“Satan Goes To Hollywood”: This new documentary on the Devil needs a disciple

By on July 9, 2015

There are already a couple great documentaries about Satan — Anton LeVey’s Church of Satan recruitment film Speak of the Devil, and Satanis, The Devils Mass, from 1969, are both excellent feature-length docs  — and who knows how the hell many documentaries there are on the topic of Hollywood, but we’ve yet to see one show how Satan and everything associated with ol’ Lucifer has been depicted by Hollywood since the advent of film.

John Roecker and Lisa Fancher’s new documentary Satan Goes To Hollywood hopes to correct that egregious oversight, and we’re very excited to be able to show you this exclusive look at this work-in-progress film’s advance teaser.

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Roecker and Fancher both know quite a bit about making films. Roecker — an independent filmmaker who once co-owned L.A.’s “You’ve Got Bad Taste” store with Exene of the band X, specializing in kitschy, trashy and rude products — has directed several mostly music-related docs over the years, including a couple of cool webseries (“Svengali!” and “Tim Timebomb’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Theatre”), and Live Freaky! Die Freaky!, a 75-minute stop-motion animated black comedy based on the true crime book Helter Skelter (2006).

More recently he’s put the finishing touches on Heart Like a Hand Grenade, which documented Green Day recording its album American Idiot: Roecker’s cameras captured it all, from Billie Joe Armstrong and the band writing the songs all the way through the recording and final mixes.

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Fancher — who has owned and operated Frontier Records, an independent record company, since 1980 — has produced several documentaries, mostly cable TV talking-heads-and-clips fare for the quirky World of Wonder production house, including From the Waist Down: Men, Women & Music (2001), TV’s Most Censored Moments (2002), Cleavage (2002) and The Blockbuster Imperative (2003), in addition to scads of music videos and assorted other filmic projects over the years.

She’s meanwhile managed to not only keep Frontier a successful independently-run label for several consecutive decades now, churning out recordings year after year, not to mention running a record distribution company (ILD), but she was also one fourth of the driving force behind the campaign to set the West Memphis Three free, even making frequent trips back east for trials and hearings since 1997.

Roecker and Fancher have known each other a long time, and even ended up working at World of Wonder’s offices in Hollywood in the early 2000s, where Roecker assisted Fancher on many project— that’s when they discovered they both had an interest in all things Satanic.

Fancher was infuriated by the ’80s “Satanic Panic” created by daytime TV hosts and their unvetted guests claiming to have been part of Satanic cults while she was learning about and working on the WM3 case, and also remembering how Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist scared the hell out of her as a kid, so she began obsessively buying 70s-era satanic cult movies she hadn’t seen in years, like Devil’s Rain (with Ernest Borgnine and William Shatner) and Ride with the Devil (with Peter Fonda and Warren Oates).

Roecker, too, had also been intrigued by anything remotely connected to Satan, satanic cults, sacrifices and sex rituals, and they realized they had a great idea for a documentary, only, they didn’t want to do what they’d been doing at at WoW– talking to celebrities and “experts” about various topics tangentially-related: they wanted to let the lurid and sensationalistic clips speak for themselves, one clip leading into the next.

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For films only on VHS, they made trips to Eddie Brandt’s Saturday Matinee video store on Vineland in the North Hollywood Arts District. They both began dropping by eBay and other online sources on a regular basis, bidding, buying and stockpiling vintage Satan films. They began researching what was in the public domain, what needed to be licensed, and then cataloging and archiving, tracking down prints of rarely-screen silent films (like George Melies’ The Merry Frolics Of Satan, 1906), and pre-1976 movie trailers, Japanese anime and 80s porn flicks.

They spent two years watching films both great and horrid for appearances of the devil and/or his followers, another year loading thousands of clips onto editing software, and thought they’d be done editing within a year but the days became weeks and the weeks became months, and… well, seven years later Satan Goes to Hollywood is still not done. Capturing the devil in all of his (or her) forms is a massive undertaking, as is condensing down the very best (and shamefully ignored) clips and scenes from the silent era of moviemaking right up to present day travesties like the West Memphis Three case.

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Fancher and Roecker broke the devil’s many facets down into seven working chapters for their documentary, beginning with a kind of biblical starting-off point, a book of Genesis, if you like, examining everything that’s been a direct reference to the Bible stories about ol’ Beelzebub. The next five chapters are roughly sorted by however they best get represented, whether the general topic is indoctrination/recruiting of new followers for Satan; possession and, ultimately, exorcism; sex rituals, and satanic sacrifices.

And then we come to a little section called “Satanic Panic” — which collects all the reality-show TV fodder that stems from exposure to everything we’ve mentioned here. It’s the section or chapter of the documentary where you’re likely to see clips of Geraldo Rivera, Sally Jesse Raphael or Oprah Winfrey on their talk shows, or people talking about backwards-masking and rockers sneaking in praises to Satan in the lyrics on FM radio, or news reports about the West Memphis 3, the infamous McMartin pre-school case or any of the literally dozens of items in the news and on TV over the years about how the Devil made them do it… kill, rape, sacrifice, you name it, the Devil was behind it, somehow. The last of the seventh chapters is a kind of summation of what we’ve seen, and how it all fits together, Genesis to Revelation, so to speak.

After it was whittled down and re-organized, Roecker and Fancher reached out to their friend Rob Zabrecky, a magician and actor (and formerly of the 90s band Possum Dixon), and filmed him as kind of an emcee for the proceedings, introducing the film, providing key segues into the next chapters, and then wrapping it all up in at the end with a cogent epilogue.

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However, as we’ve mentioned, Roecker and Fancher are both busy, creative people, and they’ve been involved in many other ongoing projects and sometimes collecting stray paychecks which left Satan Goes To Hollywood languishing on the shelf for way too long. They’d love to get back to work and finish it, but they need help accomplishing the final edit, color correction, and sound mixing.

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Even though Roecker and Fancher loathe crowd funding and have proven their DIY ethics with every project they’ve done to date, they realize they need a few other devil’s disciples who are similarly inspired to step up and help, financially and otherwise, to complete this fantastic project.

We here at Night Flight think it’s a worthwhile project and want to do our part to see that this doc finally sees the light of day, er… night, whatever’s best. Interested parties can contact John at Johnxgumm@aol.com and Lisa at the Frontier Records’ Facebook page.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.