Cinematography for the Devil: five classic big-screen Satans

It's Halloween, a night of terror and devilry, so why not remind yourself of some of Hollywood's most diverse on-screen Devils

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If there’s one cliché about Satan that’s been well and truly borne out over the centuries, it’s that he does indeed assume many different forms…

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And nowhere is this multiplicity better demonstrated than in motion pictures. Yes, over the years, Hollywood’s legions of screenwriters, costume designers and actors have built on ancient artistic and literary depictions of the devil, bringing the Dark Lord to life on screen and giving us some truly memorable modern-day antichrists.

And what a diverse bunch of character traits he’s been saddled with over the last few decades. Far from the fire breathing, tyrannical beelzebub of old, the devil’s been rendered in ways that would make him unrecognisable to even the most imaginitive paintbrush-toting sixth-century monk since Hollywood got its hands on him.

So, as it’s Halloween and time to celebrate all things devilish, let’s have a look at some of cinema’s most memorbale and diverse big-screen princes of darkness…


The Temptress

Most of us imagine the Devil to be a rather grotesque creature, all red skin and cloven hooves, but in the 2000 comedy Bedazzled he assumed a far more appealing form: a pouting, salacious Liz Hurley. Which makes sense, really. After all, if anything’s going to lead men into temptation…

The movie itself is a fairly silly take on the Faust legend, which sees Brendan Fraser exchange his soul for seven wishes from this beguiling Beelzebub, but it does contain some interesting philosophical nuggets and, y’know, Liz Hurley in a red rubber catsuit…


The Sensitive Soul

Sure, Satan made some mistakes, what with getting himself kicked out of heaven and all, and he probably ended up as a raging, wrathful individual for a few millennia or so. But no-one can stay angry forever. Everyone wants a little tenderness and comfort in their lives, and according to 1999’s South Park: Bigger Longer and Uncut, the devil’s no different.

Here, Satan’s a rather nice chap pining to leave hell behind, coveting all the goodness on Earth and rueing the day he ever struck up a relationship with Saddam Hussein, his wrathful, emotionally-illiterate boyfriend. When South Park regular Kenny dies and ends up in hell, he persuades Satan to kill Saddam, and in doing so manages to undo all the evil caused by an American-Canadian war. Maybe the devil’s not such a bad egg after all…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X13Kb_DktHg


The Joker

What with hell being a place of eternal damnation where sinners burn in pools of molten sulphur for all eternity, you might think there wouldn’t be much to joke about down there. You’d be wrong, however, as evinced by Lucifer in 2000’s Little Nicky.

Played by Rodney Dangerfield (who first appears around the 11:45 mark), this bathrobe–sporting Devil’s a font of wisecracks, zingers and general bonhomie. Maybe it’s got something to do with him having retired from active devilry a few centuries before the events of the film take place and left his son Harvey Keitel in charge; maybe he’s just had his fill of transgressor’s souls…whatever the reason, he’s one Devil few would begrudge spending eternity with.

Do beware, though, the Devil occasionally uses bad language so this is not suitable for younger viewers.


The Rocker

It’s often said that the Devil has all the best tunes, which is something Jack Black and Kyle Gass set out to disprove in Tenacious D’s big-screen outing The Pick of Destiny in 2006.

Here, the hard-rockin’ Devil’s played by Foo Fighters main-man Dave Grohl under layers of red latex and stick-on facial hair, and his uncouth Satan does battle with our portly heroes in a “rock off” to save the world. The Devil’s got heavy metal and braggadocio on his side, but he’s eventually overcome by wit, wordplay and some deft acoustic guitar work.

Alas, Lucifer’s a bit too sweary in the film to showcase on a family website such as this, but Tenacious D also met with the Grohl-Devil in the video for their song Tribute, so have a watch of that instead…


The Make-Up Department’s Greatest Success

The one thing most people remember about the 1985 fantasy film Legend is Tim Curry’s portrayal of a fruity but terrifying Lord of Darkness, who stole every scene he was in. Sure, his acting was suitably grandiose, and the effects used on his truly voice bowel-quaking, but the most remarkable thing about him is surely the make-up job.

Sporting three-foot long horns and all-over red prosthetics, Curry here looks a world away from the rather twee Devils in Sooke’s BBC4 documentary, and instead takes today’s stereotype of the Dark One to its logical conclusion.

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Apparently, some of his character traits rubbed off on Curry during filming too, and the actor once badly tore his skin while trying to wrench his Satanic prosthetics off in a fit of wrath…