This is going to be either a difficult film about which to write, or an easy one. First, it’s a documentary, so I can’t critique the story or acting. Since it’s factual (supposedly), it’s irrelevant for me to say whether I “like” the “events” that are depicted. The best I can do is share if I thought Satanis: The Devil’s Mass (1970) was interesting or worth watching.
I wasn’t bored, although the ceremonies we witness in the home of the Church of Satan’s founder, Anton LeVey, start to push the boundaries of tedium. The way the camera moves among the participants, it’s hard to imagine they weren’t at least partially staged. Without them, it would probably be a 60-minute movie instead of an 86-minute movie.
I was more interested in the testimonials of LeVey’s neighbors as they share hearsay about their strange neighbor that lives in the one black house in the middle of a string of white row homes in San Francisco. The rumors and accusations they sling are meant to be contradicted by LeVey’s matter-of-fact descriptions of the Church of Satan.
One of the problems, though, is that nobody is identified. The main players are obvious; however, it took me most of the film to figure out whether the young blonde man in the hallway was pro-Satan or anti-Satan. Virtually no facts are given about the church or LeVey, leaving two sides of a story with nothing in the middle.
I don’t need to be spoon fed, but other than an interesting slice of history with some colorful characters and bizarre goings-on, there’s nothing to learn from Satanis: The Devil’s Mass. Most documentaries express a viewpoint or create a compelling contradiction. I’m afraid most people watch this just to see a naked lady do lewd things with a snake.
Directed by Ray Laurent
Starring Anton LaVey, Diane LaVey
RT 86 min.
Released March, 1970
Recorded on June 6, 2020 (TCM)
Rating 5 Possessed Children (out of 10)
This review is part of the annual Countdown to Halloween. I invite you to join me as I attempt to gain some space on my DVR. Every day, I'll be watching something from the bottom of the list, thereby reducing the percentage that's full... so I can record more!
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