The Touch of Satan
is a 1971 horror film. It was directed by Don Henderson, and it starred Michael Berry and Emby Mellay in their only roles. The film was shot in 1970 in the Santa Ynez, California area and featured the early work from makeup artist Joe Blasco. The film was relatively obscure until a 1998 appearance (this episode
) on the series Mystery Science Theater 3000
, where the film was mocked for its low budget and bad acting.
The movie begins with the murder of a farmer by an elderly insane woman with terribly burned facial features. After stabbing the farmer and accidentally setting his barn on fire, the woman stumbles home to her family. The family, an older couple and a young teenage woman, argue about the best way to handle the situation and make vague references that the elderly woman may have killed people in the past.
The scene then switches to the main character, a young man named Jodie who is on an open-ended car trip across America to find himself and discover whether or not he wishes to follow in his father's footsteps as a lawyer. Jodie stops at a small pond to have lunch and meets Melissa, the teenage girl from the previous scene.
Tropes used in this film:
- Amazing Freaking Grace: A perfectly appropriate witch-burning song and note that it's used four times in total.
- Ax-Crazy: 'Grandma.'
- Burn the Witch!: Yup, played straight. In mid-1800s California, no less. They also seem to have the plague in these parts.
- To be fair, the plague bacteria exists in southern California, and there have been a few isolated outbreaks. Nothing big enough to cause a witch hunt over, however.
- Cassandra Truth: Even when she tells him point blank, even when she gives him a dream of the past, even when the people Melissa's living with agree with her, Jodie refuses to believe Melissa's a witch. This may have something to do with the fact that Jodie isn't exactly a physics professor.
- Cool Car
- Deal with the Devil
- Devil but No God
- Downer Ending
- Embarrassing Middle Name: Jodie doesn't care for his middle name, Lee, very much, if the one time he talks about it is any indication. For some reason he's okay with his girly first name, but doesn't like his perfectly normal middle name. Could be spelled "Leigh" for all we know, though.
- Bearing in mind that Jodie was originally a boy's name, and didn't become popular for girls until much later.
- Failed A Listen Check: In the flashback scene, we hear an Angry Mob marching on the house while chanting "Burn the witch!" Melissa actually asks her father "What is it?" multiple times, to which Crow responds "It's a mob chanting 'Burn the witch!' Have you no comprehension skills at all?!"
- Hey, It's That Guy!: Directed by Billy Jack and featuring the main hick from Giant Spider Invasion in a supporting role.
- It's never been confirmed that it really was the same Tom Laughlin. This movie isn't under his filmography on IMDb and he's understandably not owning up to it if it really was him.
- I Have Many Names: "I am a friend and companion of the night. I rejoice in spilled blood and the baying of dogs. I wander among shades and tombs. I am Gorgo, and Mormo, of the thousand-faced moon."
- I Have Many Voices, too. The devil specifically speaks to people using their own voice.
- Insane Equals Violent: The "great grandmother" of Melissa really has no reason for murdering other than this.
- Ironic Echo Cut: At the start of the movie, a farmer being killed transitions to Melissa and her family laughing pleasantly. Presumably, inverting the trope was the intent.
- Madwoman in the Attic: A literal example of this trope.
- Malaproper: "See, the way I got it figured, this job was done by one of them fromokaidal maniacs, and we ain't got none of them around here"
- Tom: Is that right? I should check my dictionotomy.
- May-December Romance
- Never Mess with Granny: By Jodie's math (which places Melissa at 127 years old), Lucinda may be the oldest woman alive, or indeed to ever live. She commits two murders over the course of the movie, and is implied to have killed several times before.
- No Immortal Inertia
- Older than They Look: Melissa and her family.
- Just Melissa. Her "parents" are actually her great-grandchildren(?). Lucinda is about 130 years old, and actually looks it
- Product Placement: Crow: Suddenly I feel like having some CARNATION ICE CREAM!
- Public Domain Soundtrack: Amazing Grace
- Real After All: A rather stupid example as the whole movie is spent making it out as if the family is just insanely religious and aren't able to realize that Lucinda is just mentally unstable. Then it's abruptly revealed that Melissa and Lucinda really are witches and the Devil gets involved out of nowhere as Melissa is being burned at the stake. Her sister turns out even worse, and takes her revenge on every person every opportunity she gets.
- Shout-Out: To H.P. Lovecraft in the I Have Many Names speech above.
- Then Let Me Be Evil: Melissa and her sister are accused of being witches. In the process of burning them, Melissa's call is answered by Satan, and she becomes an actual witch who curses all the people who would burn her.
- Torches and Pitchforks
- Unfortunate Names
- Zettai Ryouiki: Melissa rocks the 70's tiny skirt and gogo boots variation for her trip into town. Sadly, she trades this in for a strange "Buckskin Bill" type outfit soon after.