Skip to content

Frank's Movie Log

My life at the movies.

Lucifer's Women

1974 | United States | 91 min | More...
A still from Lucifer's Women (1974)
D: 2 stars (out of 5)
on Wed May 15, 2024

I watched Lucifer’s Women after seeing the trailer during Alamo Drafthouse’s Railway to Hell marathon. The trailer paints it as a satanic shocker, but it proves more of a sleazy riff on the Svengali story.

The plot concerns an academic, played by Larry Hankin, who’s possessed by the reincarnated spirit of Svengali and tasked by his publisher with seducing a young exotic dancer named Trilby. Said publisher wants to sacrifice Trilby as part of a satanic ritual to prolong his and Svengali’s existence on Earth.

This sure sounds like a satanic shocker, but it accounts for maybe twenty minutes of the film’s runtime.

Instead, the script meanders, proffering assorted sleazy digressions. We see various dancers perform—some topless. Trilby reads sex comics and masturbates. Trilby’s roommate spies through the keyhole and masturbates while watching Trilby masturbate. Trilby’s roommate and her abusive boyfriend snort copious amounts of cocaine. Trilby and her roommate have sex. Trilby, her roommate, and her roommate’s abusive boyfriend have sex.

None of these scenes titillate or even advance the story. They commit the unforgivable sin in an exploitation picture. They bore.

As Trilby, Jane Brunel-Cohen doesn’t convince as a goddess desired by every man in the picture. She lacks the on-screen presence and the script affords her no agency and no reason for us to invest.

But Lucifer’s Women is not without its surprises.

Director Paul Aratow maintains a realistic style, preferring underlit sets and static camera setups. While these render the aforementioned exploitation sequences uninspired and monotonous, they gift other scenes with an unexpected verisimilitude. In the dark, cramped, seedy club where Trilby performs, you can almost smell the cigarettes and sweat.

Larry Hankin showcases surprising charisma by underplaying his part. Aside from the laugh-out-loud bug-eyed shot of his “Svengali stare,” he exudes a world-weary demeanor befitting an age-old spirit.

Norman Pierce also surprises as the satanic ring-leader, delivering a diseased, lecherous performance that proffers the film’s lone moments of inspired dread.

But these bright spots can’t salvage a boring picture. A tighter script, edit, or better female lead would have helped. As-is, it plays better as a trailer, where it promises a fast-paced, unhinged, so-bad-it’s-good ride, with Hankin and Pierce kidnapping assorted women and subjecting them to bloody, bizarre, satanic, coke-fueled orgies. That’s a movie I could enjoy. But this languid, humdrum chronicle of an exotic dancer’s sex-life? I’ll take the coke-fueled satanic orgies every time.

Viewing History

    Watched on
    Wed May 15, 2024 via Blu-ray (Vinegar Syndrome, 2018)