During the 1960s and '70, producers of low-budget genre films sometimes shot their movies in the Philippines, where presumably these filmmakers could get more bang for their buck. A number of singularly Filipino horror movies emerged from this period, often starring American actor John Ashley and directed or co-directed by local helmer Eddie Romero. While undeniably cheap and even shoddy, they were also surprisingly effective: the early ones have fleeting if genuinely disturbing moments of shock and terror, while the later, more explicit ones are amusingly gory and over-the-top.
Some of this same talent, though neither Romero nor Ashley, worked on Daughters of Satan (1972), a somewhat classier but also far less interesting horror movie starring a pre-Magnum, P.I., pre-Rockford Files, pre-everything Tom Selleck, here pitted against the Manila Assembly of Lucifer, so-called. Aubrey Schenck had produced some good, lower-budgeted but ambitious features through the years (T-Men, Robinson Crusoe on Mars), and screenwriter John C. Higgins wrote some of the best-ever film noir (Raw Deal, Railroaded, He Walked By Night). Daughters of Satan, produced in conjunction with Superbeast for release through United Artists, wasn't a feather in either man's cap, and was the last movie of both.
MGM's movie-on-demand DVD-R is 16:9 enhanced widescreen and looks quite good for what it is. There are no extras.
But which movie is "His" and which is "Hers"?
Daughters of Satan has the kind of script that, if you can't figure out the entire plot during the first five minutes, you're not paying attention. In Manila, James Robertson (Tom Selleck) is art and antiques buyer for the United Museums Fund. At a shabby tourist trap of a shop he finds a 16th century painting of Spanish conquistadors burning a big Rottweiler and three witches at the stake - one of whom is a dead ringer for James's wife, Chris(tina) (Barra Grant, now a writer-director).
James finds this amusing but the painting horrifies Chris - as well it might, considering how hilariously amateurish and inauthentically period it is - and before long strange things begin happening. The dog in the painting begins to fade away just as a real Rottweiler, Nicodemus, turns up. A frosty, forbidding housekeeper, Juana (Paraluman), all but hires herself into the Robertson household and sets up shop. ("Now if you'll just show me where the kitchen is...") Naturally, she's a dead ringer for Witch #2 and disappears from the painting, too. When James seeks assistance from Chris's psychiatrist, Dr. Dangal (Vic Silayan), another of his patients, Kitty Duarte (Tani Guthrie), resembles Witch #3. See where this is going yet?
Daughters of Satan is rather flatly directed by Hollingsworth Morse, normally a prolific TV director whose career stretched from The Lone Ranger and Rocky Jones, Space Ranger to episodes of The Fall Guy and The Dukes of Hazzard. He's probably chiefly responsible for the TV-movie look of the film, which resembles an episode of Night Gallery. There are a few flashes of Filipino-style horror and nudity at the witches' coven, inside a cave, but that's about it.
Fans of these kinds of movies will recognize a few faces in the cast, especially fat, oily, and bug-eyed Vic Diaz as the antiques dealer who sets the plot into motion. He's a welcome presence in these movies, this Peter Lorre of the Philippines.
The predictability of the plot and lifelessness of the direction render Daughters of Satan tame and, at 90 minutes (not 96 as stated on the box) overlong and rather dull. In minor ways it anticipates The Omen: aloof, menacing housekeeper turns up out of nowhere, hires herself to protect her satanic interests, keeps a big Rottweiler, a "familiar," around the house and it growls menacingly at the protagonist, etc., etc.
Video & Audio
Filmed for 1.85:1 projection, Daughters of Satan looks like a good, standard issue DVD, and is 16:9 enhanced for widescreen TVs. The colors (original prints by Deluxe) are a little muddy and there's some edge enhancement here and there, but basically this is a solid, Midnight Movie-type transfer from that sadly bygone era. The Dolby Digital English-only mono audio is fine; there are no subtitle options, and the region 1 disc is copy-protected. Part of MGM's movie on demand program - billed under the "Limited Edition Collection" banner - offers its DVD-Rs with no-frills menu screens (this having only a "Play Movie" options) and chapter stops every 10 minutes.
There are no Extra Features.
For horror and science fiction fans still mourning MGM's aforementioned Midnight Movies line, Daughters of Satan, lackluster though it is, is a welcome release. General audiences will want to skip it, but for genre fans it's worth seeing once, so you might want to Rent It.
Stuart Galbraith IV's latest audio commentary, for AnimEigo's Musashi Miyamoto DVD boxed set, is on sale now.