5. Mocata from The Devil Rides Out (1968)
Christopher Lee takes a rare turn on the side of good, battling hellish heavy Charles Gray, in this superb Hammer entry. Suave, yet sinful, Gray embellishes his role with conviction and authority, giving his performance palpable menace. When Mocata stares at us with his cold gray eyes and declares “I will not be back…but something will” you believe it. In addition, this tense morality play employs an unprecedented amount of genuine magical arcana and philosophy to make this one of the smartest Satanic shockers. (For you trivia buffs, Charles Gray would later become known as the narrator in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.)
Now we’re getting down to the nitty gritty. These last four got shuffled around more times than Jenna Jameson does in Hell On Heels (1999), but I digress.
4. Hjalmer Poelzig from The Black Cat (1934)
Boris Karloff butts heads with Bela Lugosi, in this incomparable entry from Universal. Creepy Karloff, engineer by day – devout devilite by night, hosts war vet Lugosi, who has a score to settle. Karloff excels in giving his character the necessary sinister impetus to get under the skin. Both icons give their all at the height of their powers, while Poe never makes an appearance. The atmosphere, performances and photography are all top shelf, making this an A-class B-film. In the 1930s they didn’t come any darker, or more lurid. Supernatural, perhaps. Baloney, perhaps not.
3. Dr. Pretorius from The Bride Of Frankenstein (1935)
British eccentric Ernest Thesiger absolutely steals the show here as a mad alchemist of the Black Arts. The good doctor, a man of few weaknesses, urges Frankenstein to continue his ghastly experiments in a “grand collaboration”. Thesiger’s uncanny looks and droll delivery make Pretorius deliciously diabolic, assuring him choice positioning on the list. Bride also has some surprising humor, innuendo and theology mixed into the monsterdom, making it the most subversive bolt in the neck of the early franchise.
2. The Castavets from Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Fittingly, at number two, we have a coupling. Sidney Blackmer and Ruth Gordon are the over-solicitous neighbors from hell, in Roman Polanski’s sensational blockbuster. The flamboyant couple set their sordid sights on Rosemary and her unborn child, in one of the most suspenseful occult offerings to ever hit the screen. The duo gets more dastardly as things move along to the eerie and effective finale. Gordon would earn herself an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, if that tells you anything. Tannis, anyone?
1. Prince Prospero from The Masque Of The Red Death (1964)
My list concludes with Vincent Price as my lead Luciferian. Roger Corman’s most ambitious film sticks closely to Poe’s source material, but adds a heavy dash of Diablo thrown in for sinister spice. Price is truly incredible as the Devil-worshipping Prince, and essays one of the most fully realized Satanic figures in all of sinema. He praises the Dark One and skewers Christianity; sets his salacious sights on a peasant girl; and insists that his guests indulge in depraved games, usually ending in somone’s demise. Hottie Hazel Court brands her breast, and Patrick Magee is burned alive in a gorilla suit. Sadean debauchery has never been such colorful fun.
Is there a Satanic sidekick you feel more deserving of infernal infamy? Enlighten me. Is it getting a little hot in here, or is it just me?