Plot: What’s it about?
Ben (Charles Bateman) has some car trouble in a small desert town, but he assumes it should be no trouble, since the town seems nice enough. But when he, his girlfriend Nicky (Ahna Capri), and his young daughter KT (Geri Reischl) stumble upon a car filled with dead bodies, it looks as if this serene town has some dark secrets buried under the surface. As it turns out, a lot of corpses have been turning up in this town, all of them parents and of course, their children have vanished and no one is sure of their whereabouts. Soon, Ben joins up with the local sheriff, a priest, and a prominent local named Doc Duncan (Strother Martin), all in the effort to find these children, uncover the truth about the murders, and end this mysterious reign of terror. But when KT disappears, a search reveals that Doc Duncan himself is involved in this dark process, as the leader of a coven of Satanic zealots. Duncan and the others have taken the children to turn them into the next generation of Satan’s soldiers and unless Ben & the others can somehow stop the coven, that’s exactly what will come to pass.
I don’t know about you, but when I hear the title The Brotherhood of Satan, I think of blood, sacrifices, and naked babes. I guess I just have a more visceral view on the joys of worshipping the devil, as this movie takes a more cerebral approach, though it still has some chills and ample Satanist themes. I’d seen this film a few times before, but I didn’t remember too much about it, aside from a few memorable sequences. The focus here is on atmosphere and the mysticism that surrounds Satanism, which makes for some surreal scenes to be sure, but I think more traditional horror fans might be let down here. I had expectations of blood soaked rituals and hedonistic orgies when I sat down to watch The Brotherhood of Satan for the first time, but as the movie is rated PG, that isn’t what we’re given. Even so, it has excellent atmosphere in some scenes and the rituals are well staged, so this is by no means a total disappointment. In truth, this picture is well written and has a lot of intelligence weaved in, which makes for an effective experience, though of course, more blood & flesh would have been welcome. If you’re a fan of Satanic cinema, then The Brotherhood of Satan is more than recommended.
The main man here is Strother Martin, who was usually seen in smaller, but highly memorable characters. As he has immense skills as a thespian, it is a welcome notion to see him in a more prominent role, though he does seem kind of out of place at times. Perhaps this is due to the dark subject matter at hand, as Martin doesn’t always seem at ease and in some instances, he is unable to bring across the needed emotion. Even as such, Martin’s performance is a solid one and since the material is well crafted, it hides some of Martin’s shortcomings in this case. His experience shows however, as even when he begins to slide a little, he is able to at least maintain an acceptable level, which holds his character together well enough. Other films with Martin include Slap Shot, The Wild Bunch, Cool Hand Luke, and The Champ. The cast also includes L.Q. Jones (The Beast Within, Lone Wolf McQuade), Charles Bateman (The Poseidon Adventure), and Charles Robinson (Beowulf, Tv’s Night Court).
Video: How does it look?
The Brotherhood of Satan is presented in a 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. I had low expectations for this visual presentation, but Columbia has offered up a solid effort, a good all around visual treatment. Of course, you’ll see some grain and debris on the print, but given the age & low profile of this movie, I’m pleased it has held up this well. The grain never softens the image much and while it isn’t as sharp as a tack, it comes across in good fashion, with no detail loss I could ascertain in the least. I found colors to be bright and not too faded, while contrast has lightened somewhat, but remains more than acceptable. So this is not a pristine visual transfer, but is clean and fans will be thrilled to have it in anamorphic widescreen.
Audio: How does it sound?
I was never too won over by the audio track’s merits, but time hasn’t worn the materials too much, which is good news. I heard little in the way of hiss or distortion, while screams and other high pitched effects never suffer either, another positive note. The music sounds on the thin side, but that’s to be expected, while sound effects are effective, but never rise much beyond acceptable, so don’t expect too much. But dialogue is crisp and clean throughout, with no volume or clarity issues to raise in the least. This disc also includes subtitles in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Thai, and Chinese, should you need those.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This release includes no bonus materials.