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Satanis (1968) - dir. Ray Laurent [on CoS Video List]

This documentary contains reactions of Magus LaVey’s neighbors to the formation of The Church of Satan, and some of The Church of Satan’s first recorded Satanic Rituals performed by Magus LaVey. Satanis allows the viewer to see the initial reaction of individuals living in San Francisco during the time of these historical events, and with only a few complaints from a Catholic priest and two Mormons, which would be expected, many accept LaVey’s right to form an above-ground organization founded on Man’s Carnal nature. Many neighbors talk about how polite LaVey is in person, yet they do not fully understand why he has started this organization. A few of these neighbors only know what they were told about Satanists from Christian sources -- thinking this group of individuals worship a deity -- and they have some 'classic' replies.

Another great part of this film is the chance to see Magus LaVey speak on his reasons for creating The Church of Satan, and discussing the philosophy of Satanism. But not only do you get to hear Magus LaVey speak about this religion, but you also are shown early performances of Satanic Rituals held in the infamous Black House. These ritual clips show just how a Satanic Ritual might be performed in a group setting, and how to set the atmosphere in the ritual chamber using lights, sounds, and objects to build and release one’s emotions. Some of my personal favorite parts are during one of LaVey’s discussions he mentions, “If you’re gonna sin, be the best sinner on the block...” It offers great insight on a Satanist’s way of life; if you’re going to do something, then do it to the best of your abilities. And I think that is one of many lines that draw the differences between your average Joe doing the bare minimum to get by and the Satanist doing it to the best of his/her ability.

Another favorite is the disgruntled elderly man talking about LaVey’s ‘up-keep’ on the house. He hardly cares that Satanists gather there and perform rituals -- he’s just pissed off that he has to pick up shingles from his yard that has blown over from the Black House.

I suggest this video to anyone that has never seen Magus LaVey speak on video or audio.  It is a ‘must-have’ for any collector of LaVey’s work.

[- Stephen L. Ness Jr.]

Scarface (1932) - dir. Howard Hawks [on CoS Video List]

Scarface begins with a reigning crime-lord about to meet his demise. Louis Costillo is chatting with his buddies. He has just thrown a huge party for all of his men, and he’s comfortable with his status, content with his accomplishments. His only remaining ambition is to throw a party larger than the last one.

But outside, a broad-shouldered, shadowy figure whistles his way toward the club. It is Tony Camonte, a ruthless hood who is not content with the present hierarchy. In a dog-eat-dog world, he is a much hungrier animal than the satisfied, drunken crime-lord he has come to kill. He is taking steps to achieve his own daybreak, and run the bootlegging business according to his own standards.

Scarface, like so many Satanic films, is noteworthy for its positive portrayal of its villain. Paul Muni plays Camonte as ruthless and impulsive, yet charming and tragic. You feel warmth for him when he boyishly attempts to flatter a woman, and you laugh at him when he is impressed by expensive things.

The film was sold to '30s audiences on the premise that it was an expose on the depravity of organized crime, and an indictment of government corruption. It is based on the criminal life of Al Capone. However, Muni’s performance as Camonte is so entertaining that we forget to disapprove of his actions. Policemen and newspaper editors play their predictable parts, reminding us of the evils of gangsterism. Yet Camonte steals the show with his irreverence toward authority and abundant enthusiasm for life. When a policeman threatens to beat him during an interrogation, he blithely remarks, “This fellow’s got ideas I don’t like.” When he acquires his first tommy-gun (also known as a “Chicago Typewriter”), he shouts ecstatically, “I’m going to write my name all over the town in big letters!”

Amidst all his human strengths and flaws, Camonte personifies several virtues championed by Satanism. He practices self-reliance, and stresses the importance of taking initiative. He says to his buddy Guino Rinaldo, “In this business there’s only one law you gotta follow to keep out of trouble. Do it first. Do it yourself. And keep on doing it.”

Camonte knows that might determines right. When his boss tries to order him to stay out of the North Side, Camonte fires back, “There’s only one thing that gives orders and gets ’em, and that’s this,” pointing to his gun. He understands there are no rules except for those set by the strong, for everyone else to follow. Camonte doesn’t cloud his mind with ideals. Instead, he pragmatically operates within his milieu. If his city is corrupt, the ambitious entrepreneur acts accordingly.

Scriptwriter Ben Hecht was a Chicago reporter in the teens and early 1920s, and had met several Chicago gangsters during this time, as well as lawyers, judges and policemen. His familiarity with rampant corruption no doubt aided him in conceiving the Scarface script. The film’s violence shocked audiences of its day.

Instead of framing itself within a structure of Judeo-Christian morality, Hecht’s script borrows its plot points from Greek tragedy. Camonte’s ambition compels him to defy his boss Johnny Lovo, to do business on another gang’s territory, to control his sister’s social life, and to pursue Lovo’s girlfriend. These actions all come back to haunt him. His sin is not so much murder or greed, but counterproductive pride. He lacks self-discipline, and hence burns his bridges.

Camonte’s great indulgence ends in a spray of cops’ bullets. Cowardly attempting to evade the authorities, he falls, pathetically, into Chicago’s gutter, a victim of his own unchecked thirst for power.

Fun facts: the opening scene of the film, in which Camonte kills Louis Costillo, takes place on 22nd street, on the South Side of Chicago. 22nd street was later renamed Cermak Street, after Chicago’s mayor Anton Cermak. Cermak had been voted mayor in 1931, and had gained votes by promising to clean up organized crime (The previous mayor hadn’t done anything to stop organized crime). In 1932, Scarface was released, and in 1933, Cermak was assassinated while shaking hands with president-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Martin Scorcese’s Oscar-winning film The Departed is a testament to the sustaining significance of Scarface. Scorcese pays homage to Scarface in two ways. One way is by placing X’s in the background of many shots. X’s were placed in the shots of Scarface to signify an impending death. Also, there’s a scene in The Departed in which Frank Costello attends the opera. He’s watching “Lucia Di Lammermoor.” In Scarface, the melody Camonte whistles before he kills a person is taken from this opera.

[- Miles Jacobsen]

7 Faces of Dr. Lao (1964) - dir. George Pal

Here we have a tale about a sleepy, little town of Abalone, Arizona. It is a town made up of greedy, small-minded, petty people who are boring and uncultured. They are faced with the offer to sell the whole town to a conniving -- and greedier -- rich man named Charles Stark, who has plans for Abalone that don’t include them. But, strange things begin to happen when a little, old Chinese man on a donkey with a fishbowl on its saddle rides into town. His name is Dr. Lao. His mysterious traveling circus will change the lives of all who venture beyond the flaps of the circus tent.

Ultimately, this film is a satire that exposes the foibles of the human animal. Tony Randall plays Dr. Lao and six other characters. The magical Dr. Lao is a fairly Lokian character. He bears with him profound lessons, secular wisdom, and many mysteries and secrets -- all of which are revealed through the various characters he portrays in his strange circus. He is a master of illusion and a trickster. He seems to know the dark, hidden truths of the citizenry and of all humanity. As the fortune teller, Appollonius of Tyana, Dr. Lao stoically shatters the delusions of Mrs. Cassan -- an ignorant, flirtatious old woman. He holds up the mirror of truth to her banality and pettiness -- reflecting back to her what she refuses to believe and admit to herself. As Pan, Lao lets loose the dark, lustful desires hidden deep within a beautiful librarian named Angela Benedict (Barbara Eden). In the guise of a giant snake, he mockingly exposes Stark’s insecurities. As Medusa, he teaches a rude fat woman named Kate a deadly lesson, much to the horror of the townsfolk and Kate’s weak, timid husband Luther. Dr. Lao also takes on the guise of the Abominable Snowman and Merlin the Magician.

With much wisdom to impart, Dr. Lao views his mysterious and magical circus as a mirror that reflects the mysteries and realities of the world and life. He exposes the vileness, pettiness, ignorance, and greed of Abalone’s citizens. He manipulates and alters situations to enlighten the townsfolk or provoke change, often in funny and/or brutally truthful ways. Above all, life to him is a circus. Life to him is magical in itself and should be enjoyed, but with unclouded eyes and a wise mind. I find the little Chinese magician to be very much like Satan in many ways. For he views life and the world from a perspective that could be seen as the “third side.” He sees what lurks in the darkness of human nature and the human mind and believes in understanding what lies hidden within.

Replete with stereotypes and politically incorrect humor, I thought it to be an enjoyable film with subtle Satanic elements that become a little more obvious as the story unfolds. Though it was based on Charles Finney’s novel, Circus of Dr. Lao, it is quite different from the book, yet it still retains much of the wisdom and profound lessons of that wonderful tome. At first, children seem to be the targeted audience. But as the film goes on, there is much that surfaces that only adults can understand. Tony Randall did a great job at portraying a very likable and humorous character to watch.

[- Michael K. Silva]

Sin City (2005) - dir. Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez

In a city of complete and utter corruption, a few low-down characters fight to maintain their sensitivity, their scarred romanticism, and some semblance of a sense of true justice. Loyalty is something bought and sold, love is a tool for manipulating others, greed is the air you breathe, and power is achieved only through deception. The only possible form of justice in Sin City is personal justice. Sound familiar?

Based directly on the Sin City comic books by Frank Miller, and directed by Miller and Robert Rodriguez, Sin City is a comic book film. Although it is not purely film noir, it borrows many elements from crime films of the Forties and Fifties, as well as the work of Raymond Chandler and Ross McDonald.

There are several aspects of Sin City that film noir buffs will cherish. All of the individual stories in Sin City come straight out of the film noir canon. Marv, a hardened low-life with a soft spot for dames, dedicates himself to avenging the death of the only woman who ever showed any kindness and tenderness toward him, even after he finds out she was a hooker… Hartigan, one of the few cops in Sin City that possess a conscience, is on the brink of retirement when he receives a tip that the Senator’s son has just kidnapped another 12-year-old girl… A waitress is harassed by an abusive ex-boyfriend, and her new boyfriend swears to “take care” of the pest for her.

Aesthetically, Sin City both adheres to and deviates from the film noir tradition. For example, the visual hallmark of film noir is a stark contrast between the darks and the lights. Sin City stays true to this dramatic chiaroscuro. There are very few grays between the blacks and whites, reminiscent of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. However, unlike German expressionism and film noir, the digitized images in Sin City are so clear, the resolution so high, that you are constantly reminded that this is the digital age. It just has a feeling of artifice, which distracts from the “grittiness” of the genre. A caveat is hereby given to the aficionados of the Silver Screen.

A major deviation from traditional film noir is the film’s editing. Sin City’s editing conforms to the present-day style, which resembles the fast pace seen in music videos. Sometimes there are several cuts within what could be a single shot (during a character’s monologue, for example). Fans of traditional film noir will probably miss the longer takes, and feel that the rapid cutting is often disorienting and distracts from the story. You may yearn for the 10-second close ups on the characters’ faces, introspective and wistful, staring out at the world, bewildered by its chaos and corruption, perhaps disturbed by their own role in it.

There are a couple major characteristics of the film that reminds you that it is, at heart, a comic book. One, it has all the fantastic action and extreme violence that is the standard of the testosterone-driven pulp art. When Marv is pursued by cops, he jumps through the windshield, knocks out the officers, and tosses them out of the vehicle like they were Sunday morning papers being delivered.

Aside from the over-the-top action, there is a strong, albeit usually subtle, degree of camp humor saturating the entire film. This is probably done because the film was made for people who are uncomfortable watching the movies their grandparents enjoyed. Today’s audiences feel alienated by the absence of vulgarity in older films like the original Scarface, or Double Indemnity. Jokes and innuendos that are comparatively innocent by today’s standards actually make some people more uncomfortable than do the generic curse words. Unfortunately, this is also the case with some of the actors and actresses in Sin City. They clearly have difficulty saying these archaic epithets (“son-of-a-bitch,” “bastard,” “dames,” and “broads”) in a simple, straightforward manner. And there’s also the obvious fact that pretty boy Josh Hartnett simply can’t light a woman’s cigarette with the same balance of authority and tenderness that Bogart could.

It makes sense that when the spirit of film noir reappears in today’s film industry, it comes to us through the filter of the comic book aesthetic. Despite the aforementioned “un-noir” features, the Satanic flames are kept burning in this 21st century urban jungle tale. Every major character is an anti-hero. The good guys are bad, and bad guys are good. And there is plenty of politically incorrect humor to be enjoyed by those who dodge society’s stifling mores. Oh, and did I mention there are several great ass shots?

[- Miles Jacobsen]

Speak of the Devil (1993) - dir. Nick Bougas

"Don't be afraid. This is not a recruitment film for Satanism. You're either a real Satanist, a TRUE Satanist or you're not. And if you are... you were born that way."

With those opening words begins one of the most interesting and important documentaries on Satanism to ever hit video. Speak of the Devil is both Satanic primer for the uninitiated and, as the title states, canon for those who already think they know it all. It's a great collection of sit down interviews with the late Dr. LaVey (conducted by Adam Parfrey of Feral House Publishing) intertwined with pop-culture references from throughout history including clips of noir movies, the silent film ‘Haxan’ and an entire episode of a lost television show titled "Brother Buzz" that shows a pre-CoS LaVey and his then cub Togare.

The flow and layout of Speak of the Devil is beautiful. It begins with a section titled "What is Satanism?" that has a roaming cameraman asking random folks on the street what they think of Satanism. It's amusing and educational at once. This leads into a collection of talk show clips from the mid-'80s during the fabled "Satanic Panic" including the inevitable Geraldo segment and finally leads into a piece on Dr. LaVey refuting the claims of the misinformed media.

Next, we segue into the aforementioned "Brother Buzz" episode. This is a fun romp into history as seen through the eyes and narration of Anton LaVey's pet Nubian lion Togare. It shows us a glimpse at LaVey and family before the Church of Satan. We get a brief look inside the Black House including a few great hidden passages and paintings. This segment is just plain fun in bits as we get to see Dr. LaVey (with hair, mind you!) on a hilarious trip to the grocery store with Togare in tow... or vice versa depending on who you think is leading.

After the fun intro material, we get to the meat of the video. The next few sections are sit down interviews with the founder of Satanism as he discusses the history of the philosophy. We find the importance of humor and the Johnson Smith Catalog in the "roots of Devilry." We get a deeper look into the Black House including the legendary 'Den of Iniquity' where LaVey gives his account of the creation of his Artificial Human Companions and their relation to Satanism. We get a great segment inside the music room where we see some nice paintings and get to hear LaVey playing his long lost style of music. We look inside the Ritual Chamber and the Library, where LaVey states his inspiration in literary characters including Batman, The Shadow and the Sea Wolf.

The video closes with a few brief words on the religion from Satanic luminaries including Blanche Barton, Magister Diabolus Rex, Boyd Rice and current High Priest Peter H. Gilmore.

If this video consisted on the interviews alone, it'd be worth the price of admission. As it stands, it's a priceless addition to any Satanist's video library.

[- Warlock West]

Stargate (1994) - dir. Roland Emmerich

In a slave-dominated world it is a rare treat to find a film with a solid plot, believable characters, realism and good music which is totally pro-Satanist. Stargate is all of these.

Directly following my viewing this show at a nearby theater, I went into a music store to try and purchase the CD, which, of course, was not there. (Earth technology!) I mentioned what I was looking for to the young clerk and she asked me if Stargate was something like the "Star Trek" films. "Nothing like that crap," I spat out, quite astonished at the strength of my feeling.

The next day I read a review of Stargate in the local newspaper. The reviewer felt it was a banal return to the science fiction "trash" of the forties, had only stereotyped characters, and overtones of white imperialist supremacy. I quickly checked the newspaper banner to be sure it wasn't "Pravda" I was reading. It wasn't and I tossed it in the garbage. In the two weeks which followed, the success of the film has been demonstrated at the box office, not in the reviewers' fantasies.

The characters in Stargate are the kind of people I have personally known and worked with. The hard-bitten military professionals, the creative, slightly pre-occupied young scholar, these are real people I have known -- not just stereotypes. In fact the second time I went to see the film, I took just that kind of person with me, a police officer friend who, in his spare time, creates neural networks to pick stocks on his super-Pentium computer for the fun of it. And, yes, he also identified with the hero.

But, apart from my disgust toward the newspaper idiots who condemn known reality as fantasy, there is the treatment of life in this film which is unmistakable and positive. For example, the hero does not hesitate to use an alien technology to beat death by restoring his wife to life. In most any other film, that alone would be condemned as "horrible" or "evil." The source of this alien technology, the alien himself, addressed the issue of why he chose to inhabit a human body (to extend his own life) by saying, "The human body is so easy to repair." What a breath of fresh air to even consider this idea as a possibility! What a difference from the anti-life themes of most modern science fiction swill like Star Trek where anyone desiring physical immortality is considered criminal or worse.

Additionally, this is a film about humanity throwing off the slavery of god-worship. The treatment of religion and the worship of superior beings is, for once, condemned in favor of the human! The alien, who posed as Ra, the ancient Egyptian sun god, has kept a group of humans on this distant world ignorant of their history and heritage by forbidding reading or writing. When our scholarly hero upset this balance through discovery and communication, the masses revolted against the great Ra, throwing down their gods, rising as atheists who had pride and, for the first time in centuries, hope. I'm sure the pseudo-Satanists wearing their Laurel and Hardy "Sons of the Desert" Egyptoid gear will fully identify with the despot Ra but the real Satanists in the audience will recognize that the rebels who slay Ra are just like us -- real Satanists seeking personal freedom over god-worship, death before slavery!

Finally, there is my wife who will always find a flaw in the plot of continuity of any film as a game. Neither she nor I could find such a flaw. This film is a seamless tale with attention to detail which I found striking and moving. I wholeheartedly recommend any Satanist seeing Stargate. What a pleasure to see our values promoted internationally in such an elegant and powerful medium.

[- Nemo]

Svengali (1931) - dir. Archie Mayo [on CoS Video List]

In 1894, Englishman, George Du Maurier, published a novel named Trilby, which became a bestseller. It was a novel about a hypnotist and his obsessive love for and eventual enslavement of a girl named Trilby. But, it wasn’t until this fantastic 1931 cinematic interpretation of Du Maurier’s compelling tale that the term "svengali" gained popularity in our lexicon to mean “evil mentor,” as stated on the back of the DVD cover.

In this very short, but nonetheless captivating, cinematic tale based on Du Maurier’s successful novel, actor John Barrymore is Maestro Svengali, a virtuoso and piano teacher who barely makes enough to survive in late 19th century Paris. With features that resemble Rasputin’s, he is a tall, unwashed and lanky figure with deep-set, piercing eyes; long, black, disheveled hair; pointed Luciferian beard, and dark, filthy clothes. We find him in the opening scene playing a piano very passionately in his squalid apartment. Here is where we first get a glimpse of his mysterious, hypnotic power as Madam Honori, a student of his, comes to visit to tell the maestro that she has left her husband to be with him instead. Discovering that she has left with no money for herself, Maestro Svengali cruelly turns on her, enthralling her with his hypnotic gaze and causing her to flee into the night, horrified and screaming. She is found dead the next morning, drowned in the river, and considered a suicide.

During a visit with a pair painter friends who play a joke on him and leave him alone in their apartment, the poor virtuoso meets a beautiful, young, blonde milkmaid named Trilby O’Farrell. She has come to visit the painters to offer herself as a model, only to find Svengali instead. During their brief encounter, Svengali discovers that she has a lovely singing voice and becomes enamored by her beauty and talent. After he departs, Trilby then meets a handsome, young English painter named Billee who also comes to visit the painters. She eventually falls in love with Billee and later promises to marry him.

Svengali later returns to visit Trilby, and the three painters. He wishes to speak to Trilby about her singing voice, and the beautiful model complains of a headache. Using the power of hypnosis, Svengali cures her. But, he also wickedly seizes this opportunity to impose his will upon her. Up until this point, Svengali appeared to be nothing more than a poor, struggling piano teacher, almost pauper-like with only one previous instance that alluded to his diabolical power and nature. Satanists will delight in the scene that follows as it is one which finds Svengali standing sinisterly at his open window, his dark eyes wicked and opaque. He sends his will out into the night, across the sleeping city, and into Trilby’s subconscious. She responds by coming to him in the early morning hours, resulting in her leaving Billee.

What later unfolds is Maestro Svengali suddenly reaching the height of fame as a brilliant composer, with Trilby as his cherished songbird. She is now under his hypnotic spell, which he hopes will make her love him. Unfortunately, the only time that his lovely student -- now his wife -- can sing is while she is under this same hypnotic trance.

Satanists will find this movie to be entertaining on many levels. The most prominent aspect of the film that is immediately noticeable is the “command to look,” mentioned in The Satanic Bible on pg. 111. The other is the aforementioned scene of Svengali sending his will out into the ethers. Both are fine examples of Lesser Magic. Also of interest is the employment of Caligarian angles akin to the German expressionistic films of the 1920s, which many Satanists find aesthetically pleasing and powerful. And there are others, such as the relationship between master and slave.

What makes this film entertaining is its use of humor, subtle elements of horror, and a sense of romantic tragedy, well blended to forge a finely crafted tale. Overall, this is a dark and tragic tale of a self-centered man who yearns for a love that he cannot have, but will employ almost any means necessary to capture that love. Svengali is driven by ambition and his passionate lust for young Trilby. While his hypnotic possession of her is very sinister, he is not really an overtly cruel man. Though, many people who’ve seen the film equate his intentions and employment of very unconventional means to achieve his goals with acts of evil. In the character of Svengali, we see his “satanic sadness” -- a term Dr. LaVey used when he spoke of actor, Erich Von Stroheim, in The Secret Life of a Satanist, pg. 151. We also see Svengali’s very real human nature, which he never tries to hide. He pursues his love the way an animal might pursue its prey: with a single desire and purpose. The maestro is first viewed by his so-called friends as an object of ridicule. Later, he is considered a dangerous man because his hypnotic powers are viewed with condemnation and mistrust. Though his diabolical, abrasive nature may infuriate those around him, he makes no apologies for who he is. Nor does he deceive himself into believing that Trilby really loves him.

There have been other versions (remakes) of this film, but research has shown that this is the best, and probably the most Satanic, version to watch. Despite its length, 64 min., Svengali is a great film for any Satanist to have in his or her video collection.

[- Michael K. Silva]