Trash Culture At The Movies: Satan’s Princess (1990)

There’s an entire sub-genre of b-movies with titles that make them sound like good trashy fun – i.e., Nude for Satan, Satan’s Cheerleaders, Strip Nude for Your Killer, The Sinful Nuns of St. Valentine –  but are in reality a painful slog to sit through (kudos, though, to Samurai Cop for being as fantastic as the title implies!).  As you could tell from my sample, more than a few involve Satan in the title, and sadly this time’s feature, Satan’s Princess, only further serves to give Satan a bad name.  That’s your challenge, future makers of schlock;  create good bad movies that have “Satan” in the title!

And, of course, there’s no mention of Satan, nor of a princess.

The only reason I knew about this movie (which, by the way, is in the public domain) is that it was the last movie directed by the prolific Bert I. Gordon.  His career, which began in 1955, did span genres, but he probably is still best remembered as the director who seemingly had a knack for movies about big things going on a rampage, from 1956’s The Amazing Colossal Man to The Food of the Gods and Empire of the Ants in the ’70s. At least according to the IMDB, he is working as writer and director on a new film, after over twenty years of obscurity, Secrets of a Psychopath.  If it’s true, that would make him a still active writer-director at over 90 years old.  Whatever you make of his films, that’s impressive.

Anyway, Satan’s Princess belongs not to the era of ’70s environmental disaster horror like Bert I. Gordon’s most well-known works, but to the dawning decade of Skinemax, the Reign of the Tawdry Erotic Thriller.  Besides the involvement of Bert I. Gordon, that’s really the only thing that makes this flick noticeable.  It’s like a made-for-cable erotic thriller boiled down to its most basic ingredients even before the genre really conquered cable television like the Roman Empire conquered Gaul (although The Hitchhiker, affectionately known in my own circle as Alfred Hitchcock Presents With Boobs, was at the time on its sixth season).   Of course, beyond making that perhaps a tiny bit interesting to fellow scholars of trash culture, this does mean we’re stuck with the bones of a movie, rather than an actual movie, honestly.

grizzledcop

When a film captures its own audience’s reaction…

Our protagonist is, sadly, not a daughter of Satan, but a standard-issue hard-boiled, embittered ex-cop with the name – I swear – Lou.  His backstory is as stock as his name:  while chasing some gang members (at what looks like an Interstate rest stop) he gets shot, for which his cop partner blames himself for…well, I don’t really care, and neither does the movie.  In fact, the script as presented is so lazy it doesn’t even establish Lou as working as a detective or a police information.  It just so happens that during one of his last cases he made an impression on a Mr. Rhodes, whose daughter Karen went missing but other cops dismissed her as another teen runaway.  We do quickly learn through an at first seemingly unrelated scene what did happen to Karen…

gratuitouslesbianscene

She’s become an actress cast in a sleazy low-budget movie!

It turns out she’s involved with the head of a modeling agency, Nicole St. James, a name worthy of a soap opera villainess if there ever was one.  You’re probably already thinking, “This movie doesn’t sound like it’s very LGBT affirming!” and you’d be right.  Still, as an expert on these kinds of affairs, it’s pretty clear that the lesbian sex scenes are just meant to draw in viewers, and not a statement against homosexuality or…anything, really.   Of course, for a while it’s hard not to wonder if the movie is meant to represent Mr. Rhodes’ fever dream after he learns his daughter Karen ran off with a woman, but then the whole unfortunate subtext about the evils of lady love is dropped immediately once the filmmakers realized they filled the necessary T&A quota (which included a “stripping a woman before she’s brutally murdered off-screen” sequence that made even a hardened connoisseur of movies like this uncomfortable) .  This is especially important since it’s intercut with cheesy scenes of Lou arguing with his girlfriend, Body Count Filler #3, and his son Joey, who is supposed to have Hollywood Autism but it’s something that’s showed not told, except that apparently autism makes one vulnerable to supernatural mind control, but we’ll get to that.

joeypossessed2

Child may have difficulty paying attention, may find social situations difficult, and may be susceptible to occurrences of demonic possession.

The villain Nicole St. James seems to have been exiled from another movie.   That’s what makes me wonder – and I have to wonder, because even with the miraculous power of Google background information about this movie is virtually non-existent – if the movie is just a script originally meant for more of a traditional police procedural thriller, but with the villainous pimp or white slaver etched out and replaced with some sexy but super-generic supernatural threat.  You just keep expecting to see the movie steer in a still generic but more horror-like direction – like Lou turns out to be a monk who was lovers with Nicole St. James but handed her over to the Inquisition and she’s back for revenge (there’s even an elaborate set-up with a painting made in Renaissance Spain!) – it never happens!   It just so happens that Nicole St. James is 500 years old and has vaguely defined magical powers and seduces and kills people for no reason, and some random monk (who the characters keep calling a priest) happened to predict through a painting that Lou will destroy her, even though the painting itself doesn’t really seem to depict that at all, or anything other than the cover of a really cheap romance novel.

evilpainting

This painting allegedly predicts very clearly my destruction by this one man, so obviously I must sleep with him and then screw around with torturing him through his disabled son!

The actor playing Lou is easily the best actor in the film, but it’s unfortunate he just comes across as the corrupt cop from some TV police drama.  He even flat-out tortures a guy just for a scrap of information, and it’s supposed to be okay simply because the tortured is a former sex offender.  Nor is he that bright.  When it’s obvious that Nicole St. James is killing any friends of Lou’s researching her via her possession of Joey, he keeps bringing Joey with him everywhere.  Is he that hard-up for the money to pay a babysitter?

The movie’s flawed in just about every possible way, but if I had to name the real problem it’s with our titular “Satan’s Princess.”  The script does the character no favors by giving her no backstory (despite all the hints that she does have some kind of connection to Lou beyond his predestined role in ending her reign of vaguely defined terror) and pretty much no motives (she literally doesn’t do anything – anything – except inexplicably sleep with Lou and then suddenly set out to kill him and everyone around him).  Nonetheless, it’s a role ripe for camp, but Lydie Dernier, whatever her talents as an actor, just alternates between lazily dogpaddling through her part and taking it completely seriously.  But even this cloud has a silver lining.  There’s a scene where she inexplicably kills this attractive young guy, imagining that he’s Lou, by slashing him with six-inch fingernails (that of course she has in no other scene) and unconvincing gore sounds and one of the most glorious expressions ever committed to film.

nicolepissed

Behold, the sole reason to see this movie.

Well, okay, there’s also how Lou dispatches our…vampire/witch/whatever.  When she taunts him, he whips out a flame thrower.  Then when she tries to flee in a car, it turns out he boobytrapped it to explode!

burningnicole

What happens when you bring your “Die Hard” to your supernatural thriller.

That’s really what makes this movie something of a waste.  If from the start it had been some bizarre mash-up between an ’80s style action movie and an early ’90s erotic thriller with supernatural elements…well, it probably would have still been pretty bad, but it would have been a lot more fun.  Otherwise it just sometimes seems like someone took two or three made-for-cable flicks from the era and randomly spliced them together, which makes it sound more fun than it actually is – like the title does.

Worlds of Power: Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest: Chapters 7-9

And thus, after too long an absence, we return to the horrifying world of Castlevania…

-…coming out of the alley like two gravestones with arms, legs, and bad attitudes shambled two ghouls.  They hissed harshly, opening mouths filled with sharp teeth.  Long claws reached out to rend and tear at their victims.

I think more effort was put into making Darkheart from Care Bears II scarier.

Honestly, the real horror comes from this passage, where Simon comes across as a drug addict after he kills a ghoul and absorbed its power, or something:

The whole creature shook.  Then, with a bright shimmer, it seemed to wrench away from existence, as though some kind of hook had come out of nowhere and dragged it into a black hole, leaving only its outline behind.  The outline turned to a dazzle that glittered over Simon Belmont like faerie dust.  Simon shivered, and his eyes got wide for a moment…And then he recoiled his whip around his hand and nodded toward Tim.  “Ah, yes.  Energy!  Already I feel recharged with vigor!  I am ready for another!”

I have to admit, I do like the idea of video game characters getting a drug-like rush from power-ups.  However, even here the pedantic nerd that lives in the core of my very being pipes up.  Again, defeated enemies in Castlevania II drop Hearts, which are used as the game’s currency, while health is restored by eating pork chops (which are for some reason often found in walls by breaking bricks with your whip, but the Belmonts aren’t picky eaters).   You definitely don’t get revitalized by addictive faerie dust left behind by vanishing zombies, who, by the way, in the game more like burst into flames when they’re defeated than vanish into another dimension.   I know that there are weird things stemming from video game logic that would be difficult if not impossible to translate to the page, but that doesn’t mean you should make up even more random, surreal things to take their place!

Case in point…

“Linda!”  said Simon Belmont.  “My wonderful and beautiful Linda Entwhistle!  You were correct.  At night, the signs can become portals into the dimension where you are imprisoned.” Linda Entwhistle smiled understandingly at her beloved.  “I should think that’s obvious, darling.”

Did she just imply that she thinks Simon is a twit?  Actually, she does.  Linda has been imprisoned by Dracula in “another dimension” and while she (somehow) knows the locations of all of Dracula’s body parts the curse that imprisons her prevents her from imparting that information, so she has to tell him indirectly through riddles.  Simon protests that he’s not good at that kind of thing, and Linda agrees and admits that’s why she told Simon to get help from Tim.  I’ve heard of people with significant others who underestimated their intelligence or other qualities, but not to the point where they thought they needed help from a middle schooler from another universe.   This is a relationship that will require some counseling.

However, I will give F.X. Nine this.  Castlevania II was notorious for how its NPCs would give misleading or flat-out false information, so much so that the instruction manual warns the player about this.  Even so, the implication in the game is that it’s because Simon Belmont is resented by the people of Castlevania because he carries Dracula’s curse with him (one character actually says, “You never should have come back to Castlevania”), which really would have made for a much more interesting story – and one that could still be kid-friendly – than “His girlfriend is trapped in a magic dimension and can’t give direct advice, because a <strike>wizard</strike> vampire did it.”

Anyway, here’s Linda’s riddle that stumps the great vampire slayer:

“What you need can be found,” said Linda Entwhistle, “where love is joined and Sundays sound.”

I’ll spare you the five seconds it should probably take to work this one out:  it’s a church.

Okay, I get that you wanted a riddle even your target audience could figure out, although not at the expense of making the hero look like a moron.  I know that’s not easy to do, but come on.  You’re making us yearn for the brilliance and heroic abilities of this Simon.

Anyway, at the church – which happens to be the only one in their entire world/universe/whatever – they meet a monk who gives them information on the location of Dracula’s rib (hmmm, rib) and thorn whips.  Apparently Simon doesn’t know better than to give the likes of Tim a lethal weapon.  But to his credit he does seem to be getting as tired of Tim’s antics and quips as I already am:

“This shall be one of my missions on this quest,” said Simon.  “I shall make you a more serious young man.”

Because I know that, when I was the target age for this book, would have been much more interested in the character development of some kid than in a mission to go to various macabre locales to collect the body parts of a vampire lord!