Friday, January 24, 2014

Post #666! My Satan Kicks Your Satan's A$$!

[An early draft of this post went up on Wednesday. Sometimes blogger makes multiple copies of the same post, and it's easy to lose track. Anyway, milestone to celebrate, so ahem:]

Yeah, I stopped celebrating every time this blog hit post #250 or #350 or whatever, but really the number 666 comes up so many times, in so many films. How can I let this opportunity pass me by?!

And, of course, not to get all Jim Carrey in that lame-ass #23 movie (of course Michael Jordan is evil), but the numbers line up perfectly for publishing this entry today, too. I mean, this is the twenty-fourth, and two + two (for the millennium) + one (January) + one (for the decade) and you get six! Or four + four - two makes six again!

Two + four also equals six! One + one + four equals six as well!

And the timing of this post is 7:06 PM, which is what 6 hours and 66 minutes would be! At night, when evil is strongest! We are through the looking glass, people, and all I can say is that it seems pretty dumb on the other side.

So, in honor of this inauspicious number, I decided to share some of my most/least favorite cinematic depictions of that utter p-o-s jerk, Lucifer:

Al Pacino - The Devil's Advocate

Al chews up a lot of scenery as John Milton, owner of the diabolical law firm, Milton, Chadwick, & Waters. Of course, he does also play several scenes with a great sense of world-weary affability.

But at the start, a subtle-ish creepiness pops up only when he deals with people he knows. While this version of Satan is never a real physical threat, Milton still has a lot of raw malice in him. The biggest thing that's really missing from the character in the film, tho, is that he barely talks as if he were a lawyer (in NY, only lawyers can be law firm managers); Al plays more of a sneaky old-timer, here.

The creepy factor ramps up as the film goes along. In the end, John Milton delivers one whopper of a speech - letting it all out, as a true firebrand would. I like so much of the dialogue, even if all of this comes as Pacino tries way too hard to sell someone on having sex with a drop-dead beauty. It's like he isn't aware that people wouldn't want to screw with Al Pacino watching, which is a fatal flaw for a tempter of men.

And this is why evil will always lose - because it just doesn't understand boundaries...

Liz Hurley - Bedazzled

The movie was terrible, with a few good jokes. Liz Hurley can genuinely act, so one would at least hope that the material allowed her to make the most of the opportunity. Unfortunately, it's a little easier to remember the various fetish outfits that she wears throughout the movie. And Hurley looks good enough that she should never require that degree of embellishment.

As a Devil, she certainly gets the temptation part down, but the end of the film shows Liz cheerfully playing chess with god. It's suggested that she is friends with the big man, and even perhaps that she was there to test Brendan Fraser's lead. I think that's... nice, as intended for what should be a black comedy, yet has little bite.

I guess it's nice to see some flexibility of interpretation in the nature of good and evil, but you get the feeling that it's more a matter of the PG-13 rating or co-writer Harold Ramis being a softy, or other co-writer Peter Tolan having a fondness for... family-friendly comedy (coughAnalyzeThisandThatcough).

Sadly, I can't discuss the 1967 original as I haven't seen it.

Harvey Keitel - Little Nicky

Harvey Keitel is great in everything. Although Adam Sandler's Little Nicky was... no good, Mr. Keitel nailed his role as a jovial and appropriately mean-spirited Satan.

However, you must keep in mind that this is a comedy, and a poor one at that. Every scene with HK kills, but he's not meant to be genuinely scary or hard to understand.

Peter Stormare - Constantine

Man, when Mr. Stormare wants to look like a scumbag, he just oozes it. You get the feeling that if you touched his skin, it would be slick. And toxic.

More than other Lucifers in this entry, he really gets a lot of nastiness in, and venom and soft malice. Lots of people didn't like Constantine (I was meh on much of it, myself), but he was perfect.

And by "perfect," I mean that he came off as hateful, but very... worldly. His ability for genuine spite is great, as his last act in the film (healing someone to keep them from dying and entering Heaven) shows. False salvation burn.

Trey Parker - South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut

Satan is a standout character on South Park. He's always fun, always used very well. The South Park film saw Satan get a hugely-expanded role - and at least two big musical sequences!

In keeping with the technical excellence of Trey and Matt's writing, Satan actually has an arc during the narrative - pretty uncommon for any film featuring the prince of darkness - and makes decisions that are rooted in his character. Why do so many other authors forget these things?...

David Warner - Time Bandits

Time Bandits is so crazy that I can't even discuss. I'll let a real pro, Mr. Werner, explain why he makes a great ultimate agent of evil:

He's really hateful, isn't he?

Jack Nicholson - The Witches of Eastwick

You get the sense that Nicholson was being asked to play himself as the Devil. He certainly lives up to various elements of a being that can destroy or kill or corrupt with a thought... But Mr. Nicholson chews the scenery even more than Pacino's Milton, I think.

Daryl van Horne might be very charismatic, but I'd like him to be more threatening, or more complex. And not being a sex machine or pointlessly-speechifying misogynist. We already got that with the Joker, thanks!...

Robert De Niro - Angel Heart

I think my brain deleted all memories of this film, possibly to prevent self-damage. I do still recall that De Niro projected a perfect amount of mystery and menace in his role. And the nature of his part in the plot is to get someone to destroy himself - it's a small-scale goal, and I like that. Can't always be about the apocalypse, right?

De Niro's work was very impressive, even though the name of his character - Louis Cyphre - was hackneyed and stupid.

NOT PERFORMED - The Fifth Element

The ultimate antagonist in The Fifth Element is never given a real name, nor is it assigned any religious significance, nor do we even hear it speak. However, it is a giant ball of matter out in space that defies scientific analysis, it wants to destroy all life in the universe, and it can make you bleed from your forehead while on a very long-distance phone call.

Mostly because Gary Oldman is amazing, the scene where we do get to put some personality on to the Great Evil does a fine job of conveying a clever and hateful thing...

I'll upload a video if I can find it. It's been very hard to find the right scene so far...

Max Von Sydow - Needful Things

Again, the victory is in the casting. NT might be a wash as a film, but Von Sydow really has it all. You get the feeling that at any second he might transform like the T1000 and just start tearing people apart with his hands.

As with most of the devils on this list, temptation is his game, and Max's smooth voice and easy charm manage that. It's unfortunate, then, that the overall quality of the film (it gets silly, fast(and stays that way)) will undermine most efforts to judge the effectiveness of the role.

Gabriel Byrne - End of Days

I like End of Days in the same way that I like Tango & Cash. It's exceptionally entertaining, and I get to make fun of at least one of the leads. A lot.

But Byrne really has it all. He has raw malevolence, charm, and an ability to turn full-on Hulk-level scary. This is a very hands-on Lucifer, and he kills people in a variety of messed up ways throughout. And it's that combination of all these elements that makes him my favorite devil in this entry. The physical elements, his efforts to corrupt people as he goes, and his raw cruelty give him the total package of evil. He acts up a bit, but there's no real scenery-chewing, which I respond very well to.

Byrne's part is also one of the only ones to have moments to genuinely convey an alien... creature. Pacino, Nicholson, Parker, and Von Sydow spend all od their trying to act human. Keitel is in a pure comedy, and his role is intended to be a tough father, not the destroyer of all things. After a few initial tries, he drops the act and Gabriel Byrne manages to give a real sense of how inhuman - and old, and powerful, and foreign - he is. People aren't insignificant because he hates them, but rather because he is so much more than they are...


  1. My personal favorite moments on this list are Byrne pissing fire to destroy a police van(?) and Pacino's "HE'S AN ABSENTEE LANDLORD!" which is a nice line given the Devil/lawyer motif. I also like that Pacino's devil is cross-cultural.

    I was a lot more impressed with Nicholson's Witches of Eastwick devil before he repeated that same performance in something like half of his subsequent roles (that includes the Joker, so this was a nice warm up for that role).

    1. You and I love exactly the same things in both films.

      "I'M A FAN OF MAN!... I'm a humanist. Perhaps the only true humanist."

      Bryne's face when the security van goes is delightful.

      And you nailed Jack nicely for the trifecta, DJ.

  2. I love the punchline of that scene with David Warner: "It's a good question." Like, don't talk to me in such a forward manner, but you raise a good point.

    1. Dead on, man. Warner really kills his material here.

  3. Pacino's Satan is awesome fun(one of my favorite scenes is when he tells a potential troublemaker on the subway to go home and catch his wife in bed with his best friend) and love Stomare as well.

    Agree with you about Hurley and Byrne(who both made appearances during my latest round of Bad Movie Month) and must put in a good word for Tim Curry in Legend. Even with the over the top make-up threatening to overtake his character, Curry really used his talents to their utmost there.

    1. I totally agree, and I loved your post Bedazzled and EoD.

      But I thought Tim Curry plays Satan's son! Just at the end of the film, he beseeches his unseen "father" for help. Regardless, you are right and his performance was exceptional.


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