Sunday, March 24, 2024

Daughters of Satan (1972)

... aka: Satans dotter (Satan's Daughter)

Directed by:
Hollingworth Morse

Before he became a household name in 1980 for playing Hawaii-based private eye Thomas Magnum on TV's long-running Magnum P.I. (which earned the 6'4" mustachioed star a legion of adoring fans plus an Emmy Award in 1984), Tom Selleck was pretty much just your usual working actor doing your usual working actor things. Meaning, he started out doing bit parts (like playing "Stud" in the critically panned Mae West vehicle Myra Breckinridge) and then moved his way up to larger roles in B films while also taking guest spots on popular TV shows and TV movies in between. His popularity would become so great in the 80s that he was also offered quite a few big budget Hollywood movie vehicles to test his box office clout after his hit show finally ended, and he had moderate success there through the 90s. Since 2010, he's been gainfully employed on the seemingly never-ending series Blue Bloods, which I've never watched but must be pretty popular considering it has just recently entered its 14th season. Long before all that, Mr. Selleck was appearing in the likes of Russ Meyer's The Seven Minutes (1971), the sleaze and nudity-filled drive-in film Terminal Island (1973) and this low budget production filmed in the Philippines.

Seeing how I was either nonexistent or too young to remember seeing Tom in action during his peak in popularity, watching this at least made me kind of understand why he caught on eventually. Here, he looks good and has an easygoing, likable personality.

Art dealer / museum curator James Robertson (Selleck) shows up in Manila looking for a rare tapestry to complete a collection back in New York City. He meets up with shady Carlos Ching (Filipino genre regular Vic Diaz, sporting one crazy hairdo) at his "Treasures of the Orient" curio shop and soon realizes the tapestry in their possession is merely a cheap copy. However, something else there catches his eye; a late 16th Century oil painting depicting the burning of three witches in a village square. It's not that he's necessarily into morbid art, but seeing how one of the witches looks exactly like his wife, Christina (Barra Grant), he purchases it.

Taking the painting home, the typically carefree, perky and none-too-bright ("Sometimes I think I've got a mind full of meringue!") Chris is immediately outraged and disturbed by it: "Why would you bring a psycho thing like that home?!" Even though she considers it "creepy" and "sadism at its purest" she somehow also knows exactly what's being depicted in the painting and the exact year the events took place. Later that night, she hears voices calling for her from outside their home. The following day she's paid a visit by a lost Rottweiler named Nicodemus and the image of a similar dog in the painting seems to fade from the painting as a response.

The stern Juana Rios (veteran actress Paraluman, who was once considered "The Greta Garbo of the Philippines") turns up out of the blue claiming to be answering a wanted ad looking for a cook / housekeeper. Chris doesn't remember putting up such an ad, but Juana soon makes her real intentions known and refuses to leave. She's there to help Chris fulfill her "destiny." Juana is also a dead ringer for one of the other witches seen burning in the painting; an image that also fades soon after she arrives. Also worth noting that this emissary from hell housekeeper character seems to have been borrowed wholesale for the later hit The Omen (1976), right down to their false claims to gain entry to the home and having the demonic dog in tow for protection.

With his wife starting to mentally spiral, the dog becoming a frequent nuisance and he too starting to have images of things that disappear before his very eyes, James decides to start investigating matters. An address on the dog's collar leads him to a funeral home where the mortician (Paquito Salcedo - THE BLOOD DRINKERS) takes photos of, and sings to, topless female corpses. He's then redirected to the antique shop, where he finds the dealer dead with a dagger in his chest. Two assassins come after him, but he manages to escape and goes to visit university professor Dr. Francisco Dangal (Vic Silayan - THE MAGIC CURSE) for advice. As he's unloading his unusual story, a panicked Catalina "Kitty" Duarte (Tani Guthrie) barges into his office talking about "the power" and ends her brief rant with the proclamation "I don't want to take part in a conspiracy to murder!" And, wouldn't ya know it, Kitty looks just like the third and final witch depicted in the painting.

Normally a devout Catholic who attends mass every single day, now any time Chris removes her cross necklace, she falls into a trance, becomes evil and attempts to murder her poor husband, first with a dagger, then dropping some Alka Seltzer-like tablets in his water to create "suffocating gas." Dr. Dangal decides to spend the night with the couple and, when the painting comes to life and starts showing the real witch burning, he's able to stop it by holding up a Virgin Mary statue. Yet that doesn't stop him from dying in a fiery car crash later that same evening.

The rest of the story trots out predictable reincarnation and revenge angles as it plods along in a dull, talky, faintly competent, almost entirely bloodless, visually disinteresting manner. None of this is too surprising considering the director otherwise spent his entire career working in TV, racking up numerous episodes of Lassie, Shazam!, McHale's Navy, Flipper and H.R. Pufnstuf in the process. Of course that meant he was right at home also making this low budget Filipino exploitation film, right?

On the plus side, there's a fun amnesia twist at the end, a few mildly amusing Satanic scenes and seeing a young Selleck at work is of some interest. The most entertaining aspect of the film though is the over-the-top camp performance delivered by the sharp-cheekboned Guthrie, who enthusiastically lays into her role as the gleefully sadistic head witch. Decked out in a caplet, crab and lobster themed (!!) leotard and purple pantyhose, she seems to really enjoy whipping disobedient topless female cult members over a bed of spikes until they can "repeat the nine names of the principle powers of darkness." She also has a hilarious scene accusing Selleck of trying to "lay" her right after a funeral before she turns the tables on him, strips and unsuccessfully tries to seduce him herself. The scenes featuring her are notably more lively than what most of the rest of the film has to offer and she really seems to be into her part, which is always appreciated.

Producer Aubrey Schenck had previously co-founded the independent company Bel-Air Productions, who were responsible for a number of 50s genre films like THE BLACK SLEEP (1956), The Girl in Black Stockings (1957), PHARAOH'S CURSE (1957) and VOODOO ISLAND (1957), then branched out with his own namesake production company and produced such films as FRANKENSTEIN 1970 (1958) and Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964), which was since gone on to become a cult classic and is likely the best of all of these films.

This played theatrically on a United Artists double bill with Super Beast (1972), another U.S. / Filipino co-production, which was directed by the producer's brother, George Schenck. It then enjoyed decent distribution on home video and TV thanks mostly to the presence of Selleck. In 2018, there was a Blu-ray release from Scream Factory. Germany also received a BR on the Explosive-Media label.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...