Arrow Video’s latest discovery, The Brotherhood of Satan, is a strange artifact from the early 1970’s which acts as a bridge between the beginnings of the Satanic Panic era (Rosemary’s Baby) and the over-the-top, full-on Devil cult exploitation that populated cinemas mid-decade (Race with the Devil).
Director Bernard McEveety’s retitled The Brotherhood of Satan (originally called Come in, Children) is an at times restrained film that attempts to capture the sensibilities of Polanski’s film on a shoe string budget and in a rural setting. And although it attempts to do things in a more artistic fashion than the slew of movies featuring occultists and demonic forces that would follow it, the film’s influence can certainly be seen on these later films with the wayward travelers, small town denizens, and Anton Szandor LaVey impersonators.
McEveety opens with the film with an interesting juxtaposition between a toy tank and a real one rolling over a stack of wrecked automobiles. It is an interesting scene to start with and is cinematically engaging, but other than some possible hidden metaphor, it has nothing to do with the plot or focus of the film. From there, the typical tropes come into play with a fractured family (a widowed Dad, much younger stepmom, and child) being stranded in a one horse town with an angry group of locals and a very skeptical sheriff (played with aplomb by character actor/director L.Q. Jones). Naturally, the anger of the locals is misdirected at the strangers, as the children in town have gone missing (and you know that Satanists have something to do with it).
From there, The Brotherhood of Satan is a surprisingly nudity and violence free film (other than a decapitation by a Black knight) and the town’s mysterious physician Doc Duncan (played with unrestrained abandon by Strother Martin) steals the show as the leader of the ambiguous cult (it’s pretty clear they worship the Devil, and the LaVey Church of Satan costumes are present, but not much of the iconography one would find in any self-respecting temple dedicated to the Prince of Darkness is one display). These are also the scenes at the big switching souls of the old for the young climax that harken back to the tank scene, with some psychedelic artistic flair, but the narrative gets lost along the way.
In terms of the extras that Arrow is known for, Brotherhood of Satan does not disappoint with a brand new audio commentary track by writers Kim Newman and Sean Hogan, a brand new visual essay written and narrated by David Flint called “Satanic Panic: How the 1970s Conjured The Brotherhood of Satan” , and a featurette entitled “The Children of Satan”, that consists of a new interview with former child actors Jonathan Erickson Eisley and Alyson Moore.
The first pressing of The Brotherhood of Satan also comes with a reversible sleeve featuring the original poster and a newly commissioned blu-ray cover by Richard Wells and an illustrated booklet featuring new essays by Johnny Mains and Brad Stevens.