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Eye of the Devil
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Eye of the Devil More at IMDbPro »

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40 out of 47 people found the following review useful:

Great cast! Great premise! ...something went wrong during the elaboration

7/10
Author: Coventry from the Draconian Swamp of Unholy Souls
6 October 2004

Before I started watching 'Eye of the Devil', I already wondered why this film isn't mentioned more often. The film seems to have a pretty solid and horrifying plot (based on a novel by Philip Loraine) and it's blessed with an all-star cast. Sir David Niven (The Pink Panther series, Casino Royale) - here at the top of his success - plays the lead role and there are supportive roles for class actors like Donald Pleasance (The Great Escape, Halloween), Deborah Kerr (The Innocents, Qua Vadis), David Hemmings (Blowup, Profondo Rosso), Flora Robson (The Sea Hawk, Beast in the Cellar) and the stunningly beautiful Sharon Tate (Fearless Vampire Killers, Rosemary's Baby). Niven stars as vineyard owner marquis Philippe de Montfaucon. He's asked to return to his castle because of yet another disappointing season. Although he requested them not to, his wife and children soon join him at the remote rural estate. Every employee there acts mysteriously and even the loyal Philippe all of a sudden seems to keep secrets to his beloved wife Catherine. Intrigued by the strange behavior of her husband and the overload of eccentric characters wandering around the estate, Catherine starts her own investigation and discovers that the Philippe's bloodline always followed bizarre and old pagan rituals (even involving blood sacrifices) in order to save the crops. Although she fears for her husband and children, Catherine doesn't succeed in convincing Philippe to leave…

The premise of Eye of the Devil is terrific occult substance and the film features several haunting and extremely atmospheric sequences. Unfortunately the elaboration of the script is uneven and often very confusing. Although beautifully shot, there are several parts in this film that are redundant and the 'mystery' is a bit overstressed. Sharon Tate (you won't believe how sensual she is here) has a stylish and grim sequence in which she turns a toad into a pigeon, but I fail the see how this carefully built up feature was essential to the film?

The weird thing about 'Eye of the Devil' is that it seems to borrow elements from other British horror milestones. The terrified Deborah Kerr trying to resolve a mystery and to protect her children strongly reminds you about 'The Innocents' (some of the camera-work and the eerie black and white photography increase the connection between the two films) and the caped 'apostles' wandering through the forests makes you think back to Roger Corman's 'The Masque of the Red Death'. Something else to ponder about is the rather large similarity between this film and the absolute cult-favorite 'The Wicker Man'. Although this latter one is much more stylish and gripping, it more or less disappointed me to see this OLDER film handling about the same topic. I always considered 'The Wicker Man' to be one of the most unique and original movies ever made and now I find out this a more sophisticated update of J. Lee Thompson's 1967 film? Perhaps there you have the reason why this film is a bit downgraded and overlooked! The Wicker Man is often labeled as part of the greatest British films ever made, so I guess all the fans don't like to hear that it might have been inspired by another – more anonymous – Brit horror film.

In conclusion: Eye of the Devil is recommended if you're an admirer of complex and ambitious horror tales. Too bad it's a little TOO complex at times, but then there still are the outstanding acting performances and strict directing skills to enjoy. And I can't stress enough how marvelous Sharon Tate looks in this film. This heavenly goddess passed away far too early (damn that Charles Manson) and the few films she starred in should be checked out by everyone who's an admirer of female beauty.

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35 out of 41 people found the following review useful:

Oddball Thriller - More Glum than Scary

Author: baker-9 from United States
29 January 2004

"Eye of the Devil" had a very troubled history. Kim Novak was originally cast as the female lead, but production had to be shut down as she proved inadequate to the role's demands (surprise!) and was let go.

The film is about a French nobleman (played by David Niven) who's family fortune is tied to a small village that makes wine. He's called back to the family chateau as the vineyards have been failing for a few years, an announcement ripe with sinister and mysterious overtones. He tells his wife (Deborah Kerr) not to follow him or bring their two children, but soon she does just that, fearing for his safety.

What follows involves ancient pagan rituals, witchcraft, and deadly family secrets that go back centuries and can be handed down to the next generation.

There's a nice thriller in here somewhere, and director J. Lee Thompson manages some creepy scenes here and there. Best are the scenes with a manipulative and hostile Sharon Tate and/or David Hemmings, and one where Kerr is menaced by a group of hooded figures in the woods. Also the ending is properly disturbing.

But for the most part, the film's atmosphere is gloomy and dank, which kills the suspense. It doesn't help that both Deborah Kerr and David Niven are both too mature at this point to be playing parents of small children. Niven looks mostly distracted and Kerr, while capable in her damsel-in-distress role, does a less interesting variation on her brilliant performance in "The Innocents," though in that case the role was far more complex. As for the late Ms. Tate, I'm convinced her voice was dubbed by another actress, but she does cut a very provocative figure.

The film contains too many characters, and not all the plot makes much sense. This is strictly something for British horror fans to watch out of curiosity, or for devotees of Deborah Kerr.

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28 out of 30 people found the following review useful:

Uneven but effective chiller.

Author: Troy Howarth from Johnstown, PA
4 April 1999

Historically speaking this film serves as an invaluable precursor to Anthony Shaffer's ingenious THE WICKER MAN, starring Edward Woodward and Christopher Lee. Taken on its own, however, EYE OF THE DEVIL is an effective but wildly uneven film.

The story deals with a wealthy French nobleman (David Niven) who is called back to his ancestral castle when the crops fail. Due to his erratic behavior regarding this summons, wife Deborah Kerr becomes increasingly worried about Niven's safety. Against his orders, Kerr takes her children to his ancestral castle, where she witnesses many strange and eerie religious rites. The question then becomes, will Kerr be able to rescue Niven from a ritual sacrifice, and -- indeed -- does he wish to be saved?

Owing to its erratic production history, it's not surprising that EYE OF THE DEVIL is a bit rough around the edges. The story is obtuse, and the characters under-developed, but director J. Lee Thompson employs an intriguingly arty approach that keeps one alert throughout. Thompson makes excellent use of Ernest Haller's mobil camerawork, most notably in a memorable race-against-the-clock climax. Additionally, the score is excellent, and the cast is well above average for this sort of thing. In the lead roles, Kerr and Niven are effective and restrained, but it is the supporting cast that really impresses: Donald Pleasence, his head shave completely bald, as a sinsiter cleric; David Hemmings as a seemingly evil youth; and especially Sharon Tate as Hemmings' enchantingly sensual/wicked sister.

In the end, EYE OF THE DEVIL cannot be considered a great film. It is, however, an above average diabolical thriller, and as such can be recommended to horror fans. My rating: *** out of ****

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22 out of 25 people found the following review useful:

Film noir meets horror -- with Sharon Tate!

8/10
Author: (malco@pobox.com) from East Coast, USA
30 April 2006

This one gets a least a 7 just on the camera work: glorious black & white, lots of shadowy scenes shot in a creepy French castle. Add to the mix a gorgeous young Sharon Tate in her screen debut as a freekoid Pagan witchess and you have enough to hold my attention for 90 minutes! I thought it was great all the way around: story line, casting, sets, you name it. Lots to like: Pagan cults, weird ceremonies with dead doves, hooded figures dressed in black, a tomb in the woods, ritual sacrifice, and did I mention that the magnificent Sharon Tate is in this movie? David Niven is outstanding as the grim and proper heir to a cruel pagan tradition designed to save the failing vineyards of his fore fathers. Ignore the IMDb 5.5 average rating -- if you like 60's B&W British creepy chiller/thrillers, watch it!

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18 out of 23 people found the following review useful:

Perfect sixties late night movie !

9/10
Author: Xanadu-2
23 August 1999

This film is like the dream sixties movie I never saw! It´s as if I made up a list of what I love in a movie and it was fulfilled!

I hadn´t ever heard of the film before even with its countless sixties stars. It´s pretty good too! Wonder why it isn´t well known and why it wasn´t a hit when it first came out. There´s so much going for it : First, it´s a mystery set in huge french castle in (then) present time. The amazing black and white photography, every picture is thought out and beautiful in its own right. And the suspence! At times the film is genuinely exciting like when the lady is surrounded by the hooded beings in the woods.

There are alot of things in the film that remind you of Polanski´s "Rosemary´s Baby". "Eye of the Devil" came out before so Polanski must have seen it and been influenced. Maybe that´s where he first caught sight of lovely Sharon Tate who is stunningly beautiful and good actress too.

The film also has such sixties stars as David Niven, David Hemmings (sooo beautiful) and Deborah Kerr who is very good as the heroine but a bit uninteresting. Apparently Kim Novak was to have had the part but got injured during filming and thus replaced. She might not be as good an actress as ms. Kerr but could have brought more glamour and camp value to the film. It is a bit confusing and you get used to the editing but see it if you can!

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14 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

Stunning

10/10
Author: gothic_a666 from Portugal
9 February 2006

Atmospheric horror dealt in a skillful and very sober way: this movie works more through suggestion, weaving its narrative through grand scenarios of uncanny intensity which is greatly enriched by the black and white colouring that casts a certain aura all over the action and sharpens the characters' peculiarities.

The plot revolves around an ancient curse that plagues a family, linked with a superstitious awe that borders on paranoia. In itself, it is nothing too original: the distraught mother observes with alarm the sudden changes that take place when her so far devoted husband returns to the family estate, a magnific medieval castle, and tries to unravel what is behind the revolution. Yet, its the subtlety with which the theme is approached that distinguish the movie as above average, and raise it to the standard of artistic endeavor as well as story-telling. I'd say that imagery, especially the vibrant contrast between dark areas of film to which correspond luminescent patches, is one of the most relevant and outstanding elements that craft this movie into looking like an animated painting of bizarre overtones.

With some hints of psychological drama that pervade the atmosphere (not the extent that is achieved with such movies as "The Haunting", 1963, but using the same basic approach) the tense environment is stressed and developed as a succession of drama-infused situations that escalate into a stunning climax.

The horror, something organic, in the old Gothic tradition, relies on the architecture to project its full impact upon a solid cast of actors, whose performances are perfectly in sync the overall attitude of uncomfortable beauty that sets the leitmotiv for the whole movie.

To this we add an ambiguous collection of character that hint at the possibility of the supernatural as well as providing enough dark innuendos to undercut the apparently peaceful family relations, a certain order of blood ties being shown and (potentially) unnatural; and an all encompassing narrative frame that is perfect enacted through the curse: not that in itself but the scenes that finally disclose the secrets pertaining said curse.

Overall, a very worthy effort that has aged well, and that actually be more enjoyable now, stripped of its more direct content and perceived more for the great art work that is the heart of the movie.

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9 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Striking, if not flawless, mystery thriller.

Author: Poseidon-3 from Cincinnati, OH
1 September 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A truly remarkable cast was assembled for this creepy, highly atmospheric mystery story set in France (but featuring actors with uniformly British accents!) Niven plays the heir to a wine fortune who is suddenly called upon to attend to the vineyards on his family's estate when the grapes threaten to fail. Despite his pleas for her to stay home, his wife (Kerr) brings their two children to join him and she scarcely gets a moment's peace thereafter. Creepy Hemmings is always hanging around with his bow and arrow and his sinister, but startlingly lovely sister (Tate) has an unsettling interest in the children. Meanwhile, sullen priest Pleasance and eternally-worried Robson, as Niven's aunt, add to the unease. The townspeople seem to look on expressionless at every turn. Kerr can't seem to break through to whatever is going on and feels as if Niven isn't himself, but also starts to fear for the safety of her children and herself. Though Niven (especially) and Kerr are clearly too old for their roles, they manage to give committed performances. Kerr deserves special mention for stepping in at the 11th hour (replacing Kim Novak) and giving a lot of emotion and intensity to her part. Most of the acting is strong including Tate, even though her voice is dubbed by a British actress and her big, blonde, 60's hair is inconsistent from shot to shot. It's a shame that her own vocals couldn't be used, but she is one of the most luscious women ever to be seen in film and her purpose here is primarily a decorative one. The always enjoyable Robson doesn't have a great deal to do, but she handles herself admirably. There are bits of disjointed continuity here and there and an occasional lack of cohesiveness, but the film offers some stylish and striking visuals and several very suspenseful sequences. One is a scene in which Kerr visits a grave site and then is surrounded by a dozen hooded figures. Another impressive scene takes place atop one of the castle's parapets. She gets quite a workout as she tries to escape from a locked room, ascends the tall tower of the castle and races around the grounds desperately trying to save her husband's life, which even he isn't that keen on doing. Though Kerr's (and Tate's!) attractiveness could have been brought out more in a color film, the crisp black and white photography adds to the mystery and chill of the plot. Fans of films like "The Witches" (1966) and others with dour, strange villagers ought to enjoy checking this one out.

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8 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Entertaining British Chiller, with an all star cast.

9/10
Author: suemartin23264 from United Kingdom
18 July 2007

Eye of the Devil is a little - known horror from the mid - Sixties. David Niven, Deborah Kerr, Donald Pleasance, Flora Robson, Sharon Tate and so many more star in this, so it must be some good for them to sign up. Being in the UK, I caught this on TCM 2 last night. There was nothing else on, and I hadn't seen this before, so I turned off all the lights (as is customary) and settled down.

The movie is about a French Marquis, who owns a vineyard in France. When the vineyard's produce prove to be very little, and the produce that it has produced is dry and worthless, he has to return to France to set things right. He leaves his wife (Deborah Kerr) and his two children, tells them not to follow him, and leaves. However, curiosity gets the better of his wife, and she does indeed follow him, with their two children. However, what she discovers there is no less than horrifying...

Eye of the Devil oozes atmosphere, the performances are good, and the plot is strong enough to keep the audience's attention held. Sure, there are some plot holes and goofs, but if you can overlook these, and enjoy this for what it is, you'll be pleasantly surprised.

As an afterthought, this is probably one of the first films to ever portray pagan rituals on film. Although the world renowned - "Wicker Man" - is supposed to be the King of this genre, it probably took a lot of its ideas from this. It's a pre - Wicker Man. That's probably why its so little known. The film industry want to milk The Wicker Man and overlook this. The Wicker Man is indeed a good film, but not the first to deal with pagans.

Wherever you are in the world, if you receive the TCM channel, then you'll probably have a good chance of catching this on the TV. TCM now own the copyright to this film as far as my own knowledge goes, so, if you're a fan of this movie, then you know who to ask for a DVD release!

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11 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Nice little sinister chiller

7/10
Author: The_Void from Beverley Hills, England
6 July 2006

Eye of the Devil doesn't exactly have a good reputation, but much of the criticism aimed at it is rather unfair in my opinion; as while the film certainly could have been a lot better considering the plot and the cast; this British chiller isn't bad at all, and certainly provided this viewer with enough chills and suspense. Based on a novel by Philip Loraine, Eye of the Devil could be called a predecessor to the great British occult classic 'The Wicker Man' as it features similar themes of devil worship and witchcraft. Although not as good as the later film, J. Lee Thompson's effort is still a more than interesting film that just about works in spite of the overly complicated and often confusing mess of a plot. The film follows vineyard owner marquis Philippe de Montfaucon, who is called back to his castle after a dry season. His wife and children follow him, despite his request for them to remain in London; and it's not long before the wife is on his case after she discovers him acting strangely. Things take a turn for the more sinister when the strange vineyard employees begin following ancient Pagan rituals...

The central locations; that being the castle and surrounding vineyard, are very well used, and benefit the film in that they lend it a thick, foreboding atmosphere. The plot revels in this atmosphere - and themes of witchcraft and devil worship are well used and at the forefront at all times. The film's biggest asset, however, is undoubtedly the cast list; and Eye of the Devil benefits from an array of present and future stars. Casino Royale stars David Niven and Deborah Kerr take the lead roles, and the pair are given excellent support by a young Donald Pleasance, as well as The Fearless Vampire Killers' Sharon Tate and a very eerie performance by Deep Red's David Hemmings. The only area that the film falls down on really is the writing; as it is often difficult to decipher exactly what is going on, and there is, perhaps, a little too much plot for a film of this nature. The story does allow for a number of standout moments, however; and scenes such as the one that Sharon Tate and Deborah Kerr share at the top of castle will stay in my memory for some time. Overall, this isn't a must see or classic film; but it's a decent horror effort and should appeal to horror fanatics.

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13 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

Incredible '60s cast wasted on a forgettable and muddled bloodcurdler.

4/10
Author: Jonathon Dabell (barnaby.rudge@hotmail.co.uk) from Todmorden, England
22 December 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

With an all-star cast and a director with a string of hits behind him (Northwest Frontier, The Guns Of Navarone, Cape Fear, Taras Bulba), Eye Of The Devil must have looked a good bet on paper. Unfortunately, the final product is a somewhat muddled and murky affair which fails to live up to its potential. There is always something curiously enjoyable about watching talented stars in trouble, and Eye Of The Devil certainly offers a glorious opportunity for such mean-spirited voyeurism.

French land-owner Phillipe De Montfaucon (David Niven, sorely miscast) is summoned back to the family vineyard in the sleepy French town of Bellenac. He implores his wife Catherine (Deborah Kerr) to remain in London with their children Antoinette and Jacques (Suky Appleby and Robert Duncan). However, Catherine ignores his advice and follows her husband to the gloomy ancestral castle. It seems that for the third year in a row the De Montfaucon vineyards have yielded unsuccessful crops, and the townfolk seem to think that Phillipe can somehow rectify the problem. Upon arriving in Bellenac, Catherine is immediately unsettled by the oddness of the people in the area, especially the priest Pere Dominic (Donald Pleasance), and the brother-sister conjurers Christian De Caray (David Hemmings) and Odile (Sharon Tate). Even her husband Phillipe seems to be acting strangely and Catherine is determined to find out why. Gradually she discovers that the entire town is full of satanists and the poor crops are believed to be the result of a long-lasting family curse. As the oldest surviving De Montfaucon male, Phillipe is expected to sacrifice himself as part of a bizarre pagan ritual in order to restore health to the grapes!!

Talk about a wacky plot! The actors take it all very seriously though (not a single tongue in a single cheek to be found), which only serves to make them look pretty foolish. Kerr has the most difficult job, for she is the only normal person in the picture and therefore the only character with whom the viewers can identify. She tries quite hard, but isn't helped in the slightest by the mystifying script. Of the weird characters, Sharon Tate and David Hemmings come off best, their scenes carrying a certain hypnotic fascination though not a deal of sense. There are occasional effective moments during the film, such as the bit where some hooded figures pursue Catherine in a forest, but on the whole it is a very disappointing film which tries too hard to conceal its plot twists and ends up appearing muddled. No doubt there is a cult crowd for this kind of thing somewhere, but from my point of view it's just a wasted opportunity. This was one of the most extraordinary casts ever assembled in the '60s and it's somewhat dismaying when one reflects on what might have been.

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