Seven Footprints to Satan (1929) – Benjamin Christensen

I move into a new chapter in DK Canada’s Monsters in the Movies, The Devil’s Work, so I bet this section is going to be a lot of fun!

The first film in the chapter that I hadn’t previously watched is a silent film called Seven Footprints to Satan, it’s kind of dark, and kind of funny, and definitely out there. The story follows James Kirkham (Creighton Hale), who is training himself to be an explorer, with the intention of going to Africa. But he’s a but on the nebbish side, and may not have what it takes.

His Uncle Joe (DeWitt Jennings) is very much against him going, and his fiancee, Eve Martin (Thelma Todd) isn’t very keen on it either. She persuades Kirkham, on the eve of his expedition, to come to a party her family is hosting as she fears that someone is planning to make off with one of her father’s rare artefacts.

She’s right. But that is only the launching point for what is going to happen this evening. They are quickly abducted and deposited in a strange house, that doesn’t quite fall into a this old house genre, but isn’t far from it. No sooner do they arrive than strange happenings, and strange beings, stalk them.

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There is violence, sadism, debauchery, and monstrous encounters. And it seems that there may be no way out for the unfortunate pair. They don’t know who to trust, seem to be constantly on the run in the house, and are eluding the master of the house, someone named Satan.

This one is out there, not quite Lynchian out there, but definitely odd. The encounters and beings are very strange, and apparently, the film itself is based on a novel by Abraham Merritt. And that just boggles. I’ve never even heard of this film, let alone the book it was based on.

Kirkham begins to grow a little through the course of the film, but it’s mostly running, cowering, and trying to figure out what is going on, and how to find a way out of the house. And there is a way. If the would-be hero accepts the challenge of the seven footprints.

The reveal at the end of the film undoes a lot of the tension and potential scares that built up through the film, and there are a number of them that probably worked very well at the time. I just like the fact that the strange encounters are just so wonderfully out there, that’s the thing I enjoyed the most. I was left wondering what or who was coming around the corner next.

There’s more devilry to come as I explore more of DK Books’ Monsters in the Movies. Pick up a copy today and find something monstrous to watch!

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