Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Brotherhood of Satan (1971)

The overripe genre of Satan-worship flicks and the florid persona of character actor Strother Martin should be a winning combination, but, alas, the tiresome evidence presented in The Brotherhood of Satan suggests otherwise. Martin, who perfected a certain type of oily Southern villainy in pictures like Cool Hand Luke (1967), only played leading roles in two pictures, both of which were misbegotten horror projects. In the snake-themed Sssssss (1973), Martin effectively broadened his range by playing a tweaked scientist, but here, he’s heinously miscast as the sort of aristocratic evildoer generally played by darkly European types like Christopher Lee. In the story, Don Duncan (Martin) is a modern-day warlock leading a coven of elderly devil-worshippers who want to slip their souls into the bodies of the children they’ve been kidnapping; after a local sheriff (L.Q. Jones) uncovers the creepy plot, he confronts the bad guys in an overwrought finale. Hampered by a disjointed script and a very low budget, The Brotherhood of Satan meanders through one dull and/or nonsensical scene after another, never building any real momentum. Despite the colorful premise, the picture isn’t exciting or scary, nor is it enough of a cinematic trainwreck to induce much unintentional laughter. It’s just boring, even during the climax of Martin spewing a ridiculous speech filled with “thees” and “thous” while dressed in a campy high-priest costume. Martin’s commitment to the role can’t be denied, however; for no discernible reason, the denouement includes a fleeting shot of Martin proudly opening his robe to reveal that he’s, well, disrobed.

The Brotherhood of Satan: SQUARE

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