Prime in the Dustbin: ‘Legacy of Satan’ (1974)

At about the fifty minute mark of the film, Legacy of Satan, the main female character asks in a breathy monotone, “I’ve committed myself, but to what?” That’s a great question, and one I was also pondering. I had already invested almost an hour watching this movie, and I certainly wasn’t going to back out. After all, I had an article to write, a deadline to meet, and I am, after all, a professional. But Legacy of Satan is a raging mess, an uncomfortable clash of styles and muddled plot points, and I watched it the way a kitten watches the red dot from a laser pointer; darting eyes, fight or flight responses engaged, and then, finally, utter boredom and the urge to nap.

The plot centers on a Satanic cult that doesn’t really worship Satan. They are followers of the mysterious Lord Rakeesh (who sounds like a lost member of the Wu-Tang Clan), a mystical being never represented in the film. No effigies or fetishes, no explanations of what he might be or what powers he possesses. This is less a cult and more a Vince Noir cosplay group. He was the King of the Mods, you know.

The leader of this ragtag gang of ruffled shirts and crushed velvet dresses is Dr. Muldavo (John Francis), a bland blonde guy who wears a gigantic half-moon pendant over his knock-off Carnaby Street blouse. The time has come for him to choose a new queen. The lucky lady ordained for this position is Maya (Lisa Christian), who is married to a schlub named George (Paul Barry).

Maya doesn’t like sex. She describes herself as cold, and George is okay with that. But once the Rakeesh cult begins casting their evil spell upon her, she begins to form an obsession with sex. In bed, she tells her husband, “I feel a warmth. It’s between my legs. I need you to get it out of me!” Get it out? With what? Ceramic tongs? What does that mean? Is she hiding charcoal?

No one in this movie can say what they really mean. Dr. Muldavo stumps around the film proclaiming things like “A thousand years of destiny have led me to this moment!” and “A thousand years of time can be compressed into a single second!” It’s hard to rave about the intricacies of the time-space continuum and an unwavering belief in predestination simultaneously, especially when all he’s trying to say is, “I would like to sleep with you.”

Bloodplay is a big part of the story. There’s even a character known only as The Blond Blood-farm. It’s tempting to think of Muldavo and his funky bunch as vampires. We see him chug a chalice of blood like he’s having his morning V8. There’s also some mindless banter about the power in the blood, which sounds overtly Christian to me, so I can’t tell which side these people are on. They walk around in daylight and they are neither sickly nor pale, so they aren’t vamps in the classic sense. Maybe all that blood drinking is some homeopathic cure for anemia.

Maya and George wind up at a costume ball at the Rakeesh compound where they are given wine that must have been spiked with hallucinogenics. Maya starts to twirl around the room like Miss Havisham in her wedding dress while good old boring George falls asleep. It’s time for Dr. Muldavo and Maya to consummate their strange bloody destiny that transcends time and space but, at this point, who cares? You’ve seen enough pornstaches and giant astro-sign medallions in this movie to last a lifetime.

Dr. Muldavo projects the same amount of seductive evil as a small-town optometrist who has just read a particularly inflammatory op-ed in the local Shopper (“The planning commission wants to rezone what? That raises my dander!”). The character of Maya flips back and forth between frigid ice queen and raging nymphomaniac so frequently that she ends up only being lukewarm. I didn’t hate the characters to the point where I wanted them to die, but I did think attending a midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show would have done them some good. They might have found all that flamboyance cathartic. Don’t dream it, kids. Be it.

Legacy of Satan has nothing to do with Satan or his legacy. For a movie about drinking blood, you don’t get to see much of the red, red kroovy onscreen. The real surprise here is the total lack of nudity. The movie was directed by Gerard Damiano, the man who hurled pornography into the mainstream with his film, Deep Throat. It’s never a good idea to pigeonhole a filmmaker with expectations, but come on. Nothing?

No blood, no boobs, no Beelzebub.
No point.

If you still feel the cosmic call to join the cult of Lord Rakeesh, you can check out Legacy of Satan on Amazon Prime US.

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