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Satan's Slave (1976)

Courtesy of Norman J. Warren

Main image of Satan's Slave (1976)
35mm, 86 min, colour
DirectorsNorman J. Warren
Production CompanyMonumental Pictures
 Brent Walker
ProducersRichard Crafter
 Les Young
Screenplay David McGillivray
PhotographyLes Young
EditorNorman J. Warren
MusicJohn Scott

Cast: Candace Glendenning (Catherine Yorke); Martin Potter (Stephen Yorke); Michael Gough (Alexander Yorke); Barbara Kellerman (Frances); Michael Craze (John)

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Father and son necromancers scheme to resurrect a woman burnt for witchcraft by using her descendant as an unwilling host.

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Norman Warren's first venture into horror was a huge box office success and was released six times over three years. It was the first venture by new independent production company Monumental Pictures and was financed by producer Les Young, who took out a second mortgage to cover the costs. While the film lacks high-tech make-up and effects, its makers managed to conceal the budgetary restrictions by keeping their ambitions modest. Warren had assembled a young and enthusiastic crew, who made up for the shortage of funds with hard work and ingenuity. Well-known composer John Scott provided the music as a favour and developed creative ways of using the seven instruments, which were all the budget would allow.

Another factor in the film's success is a fine cast, in particular veteran British actor Michael Gough, who had by this time built up an impressive horror portfolio. Despite his stature, Gough was happy to provide his own wardrobe for the film, and he makes a suitably ambiguous yet sinister devil worshipper, revelling in the evil of the part.

In line with American films of the period, Satan's Slave brought a new realism to horror with its settings in high rise urban blocks and with suburban ordinariness hiding satanic rituals. Warren had learnt from his apprenticeship in adult filmmaking that sex sells, and combined with the horror are several scenes of naked women undergoing various forms of torture. Although filming officially ended in March 1976, extra gory footage was shot in June of that year, much of it specially for the Japanese market.

While the story is slightly old hat - with echoes of other 'they're all in it together' films like Rosemary's Baby (US, 1968) - the final double twist brings Satan's Slave to a satisfying close and the climactic unveiling of Stephen's body is a genuinely shocking moment.

Jo Botting

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Video Clips
1. 'I thee invoke' (2:12)
2. By unseen hands (3:43)
3. The truth about Camilla Yorke (1: 38)
Terror (1979)
To the Devil a Daughter (1976)
Warren, Norman J. (1942-)