An Angel for Satan Blu-ray Review
Blu-ray Release: October 26, 2021
Video: 1.85:1/1080p/Black & White
Audio: Italian and English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono
Subtitles: English, English for the Italian track
Run Time: 92:20
Director: Camillo Mastrocinque
After a cursed statue is recovered from a villa’s lake, a young heiress (Barbara Steele) inflicts a torrent of depraved seduction and homicidal madness on the local village. (From Severin’s official synopsis)
Mario Bava’s Black Sunday (Italian: La maschera del demonio; aka: The Mask of Satan and Revenge of the Vampire, 1960) was a watershed film that brought Italian horror to the international masses, heralded Bava as a genre leader, and introduced the world to the incomparable Barbara Steele. As was the tradition, success led to imitation, leading to a short, but extensive series of moody, black & white Gothic horror films; many of which starred Steele as similar characters, including Antonio Margheriti’s Castle of Blood (Italian: Danza Macabra, 1964), The Virgin of Nuremberg (Italian: La vergine di Norimberga; aka: Horror Castle, 1963), and The Long Hair of Death (Italian: I Lunghi Capelli della Morte, 1964), Domenico Massimo Pupillo’s Terror-Creatures from the Grave (Italian: 5 tombe per un medium; 1965), Mario Caiano’s Nightmare Castle (Italian: Amanti d’oltretomba, 1965), and Camillo Mastrocinque’s An Angel for Satan (Italian: Un angelo per Satana, 1966), as well as Riccardo Freda’s The Horrible Dr. Hichcock (Italian: L'orribile segreto del Dr. Hichcock, 1962) and its sequel, The Ghost (Lo spettro, 1963), which were shot in color, and non-Italian horror movies, like Roger Corman’s The Pit and the Pendulum (1961), Michael Reeves’ She Beast (1966), and Vernon Sewell’s Curse of the Crimson Altar (1968).
Thanks to her success outside of the genre, including appearances in Federico Fellini’s 8½ (1963) and Lucio Fulci’s I maniaci (a comedy, 1964), at some point, Steele announced that she wasn’t going to be making horror movies anymore and, for a time, it looked like An Angel for Satan was going to be her Gothic swan song. She, of course, later embraced her scream queen persona for appearances in David Cronenberg’s Shivers (aka: They Came from Within, 1975), Joe Dante’s Piranha (1978), and the 1991 reboot of Dark Shadows, but Mastrocinque’s film does represent the end of her black & white Italian era. It’s also the most difficult of the series to see outside of Italy. The impression Steele made in Black Sunday was based both on her unique look and the sexual intensity of her performance. Bava didn’t cross any established boundaries, but he pushed them and continued pushing them, setting a new standard just three years later, when he made the sado-masochistic Gothic romance The Whip and the Body (Italian: La frusta e il corpo, 1963). Angel for Satan is probably the most aggressively erotic of any of Steele’s Gothic roles (she basically seduces every principal member of the cast) and a better use of her brand of sexuality than more explicit films, like She Beast or Caged Heat (1974).
Mastrocinque had been making movies since 1937, and acted as assistant director as far back as 1934, and An Angel for Satan and Crypt of the Vampire (Italian: La cripta e l'incubo, 1964) were his only horror movies. There wasn’t a lot of horror experience in the writing staff, either – Mastrocinque and Giuseppe Mangione are credited as screenwriters and Luigi Emmanuele has a story credit*. This outsider perspective makes An Angel for Satan special among a series of consistently good, but also consistently similar motion pictures. It delves happily into the spooky, shadowed clichés and ornate sets expected of the genre, but also has the brooding grace of a straight melodrama, giving it a different vibe than the other, more happily horror-centric post-Black Sunday movies. At times, Mastrocinque directs with the confidence of a neorealist and he’s arguably better with the romantic elements than any of the aforementioned directors. On the other hand, An Angel for Satan’s scares are pretty tepid compared to its contemporaries. If you’re looking for a great Gothic horror movie, look to Bava or Margheriti; if you’re looking for a tragic Gothic romance, look to Mastrocinque.
* Italian Gothic Horror Films, 1957-1969 (McFarland & Company, 2015) author Roberto Curti notes the film's resemblance to Antonio Fogazzaro’s 1881 novel Malombra, which was adapted twice: once by Carmine Gallone in 1917 and again in 1942 by Mario Soldati (it might have been one of the many literary sources that inspired Bava when he was continuously rewriting Black Sunday, too).
It’s possible that An Angel for Satan was released on North American video tape (a lot of Italian horror from the ‘60s was dumped on budget labels in the ‘80s and early ‘90s), but I was unable to find any official evidence. Previous to Severin’s Blu-ray and DVD, the film was available on DVD from Seven7 in France, and from Koch Media in Germany, though, curiously, as part of a six-disc Mario Bava set (the other five movies in the collection were, indeed, directed by Bava). Severin’s 1080p, 1.85:1 transfer is derived from a new 2K scan of the original negative, which was (according to the bylines) recently discovered in a Rome vault. The results are fantastic – not quite as clean as Severin’s Nightmare Castle release, but much tidier than the company’s Castle of Blood and Terror-Creatures transfers, which were included as extras on the same disc. Considering that An Angel for Satan was practically lost, the lack of print damage is remarkable (the most common issues are white specks and the occasional hair in the gate), and, while slightly chunky at times, grain levels seem natural. Delicate levels ensure that gradation and layers aren’t missing from Giuseppe Aquari’s beautifully black & white photography, nor are black levels compromised.
An Angel for Satan is presented in its original Italian dub, as well as an English language dub that was previously thought lost to time. Both tracks are presented in uncompressed, DTS-HD Master Audio mono and, as per usual, no sound was recorded on set, so both tracks were dubbed in post. The English dub is a bit cleaner and more consistent, but the performances are hit & miss. In contrast, the Italian dub features more dynamic range, stronger/more fitting performances, significantly louder sound effects, and a richer (though occasionally scratchier) version of Francesco De Masi’s classical score.
Commentary with actress Barbara Steele, moderated by horror film historian David Del Valle and Severin Films' David Gregory – Steele and Del Valle previously collaborated on a commentary for Severin’s Nightmare Castle Blu-ray and Gregory does a good job keeping everyone on task. Del Valle does his typical thing, where he talks about friendly and professional discussions he has had with famous genre folks, while Steele seems to be enjoying herself more than usual, possibly because she hasn’t seen the film in so long.
Commentary with Kat Ellinger – The author of Devil’s Advocate: Daughters of Darkness (Auteur Publishing/Liverpool University Press, 2018) and co-host (with Samm Deighan) of the Daughters of Darkness podcast delivers another perfectly researched, fast-moving, fact-filled track that helps contextualize the film and careers of all involved, and break down the many literary and filmic inspirations.
The Devil Statue (18:25, HD) – Vassili Karis chats about his career as an actor in Italy, funny stories from behind-the-scenes of An Angel for Satan, not wanting to do horror movies, but trusting Camillo Mastrocinque to not go overboard, and bad experiences on a couple of other horror movies. There are also interstitial interviews with critic and author Fabio Melelli, who discusses Mastrocinque’s career and directorial style, and the work of some of the other cast members.
Barbara & Her Furs (9:47, HD) – 1967 black & white short film by Pierre Andro with optional partial audio commentary by actress Barbara Steele. According to the video intro, it’s called Venus in Furs (the narration quotes the story) and, according to the commentary intro, it’s called Bing, Bang, Bong.
Extended trailer (the first 30 seconds of audio is missing)
The images on this page are taken from the BD and sized for the page. Larger versions can be viewed by clicking the images. Note that there will be some JPG compression.