Lest there be any confusion, low-budget horror flick The Touch of Satan isn’t worth seeing for any of the usual reasons—the pacing is dull, the story is stupid, and there’s nothing frightening about what happens onscreen, excepting perhaps two nasty scenes involving a pitchfork. So why not dismiss the picture out of hand? Because it looks so damn good. The Touch of Satan was an early credit for genius cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth, later to achieve cinematic immortality with Blade Runner (1982). Oddly, by the time The Touch of Satan was released, Cronenweth had already notched a major credit, on Robert Altman’s offbeat Brewster McCloud (1970)—so it’s possible he shot this one first and that it sat on a shelf for a while. In any event, it’s possible to ignore everything else about The Touch of Satan and simply enjoy Cronenweth’s painterly lighting and supple camera movies. Particularly tasty is a beautiful and lengthy 360-degree dolly closeup meant to signify a character experiencing psychological torment. That said, there’s probably no avoiding a brief discussion of the plot. Soulful drifter Jodie (Michael Berry) stumbles onto a walnut farm, where he meets beguiling Melissa (Emby Mellay). Despite all the usual horror-flick warning signs, Jodie stupidly lingers. For instance, Jodie learns that Melissa is rumored to be a sorceress, hence her cheerful inquiry: “Would you like to see where I do my witchcraft?” Nonsensical mayhem (eventually) ensues, setting up a predictable twist ending. Excepting Cronenweth’s photography, this picture is so substandard that was the subject of an MST3K takedown, which should indicate whether satiating your curiosity about the early efforts of a great film artist is worth the trouble.
The Touch of Satan: LAME