Satanik, the big screen adaptation of the Italian comic book, is a good movie if taken on its own as it should be. Many like to compare it to Bava’s Diabolik film which had come out previously and sure, perhaps Satanik was trying to cash in a little on its release, but comparing the two is like apples and oranges. Diabolik is a far better picture and it of course had Bava directing and some might find it hard to separate the two, but this effort by Piero Vivarelli is an entertaining one and does manage to stand upon its own two legs despite any similarities.
The story of the film deals with an older woman named Marnie Bannister who is looking for a way to deal with her burns and scars. Being a doctor herself, though of what is never mentioned, she hopes that what her colleague has invented will be able to do so. When discovering that it does indeed, with a side of madness for good measure, she decides that it is worth the risk as she can no longer go on looking as she does. After murdering her friend and taking the substance, she transforms into a beautiful young creature as played by Magda Konopka whose homicidal tendencies have only just begun.
With more than a touch of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, it manages to be more thriller than horror and calling it as such is doing other films in the genre a disservice. Bannister’s actions might be horrific, but by no means nothing that has not been seen in many other movies of the time, before or since. There are some good makeup effects to be found in the film as Konopka transforms from old woman to young, yet when it came to the killings, there was little blood to be had. The costumes and clothing worn by the cast are colourful, especially that of Konopka’s, and firmly cements the movie in the Swingin’ Sixties which is not a bad thing. The locales look beautiful and the soundtrack by Romano Mussolini and Roberto Pregadio is perfectly suited to the events that take place on screen, yet at the end of the day, there is not enough story to make it overly compelling. There is the overall plot of Bannister wanting to stay young and doing whatever it takes, but little character development which is perhaps the film’s greatest weakness.
Suffice it to say, Satanik could have been so much more if the writing had been just a little stronger. Konopka was alluring enough that it was hard to take one’s eyes off of her, which was a smart bit of casting on the part of the filmmakers and essentially the entire point of the main plot and as such the film was better for her. Satanik may never be called a masterpiece, but it was if nothing else, a nice escape into another world.
3 out of 5