Written by: George Pacheco on November 17th, 2016
Theatrical Release Dates: USA, 1968 (The Satanist), USA, 1969 (Sisters in Leather)
Director: Zoltan G. Spencer (Both Films)
Cast: Pat Barrington, Bambi Allen, Larry Martinelli, Dick Osmun, Karen Thomas, Kathy Williams
BluRay released: October 31st, 2016
Approximate running times: 62 Minutes (The Satanist), 64 Minutes (Sisters in Leather)
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (Both Films)
Sound: DTS-HD Mono English (Both Films)
BluRay Release: Garagehouse Pictures
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $27.99
The Satanist is an obscure film from filmmaker Zoltan G. Spencer, also known as Spencer Crilly, who directed a number of bizarre sexploitation efforts during the early 1970s. Spencer, who was actually known more for his industrial and travelogue work, produced these movies to finance his “legitimate” career, yet history has ironically shown that it was this period as a softcore and exploitation director which offers Spencer continued critical analysis.
This film was thought to be lost prior to Garagehouse Film’s discovery of a 35mm print, from which they released this high definition Blu-Ray, partnered here with Spencer’s notable 1969 film, Sisters in Leather. The Satanist is very low on plot, but follows a troubled writer and his beautiful wife who have escaped to the suburbs (“on doctor’s orders), and find themselves involved with a pseudo-Satanic sex cult. A series of overlong softcore scenes follow, set to a nondescript and lazy jazz score, with scenes of occult rituals saved for the film’s back end.
This could’ve easily turned into disaster were it not for the capable cinematography of Manuel S. Conde, who himself produced a number of sex flicks into the early 1970s, and the presence of former Ed Wood star Pat Barrington was one of the cult. Conde’s black and white photography is gorgeous, and pops beautifully on this Blu-Ray, capturing the equally gorgeous Barrington with grace and mysterious beauty. Barrington’s screen presence and skill as a burlesque dancer carries Zoltan’s film towards what would’ve otherwise been an unsuccessful finish, although fans of sixties skin flicks from such filmmakers as Joe Sarno, Doris Wishman and Roberta Findlay should definitely take note.
Sisters in Leather is a much more successful endeavor, benefitting from a more paced, if not less simple, plot line of a married man who is blackmailed by a group of lesbian bikers after being caught in flagrante with one of their members. The sexual politics behind this one may be dated with some of the “lesbian conversion” scenes which take place during the film’s final act, but Sisters in Leather rarely takes itself very seriously, preferring instead to showcase as much skin as possible, in the least amount of time.
Spencer’s film benefits from an extraordinarily beautiful cast, including future drive in star Bambi Allen as the cuckolded wife who herself is seduced by the female biker trio, while Pat Barrington shows up again here in a small but memorable scene as a table dancer. Sisters in Leather features the same sort of beatnik jazz nonsense for the soundtrack, but the effect isn’t as deflating here, perhaps due to the often humorous reactions and facial expressions from the cast, who clearly seem to be having a fun time here, late in the swinging sixties.
Although Sisters in Leather is more successful as a film, both fit together perfectly as a double feature on the disc, running barely over an hour a piece, and providing a fun look back at the final days of softcore sexploitation, prior to the hardcore adult boom which was on the 1970s horizon.
Both The Satanist and Sisters in Leather were scanned in 4k for this release, and look amazing. The black and white photography is solid and saturated, providing a wonderful viewing experience. Audio is equally strong, although two minutes of missing audio have been replaced during the introduction of Sisters in Leather with subtitles and a portion of the jazz score as background.
One aspect which makes The Satanist essential is the commentary track from Temple of Schlock blogger Chris Poggiali and The Rialto Report’s Ashley West, both of whom offer insightful and indispensable knowledge about Spencer and his films, as well as an exhaustive amount of fascinating back story to Pat Barrington’s life, her struggles and search for mainstream Hollywood fame. This commentary track is worth the price of admission, and should be honestly be listened to prior to watching the film, as it makes The Satanist far more interesting in hindsight.
There are also liner notes from Poggiali within the disc’s packaging, as well as a selection of trailers from Garagehouse Pictures, making this a fine release well worth investigation for fans of exploitation history.