In the wake of Rosemary’s Baby, Satanists quickly became a common staple in horror movies. The Brotherhood of Satan was a creepy, low-budget chiller attempting to cash in on that trend when it was first released in 1971. Written and produced by L.Q. Jones, the story boils down to an ordinary family passing through a small town and ending up targeted by a coven of witches, bent on serving their infernal master. The Brotherhood of Satan is not an unknown gem waiting to be discovered, but interesting atmosphere surrounding the Satanic cult makes it kitschy horror entertainment for those prone to 1970’s nostalgia.
Ben Holden (Charles Bateman) is driving along with his young daughter, K.T. (Geri Reischl), and his current girlfriend, Nikki (Anna Capri), when a short series of events leads them to Hillsboro, a small town where they are misidentified as being responsible for several recent deaths. Attacked in the middle of the seemingly ordinary town by most of its citizens, the family gets in their car and escapes. On the outskirts of town trying to avoid an accident, their car is run off the road and breaks down. With nowhere else to go, the family heads back into town for help. It is a clunky sequence of events, mostly for the poor editing which hurts the coherence of the narrative in the first act.
The family learns the town has been having horrible problems in recent days, with 26 adults killed in the last 72 hours. What’s more, some supernatural entity (presumably the Devil) has been blocking anyone from entering or leaving the town in that period, and the family happens to be the only people to penetrate that barrier. The sheriff (L.Q. Jones) and a local priest quickly figure out all of the problems can be traced to a group of local Devil worshipers. The head of the Satanic cult is a local, Doc Duncan, played with relish by Strother Martin, best known for his role in Cool Hand Luke.
The Brotherhood of Satan actually improves once the audience is aware of what is going on in the town. Family members themselves do not make for compelling protagonists as they are largely uninteresting, but the atmosphere gets creepier when we meet the group of Satanists. The elderly coven apparently needs to sacrifice 13 children to the Devil to restore their own youth. Members of the coven practically look plucked straight from the set of Rosemary’s Baby. K.T. goes missing and her father attempts to play the hero, hoping to save her from the satanic sacrifice. It all adds up to a haunting conclusion that stays away from flashy effects, which probably helps the movie from appearing too dated for modern audiences. The best thing here is some of the hokey dialogue by the Satanists, delivered in earnest abandon.
No one will mistake The Brotherhood of Satan as a nuanced or well-crafted movie. Acting is uneven and the content is relatively tame compared to more recent movies in the genre. But, it is worth getting through the clunky opening act for the lively final act, ending on a conclusion that was likely more stunning when the movie was first released.
Mill Creek licensed The Brotherhood of Satan from Sony. In a couple of very positive developments, Mill Creek has found a surprisingly strong transfer for the 1971 movie and also appear to have changed the authoring house that handles their Blu-ray releases.
The 92-minute movie is presented in its proper aspect ratio of 2.35:1 at a full 1080P. The AVC-video encode sees bitrates I’ve never seen before on a Mill Creek product, often nearing 40 Mbps and rarely dipping below 20 Mbps. Needless to say, the video encode is completely transparent and reproduces the film’s grainy appearance without difficulty. This double-feature set has both movies on a single BD-50, but the lack of extras allows both movies plenty of space.
The master shows both positive and negative marks in the print, though it is fairly clean in appearance with no significant damage. The transfer is likely an older one made on a telecine. It has stable color saturation and contrast. Solid black levels are evident most of the time in the dark recesses of the cult’s lair. Colors are a touch warm, particularly on flesh-tones with their slight push towards magenta.
The image is largely film-like with few signs of edge enhancement or DNR. The noisy grain structure covers up much of the finest detail, this is not a film swimming in fabulous high-frequency content on close-ups. A moderate amount of softness creeps into the frame at times. If your expectations aren’t set too high for a low-budget horror movie made in 1970, Mill Creek has given The Brotherhood of Satan a terrific treatment.
The original mono mix is presented as a lossless 2.0 DTS-HD MA. It has modest fidelity with limited punch in the bass frequencies. The dialogue is always clear and intelligible, though somewhat soft in volume. There is a thin-sounding quality to the musical score and incidental uses of Pop music in the soundtrack. This is not prime demo material and the dated soundtrack offers only competent sound quality.
Mill Creek has provided optional subtitles in English and Spanish. Both are presented in a white font that remain partially outside the 2.35:1 frame of the film.
Mill Creek has provided no extra features of any kind on this double-feature Blu-ray.
Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For more information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.
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