Bite Size: Legacy Of Satan (1974)

It’s possible that every porno director has some frustrated ambition towards the cinematic mainstream. It’s also possible that producer Louis Peraino (a scion of the Mafia’s Colombo crime family) needed to launder some mob money with a movie production, and a porn director was standing in the right place at the time. In any case, Legacy Of Satan was infamous porn director Gerard Damiano’s only attempt at a more conventional film.

While shot in 1972, the movie didn’t see release until 1974, a clear attempt to capitalize on the massive success of Damiano’s seminal hardcore hits Deep Throat and The Devil In Miss Jones. Briefly playing double bills with both The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Andy Milligan’s Blood (the latter the much more logical pairing), the film quickly vanished into obscurity. Multiple online outlets report that the picture was originally conceived as a porno, and the choppy editing is the excision scars from the removed sex scenes. However, there is no definitive/firsthand source I can find that confirms this, and if a hardcore version ever existed, it’s long lost.

The plot is certainly as thin as most narrative hardcore features. Mysterious astrological phenomena have finally aligned correctly for Dr. Muldavo (John Francis) and his cult of demon worshippers to anoint a new queen, an event that only happens every 1000 years. Arthur (James Procter) is a set adrift former architect who found his way to the cult in his spiritual wanderings. Wanting to impress Muldavo, he suggests the lovely Maya (Lisa Christian). Shy, sweet and sexually frustrated, she is the perfect choice. The only complication is that Maya is already married, to Arthur’s best friend George (Paul Barry). She’s also not a Satanist, but the cult seems unconcerned with the conversion, happy to have found a woman who suits their bizarre prophecy.

This sort of fare litters the 70s like trash on a movie theater floor, and Legacy Of Satan certainly doesn’t break much new ground, aside from the entity the cult worships being inexplicably named Rakeesh. Black masses abound, petty jealousies flare amongst the cultists, and occult sexual satisfaction is the key to luring Lisa into Muldavo’s dark clutches.

The film barely merits its listed R rating, and both the blood letting and the skin shown are both pretty minimal, grading on the curve of its similar subject matter contemporaries. Line readings are across the board flat, and the editing is indeed choppier than a stormy sea. There’s too little plot for even a 68 minute runtime, and none of these actors are the sorts you want delivering a ton of expository dialog. Most of them never made another film, but Last House On The Left’s Sandra Peabody and doomed television ingenue Christa Helm have small parts as cuties in thrall to the cult’s dark magic.

Yet, for all its flaws, Legacy Of Satan has a fantastic trash visual flair that the French would likely term jolie laide, and that I personally would characterize as “Anton LeVey goes to a key party”. The synth score drones loud enough to drown out the dialog in most scenes, as the characters drift through settings filled with weird metallic wallpaper, sickly decor schemes involving way too much lilac and puce, and all occasion elaborate swirls of eyeliner. Paintings bleed, glowing swords pop up out of nowhere, and even the cultists are all big hair and miles of polyester satin cut into flowing caftans and slinky dresses. It’s all so utterly gauche and grimy that it becomes kind of gorgeous.

Lisa Christian is very lovely, and looks great in a procession of time capsule worthy, eye poppingly 70s fashions. Maya’s gradual possession is quite fun, and the film’s best scene sees her snap from mousy housewife to a witchy, bitchy Domme with a fondness for blood play and cherry pie. The cult rituals are delightfully camp, particularly when they pull out their super secret orgasm magic and cause Maya some very vivid dreams via chants, an orgiastically writhing cultist and a photo set aflame. The combination of drugged wine and a masked ball in a creepy mansion even lends the film a few fine moments of Jess Franco style sexual psychedelica.

Legacy Of Satan parcels out its more psychotronic moments sparingly, and it likely would have benefitted from some hardcore inserts or a more visceral slant to its horror elements to really attract a wider audience. As it stands, your view of this particular cult curio as a freaky fever dream or as a no narrative nightmare will directly depend on your taste for its garish version of grindhouse aesthetics.

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