur and Bob Wade round off the extra features.

Menu pages are animated with more salacious clips from the main feature, complemented by samples from the film's wacky score. SEVEN WOMEN FOR SATAN is 84 minutes long and the scene selection menu enables you to enter the madness via 12 chapter stops.

The disc is Region 0 NTSC encoded, housed in a black keepcase packaging.

For lovers of Euro sleaze - they don't make them like this anymore!

For ordering details visit the Mondo Macabro USA site by clicking here.

Review by Stu Willis

Released by Mondo Macabro
Region All NTSC
Not Rated
Extras : see main review