Well, I've been needing a break for a while, so renown writer for SCREEM and Shock Cinema magazines, Greg Goodsell has volunteered to sit in for me on this pre-Xmas outing with a special presentation about Santa, I mean Satan, so Enjoy!!
Greg Goodsell here after a long absence --welcome to the nefarious BROTHERHOOD OF SATAN (1971), or as it was originally titled COME IN, CHILDREN. This is from the same people who brought you the sci-fi classic, A BOY AND HIS DOG in 1975. BROTHERHOOD, while a fascinating misfire -- is no classic. We’ll discuss further – Anyway, the legendary Jaime Mendoza-Nava composed this film’s chilling score – full of children’s choirs and such.
Here is one of the film's most original ideas: in a small California town, there is a rash of families being killed off, and it's being accomplished by all these satanically inclined children whose toys come to life and kill people! Check out this toy tank –
AAAAAH! It suddenly becomes real and crushes a husband and wife to death trapped in their car! Their pleas of distress are profoundly disturbing, and almost too much to bear!
After the once-proud nuclear unit is crushed into pate, these evil kids scoop up the toy, since reduced to normal size! If you want to unnerve a motion picture going audience, one fail-proof thing always works! Take some squirmy, hyper-active kids and make them stand perfectly stock still! Need we cite examples? THE SHINING, WHO CAN KILL A CHILD, VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED –
Here we go, another quasi-perfect nuclear unit -- it's only semi-perfect because the father is not married to his girlfriend, and he has a precocious little girl from a previous marriage who loves to play pranks on them -- dripping strawberry Snow-Cone on them with everyone thinking it's drops of blood at first! Ha! Keep that in mind for the later gore scenes!
HA! Yes, BROTHERHOOD OF SATAN is firmly in the genre of "evil kids" movies -- THE BAD SEED, THE OMEN and ORPHAN. Everyone secretly admires an especially wicked child, it seems.
Dad finds the family crushed into kitty litter, and so must alert the authorities –
And who should the voice of the law be but the illustrious character actor L. Q. JONES? Jones is best known for his work with director Sam Peckinpah, and was the producer of this film. He got his actor friends Bernard McEveety to direct and Alvy Jones to act!
Whassup? Well, this small Californian town is suffering from a rash of family homicides and child abductions, and nobody knows what to do! Seeing as the town's law is comprised solely of Jones and a flunky, the killings continue! There's an even bigger problem now -- acting legend STROTHER MARTIN is the town's not-so kindly sawbones! "What we have here is a failure to communicate," indeed.
We switch straight away to two rotten kids at play in a yard. They're up to no good!
The kids then say grace with their clueless parents, who are unaware that God has turned His back to them and their town.
Here we go again; the girl's doll comes to life and throttles mom and dad! This murder scene, unlike the one with the tank, is not very well done! After the dolly kills ma and pa, it sheds a tear! What does it all mean, other than making for an odd, arresting image?
A-HA! The town's oldsters are secretly conducting Black Masses, grasping candles from hooded figures and declaring, "Nothing that I have is not thine!" Could it be ... I don't know -- SATAN?
Yes, it's all a part of an evil scheme of the town's senior citizens to regain their youth! The group here is the most persnickety group of Satanists since 1968's ROSEMARY'S BABY, from which this movie stole more than a handful of ideas!
Nifty Mario Bava-esque scene involving fog and a churchyard.
With all the deaths and murder, a spare room in an office full of blocked ice serves as an impromptu morgue. The bloody bag at the top of this scene is presumably all that's left from the family in the car that was crushed at the beginning. BLECH!
Say you love Satan? Dame Alice, played by magnificent actress Helene Winston obviously didn't, as she allowed her grandchild to be baptized into Christianity and her coven is very nonplussed! Winston was brilliant in this production company's later A BOY AND HIS DOG!
In the words of Gomer Pyle, SURPRISE SURPRISE SURPRISE. Strother Martin is also the coven's leader! But you knew that all along, didn't you?
And here are all the little dears, assigned their own little alcove, awaiting soul transplantation.
In spite of being in the clutches of absolute evil, the town's children find time for some birthday cake and a lively party!
Uh-oh, the coven gets ready for the next phase!
Will the evil coven get its way? What do you think? Sorry gang, but Eegah!! And Tabonga! only grant me 22 stills out of a movie replete with striking image after striking image. Final analysis? BROTHERHOOD OF SATAN has top-drawer acting talent, superb photography, strangeness and atmosphere – but a lot of it falls surprisingly flat! The similar, but far lower-budgeted MESSIAH OF EVIL (1972) is more fondly remembered today as a result. Hey, you could do worse --