BLOOD ORGY OF THE SHE-DEVILS (1973)

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DVD REVIEW: BLOOD ORGY OF THE SHE-DEVILS / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: TED V. MIKELS / SCREENPLAY: TED V. MIKELS / STARRING: LILA ZABORIN, LESLIE MCRAY, TOM PACE, VICTOR IZAY / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW

Don't get too excited, this cheapo effort from exploitation director Ted V. Mikels doesn't really live up to its title. There's a bit of go-go dancing by acolytes in designer swimwear, but it's not what you'd call an orgy. As for the She-Devils, they're basically your typical California girls circa 1973, in miniskirts and knee boots, except that they happen to attend the seances of a certain Mara (Zaborin), a medium with a beehive hairdo.

Convening at her large and gloomy house (actually Mikels' own Moroccan-style castle in Glendale), they are suitably impressed when Mara channels a Native American spirit guide (“You no cross water on big shiny bird,” she advises one lady who's thinking of flying to Europe). But there's much more to Mara than that – she also has a nifty way with a voodoo doll. She's hired by some shifty foreigners to murder an ambassador to the United Nations, but then her employers make the mistake of double-crossing her and it's time to dip deeper into her spellbook.

Otherwise, Blood Orgy of the She-Devils is virtually plotless. Curious about the goings on in the house, seance attendee Lorraine (McRay) and her boyfriend Mark (Pace) consult a tame professor (Izay), and they spend ages sitting around on sunloungers discussing the history of witchcraft. Mikels apparently devoted two years to researching the film, and it's rammed with arcane lore. The mood is slow, deliberate, earnest, and most of the time it seems to take itself so very, very seriously it feels like it's been made by people who genuinely buy into all this stuff.

There are other times, though, when it seems like a leg-pull – especially during the naff flashback sequences (one of the services Mara offers is regression hypnosis to an earlier life). There's a witch burning in which you can see that the flames are about 20 feet in front of the actress, and in another sequence 17th century peasants drag a woman across a 20th century patio on her way to be stoned. (Mikels could afford to live in a castle but he wouldn't stump up for a few decent flashbacks?) Meanwhile, it's growing late and the professor, Lorraine and Mark are still chatting, now over dinner, and you start to wonder if they might be engaged in some kind of ménage a trois...

Yet for all its ropeyness, there's something haunting and weighty about this little film. The very fact that it seems more interested in providing an instruction manual on black magic than delivering thrills and spills adds to its sneaking sense of authenticity, and Lila Zaborin, in particular, seems to believe every word she's saying. This DVD transfer is pillarboxed and murky, but it comes with an enjoyable audio commentary by the very folksy-sounding Mikels.

Extras: Audio commentary / Trailer / Notes and gallery

  


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