Seven Footprints to Satan is a 1929 American dark comedy film directed by Danish filmmaker Benjamin Christensen (Häxan aka Witchcraft Through the Ages). Based on the novel of the same name by Abraham Merritt,
The movie stars Thelma Todd, Creighton Hale, William V. Mong and Sheldon Lewis, and contains appearances by Sojin and Angelo Rossitto (Scared to Death; Brain of Blood; The Dark) among others.
Released by First National as a follow-up to The Haunted House (1928), it was produced as both a silent film and as a part-talkie, with dialogue scenes, a full musical score, and sound effects.
“Another of those fright producers, wholly baffling from start to finish. Elucidation of mystery which encompasses the production reveals the salacious scenes a frame-up, which doubtless accounts for its not being censored. A midget, a gorilla and a demon in the guise of Satan, who is operating a secret society, comprise of the terrors… All hokum.” Variety, April 24, 1929
“Seven Footprints to Satan has the fast pace of a slapstick two-reeler sustained for feature-length, though it’s not intended as comedy. With all the sliding bookcases and hidden panels, it plays like an early Scooby-Doo cartoon. I’d love to see it restored, as it should take its place alongside the classic creepy movies of the period. It’s as much fun as the highly-acclaimed The Cat and the Canary, and more eventful than The Bat Whispers and Lon Chaney’s The Monster.” Black Hole review
” …the power of the film is all in its visuals, which makes watching the available prints a deeply frustrating experience. The film is an example of a genre that flourished in Hollywood all throughout the 1920s, the “old dark house” horror-comedy. Offering a perfect opportunity for the not-particularly-horrifying (and usually explained away) horror favoured by critics and social commentators, these films saturated the marketplace in the early twenties, until by the middle of the decade the public had had its fill of them.” And You Call Yourself a Scientist!
“The film adaptation brought a light touch to the novel’s serious mystery, revealing the devil-worshipping cult as a hoax perpetrated on the hero by his uncle. The picture mocked what thrills there are in the book – it was full to the scuppers with weird characters, fake orgies, trick stairways, and gorillas (no horror movie seemed then to be complete without one or two).” Carlos Clarens, An Illustrated History of Horror and Science Fiction Films
Restored 2014 version, with a new score and sound effects:
Various front book covers for Abraham Merritt‘s novel: