★★★out of ★★★★★
In 2013 Steven Speilberg and some other guy named George Lucas stood in front of a group of budding young film makers and declared that movie industry is about to implode. They posited a very simple idea…Hollywood spends ga-gillions on massive tomes each and every year. Year in. Year out. They continue to lose audiences to TV, the internet, and second and third viewings of Howard the Duck on VHS — well they didn’t say that last part.
Specifically, Lucas noted that “They’re going for the gold.But that isn’t going to work forever. And as a result they’re getting narrower and narrower in their focus. People are going to get tired of it. They’re not going to know how to do anything else.” You know what? They were right then and they’re right now.
How do I know they’re right? Asylum of Satan.
Produced in 1972, Asylum of Satan is a fun and enjoyable satanic trip made for somewhere in the $50,000 range. No, that’s not a mistake. Not $500,000. Not $5 million. $50,000. The Asylum of Satan was developed as campy second-show drive-in delight and it delivers on all counts.
The story, in all its simplicity, very loosely follows Lucina Martin (superbly played by Carla Borelli) who goes to the hospital, but is quickly and mysteriously wisked off to the decided non-scary Pleasantville Hospital. Lucina is awaked to a extra creepy nurse played by Charles Kissinger (who also plays the creepy satanic Dr. Spector) who convinces her that she’ll be staying there for a while, she can’t receive visitors, and, well, she can’t leave her room — because they’re prepping her for a satanic BLACK MASS! Lucina is able to have a modicum of interaction with several of the other patients, amidst a room full of white-cloaked faceless ghouls, but each of her new-found pals is picked off one-by-one in unique and spooky satanic ways.
Just as Lucina has started to give up all hope her fiancé Chris Duncan (played by Nick Jolley in his ONLY acting credit) shows up a BLACK MASS Manor to give Dr. Spector the what-for. Chris goes to the authorities but they’re having none of his hopped-up satanic ramblings. Lucina meanwhile is left to ponder what could have been with her profoundly unsexy fiancé in potentially the most unsexy and non-erotic dream sequences every laid out on celluloid. There’s some clumsy groping followed by some equally gawkish mustache massage.
Just as Lucina wakes from her blundering mustache massage dream, the main attraction is getting underway. The satanic BLACK MASS. We won’t spoil Dr. Spector’s BLACK MASS for you, save to say it’s effectively creepy, legitimate, and legend has it that famed satanic high priest Anton LaVey’s sidekick Michael Aquino was brought in to help with the correct protocols for the BLACK MASS. Aquino is of course famous for being a military/cult mind control programmer and all-around satanic creep.
Asylum of Satan was directed by William Girdler, who went on to direct Manitou, Grizzly, Three on a Meathook, Day of the Animals and other joyous 1970s drive-in greatness. In an an interesting historic horror footnote, Three on a Meathook was allegedly filmed for free. Yes. Free. Girdler was said to have saved all the remaining film stock from Asylum of Satan and since the film was already paid for, he jumped right in following the completion of Asylum of Satan and started filming Three on a Meathook. Sadly, Girdler died on a location scouting mission at the exceptionally young age of 30. Which got me to thinking…clearly Girdler knew how to make films and clearly he knew how to have loads of low-budget fun, so if his life had been extended would he be part of the Hollywood implosion that Speilberg spoke of, or would he be part of the solution? My money would be on Girdler continuing to churn out a walloping catalogue of drive-in perfection, but on the cheap.