Asylum of Satan (1972) and Three on a Meathook (1972)

Editor’s Note: In addition to reviewing the films: at the end of the reviews, we’ll also explore the music in each.

In April 2023, Red Rocket Media bring Three on a Meathook to Tubi under their “First Time on Tubi” feature. While they have not yet uploaded a stream of Asylum of Satan, there are five other William Girdler films mentioned within this review to enjoy on the platform. Make a day of it!

Who is William Girdler?

Prior to his death in a helicopter crash in Manila, Philippines, in January 1978, while scouting locations for his next film project (a Star Wars response known as The Overlords), writer-director William Girdler was a driven, prolific filmmaker who shot nine features in six years between 1972 to 1978. His final film was the Tony Curtis-starring The Manitou (1978). His debut was the shot-in Louisville, Kentucky, Asylum of Satan — his response to Rosemary’s Baby (1968; we’ve reviewed the ’76 sequel). Asylum’s plot deals with the head of a mental hospital who sidelines as a Satanic priest. Then, with some trust fund cash in hand, Girdler created his most infamous, second film that earned its notoriety courtesy of its later ’80s VHS shelf life: Three on a Meathook. That film, a Halloween proto-slasher, deals with a character based on the infamous Ed Gein; Gein also served, if you’re keeping track of such things, as the inspiration for Alfred Hitchcock’s PsychoDeranged, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre .

Asylum and Meathook impressed producer Samuel Z. Arkoff, so he hired Girdler to direct pictures for American International Pictures. Those three projects were in the Blaxploitation genre: The Zebra Killer (1973) starring Austin Stoker (John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13), the ever-amazing Abby (1974) with William H. Marshall (Blacula), and the Quentin Tarantino favorite, Sheba, Baby (1975).

Girdler’s next film, after his Blaxploitation cycle, was a ripoff of the major-studio and more successful James Caan-starrer, The Killer Elite (1975). Known as Project: Kill (1976), the film served as one of the few non-comedy films of Leslie Neilsen (The Patriot). Girdler then followed with his most financially successful film — which was another ripoff, this time, of Jawsonly with a man-eating bear, known as Grizzly (1976). Christopher George returned from that film for its loose, man-verses-nature sequel, Day of the Animals (1977) — which also starred Leslie Neilsen from Project: Kill. Girdler’s final film was his most expensive production — and the best-looking production of his career: a truly original piece based on a best-selling book, The Manitou, even though it was a cash-in on The Omen.

Asylum of Satan: The Review

Not so infamous . . . and forgotten.

Girdler produced Asylum of Satan for around $50,000 . . . yet, as a testament to his cinematic skills, it looks more expensive: the basement bowels of the Satanic chapel under the “hospital” is surely a wonder of costuming and lighting; so, yeah, we’ll forgive the papier-mâché head of the Devil when he appears.

Lucina Martin (San Francisco-born Carla Borelli, later of Billy Jack Goes to Washington and O.C. and Stiggs) is a nurse assigned to the titled abode where she soon learns she’ll be taking part in a Black Mass — which has Michael Aquino, the man who wrote the rituals in The Satanic Bible to ensure the accuracy of it all. Except that, well, you know: LaVey and Temple of Set Satanists do not kidnap and kill. But, hey, this is Hollywood. And it is the type of Satanic movie your less-informed, ignorant self — drunk on a wealth of UHF-TV era Hammer and Amicus films — would make: complete with naked, bound up girls on altars, which makes this movie such a fun, retro-watch.

You can watch Asylum of Satan on YouTube and here’s the trailer.

Three on a Meathook: The Review

The infamous ’80s rental . . . that wasn’t as graphic as we were lead to believe.

So, under budget and with film stock left over Asylum of Satan, William Girdler made his next film, Three on a Meathook. Once again filming in and the surrounding areas of Girdler’s home town, our faux Ed Gein slashing up the town is Billy Townsend (a not-too-bad James Carroll Pickett): he’s one of those “nice guys” who helps four girls on a country lake vacation when their car breaks down. Oh, yes: Billy has skeletons of the figurative and literal variety with a little Vietnam bad vibes piled on — along with a dedicated father (Charles Kissinger, also of Girdler’s Asylum of Satan, AbbySheba, Baby, Grizzly, and The Manitou) who will protect his son at any cost.

This is, of course, a Drive-In Asylum magazine’s Bill Van Ryn film: the kind of ’70s Drive-In’er where “nothing happens” (Norman J. Warren’s Prey, Lee Madden’s Night Creature, John Hayes’s End of the World, and Bill Rebane’s Invasion from Inner Earth, in no particular order, are oft mentioned) to the point where our slasher stops by a movie theater to watch Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate, then he’s off to a bar to have a suds and listen to live music. (Don’t stick your saliva fingers in the bar’s communal nuts bowl, Billy T. Dump ’em on a cocktail napkin.)

Girdler’s freshman and sophomore films proved he knew how to make movies on a budget: he also wrote and arranged the music for the songs in both films. The songs are performed by his hometown friend, Eddie “Eddie D” Dempley: his Blues Express are heard in Asylum; his later band, American Xpress, also appear in Meathook.

You can watch Three on Meathook on You Tube. Here’s the trailer. And here’s Eli Roth chiming in on the film’s “grindhouse” notoriety. Eli’s right: the bigger VHS box meant the movie would suck, but that made us want to watch it more!

Nick Jolley: The Music

The actor’s handwritten, autographed resume from the archive of Theatre World and Screen World, a comprehensive record of American stage and film since 1945/Image courtesy of History for Sale.

The song “Red Light Lady,” heard during the opening credits of Asylum of Satan, was written and arranged by William Girdler and sung by leading man Nick Jolley. The background musicians are unknown and may or may not be the Blues Express. A Broadway actor and singer, Jolley was born on February 17, 1948, in Hindsboro, Illinois. His lone film acting role was playing the plaid jacket and checkered pant hero of Chris Duncan in Asylum.

Jolley, most notably, worked as an understudy and onstage performer in the Broadway theater revivals of Oklahoma! (as Chord Elam, December 13, 1979 – August 24, 1980; New York Times review) and The Pirates of Penzance (January 8, 1981 – November 28, 1982). He also acted and sang in many TV commercials and traveling dinner theater productions. You can hear Jolley sing “The Farmer and The Cowman” on the Oklahoma! Cast Album issued by RCA Records. His other stage musical credits included Kiss Me, Kate (1974), A Little Night Music (1976), The Music Man (1978), The Brooklyn Bridge (1983; review), Up in Central Park (1984), and South Pacific (1985).

Nick Jolley died at the age of 48 on February 8, 1997 (Obituary).

Eddie Dempley: The Music

Edward “Eddie D” Dempley and the Blues Express do not appear in but performed the instrumental “The Satan Spectrum Theme” during the end credits of Asylum of Satan. The song was written and arranged by William Girdler (that’s Eddie, in the white tux holding the microphone, second from left in the video still, below).

Born on August 23, 1943, Dempley passed away on July 28, 2011, after a three-year cancer battle. Born in Oldham County, Kentucky, he excelled on the saxophone as a member of the Van Dells and Eddie D (Eddy Dee, Eddy D) and the Blues Express. The band, credited as the American Xpress, also recorded the vocal pieces “You Gotta Be Free,” “We’re All Insane,” and an untitled, end credit instrumental that we’ll call “Love Theme from Three on a Meathook,” for Three on a Meathook.

Even though the band changed monikers from the Blues Express to American Xpress between the two films, it’s the same line up of Bill Longale, Mikk Mastin, Dave Goode, Waldo Weathers, Don Powell (drummer), Maury Bechtel, and Edward “Eddie D” Dempley. (We’ve since heard from Don Powell, who left a kind message in February 2022 on our previous, October 2020 “Slasher Month” review of Meathook.)

Eddie started out with bassist Richard Basin in the Successions, as a singer, in 1964 in Middletown, Kentucky. The band secured the house gig at Bells Country Club off of Poplar Level Road from 1965 to 1967. Another popular club Eddie D played as a house band gig was the Doo Drop Inn on Story Avenue in Louisville in the mid 1980s. During this period he recorded and released on the regional Dunbar label, “Fanny Mae b/w The Same Old Guy (Who Still Loves You).” Another of Eddie’s lost recordings is the Dunbar Records’ 45-rpm Eddie Dee and the Blues Express with “Let´s Go Steady” b/w” Make It Happen.” During this period, the band was also known as Eddie D and the Country Connection. All of his bands also appeared numerous times at the beloved Colonial Gardens and Office Lounge.

Around 1979, Eddie played with Jim Wilson, along with Jim Baugher, David Marasco, George Ashmore, Rod Wurtle, and Rob Brown when the band was called Eddie D and Energy. That version of the band played at the Fern Valley Holiday Inn, Big Moes, and the Old Churchill Inn, and Harold’s Club; the last, which way out down yonder on the ol’ Dixie Hwy.

You can visit Eddie at and Dignity Memorial.

Asylum of Satan: “Satan Spectum Theme”

Music from Three on a Meat Hook

Image credits:

— Theatrical one-sheets courtesy of the IMDb.

— Images of Nick Jolley and American Xpress capped from their respective William Girdler films.

— The black and white image of the Blues Express in the Meathook video are courtesy of the Dempley Family Archives. The Archive also provided this review’s biography materials. We also thank Paul Povesis, Caroline R, Richard Bolin, and Jim Wilson for their blog and video comment insights. Our thanks to each for allowing us to preserve their loved one’s career.

— Nick Jolley bio information courtesy of Woody Anders/IMDb, History for Sale, and Ovrtur. Thank you for allowing its use to honor Nick’s life and career.

A special thanks to those who reached out in kindness to this writer, as we close out 2022, with their pleasure in reading this review, as well as sharing their additional memories of Eddie Dempley and Nick Jolley. Yes, sometimes social media can work in the positive, so it’s a feel-good day! The same happened just the other day with reviews for The Survivalist and about a month or so back with The Spirits of Jupiter.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

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