31 Days of Horror: Satan’s Slave

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a member of the British aristocracy is involved in a satanic cabal up to nefarious schemes involving black magic rituals and necromancy. Sound familiar? But now what if I told you the aristocrat was…Bruce Wayne’s butler, Alfred!!!

The fifth film in this year’s watch-fest is Satan’s Slave (1976). I picked this one up on Blu-ray some months back after reading a write-up about it the Wyrd Britain website, one of my go-to places for 1970s weirdness across the Atlantic. The name Michael Gough caught my eye, and, sure enough, that’s the same Michael Gough who played Alfred in the 1990s Batman movies. That, plus the fact that it was a British film from the Satanic Panic period of the ‘70s, made it a must-see.

The film concerns Catherine Yorke, a 19 year old woman who tragically loses both her parents when they visit her estranged uncle Alexander. In the days after her parents’ death, she becomes a guest of Uncle Alex (played by Michael Gough), her nephew, Stephen, and Alex’s secretary, Frances. Catherine is prone to premonitions and starts picking up some weird visions in the woods behind the estate: images of a woman, clearly a witch, being tortured and burned at the stake. She seeks comfort in the company of Stephen, who has previously displayed some murderous tendencies during the film’s opening. Complicating matters is the fact that Frances is in love with Stephen and that Alexander has plans for Catherine on her 20th birthday. These plans involve raising the murdered witch from the grave and he need a young woman’s body to do so. Oh, lookie over there…

Satan’s Slave is pure exploitation, or “hexploitation” as we call it around these parts. There’s plenty of naked female flesh on display (did you know that medieval witches had bikini tan lines?) and the violence towards said women is rather shocking. I’m pretty alright with pretend movie violence, but this film pushed my limits—especially Stephen’s antics in the film’s opening. Sensitive viewers may want to skip this one. If one didn’t know better, you might think it was an American film. In addition to the nudity and violence, you get some old fashion ‘70s satanic set dressing, including hooded robes, cups and daggers, snakes, and spiders.

This makes Satan’s Slave a difficult film to evaluate. The acting is solid, but the pacing is slow. You can tell this is a film cribbing from the Hammer and Amicus playbooks, but the violence is more over the top than you’d find in even a late period Hammer film. Considering all those factors, I give the film 2.5 skulls out of five. Add another half a skull if you’ve got a stronger stomach for pretend misogynistic violence and pass on the film entirely if you’ve got no place for it.

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