Welcome to A Very Spooky… where we take a look at and review a classic TV series that is not known for horror but would, on occasion, dip its toes into the waters of terror. This week, we’re checking out STARSKY AND HUTCH season 3, episode 16, SATAN’S WITCHES…
Some of you may only know STARSKY AND HUTCH from the not very good movie starring Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, and Snoop Dogg. The show was, I promise you, much better. It was, for one thing, honestly funny. Sure, some of the gags are outdated these days, but plenty of them still work real well.
If you don’t know the movie or the show, here’s a quick breakdown – Starsky and Hutch are two savvy cops who solve crimes by cracking wise, getting info from their informant Huggy Bear, and driving around in their red and white Ford Torino. Every now and then, their cases would get real kooky, like when they had to find patient zero for a virus that was killing everyone in the city, or that time they got caught up in a Satanic ritual, which is what we’re looking at here.
Starsky and Hutch are off for a long weekend at their captain’s cabin in the woods. Hutch is all about it – he loves fishing and hunting and nature. Starsky is more of a city boy and is really against the idea. As Starsky puts it, and I couldn’t say it better, “What if you want to go see a movie? Or get a hamburger and a Coca-Cola?” If you had never seen the show before, within the first two minutes, you know that these guys are polar opposites in many ways, but still great friends. The show moves fast, but it never feels like you’re being left behind.
Anyhow… as the boys make their way to the cabin, they fail to notice the two weird guys in red robes watching them from the bushes. Johnny Robes and his buddy appear to be upset – they thought the cabin was going to be empty for the weekend and are none too happy to see two city boys showing up.
Starsky and Hutch unpack and head into the nearest town for some grub. They quickly find that the townsfolk are a little less than friendly – no one seems willing to speak to the two. Starsky takes the car to get gas while Hutch heads into the general store to buy some supplies. At the gas station, Starsky almost gets into a fight when the owner of said gas station refuses to sell him gas. This, to me, seems like a terrible business model, but who am I to tell someone how to run their gas station.
In the shop, Hutch finds the only friendly face in town in the form of the Shopkeeper, though her demeanor changes when Hutch tells her that he and Starsky are staying in the cabin by the lake. The Shopkeeper gets real nervous. Real quiet.
Supplies in hand, and gas in the car, our heroes get ready to return to the cabin when the local Sheriff pops up and randomly threatens to arrest them. Our boys shut this hick Sheriff down real quick when they flash their big city badges. As the guys drive off, the Sheriff heads to another car. Sitting in this car is Johnny Robes!
Back at the cabin, Hutch is making dinner while Starsky continues to complain about being in the woods. Just then, the lights go out, sending Starsky into a panic. Hutch messes with Starsky by making owl noises before he finally turns the lights back on by hitting the fuse switch in the kitchen. It may not sound like it here, but this is actually a real funny bit.
As soon as Starsky gets over being goofed on, he hears another sound, this one coming from outside. The two head out to see what is happening. This time, Hutch gets nervous by the lack of sound. No birds chirping, no frogs croaking. The woods are silent. Too silent.
The guys spot a campfire off a bit and figure that the sound they heard came from there. They decide it must be some college kids messing around and head back inside. As they go in, we move closer to the campfire to reveal a bunch of peeps in red robes walking around the fire counter clockwise and chanting. I think their chant was “Hail Satan, God is death” but to be honest, after “Hail Satan” I had a hard time making out what they were saying. Either way, these people are totally Satan worshipers!
Johnny Robes, who appears to be the head of the Satanists, tells his homie that Starsky and Hutch need to be dealt with before the next night. Our guys are in deep trouble and they don’t even know it!
The next morning, Hutch is up bright and early to get in some fishing on the lake while Starsky sleeps an angry sleep on the couch. As he fishes, Starsky catches sight of Johnny Robes walking around the lake and, being a cop, decides to investigate the weirdo.
Hutch follows the path Johnny Robes took until he reaches the remnants of the campfire from the night before. Something in the ashes catches Hutch’s eye and he pulls it out – it is a very big bone. A femur maybe?
Near the campfire, Hutch also finds some blood. As he inspects the blood, Hutch is surrounded by a bunch of beared goofballs. The beardos demand that Hutch get off their land, to which Hutch refuses. As he readies himself for a fight, Johnny Robes shows up and gives Hutch a lecture, explaining that he and the bearded whack-a-doos are on a religious retreat and they demand that they be left alone. Hutch takes off, promising to return. Once he’s out of earshot, Johnny Robes is all “not if I see you first”. I guess he was trying to look cool in front of his gang of Brawny spokesmen rejects.
At the cabin, Starsky wakes up and head outside for a stretch and some fresh air. After a moment, he notices the pentagram painted on the door.
Hutch shows up and fills Starsky in on his encounter with Johnny Robes and the Beardos as they investigate the pentagram. Starsky touches the door and figures out that the pentagram was painted on with blood.
Just then, two very attractive women show up. This being a TV show in the 70s, Starsky and Hutch instantly forget about the giant pentagram painted in blood on their door and focus on getting laid. One of the women asks if she can use the “comfort station” in the cabin – I’m guessing that means the pooper, but I ain’t so classy as this lady.
While Comfort Station does her comfort station business, Starsky and Hutch get to hitting on the other woman, while also putting each other down at the same time. This following bit of conversation I especially liked…
So, are you into camping?
You kidding? I’m in the woods more than Bigfoot!
Don’t listen to him. The closest he likes to get to wood
Is face down at the bar.
When Starsky opens the fridge, he is greeted by a nasty looking rattlesnake. Starsky stumbles back and falls to the ground as the venomous monster slides out of the fridge. Our hero goes all Indiana Jones and is paralyzed with fear!
Hutch, annoyed that Starsky is taking so long, heads back into the cabin only to find his pal about to get the worst bite of his life. Thinking not as fast as maybe you would hope your friend would in such an emergency, Hutch goes through a few different items before settling on a blanket that he throws over the snake. Right away, the two men figure that Comfort Station Lady must have put the snake in the fridge. The guys decide to head into town to see if they can get some answers.
When they get to the town, our heroes can’t help but notice how empty it is. For a moment, the whole place appears to be deserted, but then the Sheriff, the Shopkeeper, and the Gas Station Owner all show up. The Sheriff informs S&H that Johnny Robes has filed a complaint against them, so S&H are more than happy to tell the Sheriff about what they’ve been through, what with the blood and the pentagram and the snake. The Sheriff isn’t interested in their problems, insisting that the two city boys leave the Satanists alone. The Shopkeeper begs S&H to just go back to the city. They refuse, so the Sheriff arrests them. He even refuses to let them make their one phone call!
That night, the Satanists set up a big old fire, big enough to put a person in if you were so inclined to roast an entire human before you had your s’mores. Johnny Robes explains to his cult, including Comfort Station Lady and her pal, that the time for the final sacrifice had come. A couple of the Satanists head off to their own cabin where a young girl waits. One of the Satanists tells the girl “And now, through the rites of blood, through the fires of the underworld, you shall forever be wed to Satan!”
I have to be honest with you, the girl didn’t look like she was down with the whole wedding. She looked straight up sad, which is a real bummer. No one should be sad on their wedding day!
Back at the police station, Starsky and Hutch are all pissy about being in jail. The Gas Station Owner, who for some reason is watching the guys instead of the Sheriff himself, tells our boys what’s really going down. Turns out that the Satanists have Lizzie, the Sheriff’s daughter and are holding her hostage. The Satanists told the town that they will only be around for three days, and once they leave, they can have the girl back, but if anyone messes with them, they’d kill her.
This reminds Hutch of a case her heard about in Ohio where Satanists did the same thing. That Ohio branch was kind of true to their word – they did leave after three days, and they did hand the girl they took hostage back over, only she was dead and fried up real crispy like. The Gas Station Owner lets Starsky and Hutch free so they can go save the day.
Go get them Satanists, boys!
S&H get to the Satanist’s cabin just as the ritual is starting. Johnny Robes leads his peeps in the same chant as before (maybe it’s “Hail Satan, God is dumb” I really can’t make out the last part). As Johnny Robes and his congregation pray to the Dark Lord, S&H head to the Satanist cabin to rescue Lizzie. As the two knuckleheads argue about the best way to save the girl, a Satanist guard comes up and spots them. They beat the tar out of the guard and head inside where they find Lizzie.
As Starsky, Hutch, and Lizzie make their way to the good guy cabin, the Satanist guard wakes up and tells the others like a little jerk.
At the cabin, Hutch finds that the phone is dead, and based on all the Satanists surrounding the place, they may soon be dead too. The Satanists restart their ritual with that same chant (it may be “Hail Satan, who brought a snack”) as a few of the bearded Satanists head into the cabin. Luckily, Hutch has a plan.
The Satanists enter the dark cabin, unable to see anything. Out of nowhere (well, the kitchen where they already set up the fuse switch earlier) Lizzie turns on the lights, letting Starsky freak the Satanists out for a second. Then Lizzie turns the lights out again. This “lights on, lights off’ plan, which is more in the style of the Marx Brothers than you would normally see in a cop show, goes on until all the fighting Satanists are defeated.
Starsky and Hutch put on the robes of some of the unconscious Satanists and head outside to sneak into the ritual. Their plan works for literally two seconds before Johnny Robes is all “Hey, you totally aren’t Jim and Greg! I can totes see your faces, idiots!”
The Satanists surround our heroes and are about to kill them when the sound of police sirens fill the air. The Sheriff shows up with the county cops in tow and the Satanists are defeated! Yay!
The next morning, in a kooky turn of events, Starsky has found himself loving the nature life while Hutch wants nothing more than to get back to the city where Satanists don’t hang out. Starsky’s love for the woods ends quickly when he hears a bear growling. The end!
Overall, I loved watching this episode of STARSKY AND HUTCH. It was funny, quick paced, and while never scary, it built up the tension well. It also hit on some great moments that you’ll normally see in a horror movie like this – the townsfolk being standoffish, the pentagram on the door, the snake. When this episode first aired, the United States hadn;t entered it’s Satanic Panic phase yet, but movies about Satanists were becoming more common.
This is the kind of episode of a show that feels like it was a script meant for a movie but shortened to be 45 minutes. Though I have no evidence to back this up, I wouldn’t be surprised if SATAN’S WITCHES was somewhere inside the head of Edgar Wright or Simon Pegg when they wrote HOT FUZZ.
If you can find a copy of this episode, I really can’t recommend it enough. I had a blast watching it.
*STARSKY AND HUTCH; Columbia Pictures Television