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The Devil's Widow (1970)
"The Ballad of Tam Lin" (original title)

 -  Horror  -  September 1972 (USA)
6.5
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Ratings: 6.5/10 from 207 users  
Reviews: 9 user | 10 critic

Based on an ancient Scottish folk song, an older woman uses witchcraft to keep her young jet-set friends.

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(original screenplay)
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Michaela Cazaret
...
Richard Wattis ...
Elroy
...
Vicar Julian Ainsley
...
Janet Ainsley
David Whitman ...
Oliver
Fabia Drake ...
Miss Gibson
...
Rose (as Sinead Cusack)
...
Georgia
Jenny Hanley ...
Caroline
Madeline Smith ...
Sue
...
Alan
Victoria Fairbrother ...
Vanna (as Pamela Farbrother)
Rosemary Blake ...
Kate
Michael Bills ...
Michael
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Storyline

Based on the ancient Scottish ballad "Tam Lin" (one of it's many titles), the plot concerns an aging, beautiful woman who uses her wealth (and occasionally, witchcraft) to control a decadent pack of attractive young people she surrounds herself with. But when her latest young stud falls for the local vicar's daughter, she vows revenge. Written by phillindholm

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Genres:

Horror

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for some sexuality/nudity, thematic elements, violence and smoking | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

September 1972 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Devil's Widow  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This is the only film directed by Roddy McDowall. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Ban the Sadist Videos! (2005) See more »

Soundtracks

Tam Lin
Written by Bert Jansch, Jacqui McShee, Terry Cox, John Renbourn and Danny Thompson
Performed by The Pentangle
See more »

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User Reviews

 
decadent fun from ancient Scottish ballad
16 June 2009 | by (Los Angeles) – See all my reviews

One should be a fan of British cinema, retro pop culture, fantasy/folklore, and personal auteur-ship for maximum enjoyment of this likable but format-challenged film from the late 1960's/early 70's. I sure am, and as such quite savored this cinematic retelling of the Tam Lin ballad.

It's sufficiently enjoyable that I immediately transferred the VHS tape to DVD for future viewings. One suspects it had been slated for same, what with its 17 minute director's introduction, but remained lost in the ether of Republic Pictures' post-demise assorted distribution deals. One further suspects that its release under of aegis of an Ava Gardner tribute series was the ticket for its seeing light of day at all post theatrical debut. It's been written that Roddy McDowell lost control of this, his only directed film, with it subsequently languishing in drive-ins of the 1970's under such noms-du-exploitation as "The Devil's Widow!" As McDowell's sole direction job, this is a movie one ever so wants to be as good as Charles Laughton's similar solo effort "Night of the Hunter," which it isn't and cannot be, as few films can match "Hunter's" expert, mannerist weirdness. McDowell's is a B+ to Laughton's A+. What is it does share is the quirkiness of a singular vision, seeming unlike anything else of its respective era while still conforming to mainstream requisites, and the retelling of a dreamy but occasionally frightening fairy tale in modern clothes, with assorted decidedly odd touches. A true loss to cinema that both actors never directed another film.

Simply put, it's the ballad of Tam Lin (its original title in fact) retold with late '60's characters, and peopled with a cast of still working, familiar British names like Ian McShane (representing the titular captured knight Tam Lin,) Joanna Lumley and Stephanie Beacham (the Hammer horror ingénue, here as the ballad's Janet) with both Cyril and Sinead Cusack in tow. Gardner as the controlling "Faerie Queen" seems an apt focus of the swirling debaucheries and cruelties rationalized as group activity fun. This, strangely, isn't so much part of the fantasy as modern viewers might conclude: some of us who were adolescents in the '60's remember the genuine, wealthy older types lending their mansions to us young'uns in order to share in the decadent fun, whether vicariously or actively.

In "Tam Lin" you'll find a little seen but quite good updated fairy story, plus amusing music from jazz to the Pentangle, great costuming, retro period fun, gorgeous Scottish border scenery and an always great to watch cast. Time for whoever owns Republic's split assets this week to fund that DVD release.


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