10/14/11

Nude for Satan (1974): or, Buck Nekkid With Beelzebub

Right off the bat, let me say, Spoiler Alert. There are people in this film, basically all of them, who are completely nude and generally for Satan. To be honest, I don't know if I've ever seen so much nudity in a film that wasn't straight up porn, and it came as no surprise to me that the Dutch version is rated XXX with hardcore pornography inserts. Nude for Satan (Nuda per Satana) is the best known film of Italian director Luigi Batzella, who also directed the holier sounding spaghetti western God is My Colt .45. Debuting in the early '70's when Gothic horror was still en vogue, Batzella's film melds the Gothic with the straight up exploitative and then tosses on a sheen of Bava-lite trappings to top it off. It is not the kind of film to put on if you want to follow a terse, complex plot or even if you're expecting a mystery. Nude for Satan is more of a decent into madness and depravity, more concerned with mood (creepy or horny alternating) than with story.

Nude for Satan begins when Dr. Benson (Stelio Candelli, Planet of the Vampires, Demons) crashes his car on the side of the road. While getting out to inspect the damage, another car crashes behind him and Susan (Rita Calderoni, Delirium) spills out injured from her car. Collecting the young lady, Dr. Benson goes to a nearby house to ask for help. When no one answers the door, the doctor begins to poke around inside where he encounters a doppelganger of Susan, now calling herself Evelyn, and she believes him to be a man named Peter. The next morning, Susan, not looking like she spent the night passed out in a car, arrives at the mansion and is met by a mysterious green eyed man (James Harris). He invites her to stay, and after a bath, Susan meets Peter who looks like Dr. Benson and thinks she's Evelyn. If you didn't follow that, don't worry, the characters have a hard time keeping up too. Eventually the real Dr. Benson and Susan meet up, and between floggings, scenes of stocking fetishism, and one really horny paper-mache spider, they attempt to make their escape. They soon begin to suspect that their host is in fact The Devil, and they've been nude for him all along.

Despite the exploitation trapping, the fake spiders, and the Gothic overtones, Nude for Satan attempts to be an exploration into the depths of the human soul and psyche. Now it does it with an equal precision of The Devil in Miss Jones (1973) while trying to play like it's Ken Russell's The Devils, but it's armchair metaphysics are the glue that hold the film together. Well, that and an overabundance of boobs. Ladies will not find that the favor is reciprocated, and even when it is I can't imagine Stelio Candelli or James Harris being any one's idea of beefcake. In the end, whatever meaning Batzella might have been trying to shoehorn into his film was far overshadowed by the fact that it ends with a 10 minute slow motion lesbian makeup session which only gets weirder when The Devil summons a couple of NFL super fans in thongs to join the party. There is something a bit Rocky Horror about the whole film, as giving yourself over to absolute pleasure seems to be the name of the game. It also follows a couple of innocents as they delve into sexual perversion that culminates in a floor show. If only Satan's creepy butler had rebelled, we'd really have something.

None of the actors really stand out though Stelio Candelli does do an excellent job grounding the film. Rita Calderoni does a smashing job being nude throughout, and she has a few scenes that really work. James Harris, who had a brief and undistinguished career, is quite menacing as the man from the pits of Hades, and he really steals most of the movie away from the main menaced couple. Renato Lupi made for a great Devil's butler, and he reminded me a bit of Roland Topor in Werner Herzog's Nosferatu the Vampyre. Cinematographer Antonio Maccoppi had clearly been influenced by the early work of Mario Bava, and the sets are awash with colored gels. Nude for Satan also features a swinging score to go along with its literal swinging, and Alberto Baldan Bembo would go on to score the films The Gestapo's Last Orgy and Black Deep Throat (surprisingly not a porno, bu an exploitation film about an investigative reporter uncovering a cult.)

Nude for Satan is really a film that will only interest Italian movie junkies, exploitation hounds, or people for which being nude for Satan sounds enticing. While I found the film interesting and I found it hard to look away lest I miss something absurd, I highly doubt there's any re-watchability here. I can't see me on a weekend afternoon popping in Nude for Satan for a few laughs. However, if you're like me and you love to see what those nutty Italians put in their films, then this is a can't miss rental. Running at a light 87 minutes, Nude for Satan doesn't have time to mess about. It's got to get these people naked and start into messing with their minds and their bodies. If an idle mind is the devil's playground, then this idle film must be like an amusement park.

Bugg Rating 

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