Release Date(s)1966 (October 26, 2021)
Studio(s)Discobolo Film/Compass Film (Severin Films)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: B+
The last of Barbara Steele’s Italian Gothic films, An Angel for Satan (aka Un angelo per Satana) has also been one of her more difficult films to track down due to its limited availability. Never released theatrically in the US and rarely available on home video, especially in English, it’s one of her more sought after European titles. Helmed by Camillo Mastrocinque, who had directed Christopher Lee in Terror in the Crypt only a couple of years prior, the film doesn’t offer much in a story sense that’s particularly groundbreaking. Key moments don’t really occur until the end of the film when a series of plot twists materialize. Of course, the best thing about the film is Barbara Steele’s performance. Playing dual roles, sometimes within the same scene, she exudes a domineering and sexy demeanor at times, but on the flipside, she plays a more demure and softhearted person. Her interactions with other characters in these revolving states of being is what makes the film worth seeing. There’s also a sense of atmosphere to this little seen melodramatic thriller, but it’s mostly the performances that drive it than the other elements.
The Italian lakeside village of Montebruno Villa is home to a peaceful community that intensely believes in superstitions. They fear the worst when a statue of an ancient witch is fished out of the nearby lake by Count Montebruno (Claudio Gora), a wealthy but upstanding citizen. He wishes to have the statue restored, and hires sculptor Roberto (Anthony Steffan, The Night Evelyn Came Out of Her Grave) to do the job. Montebruno’s beautiful niece, Harriet (Barbara Steele) arrives soon after, exciting Roberto who feels a romantic attachment to her. But as Roberto continues his work, the locals fear the return of the ancient witch Belinda. Harriet even begins exhibiting strange behavior, sewing the seeds of chaos by pitting men against each other and causing problems for the local school teacher Dario (Vassili Karis) and her own mistress Illa (Marina Berti). Roberto soon takes notice and must do something soon before the villagers do.
An Angel for Satan was shot by director of photography Giuseppe Aquari on 35 mm photochemical film, and framed at the 1.85:1 aspect ratio for its theatrical presentation. Severin Films brings the film to Blu-ray from a “2K scan of the original negative—with both the Italian and thought-lost English tracks—recently discovered in a Rome vault.” It’s quite a robust black-and-white presentation, sharp and precise with a high encode and well-refined grain. Textures are often excellent with enormous depth, particularly in the shadows. Blacks are deep with clear gradations of gray and white. Mild flicker, slight instability, an occasional hair in the gate, and extremely minor speckling are leftover. Optical transitions and titles appear to be sourced from other elements as they show more damage, but it’s an otherwise potent presentation overall.
Audio is included in both English and Italian 2.0 Mono DTS-HD Master Audio with optional subtitles for the English audio in English SDH and English for the Italian Audio. The English track is the clear winner, simply in terms of spacing. It’s a slightly wider track and the dubbing is more evenly tempered. The Italian audio is a bit more blown out at times, and the overall track is narrower. Dialogue is a little loose against the picture, as to be expected. Both tracks exhibit good score and sound effects reproduction, and both are clean with no instances of hiss or crackle.
The following extras are included:
- Audio Commentary by Barbara Steele, David Del Valle, and David Gregory
- Audio Commentary by Kat Ellinger
- The Devil Statue (HD – 18:25)
- Barbara & Her Furs w/Optional Commentary by Barbara Steele (Upscaled SD – 9:27)
- Italian Trailer (HD – 2:00)
- Extended Italian Trailer (HD – 2:30)
- Easter Egg (Upscaled SD – 2:01)
The first audio commentary featuring Barbara Steele, film historian David Del Valle, and Severin Film’s own David Gregory is an enjoyable listen. The three watch the film together, and Barbara is immensely entertaining as she tends to speak her mind. Both Davids talk about the film with her, asking her many questions about her experiences with it and her career at that time. The second audio commentary features author and critic Kat Ellinger, who delves mightily into the history of the film, while also discussing Barbara Steele’s career, and aspects of the story. As per usual, her work is well-researched and fascinating to hear. The Devil Statue features new interviews with actor Vassili Karis and film historian Fabio Melelli, in Italian with English subtitles. Karis discusses how he became an actor, what it was like to be an actor in those days, and his involvement with the film. Melelli discusses director Camillo Mastrocinque, the context of the film as an Italian Gothic, and the film’s cast. Barbara & Her Furs is a short film starring Barbara Steele, sort of a take on Venus in Furs, with her providing optional commentary. It too is presented in Italian with English subtitles. The trailers are sourced from new HD scans. A title card before the extended Italian trailer informs us that the opening 30 seconds is missing the original audio as it’s presumed lost, though both trailers appear to be exactly the same aside from the extra 30 seconds. The Easter egg can be found in the Bonus menu. When the audio commentary with Barbara Steele and David Del Valle is highlighted, press up to reveal a black hood. Clicking it will take you to an excerpt from Camillo Mastrocinque’s 1962 omnibus comedy I Motorizzati. In it, actor Ugo Tognazzi humorously watches Black Sunday at the theater. It too is presented in Italian with English subtitles.
The disc for An Angel for Satan is housed in a black amaray case featuring the original Italian theatrical artwork on the sleeve. For a limited time, the Severin Films website is offering the same release with an exclusive slipcover featuring the original French theatrical artwork. It’s worth noting that the French Region 2 DVD from Seven7 has an interview with author Gerard Lenne about the film, while the German Region 2 DVD boxed set from Koch Media, which features several of Barbara Steele’s films, also includes the Italian opening and closing titles and a still gallery as extras. None of these have carried over.
Severin Films’ Blu-ray release of An Angel for Satan offers fans of Barbara Steele and European horror cinema plenty of reasons to celebrate. With excellent picture quality and a nice extras package, it’s a fine release of a film that’s been in dire need of such first-class treatment.
- Tim Salmons