Because it's more fun to be bad!
In a very rare 1970 documentary about the Church of Satan, founder Anton LaVey, along with several of his family members and followers, discusses the philosophical and practical aspects of life in servitude of the man goat. And we do mean discuss! This exhaustive, exhausting narrative about the quasi-religion's practices and pragmatics is a 90-minute experience in the extended use of the run-on sentence. Members talk incessantly about the sexual nature of the religion. LaVey speaks endlessly about the total freedom of will in Satanism. Neighbors and know-it-alls share their pedestrian insights in unremitting man/woman on the street interview sequences that border on the cyclical. And even some Osmond-less Mormons show up to preach persistently about God, sin, and something both they and LaVey can get in to: polygamy. Interspersed with all this yakking are scenes of a supposed Black Mass, which seems to consists of a lot of bad quasi-Edgar Allan Poe-try (quote the raven: never…again!), incredibly out of shape grandma types straddling the altar, and LaVey flitting around in a devil costume, mewing lowly and granting wishes. Yes, there is some salacious stuff going on here and we do get an earful about Anton's pet lion and how it never slept at night (a-wimoweh). But if there is ever a question as to why Beelzebub and his true believers haven't taken over the planet with their carnal creed by now, one viewing of Satanis: The Devil's Mass should explain it all in lethargic, ad nauseum detail.
Meanwhile, poor sad Cynthia is so caught up in her Electra complex that she can't see the incest for the sleaze. This is a little (?) girl whose heart not only belongs to daddy, but she'd willingly volunteer a few other choice body parts to him as well. But standing in her wanton way is Pop's legal liability, her Mammy. So dim Cyn does what every unhinged 25-year-old actress playing a 12-year-old would do: she kills her mother and father while in the act of expressing their love physically and then she charbroils them because…well, you know, everything is better cooked over an open flame. Her guilty conscious is the only thing culpable since the penal system acquits her of the crime (must be somewhere within Texas' jurisdiction) and the resulting psychosis has her envisioning a court date in Judge Jackal's underworld courtroom. Satan brands Cyndy a demonic dipstick and gives her the old "gooble-gobble one of us" spiel. This drives the patri/matricidal Miss ultra-loco and into a headshrinker's office, hoping he can cure what assails her. After several disjointed dream sequences and a couple of hackneyed hallucinations, Sigmund Fraud convinces silly "Sindy" that the only way to atone for her outrageous act of double murder and thwart the demon's curse is to commit suicide while visiting her inner trance planet. So it's another vacant visualization and a trip to the funeral pyre for Sinthia: The Devil's Doll.
There are huge problems with Satanis that make it a very tough trip to the bowels of Hell—or at least San Francisco's Church of Satan. First and foremost, for a theoretical exploitation film, there ain't much going on in the way of pandering. Sex slobs will find the nude nasties here a test of their human lust factors. The only thing shed is personal dignity, not blood. And anyone looking for blasphemous jabs at Jesus and his Sunday Fun House will probably have to wait for another season of Sex and the City to witness abominations of Apocalyptic proportions that resoundingly attack the Judeo Christian ethics and moral values. But it's not just the lack of skin or sin that torpedoes this derivative Devil drivel. Unless you are a fan of endless David Suskind/William F. Buckley style dissertations on minutia delivered by those suffering from diarrhea of the mouth, the wantonly wordy Satanis will challenge your verbal forbearance along with the current entry in the Guinness Book of World Records for Greatest Number of Noun/Verb Agreements in a Single Documentary. This movie is all talking heads, overanalyzing each and every aspect of Satanism, LaVey, social stigma, and wild animal care and grooming. Eventually the rambling rhetoric slips into solipsism and starts believing in its own never-ending chatter. And please forgive this critic if he is mistaken, but wouldn't a religion that tries its damnedest (get it?) to avoid the ideological trappings of Catholicism or Scientology want to avoid their arcane, overblown ritualism as well? Anyone who thinks accepting the body and blood of their savior in a priestly processional is peculiar should see some of the cloven hoof hijinks members of LaVey's cathedral have to go through just to get a little river Styx repast. Bad verse, butt touching, and babyish Halloween costumes make a spiritual life dedicated to Old Scratch seem fairly unspectacular. Satanis: The Devil's Mass makes Leviathan and his misguided ministry look a lot like a less goofy PTL Club.
On the other end of the evil specter spectrum (and yet equally as trying) is Sinthia, a truly demented work of almost complete incoherence. This is a movie so taken with itself and its sanctimonious symbolic art film farting around that is could not possibly care less if we in the audience understand what in the duck muck is going on. Important factual aspects to the plot are meted out in small nuggets of narrative mashed between massive marathons of nauseating nonsense. Without explanation or preparation, we are tossed into a world of dreams, hallucinations, mental anguish, and incredibly irritating line readings. Several scenes have the arch, unflinching fecal aroma of bad '60s experimental theater where characters had names like "Mother" or "Itinerant Field Hand" and spoke in neo-geo-politico-psychological gobbledygook. Other times we feel we've wandered into the preparations for the Jefferson Airplane's new far out light show, complete with fly eye lens work and psychedelic vomitorium designs. Longtime exploitation maven Ray Dennis Steckler (Wild Guitar, The Thrill Killers) here using the nom de plume Sven Christian (isn't that just so hoity toity?) proves time and time again in Sinthia that he doesn't have the basic skills as a filmmaker to keep this clutter even semi-lucid. While there are a couple of breathtaking shots (one were our deluded dingbat wakes up on a desolate, white barren mountainside is indeed impressive), the rest of the camera work is scattered, amateurish, and oblique. Instead of dealing with the taboo busting subject matter (incest) head on, Sinthia buries its controversial carnality in mixed metaphors and an exasperating expositional hide and seek. By the end, when our heroine has to kill herself "in her dream," you wish she'd do us the same favor in the flesh world as well.
As presented by Something Weird Video on this so called "Devilish Double Feature," the print quality of both Satanis and Sinthia is a little sub par. Both show their age (Sinthia more so since it contains plentiful emulsion scratches) and suffer from faded color, a real lack of sharpness, solarization, and massive grain. The Dolby Digital Mono also suffers from the less than stellar audio work done on each film. Satanis has bad recording errors leaving everything echoing and full of distortion. Sinthia is so overmodulated that every time our lead actress shrieks for her "daddy!" the inner ear's cochlea practically uncoils. Whatever digital remastering was done by SWV seems lost in the final product. Also a little disappointing are the extras here. The Hell oriented trailers are interesting (can someone please explain why Meat Cleaver Massacre is called that, since the trailer offers nothing in the way of butcher knife nastiness?) and two of the shorts (British Black Mass and My Tale is Hot) are nothing more than excuses for nudity. Some may find the final bonus, a 29-minute excerpt from the long form sleaze exposé Sex Ritual of the Occult interesting, that is, if they are attracted to long sequences of borderline hardcore hippie humping. The portions of Sex Ritual dealing with homosexuality have some interesting things to say about that particular sexual orientation (it's not a lifestyle but a cult, according to the film, founded on men's love of their own bodies) arguing that it got its "start" back in the days when men treated women like property and needed a secret society in which to release their seed. Okay. As outrageous as this sounds, it seems to match perfectly with the twisted take on belief as offered by LaVey and the deranged diphthongs of poor insane Cynthia. Satanis: The Devil's Mass / Sithia: The Devil's Doll proves once again that, in the entertainment hierarchy of Heaven and Hell, Belial and his buddies need a better agent.
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