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 (yes, it really is accidental), 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.
- Ambiguous Situation: Who Luther and Molly are in relationship to Melissa and Lucinda is never revealed. It could be speculated that one of them may be the child or grandchild of either Lucinda or Melissa, but it is never confirmed.
- Ax-Crazy: Melissa's "grandma" Lucinda, actually her sister. It's implied she was already evil, but the burns she suffered pushed her over the edge.
- Burn the Witch!: Played straight. In mid-1800s California, no less. They also seem to have the plague in these parts.
- 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 very bright.
- Cool Car: Jodie's 1971 Ford Maverick with the Grabber package is pretty cool.
- Covers Always Lie: Despite the box art shown as this page's image, the movie does not contain an exorcism.
- Deal with the Devil: Melissa made one to save her sister, and Jodie makes one too at the end.
- Devil, but No God: At the very least, the Devil is a lot more active. He speaks out loud to people, makes deals with them, and grants them incredible magical powers and immortality. God, on the other hand, doesn't do much of anything, not even to save His people from the witches and their curse.
- Downer Ending: Melissa is finally freed from her enslavement to Satan after using the last of her magic to kill her murderous sister, but without the magic to keep her young she rapidly returns to her real age and nearly dies. Jodie sells his own soul in order to save her, thereby starting the whole thing over again.Servo: So... in the end, Satan wins, I guess.
Mike: Yep, pretty much a shut-out for Satan.
- 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.
- Failed a Spot 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 deductive skills at all?!"
- Fanservice: Melissa is quite fetching in her miniskirt and has goes topless in the un-MST'd film.
- Fourth Date Marriage: Not quite marriage, but Jodie's known Melissa all of a day, maybe two before he declares he loves her in spite of her belonging to the devil and subsequently sells his soul to keep her alive.
- Gender-Blender Name: Jodie prefers his first name over his more normally masculine middle name, Lee.
- I Have Many Names: I Have Many Voices, too. Satan speaks to people using their own voice.Devil: 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.
- 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, nearly. Lucinda doesn't live in the attic, but she is a madwoman usually shut up in her room.
- MalaproperGas Station Attendant: 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
- MayDecember Romance: Melissa is 127 years old, while Jodie is still a young man.
- 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: Melissa, after gaining salvation at the end of the movie, rapidly ages to her real age.
- Older Than They Look: Melissa. Her "parents" are actually her great-grandchildren (maybe, it's not made entirely clear). Lucinda is about 130 years old, and actually looks it
- Product Placement: It's almost certainly incidental, given the film's tiny budget, but when Jodie and Melissa visit the store, there's a large "Carnation Ice Cream" sign in the middle of the shot for a long time.
- Public Domain Soundtrack: Amazing Grace is re-used a lot.
- Real After All: 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 Lucinda is being burned at the stake.
- Shout-Out: The I Have Many Names speech above is a reference to H. P. Lovecraft's "The Horror at the Red Hook". The speech is paraphrased from an incantation used by Red Hook cult.
- Talking Is a Free Action: When Melissa makes her deal, the witch-hunting mob is right there listening to her conversation with the Devil, and don't do anything to stop it.
- 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:
- A mob like this is what sets off the whole generations-spanning curse, as Lucinda is nearly burned as a witch and Melissa sells her soul to save her.
- The mob is made out to be a bunch of unintelligent, superstitious boobs (by both the movie and Mike & the Bots)...even though Lucinda really is a witch, and the curses people are falling to were actually caused by her. So they're really not as irrational as they're made out to be.
- 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.