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Brotherhood of Satan (Special Edition), The
The Brotherhood Of Satan, a 1971 picture produced by L.Q. Jones and Alvy Moore, was a follow up to 1969's The Witchmaker and a bit of a cash in on the success of Polanski's adaptation of Rosemary's Baby, but it's retained a cult following over the years and for good reason. It's a ridiculously entertaining slice of seventies occult-themed horror nonsense!
The movie begins by introducing us to a man named Ben Holden (Charles Bateman), his daughter K.T. (Geri Reischl) and his foxy blonde girlfriend Nicky (Ahna Capri). They're on a little vacation, driving through the middle of nowhere to get to Ben's parents' place for K.T.'s birthday but they're not above stopping on the way to hang out alongside a scenic river. It rains and they get back into the car and as they travel down the empty highway they pass the scene of a nasty accident. Figuring they should let the local authorities now, they stop in the next town where their arrival sends local residents into a complete panic! They flee, but to avoid hitting a girl in the middle of the road, Ben then drives is car off the road.
With no other choice, Ben and company head back into town where they soon realize something very strange is going on. The town's sheriff (L.Q. Jones) and his deputy (Alvy Moore) initially peg them as suspects but it soon becomes obvious after a bunch of adults are brutally slaughtered that something far more sinister and supernatural is afoot than just the presence of some outsiders. The local priest (Charles Robinson) researches some Satanic rites while enjoying a cold Coors beer and when K.T. and all of the town's children go missing, well, it starts to look like devil worshippers, led by Doc Duncan (Strother Martin) are wreaking havoc in small town America!
As colorful as it is creepy, The Brotherhood Of Satan is… great! Old people running around praising the Lord Of Darkness in garish robes, killer kids' toys, dismembered body parts aplenty and a really impressive atmosphere of impending doom, this is pretty strong stuff for a PG rated picture. Martin is awesome as the cult leader, hamming it up just enough to make an impression without going too overboard, and Ahna Capri appears in a bikini! Bateman plays everything completely straight, he's the stereotypical alpha male out to protect the women folk and he's fine in the role, while Jones and Moore seem to be having a good time playing the law.
Director Bernard McEveety keeps the pace quick and tense, and the use of color, particularly in the last half hour or so, is excellent. Plenty of sinister reds and bright greens and blues give things a very strange feel while the smoke, fog, cobwebs and weird stagey sets sort of seal the deal. This one is just really well done, a great piece of seventies occult inspired cinema made with a keen eye for compositions, a really enjoyable cast and featuring some genuinely surprising set pieces.
The The Brotherhood Of Satan is presented on a 50GB disc with the feature given 28.7GBs of space with the AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 2.35.1 widescreen. This transfer looks similar to the one that Mill Creek used for their release a few years ago (it was released by them twice, once as a double feature with Mr. Sardoniucs and then on a triple feature called Psycho Circus where it was paired with Torture Garden and The Creeping Flesh), although it has a higher bit rate. The Mill Creek double feature release saw The Brotherhood Of Satan taking up 21.8GBs of space on the disc, so Arrow's given the film more breathing room. Colors look almost exactly the same, however, and there isn't much of a difference in detail.
The audio is handled by a 24-bit LPCM 1.0 Mono track, in English, with optional subtitles provided in English only. No problems here, it sounds good. The track is nicely balanced and free of any hiss, distortion or sibilance issues. The score has some decent range to it as well.
Extras start off with a brand new audio commentary by writers Kim Newman and Sean Hogan. It's a fairly scene specific talk that goes over the incredilby strange opening sequence involving the tank driving over the cars and how disorienting this all is. From there, they cover how the film compares to the British film Nothing But The Night, the influence of Val Lewton, the quality of the cast assembled for the picture, details on the careers of the different cast and crew members, the film's theatrical release, similarities between this film and Rosemary's Baby, thoughts on the film's score and lots more. No dead air here and these guys are clearly having fun with the material, which makes it enjoyable to listen to.
Arrow has also provided a few featurettes here, starting with Satanic Panic: How the 1970s Conjured The Brotherhood Of Satan, a new visual essay by David Flint. In this fifteen-minute piece he covers why the general public became so fascinated with the occult and the rise of Satanism in pop culture. He goes over how black magic was still very taboo in the decades prior but how films like The Devil Rides Out and Rosemary's Baby broke down the door. He also notes how the hippie movement embraced alternate religions, the rise in popularity of The Church Of Satan and how western civilization started to take notice of how society was less than perfect what with events like Watergate and the Kennedy assassination having happened. He then compares The Brotherhood Of Satan to other cult-related films and notes what makes this one stand out before then going over some of the film's technical merits, the way in which devil worship is portrayed in this and other movies made around the same time and more.
The Children Of Satan is a new interview with actors Jonathan Erickson Eisley and Alyson Moore (who just so happens to be the daughter of one of the film's producers. In this eighteen-minute piece, the actors, who played kids in the film, talk about how they came to appear in the film, discuss their relationships with producer Alvy Moore, what it was like being on the set as children, details of Moore's career, working with the director and different cast members in the film, enjoying their time on set, shooting the cake scene and being allowed to eat it (a big deal as kids) and a bunch of interesting, general stories from the shoot.
Rounding out the extras on the disc is theatrical trailer, two TV spots, a radio spot and a decent sized still gallery of ephemera. Menus and chapter selection are also provided. As to the packaging, Arrow has once again done a nice job here, providing some very cool reversible cover sleeve art as well as a slipcover and insert booklet (for the first pressing only) that contains credits for the feature and the Blu-ray as well as writing on the film penned by Johnny Mains and Brad Stevens.
The The Brotherhood Of Satan is a really entertaining picture, rife with hokum and nonsense but all the better for it. Arrow's Blu-ray release looks and sounds quite good, and if it isn't a massive improvement visually speaking over the previous release, the extras are very good. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.