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Film / Daughters of Satan

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Daughters of Satan is an American B-Movie filmed—and, rarely, actually set—in the Philippines around the early 1970s, coming out in 1972. A campy, over-the-top, Gothic Horror Exploitation Film, it's primarily known for being the vehicle of a then-unknown Tom Selleck (his iconic moustache already making an appearance however). It also stars several veterans of Filipino cinema, for instance, Paraluman, a locally famous mestiza (Mixed Race) leading lady from The '50s.

Tom Selleck stars as art collector James "Jim" Robertson, on assignment in Manila to complete a collection for his employers in New York, when he stumbles upon a strange painting of a witch-burning, whose central model bears an eerie resemblance to his wife Chris (Barra Grant). Thinking it would make for an interesting conversation piece, he buys it, but understandably she's freaked out. Then Doppelgangers of the other represented characters show up in quick succession: a housekeeper applies to their home who resembles one of the other witches in the painting, then a black dog arrives who's also represented in it, and then Jim's psychiatrist friend turns out to have a patient who resembles the third witch. And all that's just the beginning of all the strangeness …

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The movie can be found here, for free, online.


Tropes:

  • The '70s
  • Ambiguously Christian: Chris is said to be a devout Catholic, Jim claims she hears "mass every day" (his exact words), but in this famous bastion of Catholicism in Asia, she's never even seen once in a church, and not even a home altar is shown in the house she and Jim live in (a common feature of houses built in the Philippines, even until today in many cases). About the only concession she actually makes to the religion is her sometimes wearing a metal crucifix. It seems the description is just set-up for contrast when she's lured away by Juana and Kitty to (re)join their coven; her Catholic obeisance really only comes out when she's suddenly reluctant when forced to spit on another crucifix.
  • Burn the Witch!: The subject of the Creepy Changing Painting that Jim buys for Chris. It depicts three witches being burned at the stake (in rather stereotypical fashion) in front of the San Agustin Church in Intramuros, Manila. Chris remarkably knows about the exact event it's portraying: the burning of the Duarte Coven in Intramuros in 1592 (interestingly, exactly a century before the Salem witch trials).
  • Cool Car: Jim drives a red-hot (and literally red) hotrod, and a top-down one too. The camera follows it for much of the opening credits.
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    • Psychiatrist Dr Vicente Dangal drives a sleek 1960s Mercedes sedan. Those were a common consumer car among middle-class Filipinos in the late 20th century.
  • Creepy Housekeeper: Juana Rios, who resembles the witch being burnt to the left of the Chris-Doppelgänger witch.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Jim Robertson is introduced driving his flaming-red convertible through crowded—and potentially crime-ridden—inner Manila, trusting a watch-your-car boy to park it out in the open, and quickly identifying a fake copy of an old medieval tapestry.
  • Dirty Old Man: The wizened little undertaker or embalmer running the funeral parlour at 666 Calle Revolución. He photographs the Drop Dead Gorgeous corpse of the young woman he's currently working on, and he's singing some kind of slow but Bawdy Song when Jim accosts him.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto:
    • How Vicente is killed, though it happens offscreen; Kitty chases or follows him in the dead of night till he gets onto a bridge that appears to be out, with a "Do Not Enter" sign torn down. An explosion lights up the darkness in the near horizon; it's never shown if he drove off an unfinished bridge or crashed into something else.
    • It's hard to resist trashing such a Cool Car as Jim's red-hot convertible. Even though nothing happened to set any of its parts on fire, it goes down in literal flames down a cliff—supposedly with Jim inside, where Kitty and Juana left him to die (he survives—but for how much longer?).
  • Familiar: The three witches in the painting are being burnt along with a black dog, which serves as this. In The Present Day, the Jim-hating black dog Nicodemus likewise serves as this for the witches' modern incarnations: Chris, Juana, and Kitty, the psychiatrist's other patient.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: At the very start of the film the "Treasures of the Orient" shop has the street number 666. This becomes an important plot point later.
  • Hope Spot: Jim escapes being sent crashing to a certain death as his car careens off a cliff, as Juana and Kitty planned. He ends up getting back to Chris—who in the final shot literally stabs him in the back while they embrace.
  • Identical Grandson: It turns out Jim looks exactly like, or very similar to, his Spanish conquistador ancestor (with English or Irish blood) overseeing the witch burnings.
  • The Ingenue: Chris, to an extent.
  • Latin Land: The witch-burning painting clearly alludes to Manila's Spanish-colonial and Catholic-influenced history, depicting its three witches guarded by stereotypical conquistadores and burning in front of a very obviously Catholic church (and one that actually exists in Real Life—it's the San Agustin cathedral in Intramuros, the one church in the Walled City which actually survived World War II intact).note 
    • In addition, most if not all of the named Filipino characters have typically Spanish given names (e.g. Vicente, Carlos, Juana). (Interestingly the name of Paraluman's character, Juana Rios, sounds more stereotypically Mexican than Filipino, since many Filipino natives were as likely to have native- or Chinese-derived surnames as Spanish-derived ones; case in point, Vicente's surname, Dangal, is Tagalog in origin.)
  • Number of the Beast: The address on Nicodemus' collar: 666 Calle Revelación … or at least that's how Jim and Chris read it. Jim is first led to 666 Calle Revolución—but that's a different address; in The Present Day of the early 1970s, the actual Calle Revelación has been renamed to Gen. dela Peña Street. And, surprise surprise, 666 Gen. dela Peña is the address of none other than the Treasures of the Orient shop, where Jim bought the Spooky Painting in the first place.
    • 666 Calle Revolución is no Red Herring though. The undertaker or embalmer running it is actually making a coffin with Jim's name on it (literally, as in it's labelled "James Robertson: 1943-1972"), and he's in the crowd at Chris' Satanic initiation.
  • Spooky Painting: Chris is reasonably freaked that someone painted a likeness of her being burnt to death in a 370-year-old painting. The stare on her likeness' face is creepy enough.
    • Creepy Changing Painting: The black dog at Chris' feet—ahem, the middle witch's feet—in the painting slowly vanishes. Jim quickly notices, being an art connoisseur who would know that a 370-year-old oil wouldn't just suddenly have parts of it start fading within days of purchase. Later we see it's not just the dog—all the witches vanish from the painting whenever they're out and about at night, and return when they're inactive.

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