Aspect ratio: 2.39:1 (Techniscope)
Sound format: Mono
While visiting her uncle's country estate, a young girl (Candace Glendenning) becomes involved with satanists who believe she's the reincarnation of an ancient witch.
A key work from cult director Norman J. Warren (TERROR, INSEMINOID), SATAN'S SLAVE combines gratuitous nudity and horrific violence in a censor-baiting concoction designed to compete with the gore and cynicism of its contemporary American/European counterparts. Tellingly, SATAN'S SLAVE was written by David McGillivray, a film critic-turned-scriptwriter whose collaboration with another Brit maverick (Pete Walker) resulted in some of the most memorable exploitation movies of the 1970's, including HOUSE OF WHIPCORD and FRIGHTMARE (both 1974). McGillivray's scripts were always distinguished by their tongue-in-cheek attitude and gleeful subversion of accepted morés, and SATAN'S SLAVE is no exception. Sadly, despite its lip-smacking excesses, the movie is a disappointment.
In fact, much of the film's problems can be traced directly to McGillivray's screenplay, a skeletal mixture of witchcraft and paranoia, driven by dialogue rather than action, which coasts along on auto-pilot in between bouts of skin and sadism. Cast for her waif-like beauty and startling blue eyes, Glendenning (in what appears to have been her final appearance in a theatrical feature) fits the bill as a stereotypical heroine, but she emerges as little more than a colourless wimp, and her one-note performance is a liability. Second-billed Martin Potter gives an equally lacklustre performance as Glendenning's cousin, a psychopathic brute who subjects a pretty young girl (Gloria Walker) to a terrifying ordeal in the opening sequence (more of which later), before turning up as a resident in the home of Glendenning's enigmatic uncle, played by Michael Gough. SATAN'S SLAVE may not have been Gough's finest hour, but he rises to the occasion with predictable flair, delivering his fruity dialogue with Shakespearean relish and acting everyone else off the screen; his obvious talent and lack of pretension has earned him the devotion of cult movie fans worldwide, and with good reason.
Warren uses the widescreen format to visualise the gulf between the characters, and to exploit the landscape and décor of Gough's isolated residence. In fact, the film's threadbare production values are clearly bolstered by its primary location, a Gothic-style mansion located within the Surrey countryside, filmed in all its autumnal splendour. But the movie's rough-edged beauty is frequently tempered by scenes of horror and brutality, visited mostly on female characters who are often stripped naked before suffering the kind of cruel indignities which characterised exploitation cinema of the period. The downbeat ending is also typical of the era, though die-hard horror fans will guess the outcome long before the on-screen characters.
During post-production, Warren was asked to beef up the sleaze quotient for a number of European and Asian markets, so the director prepared a variant edition at odds with his original vision: The rough foreplay between Potter and Walker in the opening sequence (preceding Walker's murder) was extended by having the killer run a pair of scissors over his victim's naked body (the original version develops in a different way and features alternative dialogue, which means the 'new' material can't simply be edited back into the print), and a brief flashback was added to a later scene, in which Potter is seen stabbing an unidentified woman to death. The BBC dispatched a film crew to cover the production for a documentary entitled "All You Need is Blood: The Making of SATAN'S SLAVE", which they subsequently refused to show, though it has since been issued on video.