Top 10 Appearances of Satan in Film

I was thinking about how cool Satan is the other day. Not the serious biblical version of Satan. The characterization of the Devil in movies. What makes a good movie devil? There are basically two different types you'll likely see in a movie he's featured in. There's the horror Satan. He's a really bad guy. Responsible for possession and the gnashing of teeth and whatnot. Then there's the bargaining Devil, Mephistopheles. He's much more charming, generally suave and disguises himself as the guy you'd least likely expect to steal your soul. Sometimes he doesn't even want your soul, occasionally he's just a teacher of very harsh lessons. I'm fascinated with the interpretations of Satan on screen. Can you think of a better Super Villain? It doesn't get much more intense then the Devil himself. So I decided to make an admittedly uneven list of my favorite appearances of Satan. There's still a lot I haven't seen. I feel almost foolish for not being able to list the Devil Rides Out or Vincent Price in the Story of Mankind. I sadly have not seen those films and probably a good portion of other classics. I made a point to make this list specifically personifications or embodiments of Satan. No Anti-Christs, no devil worshiping cults, no exorcism movies, none of that unless the big bad boss himself makes an appearance.

By the way, this whole blog is just full of SPOILERS. So if you don't want to know that characters you might not have known were actually Satan until the end of the movie, um...don't read this. You've been warned.

I had to leave a few off. Either I ran out of room or it didn't meet my strict standards. One flick I was very displeased for having to omit was Jan Svankmajer's 1994 esoteric rendition of Faust.

Having a list of Satan appearances without mentioning Faust is like writing an essay on Hell in literature and leaving out Dante's Inferno. It belongs here, yet it's overpowering elements of puppetry and animation went against the idea that Satan is personified. In this masterpiece, Satan speaks through strange dolls and marionettes. Faust Lesson is a notable entry to the genre and is easily my favorite take on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's monumental tale of man's thirst for knowledge versus his moral integrity.

On that note, let's get to the list! without further adieu...


Tim Curry in Legend (1985)

I figured I should go ahead and get this one out of the way for #10. I thought about leaving it off for something perhaps a little less obvious, but who am I trying to kid? I can't leave this guy off! Tim Curry was a bad ass Satan , or Lord of Darkness rather. He often refers to another entity as being higher than he. I always assumed that Darkness itself was actually "Satan" and he is just it's incarnate. I mean, he has his army of goblins kill unicorns for Christ's sake. He is one ugly dude, complete with horns, hooves and a big red face. Somehow still managing to look like Tim Curry. He's easily the coolest mainstream Satan. The only thing that's disappointing about him is that he is somehow defeated by Tom Cruise of all people. Ugh.


Charlie Davoa in the Killing of Satan (1983)

Possibly one of the most underrated b-movies of all time. This Satan is responsible for more nonsense and mayhem than any other on my list. The characters in this movie have a hard time trying to kill this Satan. His obstacles include laser blasting, boulder dashing and snake slapping. His bad ass sorcery has to be seeen to be believed <3


Anton Lavey in The Invocation of My Demon Brother (1969)

When it comes to the occult you can always turn to Kenneth Anger for delivering a shamelessly iconoclastic product. The Invocation of My Demon Brother is arguably Anger's best short, and certainly his crowning achievement of the hippie movement. The (roughly) 10 minute short features a colorful cast of characters for a movie with zero dialog. Mick Jagger (who also did the wonderful score), Keith Richards, Kenneth Anger himself, Bobby Beausoleil who would later that year be convinced of killing Gary Hinman under the orders of Charles Manson, and none other than the creator of the Church of Satan, Anton Lavey AS Satan himself. Lavey only made two film appearances (this and the Devil's Rain, in which he also played Satan). As a character, I find him unassailably cool, but then again you only see him for a brief moment in this film so his appearance doesn't warrant I higher spot on this list. I couldn't exactly NOT include him though could I?! That would be like not including an Aleister Crowley film appearance or the Devil himself. As you can see, he's dressed like what I can only assume inspired Francis Buxton's devil costume in the Pee Wee's Big Adventure. I like that he's more of a cartoonish devil than something dark and grim. Perhaps my standards are a bit skewed. As I said, I like Anton Lavey as a character and in pop culture. His song "Satan Takes a Holiday" is pure camp, and seeing him in this classic art house favorite was a real treat.


Tom Waits in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009)

I think we all thought it at one time or another. "Tom Waits should totally play Satan"...ok, maybe that was just me. It's always a delight to see Waits' film appearances, and this long awaited almost-didn't-happen Terry Gilliam film appeased my appetite in more ways than one. Waits plays the "devil on your shoulder" type in this one. He really doesn't seem like a bad guy at all, in fact I'd quite enjoy his company if Satan was really like this. In the end he appears to be more like Doctor Parnassus' friend than foe. That's why he's officially this lists nicest Devil, aw shucks :-)


Peter Cook in Bedazzled (1967)

Not all Satans are serious. Some are just down right delightful. In Bedazzled we're treated to Peter Cook's mischievous antics against a lovesick Dudley Moore. He's more of a whimsical prankster devil. At his hellacious factory he has a conveyor belt where new hit records are being delivered specifically for him to scratch and repackage. He's the "be careful what you wish for" kind of Devil as he takes the pussified Moore through a series of would-be fantasies gone awry. It's hard to imagine that the atrocious remake with Elizabeth Hurley sprung from the loins of this comedic masterpiece.


Jose Luis Aguirre ‘Trotsky’ in Santa Claus (1959)

      Once you've entered the world of cheesy Mexican kids movies, there's really no turning back. It's like making a pact with the devil in its own way. Anything with K. Gordon Murray's name attached to it is sure to be a riot. He's also responsible for Robot Vs. the Aztec Mummy, the Witch's Mirror not to mention a slue of mediocre sexploitation and El Santo movies. Add to the that, the UNfamous Rene Cardona being in the directors seat! Oh yeah, it just doesn't get better than this! "Pitch" is the bright red devil whose goal is to ruin Christmas for all the little boys and girls. I guess he's more of a minion of hell than thee actual Satan himself, but whadaya want?! For all intents and purposes he is a representation of the Devil. This movie is pure unbridled camp. Probably the plushiest movie in my Satanic roster from back when kids' movies really had something to offer and their makers had some balls!


   John Goodman in Barton Fink (1991)

      Leave it to the Cohens to insert a subtle (or not so subtle) average Joe kinda Satan in one of their bleak comedies. For the record, I'm new to Barton Fink. I only saw it this week and it was actually the inspiration for this entire list. Some people doubt that Goodman was Satan at all. I guess those people assume the hotel walls igniting into flame was just for dramatic effect? Or that his role defining quote "I'll Show You the Life of the Mind!" was just the ramblings of "Madman Mundt"? I think it's safe to say that this Faustian tale of selling ones soul to Hollywood is a bit more straight forward than that. John Goodman as Charlie Meadows falls under the likable Devil category. He's not bargaining for Barton's soul, he's just letting Fink's own arrogance lead the him down a path of misfortune, with a little extra push. In the end, Barton is trapped. Contractually shackled to Los Angeles and the broken existence of a fallen hack writer.

   Burgess Meredith in The Sentinel (1977)

      My love for Burgess Meredith may have made me a bit biased in bumping this entry to the #3 spot, but you know what? The ending of this otherwise mediocre film really shocked me! This is where that spoiler alert really comes into effect. When it's realized that the beautiful apartment our lady protagonist is living in is the gateway to Hell and that our sweet little old guy neighbor is actually the human manifestation of SATAN, I was literally floored. Consider my mind blown. I just love him and his charming face so much that I can't even begin to imagine him squashing a spider let alone being the Prince of Darkness. I don't have much to add other than "Holy Shit, I love Burgess Meredith"...

    Benjamin Christensen in Haxan:Witchcraft Through the Ages (1922)

      Perhaps the earliest and still one of the most frightening portrayals of Satanism, witchcraft and the occult to be put on film. Haxan is like a Goya painting come to life. No film has ever matched it's beauty and horror and there will likely never be anything that tops it in that respect. Benjamin Christensen wrote, directed and starred as the beast like Devil in this fantastic opus of science and story telling. It was banned in America for it's shocking portrayal of torture and sexual perversion, which even in the pre-code 1920's, was unheard of in decent film going society. The public was not ready for such graphic depictions of debauchery. I could see how it may have influenced directors such as Kenneth Anger whose themes of magick and ritual would still be considered controversial some 30-50 years later. Now Haxan is more than a cult classic, it's a legend and I whole heartedly consider it one of the greatest efforts ever emblazoned on film. The copy readily available now includes a score done by Jean-Luc Ponty and narration by William S. Burroughs. Can you think of anything more incredible? I raise my glass to Benjamin Christensen. Cheers.

   Danny Elfman in Forbidden Zone (1982)

It's been quite few years since I've even breached this subject and I'm fairly certain it's never been mentioned in this blog. Forbidden Zone is pretty much the movie that started it all for me. Being a dumb teenager with nothing more than a few slashers in her collection I somehow ended up with a vhs copy of Forbidden Zone. It changed everything. It heightened my standards of "weird movies", it opened up new doors as far as my musical taste goes and most of all it introduced me to a Pre-Tim Burton Danny Elfman.The entire film is a strange vaudevillian Alice in Wonderland inspired tale of a girl finding herself in the 6th Dimension. She falls in love with it's midget King, a dashing Herve Villechaize. Of course his Queen, the forever iconic Susan-fucking-Tyrell has something to say about that. The whole movie is like a lurid Max Fleischer cartoon come to life. The high light for me? Danny Elfman scored the film along with The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo. Before they were simply "Oingo Boingo" they were a traveling theater group, and Forbidden Zone was a way of capturing their monkeyshines on film. Danny Elfman plays the Satanic conductor of this mad circus. An image so vivid and profound that I painted it on my bedroom wall at my Dad's house...

This is obviously a choice made for very personal reasons. I basically orchestrated my entire taste in cinema around my fondness of Forbidden Zone. Danny Elfman's animated interpretation of the Devil made me want more of what I was seeing. Of course there's nothing quite like Forbidden Zone and there's no portrayal of Satan quite so jovial. That in itself if the primary reason he has earned the # 1 spot.

Danny Elfman encompassed what's unabashedly cool about the Devil. My point in writing this blog is not to say that evil is good and Godliness sucks. We need these characters in fiction to make movies interesting. Whether they're monstrous or funny, the caricature of Satan isn't something to be feared, it's something to be embraced. As the Ultimate Super Villain or the ultimate Irony. Satan's infamy is a powerful archetype in the realms of there cinematic stratosphere. He reminds us of our own humanity. Despite your religion or lack there of, the image of Satan is alarming. In any culture El Diablo is recognizable, and we can't help but be reminded of our own morality and death. I think that's why so many people are uncomfortable talking about Satan and everything that he represents. It's not really about facing him its about facing ourselves and our choices in life.

Well that pretty much sums it up! I hope you enjoyed my list. I know there's a lot not included here. Maybe this will be annual thing I post around Easter? In the meantime, what are some of your favorite on-screen Devils?


Fantastic Argoman (1967)

I’ve been trying to make my rounds through the extensive list of 60’s super criminal essentials for a while but I somehow always managed to miss this one.  It was unavailable for years so you can imagine my shock and delight upon discovering a copy at Best Buy of all places in an inexpensive set with three other Foreign Super Hero titles. Argoman is a psychic super criminal/anti-hero who often uses his powers to steal priceless relics. He also forces women to come to his secluded love island telekinetically for sex. He feeds them radioactive cigarettes just in case he needs to track them with his geiger counter ring. It’s also brought to our attention that he loses his powers for six hours after sex.

Argoman is actually Sir Reginald Hoover, a wealthy Bruce Wayne-alike playboy (fully equipped with a trusty butler). When he’s stealing treasure or fighting crime he cloaks himself in one of the most phenomenal Super Hero costumes I’ve ever seen! An obvious rip-off of Cyclops from the X-Men comic which had been in circulation for 4 years before Argoman was made. The private investigator who’s always on Argoman’s trail was as if David Niven had been cast to play Inspector Clouseau.

His nemesis a drop dead gorgeous megalomaniac named Jenabelle, the future Queen of Everything.  She steals the world’s largest diamond with plans of using it as a powerful laser to create mass destruction. Only Argoman and his magical powers of the mind can put a stop the mad woman and her army of robots.

Fantastic Argoman is set apart from other European Super Criminals and Super Heroes from the 60’s. Unlike Kriminal or the Three Fantastic Supermen, he has magical powers! That adds a different dimension to his ass kicking ability. I also found Fantastic Argoman to be one of the most stylish of these films, alongside Danger: Diabolik . The big difference being, Fantastic Argoman hasn’t had the same kind of restoration treatment. It’s definitely a diamond in the rough. This release is so ghetto you can actually see tracking warbles which means it was taken from a VHS dub. I’m just happy to have found a copy! The score was by Piero Umiliani which creates a perfect retro atmosphere along with the futuristic set design. 

 This movie has a very comforting  rhythm.  It has the makings of a cult classic. It’s a shame more people aren’t familiar with it. Hopefully with its recent release, mediocre as the quality may be,  it will get a little more attention. It’s a great little slice of camp and has the Atomic Caravan seal of approval.


The Doll Squad (1973)

The second part of a Tura Satana double feature, the Doll Squad is in stark contrast next to Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!. Bearing only Miss Satana's appearance as a similarity. Although they both star groups of women who are supposed to be tough. I can promise you right now, where as Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! will makes you admire the all powerful woman, the Doll Squad will leave you questioning the female comprehension capacity. More than likely it speaks of the difference between Russ Meyer and Ted V. Mikels directing abilities. Not to say I didn't like it, but Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! is just a tough act to follow!

The story follows a secret agent by the name of Sabrina Kincaid. She's so dainty and well put together. She's also a vessel of ass-kicking, or so they would have us think. A super villain has blown up a rocket ship on it's way to outer space just to prove he can. It's up to Sabrina and her ragtag team of bad ass bitches to find the culprits and put a stop to any future disasters that may happen. Come to find out the bad guy is Sabrina's ex-boyfriend, Eamon O'Reilly, and he's started his own little community on an island to prepare for future world domination. How is he going to do it you ask? By spreading the bubonic plague of course. Yes, the now incredibly easy to cure Black Death.

Our lady of the hour, Tura Satana plays one of the girls in the Doll Squad. She has less than five lines. She should have played Sabrina Kincaid. Francine York was a little too mommy-like to be a believable hard ass. Half of the amusement value of this film is because of how unbelievably inept the Doll Squad is. Not to mention their devilishly handsome counterpart, Eamon O'Reilly, played by Michael Ansara who was in Day of the Animals, the Manitou and did the voice for Mr. Freeze on Batman the Animated Series. He's equally as incompetent, but does so with a wink, a smile and sweaty armpits.

I can't make up my mind about the Doll Squad. It had some truly hysterical moments, and the way Mikels' creates explosions (especially of people) is one of the greatest things I've ever seen. Still, it does have the curse of dragging a bit in the middle. If I owned a copy and could give it a quick once over to get my own stills I'd probably have a little more to say about it. This is my second experience with a Ted V. Mikels film. The first being The Corpse Grinders in my teens, right when my obsession for schlock cinema was peaking. I remember very little about it other than being disappointed. At that point I was mainly taking in Lloyd Kaufman and Herschell Gordon Lewis movies. I wasn't ready for something as guttural as The Corpse Grinders. As far as the Doll Squad goes, it was an over all pleasant ride. Glad I met Sabrina and the gang. I've yet to find my place in Ted V. Mikels trashy world of cinema. Then again, I haven't seen Astro Zombies yet. Until then I'll just have to ride the medium on this one.

Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965)

It’s no secret that Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! is one of the greatest movies of all time. That’s an indisputable fact. It’s been praised for decades for its quick witted dialogue, shoe string budget and of course it’s cast of well endowed beauties. Russ Meyer somehow became infamous for exploiting women. That couldn’t be less true.  I think when people see big breasted women it’s automatically assumed that you’re in for some kind of male fantasy. It could also be falsely assumed that you’re dealing with a casting couch director when in reality his wife, whom he was devoted too, did much of the casting and even had personal friendships with the girls. Meyers’ films are always surprisingly refreshing in their portrayal of women. Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! is the most outstanding example of this. Three amazononian towers of womanhood who drive fast cars, do what they want, take what they want and still embrace their femininity.  

In case you’re one of the sad few who hasn’t been exposed to this masterpiece Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! is about three go-go dancers who are driving through Mojave desert  presumably moving on to the next town to start a new gig at a new club. They stop for a break and run into a young couple passing through. The leader of the pack, Varla, played by the late Tura Satana feels threatened by the young man’s hot rod and claims of speed so she challenges him to a race.  She wins, by cheating, then kills him with her bare hands. They take his little bikini clad girlfriend hostage and move on. While stopping for gas, the attendant tells Varla about a local family of three men. The father being a crippled recluse with a hoard of money hidden somewhere on his ranch, and his two sons that take care of him. Of course, Varla, being the greedy conniving villain that she is cooks up a scheme to raid the farm and steal the money. A deserted junkyard is the setting for the events to lead up to the explosive climax. Billie, the blonde who's only interested in being fun and fancy free. Rosie whose unadulterated devotion and passion get her nothing but pain and the ruthless Varla who you can’t help but root for, CONSTANTLY.The old man is played by none other than Russ Meyer alumni  Stuart Lancaster. He always brings a healthy serving of awesome to Meyers’ films, especially in this one with lines like Women! They let 'em vote, smoke and drive – even put 'em in pants! And what happens? A Democrat for president!”. He and Varla work well as opposing forces. Both wicked, both killers - essentially the same only put in very different packages.

All of Russ Meyers’ films have and will continue to strike debate amongst its viewers. While many will never see past the enormous breasts there’s much more at work here. Despite his on-the-nose writing, clever editing and cartoonish sex and violence, there’s a basic foundation of womanly prowess. We’re usually seeing the world through the eyes of these amazing women, and in the rare occasion that a man is the star of one of his movies, they’re usually very emasculated and viewed as nothing more than a quickie to these stoic figures of female perfection. Like an R. Crumb comic where his feeble little self portraits are cowering at the waist side of a buxom dominatrix. Russ Meyer had a way at with women. He obviously admired them, and when we worked with them, he turned them into goddesses. Take Tura Satana for example. An unusual half Japanese beauty who was actually a go-go dancer when they met, he worked with her and helped her become the iconic image of savage womanhood that made her famous. And sadly, the rest of her body of work pales in comparison.

Meyers created giants. Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! portrayed women in a way that the world hadn’t really seen before. Touching upon pill popping, female aggression, unbridled sex as POSITIVE subject and lesbianism, not to mention Varla’s subtle way of calling Tommy a fag for not wanting to race her. Sure, there had been a few juvenile delinquency and girl gang movies in the 40’s and 50’s, all much weaker examples of this lurid creation. It could be said that these elements had been shown before, but keep in mind, this was not a propaganda film! This was as straight forward as it gets.

I had the pleasure of recently catching a screening at the legendary New Beverly Cinema. It was glorious to see this classic in its natural 35mm state. The theater was packed with people, everyone loved it, and the audience was laughing together as one entity. It’s a very nice feeling. The best part? I just happened to be sitting next to Haji who did a Q&A after the show. Yes. I repeat, I sat next to Haji during a screening of Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! 

Also speaking was Richard Brummer, who did the sound editing on the film and worked with Meyers throughout his career. I was also pleased to find out that he was Fredric Hobbs’ editor! As you may know, I’m a huge fan of Hobbs who’s (in)famous for Godmonster of Indian Flats and Alabama’s Ghost. During one (or both) of my reviews I made a connection between Russ Meyer and Fredric Hobbs' styles. I'm happy to learn that my connection wasn't made in vain! Richard Brummer also named the film “Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!”! A title so great it warrants THREE exclamation points! I think he’s definitely earned the Atomic Caravan award for “OMFG. SO AWESOME!”. Check out his IMDB profile. His credentials are all over the place.

It’s hard to talk about a film like Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!. What can you say that hasn’t already been said? I’m amongst a large group of people who see this film as a masterpiece. As time goes on it seems to find a broader and broader audience. It’s as socially relevant now as it was in 1965 and the jokes are every bit as fresh. This wasn’t my first time viewing it, but it felt very new and surreal. I’m happy to report that this screening actually gave me some kind of new hope for humanity. It’s nice to know that other people still care about these movies and that efforts are still being made to share and preserve them. It’s a very satisfying feeling.

The real star of this show was Tura Satana. It was an honorary double feature double feature to commemorate her recent passing. So stay tuned for my review of the second film, Ted V. Mikels’ The Doll Squad!