Cast: Paul Naschy (Father Adrian Dunning), Maria Kosty (Deborah), Maria Perschy (Patricia), Luis Induni (Udo), Grace Mills (Leila), Jorge Torras
Director: Juan Bosch
Screenplay: Jacinto Molina, Juan Bosch
Photography: Francisco Sanchez
Music: Alberto Agudo
Production Company:
Profilmes (Spain)

Running time: 89 min.
Italian title: LE NOTTI DI SATANA


U.S. theatrical release: None?

Video: All Seasons Entertainment, now OOP





Review: This film is often unfairly condemned as an inept EXORCIST rip-off. Naschy has said his script predated that 1973 hit film and I believe him. There may be some parallels in plot, detail and character, but Juan Bosch's film has a slightly different, and more intellectual focus. If anything, it is closer to John Boorman's very underrated EXORCIST 2: THE HERETIC, in that it considers the very nature of goodness and the potential it has for attracting evil. Adrian Dunning (Paul Naschy, in a relatively rare non-monster, non villain role) is a scholar-priest who is called in by a well-to-do single mother (Maria Perschy) after her daughter (Grace Mills) is injured in a car accident. But there is more to the situation than meets the eye. The daughter was driving late at night after leaving a seaside drug orgy/satanic ritual. She may now be possessed, or is at least in spiritual danger.

The film opens with wailing heard over a burning torch illuminating the ritual. An unclothed woman on an altar, the sacrificial knife, goblets of blood, drugs being passed. It's a deliriously filmed scene, and Spaghetti Western veteran Juan Bosch (DALLAS) proves adept at creating the eerie atmospherics for these types of scenes, although the dialogue scenes are routine in comparison. The story is set near Bristol, and the UK location exteriors help bring a sense of verisimilitude, although the dubbing undercuts any sense of realism. It's Naschy's dedicated performance which keeps us focused on his fascinating script.

Adrian has thoroughly researched evil and its manifestations all over the globe. Once again, we are reminded of Richard Burton's ready-to-rumble Man of God in THE HERETIC. In fact, Adrian is even suspected by the local Inspector of a series of grotesque murders involving the heads of victims being twisted to a permanent 180 degree from normal position. Lila's brother and boyfriend are two of the victims and Adrian had some acquaintance and conflicts with both. In one especially odd scene, the Inspector and Naschy take time off from discussing demonology to comment on the then popular "streaking" fad. Things get real serious when spontaneous scarring and blistering disfigure the victim. Finally Adrian realizes he will have to perform an exorcism. Although the revelation that the possession has been perpetrated by Lila's deceased father rather than a Pazuzu or other demi-demon may disappoint some, this is a clear indication that Naschy has done his homework. In fact, as the script indicates, possession of the living by the dead (especially a close relative/loved one) may be far more common and psychiatrically founded than possession by the Devil. Lila, is, after all, suffering as a child from a broken marriage and her condition may be a form of compensation. Her vulnerability leads her to experiment with drugs, sex and African witchcraft. The cult which conducts its rites in secret also has the dynamics and signifiers of the then Counterculture--long hair, beards, sexually aggressive women, rejection of "family values." Adrian's innate decency and spiritual courage are his only weapons against this psychological-cultural dysfunction (at least in the duality set up by Naschy's script). The question of class also arises, as it often does in Naschy scenarios. The victimized family is well off, living in a well appointed villa, and the children drive expensive sports cars. It's depicted as a shallow, flashy lifestyle decorated in bright watercolors but lacking the spiritual richness of the ascetic, learned existence of Adrian.

Naschy delivers a relaxed, yet bracing, portrait of common decency and inner strength; just compare it to his absolutely evil Knight in HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB to get an impression of the actor's under-appreciated versatility. As a film of ideas and reflection, rather than expensive special effects, EXORCISM is worth a look and of serious consideration.

-- Robert Monell

Above: All Seasons Entertainment video big-box cover

Summary (from video back copy): Something very unusual is happening in the country. Gruesome crimes are being committed which have the population terrified, and yet nothing has changed on the surface of this English setting. Or has it? A beautiful aristocrat is victim of a bizarre illness while her sister is beginning to think her own self possessed. The crimes begin to take on horrifying proportions that have the police baffled--until they stumble upon a satanic cult operating a convent of blood under their very noses. And what they find is far worse than has ever been seen in a film of this type before. It may be too powerful to be seen again.

Notes: Filmed in Barcelona, with exteriors shot in London.