This pretty dumb horror movie concerns some hokum about devil worshippers – something of a current fascination at the time the film was made.
Jonathan Corbis (Ernest Borgnine) – all gussied up in a religious red robe like Little Red Riding Hood in drag, and behaving like a nun on speed – is the leader of the cult whose roots go back 300 years.
He’s on the trail of a certain book that was stolen from him three centuries ago. Without it, he cannot deliver souls to Satan.
The current owner, Mrs Preston (Ida Lupino), becomes his latest victim. Her husband is already lost, but one of her sons, ESP researcher Tom (Tom Skerritt) puts up a gallant fight with the help of his wife, Julie (Joan Prather) – who is given to flashback visions of Salem – and Dr Sam Richards (Eddie Albert).
Their showdown is staged in a ghost town where Corbis houses the vacant bodies of the various deceased Preston family members amongst his eyeless zombie followers.
Come the time of reckoning, the devil worshippers – including a young John Travolta – all melt into bubbling pools of orange and pistachio-coloured wax and foam (the makeup was provided by John Chambers, who worked his magic in Planet of the Apes).
Director Robert Fuest tries to shock with sudden views of ugly faces. It’s all very silly, and the acting is perfunctory with most of those involved – including Keenan Wynn and a pudgy Bill Shatner – sleepwalking from scene to scene.
There is a moderate amount of suspense. There is, though, no logical explanation for the “surprise” ending.
Dr Sam Richards