Seven Women for Satan (1976)

Director: Michel Lemoine

I gather Michel Lemoine began as an actor for respectable filmmakers like Maurice Tourneur, Sacha Guitry and Julien Duvivier, but over time his slightly strange looks seem to have made him hard to cast in “normal” films, so he found himself in B movies instead and the directors who took him on got less reputable, people like Jose Benazeraf, Antonio Margheriti, Max Pecas and the infamous Jess Franco; ultimately, as a director himself from 1970 onwards, Lemoine found himself stuck in the porn ghetto like Jean Rollin. This, on the other hand, was an evidently sincere attempt at a film fantastique, one of many films that have been inspired by The Most Dangerous Game, but this had a bit of a twist to the usual human hunting, with the lead character (Lemoine himself) being the son of the original story’s Count Zaroff, an otherwise normal (?) businessman kept in the Zaroff family’s old ways by the butler Karl (Franco regular Howard Vernon—apparently he and Lemoine had both been in the same Sacha Guitry film in 1948 as well as Franco’s Succubus). At that time, of course, the idea of a “French horror film” was still too much for some people to accept, and Lemoine had to put up much of the budget himself since he couldn’t find a producer who’d stump up more than half of it, and unfortunately that money was kind of wasted when French censors objected to the film’s admixture of sex and violence and slapped an X rating on it… said rating had only just been introduced for pornography and extremely violent films in France, and was a commercial death sentence; as such, Lemoine was bankrupted and the film effectively vanished for over a quarter century. Whether or not its re-emergence is a good thing, well, eye of the beholder and all that, I suppose. I imagine you’d need to be a pretty hardened 70s Eurotrash devotee (particularly of the Jess Franco style, which it does resemble strongly) to really get much from it; certainly I found it incoherent enough that I suspect I’ll need a second viewing just to try to piece together what the hell actually happens in it. Still, if nothing else, there’s a really excellent choice of location (that chateau brings an amazing amount to the film) and the cheesetastic synth-rock score is actually kind of fantastic in its own way…

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