The Devil’s Mistress (1966)

THE DEVIL’S MISTRESS (1966)
Article 2712 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-6-2008
Posting Date: 1-15-2009
Directed by Orville Wanzer
Featuring Joan Stapleton, Robert Gregory, Wes Moreland
Country: USA

Four outlaws come upon a cabin in Apache territory and are fed by a mysterious old man and a mute woman. Two of the outlaws kill the man and rape the woman, and then take her along with them. Then, one by one, the outlaws begin to die in mysterious ways…

This low-budget horror western reminds me in some ways of MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE, but I wouldn’t take that comparison to heart; I think this movie is much better. It’s not a lost classic, mind you, but it manages to make positive use of its extreme low budget; there’s something about the turgid pacing, the dearth of action, the static presentation, and the lack of music, when placed against some of the splendid western settings and in the context of a horror story that has a fair amount of subtlety and ambiguity that gives the movie a haunting feel. I will give the movie credit for not outstaying its welcome; it runs just a little over sixty minutes, and it disposes of the outlaws in just the right order; it gets rid of the sadistic outlaw with the annoying laugh just at the point when I was getting sick of him, and the outlaws die in the reverse order in which they were responsible for the murder/rape at the beginning of the movie. In fact, you’ll be hoping that the naive innocent may be spared in the final reel, but you’ll also be nagged by the realization that, even if he didn’t take part in the brutality, he nonetheless did nothing to prevent it. My biggest problem with the movie is that it decides to make the horror quite blatant at the end of the movie; the movie would have worked much better overall if it had found an ending that allowed it to retain its eerie ambiguity. This is the sole film credit for director/writer Orville Wanzer, and I find myself wishing he had made another one; whatever its flaws, it managed to capture something unique.

 

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