- Director: Sutton Roley
- Written by: William Read Woodfield
- Running Time: 74 minutes
- Language: English
- MPAA Rating: UNRATED
- Cast: Doug McClure, Kim Novak, Alejandro Rey, Michael Conrad, Ed Lauter, Jim Davis, Tom Dever, Zitto Kazann, Trent Dolan
Obscure ABC TV-Movie of the Week “Satan’s Triangle”, airing January 14, 1975, has garnered a cult following the likes of few movies before it, and to this day it lives on in the memories of 30 and 40-somethings, who watched it as children, as one of the scariest films ever made.
That's a bold statement, but if you listen and read testimony from those who have seen it, that’s generally the consensus among them. If you have any doubts, then I suggest you take a few minutes and scour the internet, namely the imdb.com and then come back here. There's a certain myth that has been created around the film due to its sheer paucity. A few copies are still floating around on VHS and on second generation trader sites but since the film never received an official release, the greatest number of reviews are culled from the vivid memories and imaginings of those 10 to 15 year olds who spied this on the tube so many years ago.
So what exactly is so special about Sutton Roley’s obscure little gem? First off, it’s set in the Bermuda Triangle, a spooky place that conjures up images of planes crashing, ghost ships, and storms being brewed up from nothing -- and lots and lots of people disappearing off the face of the Earth for no good reason. As well as a plentiful array of other frightening and chilling oddities – all of which has been documented time and time again in various books and movies, and has been “debunked”, or so they say, time and time again in various “respected science” forums. Yeah, whatever. In the mid-70’s ABC was in the business of producing low-budget made for television horror flicks, some of which, and I do not exaggerate, were better and more frightening than most of the drivel passing as horror in the multi-movie megaplexes today. Normally produced on a shoe-string budget, using past their prime actors, and often involving known extraordinary phenomena, namely ghosts, UFOs and yes, the Bermuda Triangle, these films managed to pack more of a frightening wallop in their 90 minute run-times than most current horror film festivals could garner. These were true horror showcases that went for the jugular, hitting at something base -- something that truly frightened people at their core. Maybe because they dealt with subject matter that many regard as plausible, or maybe because those who produced them just knew how to hit the right buttons, whatever the reason, these classic ABC TV-Movies have stood the test of time and are regarded as some of the most terrifying pieces of film ever produced… by those who remember them. That’s a huge testament to the filmmakers and to the daring of ABC execs who were willing to take such chances. Could you even imagine such programming today, with all the watered down reality garbage and the carbon copy CSI/Lawyer/doctor (yawn) dramas filling the airwaves. Such films could never exist today simply because the current trust fund execs are so void of creativity.
While responding to an SOS somewhere out in The Bermuda Triangle, two coast guard pilots en route get into a heated debate about the mysteries of the 'Triangle'. Lieutenant Commander Pagnolini (Michael Conrad) is a firm believer in God and the supernatural, while his co-pilot Lieutenant. J. Haig (Doug McClure) is a firm non-believer, sensing that everything out of the ordinary can be readily explained by science. When Pagnolini delves into the bizarre circumstances around this area of the world, Haig is quick to refute each suggestion with the usual skeptical talking points i.e. magnetic fields, coincidence, etc… This sets the mood for what is to come. When they eventually stumble upon the source of the SOS, an expensive yacht adrift at sea, Haig lowers himself aboard and begins an investigation, looking for survivors. With a dead priest hanging from the ship’s mast, a bloodied corpse on the deck and a body literally floating in the cabin, he knows something is amiss. However, it is the still breathing woman, also down below, that really sends chills down his spine – her devilish eyes pierce his soul, staring at him from behind some sheets. The woman is Eva (Kim Novak) and she is the only survivor aboard the craft.
When Haig attempts to bring them up in the safety basket, something gives way and the two plunge back into the ocean, where they are forced to swim back to the ship. Low on fuel and with his gauges suddenly acting screwy, Pagnolini flies off to base, insisting that he’ll be back and this time he'll bring help. Now, with nothing but time on their hands and as a night at sea seems like a real possibility, Eva and Haig settle into a revealing conversation in which Eva details all of the terrifying supernatural dealings that lead to her being the only survivor aboard the makeshift floating casket. Haig in true cynical fashion is unwilling to embrace Eva’s conclusions, and methodically draws up a set of easily explainable circumstances for all of the various unexplainable supernatural events, including the odd ‘floating’ body in the cabin – which, as it turns out, isn’t actually floating at all. This is brilliant work, as it not only eases Eva into a comfort zone, but also the audience, which, at this point, had grown to suspect the worst – that something evil had climbed aboard the boat in the form of a priest adrift at sea. When Pagnolini arrives the next morning with a crew of coast guard in tow, things suddenly take a bizarre and frightening turn, one that will leave audiences picking their jaw up off the floor.
Without giving too much away, the final ten minutes of the “Satan’s Triangle” will totally and completely catch you off guard, presenting a rather frightening twist that still has folks talking about it some thirty years later. In fact, the final second of film, which involves nothing more than a simple, extended stare, will surely send a shiver up and down your spine. This is some spooky stuff, the kind of spooky that induces nightmares. To quote author Adam Baroody, “It’s all in the eyes.” For sure it is. Wow! While the plot is pretty barebones, there is much time allotted to itemizing the role spiritualism plays in the lives of humans. By suggesting a Biblical explanation for the very real and very strange events surrounding the multiple disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle, nicknamed Satan’s Triangle, the film embraces the paranormal, something that I absolutely appreciated given the cynical times we are living in.
Doug McClure (1980's "Humanoids from the Deep") and Kim Novak (1977's "The White Buffalo") were clearly working for a pay check when they took on “Satan’s Triangle”. Not to say they weren’t good, but most actors don’t take on television movies to flex their acting muscles. McClure, playing a womanizing pessimist, is simply buoying on an old image, and seems to having fun especially opposite Michael Conrad (1973's "Scream Blacula Scream"). Kim Novak is beautiful as always, and she is quite good in a rather woolly role, one that calls on her to stare off in a freaky trance-like state in numerous scenes. It’s interesting watching as she manipulates McClure, even though it isn’t obvious to him or the audience. This was amazing. Also look for Ed Lauter (1993's "True Romance"), Jim Davis (1980's "The Day Time Ended") and Alejandro Rey (1978's "The Swarm") in smaller but memorable roles as Eva’s shipmates. Rey especially is memorable in a role that will have you never wanting to pick up a passenger, even if he comes to you dressed as a Priest. William Read Woodfield, who wrote the script, is famous for drafting some twenty-three movies and television series and here he is at his best. The same can be said for Sutton Roley who was also prolific as a television director and also headed up another great TV movie cult flick “Chosen Survivors”. He too is at the top of his proverbial game here.
"Satan’s Triangle” isn’t an easy film to find since it has yet to receive an official DVD release, however, if you can find it, it is definitely worth checking out.