Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Devil Master (1977)

aka The Demon Lover

An aging Iron Maiden fan named Laval Blessing (Christmas Robbins, only lacking the facial hair to be truly deserving of his first name) lives in a tower he likes to call a castle deep in the woods. Laval has his own little coven of Satanist friends coming over for regular meetings and very much hopes they'll some day call him master.

When he proposes a nice little orgy to end everyone's virginity, and the channeling of everyone's awesome power through the trigger of his "gun", his people rebel, supposedly out of fear that he actually means "virgin sacrifice" when he says defloration and anger about his dominant personality, although I suspect the truth of the matter is that they have just realized Laval has a tent in his bedroom and that when he says "gun", he means his penis.

Be that as it may, as soon as his theoretical minions leave him, never to return, a naked woman teleports in to let herself be used in a magickal ceremony. Santa ClausChristmas manages to summon a guy in a gorilla costume with a horned mask with red, glowing eyes who screeches something about killing.

Soon, the traitorous coven members are indeed being killed, some by being filmed with a very shaky camera and doing some enthusiastic shaking themselves, some by murdering each other, others by letting the gorilla goat throttle them.

An irascible cop named after artist Frank Frazetta (Tom Hutton)- although he's called Tom - shouts at people and gets angry, Laval trains his karate, Laval gets into a bar brawl, women have a whipped cream fight (so that's what women do when no pillows are around?), random stuff happens, someone has a quarrel shot into his crotch. Finally, everybody dies, The END.

If I can believe the IMDB and the evidence of my eyes, then The Devil Master is an early work by the impressive and wonderful Donald G. Jackson, filmed half a decade before the man became obsessed with frog people and the future of rollerskating after the apocalypse (see films like Hell Comes to Frog Town, Roller Blade, Roller Blade Warriors).

It already shows the same mix of high enthusiasm and comical incompetence that makes his other films so endearing. The Devil Master is possibly even more fun than his later films, for where those are usually marred by having moments of competence or sudden appearances of actors who are only frighteningly amateurish instead of total amateurs, this is the pure, undiluted stuff of Roger Ebert's nightmares.

Nothing here is well done, fits, or makes sense, there's not a single moment in which the film works like normal films do. It is truly gloriously inept, full of badly framed sequences, odd editing, noodly music, mumbled dialogue, beautiful randomness and awesomely cramped sets.

What the movie never is, is boring. Nothing of what's going on might make any sense to you or me or look like a real movie to the film critic down the block, but there is always something going on to keep the rightminded viewer interested, sudden glances into a place and time where all the nonsense contained here would suddenly start to make sense and where Christmas would be a star, bouts of laughter brought about by the magic that happens when regular people suddenly make their own movies.

And to think that Jackson somehow managed to make a career out of it! Ours surely must be a better world than we might think. Special cinematic artifacts like this are proof for everyone who cares to see.


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