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Satanis: The Devil's Mass (1970)

 -  Documentary  -  March 1970 (USA)
5.7
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Isaac Bonewits ...
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Anton LaVey ...
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March 1970 (USA)  »

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Succubus  »

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Anton LaVey: It seems that most religions now are buying oats for a dead horse.
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Featured in Charles Manson Superstar (1989) See more »

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Superficial curio from the early days of the Church of Satan
19 December 2013 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

In 1966, a one-time circus lion-tamer Anton Szandor LaVey founded The Church of Satan in San Francisco and grandiosely announced the age of Satan had begun, an age that would celebrate the carnal instincts in man, and would be characterized by the mantra of "indulgence instead of abstinence". Although a media non-entity since the early nineties, at the time, the fledging Church shocked and scandalized as much as it bemused and confused…and this was in no small part to LaVey's charisma, showmanship, and effective mixing of blasphemy (compounded in 1968 with the publication of 'The Satanic Bible') and of horror B-movie imagery which left many asking if it was just a racket, a reason to get naked for it's largely well-to-do white middle-class membership, or indeed had darker aspirations.

However, this documentary in choosing to sacrifice the weightier aspects of the Church to the titillating nude alters and B-movie lighting offers such a superficial treatment that for those for whom "Satanis" is their introduction to LaVey and the Church, the reaction of snide dismissal is totally understandable. The documentary is basically composed of three strands: talking heads of neighbours (both sympathetic and antagonistic) and Church members; extended scenes of Satanic rituals; and interviews with LaVey. The ritual scenes begin as interesting but quickly become stale and interminable and (most boringly) designed to titillate…a theme which re-emerges when members of the Church discuss sex and masturbation and, despite supposedly being advocates of the flesh liberated from Judeo-Christian conceptions of shame, giggle like pathetic teenagers (something which visibly irks LaVey as he tries to talk). In the end the only interesting pieces of the documentary (few and far between) are the interviews with LaVey himself as he waxes lyrical on the tenets of his Church with an energy and enthusiasm he would lose in later years, something evident in the still-patchy-but-much-better later documentary "Speak of the Devil" (www.imdb.com/title/tt0183811/reviews-4).

All in all, I would only recommend "Satanis" to people who are already acquainted with the Church of Satan and want to get a feel of what the first few years must have been like as to those coming to the Church for the first time would be forgiven for not seeing the nuances and complexities inherent in the organization. I recommend the documentary "Speak of the Devil" for its more mature approach and focus on LaVey himself but for those really seeking knowledge on the Church I recommend the authoritative and comprehensive book "The Church of Satan" by Michael Aquino available to download for free. Shemhamforash indeed.


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