EDITOR’S NOTE: Before Menahem Golan took over 21st Century in 1989, it had existed since the mid 70s, as Tom Ward and Art Schweitzer formed the company as a film production company and distributor. It also owned most of Dimension Pictures’ films when that company went into bankruptcy in 1981. 21st Century also released many films on home video on their own label Planet Video as well as Continental Video. The first movie they released in theaters was an import, The Three Fantastic Supermen, before putting together some of their own movies. As I finish out the second — but by no means the final — Cannon Month, I’ll be covering some of 21st Century’s most interesting movies. This was originally on the site on January 22, 2020.
Also known as The Devil Master, Master of Evil and Coven, this movie purported to tell you the whole truth — finally — about demons. It seems that demons are kind of like the kids left behind in my small hometown, stuck drinking in bars, doing drugs and balling because there’s nothing else to do but rot.
It comes from the team of Donald Jackson — yes, he of the Roller Blade, Rollergator and Hell Come to Frogtown fame — and Jerry Younkins, who only made this film. It was shot close to my wife’s hometown in Jackson, Michigan.
MIT graduate students Jeff Kreines and his girlfriend Joel DeMott, along with soundman Mark Ranc, shot a video diary while filming this movie, entitled Demon Lover Diary. It details the film falling apart as its being filmed. However, it’s been alleged that the incompetence and infighting shown in this video were all made up to get publicity for the film. But who can say? Any movie that ends with Ted Nugent’s guns being fired directly at the filmmakers is totally worth a watch. Kreines and DeMott would go on to co-direct the documentary Seventeen while Kreines would be a cinematographer on the documentary Depeche Mode: 101.
As for the actual film The Demon Lover, it’s all about a group of teenagers hanging around a cemetery that gets involved with a Satanic priest named Lavall (Younkins) who conjures up a demon from hell that looks like an ape that kills all of them. That’s pretty much the entire movie, right there, minus some scenes of the upper class dabbling with the occult that go absolutely nowhere. Oh yeah — there are also disco, nude sex slave and kung fu scenes just to ensure that this regional wonder got to play on some screen, somewhere.
Also — Younkins severed a finger at work to pony up the $8,000 to make this movie, so that pretty much explains why he got to do pretty much anything he wanted. He’d go on to write Combat and Survival Knives: A User’s Guide and wears a black glove throughout to hide his missing digit.
According to L.A. Weekly, the filmmakers so loved The Texas Chainsaw Massacre that they “initially consulted director Tobe Hooper for info on film stock, hired Chain Saw cinematographer Daniel Pearl until their money ran out, solicited original Leatherface Gunnar Hansen for a two-day top-billed cameo, and eventually played the Lyric Theater on 42nd Street in New York City, whose marquee can be glimpsed sporting the Chain Saw title in a famous shot from Taxi Driver.”
Damian Kaluta, one of the protagonists of the film, is played by Val Mayerik, who is also one of the creators of Howard the Duck. I’d assume that’s his art on the poster as well. The name of his character Kaluta comes from 1970’s comic book artist Michael W. Kaluta and many of the names in the film are also derived from comic and horror icons of that era, like Detective Tom Frazetta (painter Frank Frazetta, who designed most of Fire and Ice), Officer Lester Gould (Chester Gould, creator of Dick Tracy perhaps?), Profesor Peckinpah (director Sam Peckinpah), Elaine Ormsby (Alan Ormsby of Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things), Alex Redondo (Filipino Swamp Thing artist Nestor Redondo), Susan Ackerman (Forest Ackerman, of course), Charles Wrightson (Berni Wrightson, who drew the comic for Creepshow), Jane Corben (Richard Corben, who created Den from the Heavy Metal magazine and movie, as well as the painter of the poster for Spookies), Garrett Adams (Neal Adams), Janis Romero (George Romero) and Pamela Kirby (Jack Kirby).
This movie also features early special effects work by Dennis and Robert Skotak, who would go on to work on movies like Escape from New York, Aliens, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Mars Attacks!, Galaxy of Terror and so many more.
While this movie is junk — enjoyable junk that I will force people to watch — there’s a lot to be learned from it. Isn’t that what loving movies is all about? Actually, it’s also what the occult is all about too: the secret messages lurking behind the veneer of what seems like nothing.
You can watch this for free on Tubi or just check out the highlights below.