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July 2010

Satan's Baby Doll

cast: Jacqueline Dupre, Mariangelo Giordano, Aldo Sanbrell, Joe Davers, and Giancarlo Del Duca

director: Mario Bianchi
(as Alan W. Cools)

75 minutes (18) 1982
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Shameless DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 2/10
review by Paul Higson

Satan's Baby Doll

Mario Bianchi's Satan's Baby Doll (aka: La bimba di Satana) comes to DVD as part of a sorry looking batch of releases on the Shameless label. The label has been a mix of smart obscurities and tackier fare, but by and the large, thank heavens, it has been the former. Notoriety supersedes quality this time, with titles that include The Beast In Space (1980), and Love Goddess Of The Cannibals (1978).

Satan's Baby Doll was originally set-up as a porn shoot (hence, the presence of sex film performer, Marina Frajese, under the name Hedman), but was scotched as such for something more commercial and delivered instead as a gothic soft-sex horror. In the transition one assumes the script was retained if the ersatz lacklustre porn plotting and blah blah blah dialogue is anything to go by. In the absence of hardcore action the resulting film is stranded lifeless. Shameless grants the film an undeserved respect which has less to do with the film itself and more to do with the excitement of chasing up and reconstructing a film that has been invisible for nigh on 30 years. I understand this but the others must be warned.

It is difficult writing about a film that offers so little. You want to meet them in kind and reward their lacklustre effort with like idleness. There is a castle and a family. The mother is dead and during the pre-titles sequence her corpse is the subject of a two-minute skulk by family and camera alike. The Nico Catanese soundtrack tingles and bounces in an attempt at sounding thrillingly Goblin. The junkie father is sleazing after the novice nun who looks anything but virginal. The doctor is dealing drugs to the father, his younger brother is paraplegic, the handyman is trying to raise the dead and the daughter shows the usual onanistic signs of possession by her mother's malevolent spirit. Believe me, any summation sounds richer than the actual movie.

The vengeful dead demolish the household but it's not a lot of people, and despite the short running time neither is there much to bridge the deaths, just a lot of softcore tickle and crappy chatter. The novice leaves her door ajar for the wheelchair-bound paraplegic to roll in and ogle her as she flicks herself into something approaching arousal. Despite the mystery of the mother's death the doctor dismisses any suggestion of an autopsy. "There is no need for Maria's body to be mangled." No faith in his own skills, then, and, yes, you do get the impression that he would be performing the autopsy himself. The deaths are dull but might be just enough to stop you nodding off. The mummified corpse that gets up to throttle the servant is a meek highlight.

The film was originally released in some countries with some additional pawing of the nether regions by the girls in the cast. It was an intimacy only slightly beyond what was allowable on UK screens until Crash, Dias Contados, and Tierra in the mid-1990s when a hand on the female crotch became the new permissible. The reinstated naked crotch rubbing footage is tame and apparent in the scratchiness of the restored material, which Shameless proudly make no attempt to hide. It is possible that what releases like this really need to pep up interest is an audio commentary, whether in apologia or an informed history.

There are DVD extras: a mini-biography of the star of the film Mariangelo Giordano (who plays the nun Solo), alternative footage from the opening and a second scene, both of which offer 'nada zip', and a 'trailer park' to tempt you into other Shameless offerings, and currently, most of them are attractive. Shameless embraces the good and the bad and probably believes that, as a label, it is preaching to the converted and catering to a sold audience, but I wouldn't trust that to be the case and more films like Satan's Baby Doll might damage the growth of an audience for the label. It makes me think twice about some of the new titles based on the trailers, and I would consider myself an interested party.



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