Legacy of Satan (1974), hits that sweet spot

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Maya (Lisa Christian)

There are a lot of terrible films out there. Many are on Tubi, bless their hearts. The 70s were a heady time for film, with the technology becoming more accessible and an interest in experimental film. At the same time, this era became a nexus of schlock. Legacy of Satan (1974) is garbage, but it’s entertaining garbage.

In essence, Maya (Lisa Christian) is a sexually repressed housewife. Her husband, George (Paul Barry), loves her but is having a hard time dealing with her mood swings and lack of desire. Their friend, Arthur (James Procter), becomes involved in a sexy blood cult. Cult leader Dr. Muldavo (John Francis) becomes fixated on Maya. His cult worships Rakeesh (not Satan?), and they plan to lure Maya in with a costume party. Maya starts having strange visions; one is a pretty cool painting that’s bleeding from the eyes, but then she gets attacked by a guy in a crummy rubber mask, so… kind of unsatisfying.

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Got some schmutz there…

When the couple goes to the cult compound, they are drugged and separated. Maya seems fine with her fate; in fact, when George tries to rescue Maya with the help of a mute cultist, Aurelia (Anne Paul), and a magic sword, Maya turns on him. This twist was really unexpected and fun, but the film kind of fizzles out from there. Dr. Muldavo has been injured during the attempted escape, resulting in some kind of skin condition (with terrible makeup appliances) and Maya tries to nurse him back to health with increasing amounts of blood, but to no avail. The film ends with Maya crying out to Rakeesh for help as she too succumbs to whatever skin disease was afflicting Dr. Muldavo.

Even though this film is not by any means successful, it is a fun watch if you like bad movies. There is something very particular about bad films in this era, distinct from other decades, and boy does this film deliver.

1. Re-using footage. You know what you’re in for almost right away, as the same line shot from two angles is repeated in the same scene. Not a flashback, literally a minute after Maya says the line she says it again. She is reacting to Arthur quitting his job to follow the cult. “Now, George, don’t be so obstinate. He’s a grown man and I’m sure he’s got his reasons”. Astonishing.

2. That budget, though. Despite its limitations, the fashion and interior design are cutting edge, like the painting of two hot dogs on a cube, the monochromatic rooms, the diaphanous silk caftans… So good. The cultist all have sweet crescent moon necklaces which they use to scratch for blood (and look like they may have been made from pie tins). The film takes a really strange turn close to the end, which feels like they maybe ran out of money or time with their extras and sets, where they start using furniture and entire rooms from the couple’s house on what is ostensibly now the cult set, and all of a sudden there are only three people in the cult.

3. Morality restored. What is the objective of the story? Is it a condemnation of free love and the danger of syphilis? I kind of think so. That’s all I could come up with for the strange skin condition. But, in the end,, the real horror is their very, very mauve house.

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Maya and George, living that 70s decor dream.

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