Saturday, May 7, 2011

Mondo Millard: SATAN'S BLACK WEDDING (1974)

As board certified bad movie enthusiasts, it is our job to journey into the netherworlds of cinema in order to unearth the worst films of all-time.  One of the more consistent purveyors of cinematic punishment has been director Nick Millard (aka Nick Philips), a man whose films are so cheap that H.G. Lewis has been known to watch them and scream, “Jesus, this guy knows how to cut corners!”

Millard got his start in the early 1960s, delivering b&w skin flicks with evocative titles like NYMPHO (1965) and THE SLUT (1965).  I wonder if anyone ever got those two confused.  Like most folks, my first exposure to Millard came via his later CRAZY FAT ETHEL (aka CRIMINALLY INSANE; 1975).  Sporting one of horrordom’s best titles and smallest budgets, it is a cult classic in every sense. But it appears Millard’s first foray into the horror genre came with SATAN’S BLACK WEDDING, which can only be described as ROSEMARY’S BABY (1968) with plastic-fanged vampires on a budget of $10.78.

Mark Gray (Greg Braddock) returns to his childhood hometown following the suicide of his sister Nina (Lisa Milano).  According to his Aunt, Mark’s younger sis was writing a book titled “High Satanic Rites” and her research led her to an old abandoned church, where her frequent visits started a dark change in her.  What no one in the family knows is that Nina has fallen under the spell of Father Daken (Ray Myles), a 200-year-old priest who happens to worship Satan. And, screw it, he is a vampire too.  Daken has been courting the now vampire Nina so that she can help him perform a ritual to resurrect the ol’ Prince of Darkness.

Man, I wish my plot summary could be longer but that is really all there is to this flick.  Released on a double bill with the aforementioned INSANE, Millard’s dip into scarier waters offers no pretenses of being a classy horror film.  Hell, it doesn’t even offer a legit running time (62 minutes!).  I know if I found out I had 3 months to live tomorrow that I would spend it watching Millard films as he can make an hour seem like years.  This is why we love his films.  They are so cheap, wrong headed and inept, that they become lovable works of trash art (now you can accuse me of getting all “Jess Franco scholar” on you).  I’m not kidding - the vampire fangs used here are literally those plastic fangs you would buy as a kid.  That is nothing compared to the glimpse of Satan we get in the film’s final minute.  Millard is content to shoot the eye of some animal (probably a poster he found on a wall) that looks surprisingly like the US GODZILLA (1998) remake poster. Seriously, take a look at the Eye of Satan:


Technically, the film is a total mess.  The piano score sounds like it playing on the wrong speed and prepare to cover your ears anytime someone says a word beginning with an S as the audio makes sure to scratch that all up (“Ssssatan sssseeks ssssoulssss”).  The technical deficiencies are nothing compared to the plot’s lapses in logic.   There is a scene where Mark arrives at his sister’s place after the police have taken her body away and he goes to use the phone. Midway through his call, he notices a pool of blood and her severed finger on the counter.  The cops show up again with the chief detective admonishing a guy and telling him to do a better job looking around the crime scene next time.  I’m not kidding!  Later, the detective delivers what is easily now one of my favorite lines of dialog ever. Mark and his love interest get scared by a painting of Nina as a vampire that shows up mysteriously in their house.  They show it to the cop and he says, “I’ve never seen anything like that. There’s no point in calling in the lab boys because they haven’t either.” Seriously, say it out loud.  Two lines of dialog that perfectly encapsulate what we love about Nick Millard films.

Another fun thing is trying to guess when this flick was actually made.  The IMDb incorrectly lists a 1980 release year on it, but Millard says on the Shock-o-Rama special edition DVD (worth every penny, buy it!) that they made the film in 1974. Dude is definitely playing hard to find.  Millard pops up on our radar every now and then with crazy pseudonyms for some truly wonky action pictures (.357 MAGNUM; GUNBLAST; THE TERRORISTS) that have release dates harder to locate than Osama bin Laden (too soon?).  Just another reason why we love Nick and his unique brand of moviemaking – it is like a cinematic treasure hunt.

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