Imagine being so taken by a lady's stunning beauty that you lose interest in everything else and become so detached from your regular life that you don’t even feel like yourself anymore. According to the film “AN ANGEL FOR SATAN”, finding yourself under the favorable attention of such a seductive presence could cause you to neglect things you used to hold dear and ultimately suffer tragic consequences. In this movie, actress and legendary horror queen, Barbara Steele, plays a character that maliciously uses her otherworldly beauty and womanly charm to seduce and get into the heads of villagers, both men and women, causing them to commit regrettable and woeful deeds.
Set in the early 1900s in a superstitious backwater village, Camillo Mastrocinque’s AN ANGEL FOR SATAN is a compelling piece of Gothic horror, where atmosphere and mystery rule the day. Similar to some of her other movies, Steele plays a good and an evil role but this time as a single character with a dual personality. She spends the latter half of the film bouncing in and out of her evil side causing us to wonder if she is being possessed or just plain out of her mind. The reason behind the terror is ultimately explained in a fairly satisfying climax that I will in no way try to ruin.
The story follows sculptor Roberto Merighi (Played by Anthony Steffen from THE NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT OF THE GRAVE) travelling by boat to a small village, where he has been summoned to restore a statue discovered by a fisherman at the bottom of the lake. Roberto is a handsome gentlemanly type, who immediately attracts attention from some of the young female villagers when he arrives to the village’s shoreline. He is led through the village to a NIGHTMARE CASTLE, complete with a Count, servants, loads of elegant statues, and a pretty attractive maid named Rita. Victor, the gardener at the castle, is sort of like the village idiot, who has a few screws loose and has been put into an asylum several times, but he is described as supposedly harmless.
The village itself is of the highly superstitious type, with a legend regarding the statue of the lake that Roberto was hired to restore; a legend based on a tragedy that occurred 200 years before. For it is believed by the locals that damnation will befall the village if that statue is resurrected, yet Roberto doesn’t believe one word of it, and the Count believes it will be good for attracting publicity.
The curse doesn’t take long to manifest itself, as both of the boatmen who accompanied Roberto to town end up drowning in the lake. A tragic consequence of the curse, or could something else be involved?
The drowning at the lake is seen as a bad omen by the villagers, and naturally they start to have a serious dislike for Roberto’s presence and his statue restoration assignment. While Roberto is taking a load off at the local pub, Carlos, the strongest man in the village, attacks him and a fight scene ensues that feels like it could have been taken out of a western. After taking a beating and delivering one as well, Roberto stumbles out of the bar and comes across the village teacher, Dario, and learns that Carlos, the man who attacked him, is married with children and is normally a very nice man. Dario happens to be meeting Rita, the attractive maid from the castle, and it is revealed that the two are romantically involved.
Finally at 15 minutes into the movie, we get to meet Barbara Steele’s character; the count’s niece Harriet who is returning from being schooled in London for 15 years since the age of 5 and by inheritance is the rightful owner of the castle. The statue Roberto is working on has an apparent likeness to Harriet because the statue is of Harriet’s ancestor Madelina, and Harriet just so happens to have inherited her beauty and exact physical characteristics. Since Harriet has such a likeness to her ancestor, Roberto request that she pose for him so he can have an easier time restoring the statue. The posing session causes the two to get to know each other better, and romance ensues.
Later, while staying at the Count’s CASTLE OF BLOOD, Roberto awakens during a stormy night and is haunted by THE GHOST of Belinda, the cousin of Harriet’s ancestor Madelina. Belinda’s ghostly voice explains to Roberto the specifics of the legend and the statue and swears to Roberto that the return of Madelinda’s beauty in the likeness of Harriet has upset her restless soul.
A lot of talk, a little bit of action, some romance, and a bunch of jibber jabber about a cursed statue…. A lot will probably wonder when something is going to finally happen in this movie. Well get ready because it’s about to get insane!
With the origin of the curse explained, as well as the possible presence of Belinda’s vengeful ghost, the stage is now set for Barbara Steele’s character to undergo a demonic, deadly, and evil transition. As if being possessed by Belinda, Harriet turns into a scheming vixen who manipulates the minds of every vulnerable character. Any man’s weakness is a beautiful seductive woman, and the possessed Harriet takes full advantage of this fact. While brushing her LONG HAIR OF DEATH, Harriet is even able to seduce Rita, the maid, into completely shunning Dario, the school teacher, who she was madly in love with.
Harriet rides around on horseback, visiting and literally screwing with the heads of Dario, Carlos, and Victor. She sexually teases the once harmless Victor the village idiot, so much, that he ends up becoming a murdering rapist! Also, family guy Carlos is driven mad by her darkly flirtatious personality and is eventually driven to burn down his home while his family is still inside! Roberto plays the hero and risks his life to save one of Carlos’s daughters. After Roberto pulls the girl out of the fire, Carlos’s madness shifts to a deep regret when he catches sight of his own dying daughter, and in an emotional frenzy, Carlos rushes into the burning home as it comes crumbling down on him. If that isn’t heavy enough, humiliated and broken from his love, Rita, choosing to be with Harriet, Carlos, the village teacher, hangs himself in his own classroom! The next day the kindergarten kids arrive to school to witness what must surely be traumatic sight!
During all of this craziness, Roberto does manage to restore the statue and also has his fair share of Harriet’s bizarre behavior. Harriet even runs to her Uncle the Count and accuses Roberto of trying to rape her, while later she politely approaches Roberto as if nothing ever happened. It eventually becomes up to Roberto to uncover the reason for Harriet’s strange and malicious behavior. What he is to uncover is something no one could’ve predicted! This is more or less because it is very unlikely but was still enough to satisfy this viewer.
While Satan never makes an appearance, and I don’t recall any angels, AN ANGEL FOR SATAN still happens to be my favorite out of Barbara Steele’s movies; at least out of the ones I’ve seen. Any scene in which Steele is exhibited just demands the viewer’s attention. The ability to play a docile polite woman one moment and an intimidating vicious SHE BEAST the next was what made her famous in Mario Bava’s BLACK SUNDAY, and she takes that element to the next level in this one. A delicious and enjoyable sight she is, with that strangely beautiful face, those doughy (unblinking Innsmouth like) eyes, and Gothic presence that was just made to climb out of a coffin, again and again, amongst TERROR CREATURES FROM THE GRAVE! Barbara Steele reigns supreme!!!