Michel Lemoine belongs to that small band of French filmmakers, that includes Jean Rollin, Alain Robbe-Grillet, and Mario Mercier, who have dabbled in horror and sexploitation, and, at the same time, found themselves in trouble with film censorship authorities for various scenes containing SM imagery. Quite why SEVEN WOMEN FOR SATAN managed to outrage French authorities upon its intended release in 1974 is beyond me. Whilst the film contains fleeting shots of full frontal nudity and relatively mild sadomasochism, its on-screen explicitness is tame when one compares it to the likes of Rollin’s REQUIEM FOR A VAMPIRE (1971), and Jess Franco’s LES DEMONS (1972).
Lemoine stars as Count Boris Zaroff, who has recently purchased an isolated chateau set amongst acres of surrounding woodland, upon the suggestion of his loyal family retainer Karl (Howard Vernon). Despite attempts to distance himself from the notorious deeds of his deceased father who would hunt and torture women for thrills, Boris finds himself haunted by dreams and visions in which he entices women back to his estate and kills them. Unknown to Boris, Karl has sworn on his own father’s deathbed that the Zaroff legacy of evil will continue with its new heir. The plot also introduces us to the vengeful spirit of a former inhabitant of the castle (played by Rollin regular Joëlle Cœur) who mysteriously died years before, and whose portrait captivates the young Baron.
SEVEN WOMEN FOR SATAN bares similarities to several other euro-schlock titles including THE BLOODY PIT OF HORROR (1965), THE NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT OF THE GRAVE (1971), EROTIC RITES OF FRANKENSTEIN (1972), and NUDE FOR SATAN (1974), with its scenes involving instruments of torture, nevertheless it possesses other points of interest. The film’s surreal cinematography, involving soft-lens focus, amid the dream fantasy settings where victims find themselves pursued along misty rivers, fields, and woodland, prove effective. Also noteworthy is the voyeuristic use of camera that lingers on its “seven women” before slowly zooming in on them, when they remove clothing or perform erotic dances. Lemoine adds to the overriding sense of peeping tomism with his predilection for staring intently at every woman with whom he shares a scene.
Whilst the film is, essentially, yet another retelling of Richard Connell’s novella THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME (1932), SEVEN WOMEN FOR SATAN dispenses with the melodramatic directorial style of Irving Pichel & Ernest B. Schoedsack’s original classic, and infuses it with some crude but wholly enjoyable sexploitation sequences. We share Zaroff’s delight at ogling the voluptuous form of Martine Azencot, clad in black basque, suspenders, and stockings, through a one-way mirror whilst Lemoine rambles deliriously “Give yourself entirely to the charms of the mirror. It opens a marvellous world to us where our bodies and souls are too. Come closer and be entrapped beautiful skylark. You are not reflected in the mirror but in my eyes”. She then strips and writhes around naked with a blue feather boa for company before falling prey to Zaroff’s black dane. There’s also a suitably bizarre dungeon sequence where two lovers who stumble upon the Zaroff secret meet a grim end impaled on a bed of spikes.
With its surreal time-line, wild score combining progressive trance and hippy/beat, and alternative nudity supplied by sexploitation regular Nathalie Zeiger (PLAYING WITH FIRE, and THE FELINES), this new DVD from Mondo Macabro ought to prove of interest to all fans of euro-horror/sleaze. There’s also an illuminating 15 minute interview with the director in which he waxes enthusiastically about the female form, his associations with the horror genre, and its personalities. Alternative soundtracks include the original French with optional English subtitles and a dubbed English version, I preferred the latter due to its inclusion of some extraordinary dialogue that is omitted from the subtitles. Whilst the picture quality does contain a fair amount of print damage, and the scenes set around firesides lack detail, this release represents a very rare chance to sample Lemoine’s film in an uncut form.
Carl T. Ford
Directed by Michel Lemoine
French Language with optional English subtitles and alternative English dubbed version
SPECIAL DVD FEATURES
A Mondo Macabro DVD release
All region NTSC Stereo
SEVEN WOMEN FOR SATAN (aka Les Weekends Malefiques du Comte Zaroff)