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At the end of the 19th century, in a little Italian village by a lake an old statue is recovered. Soon a series of crimes start and the superstitious people of the village believe that the statue carries an ancient malediction ... Written by
AN ANGEL FOR Satan (Camillo Mastrocinque, 1966) ***
This was "Scream Queen" Barbara Steele's last of nine Italian horror films (for the record, I've still got TERROR CREATURES FROM THE GRAVE  and THE SHE-BEAST  to catch up with) and the one that was hardest to come by until recently. With this in mind, the print on display still left a lot to be desired panned & scanned, fuzzy picture quality and the audio filled with extraneous noise (particularly during the second half where it seems that someone's tapping on computer keys somehow got mixed in with the film's soundtrack, recalling a similar incident found on the original DVD of SON OF Dracula !).
AN ANGEL FOR Satan the title, by the way, is a misnomer was also probably the last of the vintage Gothic Horror outings from this country to be shot in black-and-white (imbued with a touch of poetry not easily replicated by the more delirious color titles). Incidentally, I'd watched director Mastrocinque's sole other foray (also in monochrome) in the genre the "Carmilla" adaptation CRYPT OF THE VAMPIRE (1963), starring another horror icon in Christopher Lee which I remember liking quite a bit, but whose recording (made off late-night Italian TV) I subsequently foolishly erased. To get back to Steele's European output, a common thread running through most of them is that she plays a look-alike descendant of some diabolic ancestor (beginning with the very first, Mario Bava's seminal BLACK Sunday ) and this one's no exception though, in its case, she emerges to be more of a victim (which, I guess, is what the title is ultimately alluding to). Having mentioned Bava, while his one picture with Steele was the director's official debut, his swansong the fascinating (made-for-TV) THE VENUS OF ILLE (1978) actually shares much of its plot line with AN ANGEL FOR Satan! Indeed, here we also have the discovery of an ancient statue bringing a series of calamities upon a small community consumed by superstition and where the blame is placed at the doorstep of newly-arrived Lady of the Manor Steele (since the figure was made in the image of her forebear).
An interesting (if unlikely) twist is that the woman of the past played by Marina Berti who, jealous of Steele's popularity with the menfolk, had tried to destroy the statue but tumbled down along with it into the river beneath also has a like-minded i.e. vindictive descendant (her ultimate fate, then, emerges to be predictably ironic). That said, the narrative makes it seem at first as if the old Berti has taken possession of the new Steele until hero Anthony Steffen (the sculptor entrusted with restoring the icon) uncovers the whole scheme which also sees Steele's current guardian (Claudio Gora), enamored of Berti, involved (hypnotizing his charge into committing nefarious deeds so as to elicit the ire of the townspeople who, in getting rid of the girl, would make him legal proprietor of the estate!). Steele, in fact, is made to turn heads yet again particularly those of the more gullible members of the community: village idiot, shy schoolteacher, his equally naïve girlfriend(!) and who also happens to be Steele's own personal maid, and the town strong-man. She seduces all (often by casually taking off her clothes in their presence though we see next to nothing, screen permissiveness having only just been broken with the likes of THE PAWNBROKER  and BLOW-UP ) and 'causes' them to act in extreme ways the first becomes a serial rapist/killer (on whom the villagers eventually turn en masse), the second commits suicide (in the classroom of all places!) as a result of the maid breaking off her relationship with him and the fourth sets fire to his own home (with the rest of the family still inside!).
By now, of course, Steele was well-versed in this type of role so, it's no surprise that she turns in a typically multi-layered performance (with her striking looks intact). However, she's matched by the brooding Steffen (later a regular of Spaghetti Westerns and Gialli) and, equally impressive is Francesco De Masi's evocative score (it's pure happenstance that several titles I've been watching in my ongoing "Euro-Cult" marathon bear his signature!).
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