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This is not a film for the occult horror film aficionado. "To the
Daughter" has already received a few whithering reviews that are all
justified. Dennis Wheatley, the author of the book, condemned it because
there was little resemblance to his novel and what appears on screen,
for the title. Currently available on wide screen 16X9 anamorphic
the DVD contains a 24 minute documentary with recent commentary by Peter
Sykes, the director, and Roy Skeggs, the producer. "To the Devil...a
Daughter" is a well done film that demonstrates what a first rate director
is capable of with a limited budget. This film turns out to be the horror
film equivalent of "Casablanca" because the movie as originally scripted
not filmable. Hence, with the start of production, the script was
continually being written on a day to day basis by Gerald Vaughan-Hughes,
uncredited screen writer. "To the Devil...a Daughter" followed the genre
setting "The Exorcist" and "Rosemary's Baby" and was the last Hammer film
because it was too little and too late.
"To the Devil...a Daughter" is one of the earliest Nastassja Kinski films and must have been seen by Roman Polanski who realized her potential. It is not a chessey film, but does have a few pieces of cheese in it. The most obvious one is the full frontal nudity scene of a very young Nastassja. Yes, it is cheesey, but from an editing view, is more shocking than titillating. In her first scene, it is apparent that there is more than a passing resemblance between Nastassja and Ingrid Bergman - innocent, clean beauties. In one of the scenes, Nastassja was having a problem actually getting the tears that the director wanted and there had been quite a few retakes. Richard Widmark said to the director, "when I say turnover, turnover, it's going to happen." Sykes started the film rolling and Widmark hit her right "in the chops" and the tears came and he said, "OK, now act." The cast is first rate and included Richard Widmark (who was pretty disgusted with the film and threatened to walk out on it), Christopher Lee (of horror film fame), Honor Blackman a renown actress at the time in Britain (known to American audiences as Pussy Galore of the James Bond "Goldfinger," and Denholm Elliot as the German bad guy in "Raiders of the Lost Ark."
It is best to watch "To the Devil...a Daughter" with no expectations and let the film naturally unfold, without preconceived mental baggage. If one is steeped in the occult traditions, then this movie is not for you because of its glaring errors - all made up by the afore mentioned screen writer. Otherwise, the mood of the picture is quickly set by Richard Widmark's,
"98% of so called satanist are nothing but pathetic freaks who get their kicks out of dancing naked in freezing church yards and use the devil as an excuse for getting some sex, but then there is that other 2%, I'm not so sure about them."
Christopher Lee's role as the maniacal, ex-communicated priest brings to mind the great performance of Boris Karloff as Imhotep in the 1932 "The Mummy," who had the supernatural power to project thought over space and time. "To the Devil...a Daughter" is well paced with its race against time.
"To The Devil A Daughter" of 1976 is on of the last films from the
great Hammer studios, and, as it seems, it was a disappointment to many
of my fellow Hammer fans. For understandable reasons, since this is the
second of two Hammer films about Satanism and black magic based on
novels by Dennis Wheatley. Both films star Christopher Lee and the
first, namely "The Devil Rides Out" of 1968 is easily one of the most
brilliant films ever released by this great Production Company. And "To
The Devil A Daughter" can not nearly compete with "The Devil Rides
Out", but, as far as I am considered it is still a creepy film that is
more than worth watching for a Horror fan.
The performances are exceptional, and I am not only talking about the great Christopher Lee. Lee is brilliant as always, of course, but the cast includes quite a bunch of other great actors. Richard Widmark also delivers a great performance and so do Denholm Eliott, Michael Goodliffe and the great Honor Blackman. Young Nastassia Kinski is also exceptional in one of her very first roles. The cinematography is great, and the film is often very eerie, but it sadly lacks the wonderful Gothic atmosphere that Hammer fans love so much. The film has atmosphere, no doubt, but sadly not the typical Hammer-style. This may be the main reason why many fellow Hammer fans are disappointed with the film. And it was also the lack of Gothic elements that I disliked about the film. But even though it is definitely one of the lesser films from Hammer and it may disappoint on a certain level, the film is definitely a creepy flick that fans of the studios should not miss. If you expect a shining finale to 20 years of brilliant Hammer rule, you run risk of being disappointed. Just expect a creepy little film with a great cast and enjoy!
Underrated thriller that despite being slow and meandering still manages a few nice shocks and is never less than interesting. This attempted to match The Exorcist for near-the-knuckle images and themes, and although it lacks that film's lasting power to haunt it does have a strong line in perversity that may surprise the most jaded unshockable viewer. Christopher Lee is great as the smiling, gentlemanly paganist - Natassja Kinski looks great and goes through the film like a day-dreaming naive child, which is exactly what she is supposed to be. Admittedly the creature at the end could easily have climbed out of a cornflakes packet as the depths of hell, but it doesn't ruin the film. Channel 4 recently showed a wide-screen version. It was well worth taping.
Father Michael Rayner (CHRISTOPHER LEE) was ex-communicated from the Church of England for attempting to bring a personification of the devil to Earth. Twenty years on and Rayner has settled in Germany with his devil-worshiping followers under the facade of the "Children of the Lord" cult. Rayner sends his godchild Catherine Beddows (NASTASSJA KINSKI) to England to join her father Henry Beddows (DENHOLM ELLIOT) for her 18th-birthday. Rayner intends to fulfil his old ambition and rebaptise Catherine into the service of evil. Henry who was forced into the cult's evil-doings because his wife was a member of the cult attempts to recant and places his daughter in the care of occult novelist Jim Verney (RICHARD WIDMARK) who must confront and destroy Rayner before he succeeds in making the devil walk the Earth in the form of an innocent girl.
TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER was Hammer's final horror film and the company's second attempt to bring one of Dennis Wheatley's occult novels to the screen. Wheatley was overjoyed by the company's filming of his novel THE DEVIL RIDES OUT (1968), but was apparently less pleased with Hammer's version of his popular TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER novel which Hammer had considered adapting for the screen as early as 1963. The film took a very respectable £13, 375 on it's opening week at the Odeon Leicester Square and it reached number three in the London Film Charts. On it's general release the film's takings were estimated at about £200,000.
Yet despite this success, Hammer's plans to film Wheatley's THE SATANIST were sadly scrapped. Thus continued Hammer's trip into oblivion which came to a head with an ill-advised remake of Alfred Hitchcock's THE LADY VANISHES in 1979.
TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER is a most enjoyable film. The script may be a little confused but the gore scenes are suitably erotic (more so than in most other Hammer films) and it benefits from good production values and an exemplary cast. Lee is excellent as the disgraced priest, a complete contrast to his portrayal of the Duc De' Richeleau in THE DEVIL RIDES OUT, while Richard Widmark shines as the hero. His performance is up to the standard of the Hammer heroes portrayed by Peter Cushing and Andre Morell even though his character only conflicts with Lee's once. The direction of Peter Sykes is good even if his other feature film credits like STEPTOE AND SON RIDE AGAIN (1973) may cause some initial doubts. Hammer purists consider this to be the company's worst film. It is more graphic than the earlier Hammer horrors and more or less ignores all the traditions of the company's earlier films, which makes it all the more better.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This one really could and should have worked. The usual ingenuity was
employed to stretch a small budget a long way, lots of British talent
was available at micro-cost, a Hollywood A-lister came on board, it was
based on probably the best of Dennis Wheatley's black magic novels, and
in an age when, thanks to THE EXORCIST, occult movies were in vogue, it
might well have regenerated vital interest in the ailing studio.
But it didn't. Hammer folded shortly afterwards, and this movie contributed to that - even though it made a healthy profit. Nowadays it's seen as something of a curiosity: a well-intentioned but belated addition to the Satanic horror cycle, still distinctly Hammer but laced with tasteless moments that don't do anyone involved any credit at all, and at times so clumsily edited that you're never really sure what's going on.
The first problem is the script, which apparently was being constantly rewritten right up until the end of production. As a result, there's no clear narrative line for the audience to follow. What is the purpose of the hideously deformed baby? Is it the Devil incarnate? If so, why does it then get sacrificed? What's Nastassja Kinski's role in all this, apart from to lie alluringly on slabs and indulge in full-frontal nudity? Who are the lead-Satanist's urbane followers? We never really get to know them, or understand what functions they have, and we see no real sign that they're part of a larger cult. Why does one of them then bleed herself to death? Surely it isn't required that every drop be drained from her body just so that a small amount can be trickled around a magic circle? Why, right at the end, are we suddenly introduced to the mysterious properties of flint-stone, and why, when it's got the blood of one of Satan's acolytes on it, will flint automatically protect the hero from demonic attack (if this is a part of arcane lore, how on Earth were we supposed to know because the impression this movie gives is that we should be blown away by this revelation and say: "Wow, why didn't I see that coming?")?
The most perplexing moment of all however, comes unforgivably right at the climax of the movie. Once Christopher Lee has been thwarted, he simply disappears with no explanation given. Has he escaped? Is he dead? Has the Devil taken him? We simply don't know, we're not told. (In actual fact, the answer is that in the original version, Lee was struck by lightning and died in flames, much the way he did in SCARS OF Dracula, and this similarity worried the producers so much that in the end it was simply cut out and not replaced.
Another problem lies in what, ironically, should have been one of the movie's greatest strengths Richard Widmark. His presence (which was purely to justify US funding) is initially surprising and intriguing, but he was allegedly very difficult for the crew to work with, and extremely high and mighty while on set. And, despite that, he doesn't give much of a performance. Stone-faced and unemotional throughout, he lacks any kind of charisma and is way too old to be the hero in a movie where 18-year-old Nastassja Kinski is the heroine. Kinski herself doesn't add much, apart from the aforementioned risqué moments, and this is a pity because the rest of the cast do a good job. Christopher Lee is at his most devilish as the excommunicated priest at the heart of the conspiracy, and is ably supported by Honor Blackman, Denholm Elliot and Anthony Valentine as innocents who get caught up in it.
Director Peter Sykes does a reasonable job considering the difficulties he supposedly had, and composes some very nice shots check out the opening sequence in the church, all played out under beautiful stained-glass reflections and makes very good use of authentic locations in and around London and Munich. But all this really does is remind you what a good movie this could have been.
New-fangled obscenity didn't help it much either. Throughout the age of permissiveness, Hammer had been pushing the envelope with regard to sex. But it really cuts loose in this one. The Satanic orgies are the most explicit and realistic the studio ever produced, and in addition to these there's a plethora of gratuitous female nudity, and then yet again we come to that ghastly, deformed baby. It seems to serve no purpose at all, and yet at one point is thrust up into Nastassja Kinski's womb, and at another has its throat cut on camera while it's still wriggling and crying. Christopher Lee was very unhappy with these scenes, while Dennis Wheatley was revolted and said afterwards that Hammer would never again adapt one of his stories though neither Wheatley nor Hammer would live to see this defiance tested.
The film is certainly good enough to watch again. The mysterious nature of the rituals involved is quite convincing the symbols, the ancient books, the dusty vaults but it's too talkie and seems tediously slow by today's standards and, as I said before, the finale is truly the most disappointing in Hammer history.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Popular occult author Dennis Wheatley was so pleased with Hammer's 1968
movie version of his novel The Devil Rides Out that he happily agreed
to them making further adaptations of his work, even going so far as to
granting the rights for nothing. It was an offer that, eventually, the
ailing studio could not afford to ignore.
Choosing to develop To The Devil A Daughter, however, was probably a bad decision: budgetary constraints meant that a faithful interpretation of Wheatley's book was impossible to achieve, and after much script wrangling, filming went ahead whilst further revisions were still being made.
To add to Hammer's problems, star Widmark was not a happy bunny on set, being displeased with the non-Hollywood film making process employed by director Peter Sykes and his crew.
However, despite all the problems, somehow, eventually, a finished product was deliveredonly to suffer from some hasty re-editing when some bright spark commented that the original ending bore too much resemblance to that of an earlier Hammer movie, Scars of Dracula. With such a troubled production, To The Devil A Daughter is an understandably less than perfect film, but despite its flaws, it still proves to be an entertaining dose of Satanic nonsense.
Widmark plays John Verney, an American occult novelist who is approached by a strange man named Henry Beddows (Denholm Elliot), who claims to be involved with a cult named The Children of the Lord, led by the sinister Father Michael Rayner (Christopher Lee, in fine form). Intrigued, Verney agrees to pick up Beddows' daughter Catherine (Nastassja Kinski) from the airport and look after her until they can meet again. In reality, Beddows is trying to protect his daughter from Rayner, who selected the girl at birth for a ritualscheduled to take place on her impending 18th birthdaythat will see her becoming an avatar for the demon Astaroth.
With such a great cast (that also includes Honor Blackman), and Wheatley's well researched black magic mumbo jumbo forming the basis of the script, To The Devil A Daughter trundles along quite nicely for the majority of its running time, offering audiences plenty of fun devilish goings-on, including the nasty birth of a demon child (which exits via the abdomen), Blackman being stabbed in the neck with a metal comb, one poor character going up in flames, Lee terrorising a trembling Elliot over the phone, and the lovely Nastassja giving viewers an eyeful of her hot bod.
Unfortunately, the messy finalé (which sees Lee's character disappear mysteriously after receiving a bump on the head) does mean that the film closes on something of a bum note and admittedly cannot hold a (black) candle to the real Satanic hit of '76, The Omen, but it's also nowhere near as bad as some Hammer fans would have you believe.
6.5 out of 10, rounded up to 7 for IMDb.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I have just watched "Frankenstein," the first horror movie from the
Universal series, so I thought it apt to look at the last one from the
Hammer was already dead when they made this, and it shows in the budget. Oddly, this was successful at the box-office, but not enough to save Hammer.
Its a curious concoction, consisting of three parts, not well mixed and with no part dominating. One part is ordinary Hammer, which means a particular style of cheese. A second part was supposed to be the edgy stuff, the black magic stuff which supposedly genuine was to give the sort of fright that competitors like "Exorcist" were delivering.
Thats a real challenge because then (and even now), we don't have much of a successful cinematic vocabulary to draw on for this specific sort of evil. Less seems to be more. But the Hammer tradition calls for "showing," and we end up with forces that contradict themselves.
Those by themselves would be only mildly interesting. But what seems to have happened is that during the shoot, they introduced a third factor: sex. Now, as clumsily as they handled this, it really is quite interesting what's going on. Sex is inherently cinematic. Satanism is inherently driven by sex. But sex as usually found in film at least simple films like this is voyeuristic. But it could have worked in a sort of Aleister Crowley way where the rituals and sexual mysteries are conflated.
Here's what they did instead:
We have an innocent beautiful teen girl as a nun. She has been brainwashed and is under a spell, cloistered in a Satantic order in preparation for a combination of rebirth as Satan by copulation with him. During this time, she has simulated sex with a statue of Satan while the head priest impregnates her mother.
The date is approaching. It seems that her mother (it isn't clear) has another child with the same name, who may be some sort of hybrid between devil and human. This "child" claws its way out of the mother while our young nun experiences it as well.
That child is sacrificed for the blood by which our young nun is to be baptized and presumably have sex with the priest, after which she will be Satan on earth... or something like that.
So what Hammer does, is a mix of timidity and outrageous boldness.
There are four scenes in which visual sex is involved. The first is when the priest (Cristopher Lee) has this ritualistic sex with the mother while our nun (played by Nastassja Kinski) is mounted by a Satanic crucifix. This is comic.
Then later, the child is born, the mother's legs bound together so that she has to claw through the body. A full view of the mother's sexual area is shown here. This also could have been powerful with the budget they had but comes off like a high school play with nudity.
Then fast forward to the rushed ending where changes were made after the shoot officially ended. The one change at the very end that gives this some fame is a short shot where the good crusader is tempted by the bad priest with the offer of sex with the briefly nude nun, our Nastassja who appears for a couple seconds fully nude. This also is an opportunity wasted in terms of effect, but has become a famous scene because of her subsequent fame, and the liaison with various filmmakers. Supposedly, the Polanski interest started here.
But before that is the one scene that the film should be famous for. Our girl is on the stone alter, the magical circle surrounds, delineated by an acolyte's blood. The newborn "baby" has been sacrificed and the blood collected, with a couple drops falling on her before the crusader interrupts.
What happens then is disgustingly effective. She is nude on the altar while some small red skinless beast similar to a devilish fetus climbs up and starts to have sex with Nastassja whose humping pubes we see from her perspective during which she stuffs the whole animal in, becoming "pregnant." This is revealed to have been a vision or spell. But it was so unsettling an image that it tagged the whole failure before and after this as something intended: that is to say it was itself terribly Satanic.
Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.
Occasionally I'm in the mood for an occult mystery/horror film like
"Bay Cove," "The Devil Rides Out" (AKA "The Devil's Bride"), "Race with
the Devil and (to a lesser extent) "Rosemary's Baby," which explains
why I recently picked up this 1976 Hammer film "To The Devil A
Daughter" (which was Hammer's answer to American horror hits like "The
Exorcist" and "Rosemary's Baby"). Hey, with Nastassja Kinski, Richard
Widmark, Christopher Lee and Honor Blackman in the cast, how can you go
THE STORY: In London, Richard Widmark plays an occult novelist who is asked to protect a man's daughter, a young nun (Kinski), from a cult of satanists led by a malevolent Christopher Lee, who possesses supernatural powers. They need her for some diabolical ritual. The story is loosely based on the Dennis Wheatley novel. Wheatley was furious with the numerous changes and called the film "obscene."
WHAT WORKS: The picture pretty much maintains your interest as the mystery slowly progresses.
The London (and Germany) locations are excellent. They seemed to have more money to work with in this regard than most Hammer films. Speaking of Hammer, "To the Devil a Daughter" doesn't FEEL like a Hammer picture at all. Don't get me wrong, I love the unique, colorful ambiance of Hammer films, but this is a nice (and unsuspected) change.
For those who care, Kinski is shown completely naked from the front. Unfortunately Lee is also show in the nude, albeit from behind. One thing I never cared to see in my life was Christopher Lee's butt.
There's a fairly shocking, obscene "devil baby" sequence. I'm not sure yet if this scene fits or even makes sense (I'll have to see the film again to decide) but they did a good job with the infant F/X, at least for 1976.
WHAT DOESN'T WORK: Like I said, the mystery has a fairly good build-up but the ending somehow doesn't work. Yes, they throw in some bizarre things -- the aforementioned "devil baby" scene and a wild satanist orgy (which is more silly than shocking) -- but, I don't know, I was left feeling disappointed. It should have ended with a bang (at least I expect it to), but it doesn't.
COMMENTARY: This was Hammer's penultimate film and their final horror picture. Surprisingly, "To the Devil a Daughter" was a hit and made lots of money, at least in Europe, but Hammer Studios had debts to pay and the movie's success couldn't save them.
BOTTOM LINE: The film itself is just okay, so I can only barely recommend it to those interested in occult/mystery stories, Hammer and the actors involved. What makes this DVD worth picking up, believe it or not, is the excellent 24-minute "making-of" documentary that discusses the film and the demise of Hammer Studios; it's called "To the Devil... The Death of Hammer." The documentary includes interviews with Lee, Blackman, the director, the producer and many more. It's very informative and entertaining. By all accounts Widmark was arrogant and a real bastage to work with. The Hollywood "star" frequently insulted the English filmmakers (calling the picture a "Micky Mouse production"), walking off the set, arguing, brawling and kicking over expensive equipment (!!). Every aspect of the film is addressed, including changes from the novel, Wheatley's objections, the ending's failure, etc.
In London, the occult novelist John Verney (Richard Widmark) is
contacted by a stranger named Henry Beddows (Denholm Elliott) during a
lecture in a private gallery of his friends David Kennedy (Anthony
Valentine) and Anna Fontaine (Honor Blackman). Henry asks John to meet
his daughter, the nun Catherine Beddows (Nastassja Kinski), in the
airport since she is coming from Munich and lodge her in his apartment
since Henry has had a problem with Satanists and he would like to
protect his daughter. In return, John could write a book with his
experience with the Satanists.
John brings Catherine to his apartment and sooner he learns that she belongs to the church "The Children of Our Lord" from Germany, and she will be eighteen years old on the All Hallows Eve. While she is sleeping during the night, John realizes that Catherine, and not her father Henry, is actually in danger. Sooner he finds that the excommunicated Catholic priest Father Michael Raynem (Christopher Lee), who is Catherine's godfather, and a group of Satanists that worship the Devil plan to use Catherine to become Astaroth through a ritual. John visits the bishop, who is his friend, and asks permission to read the same pages of The Book of Abramelin that Father Michael had read in the 50's. Now John battles against the powerful Father Michael to save the life and soul of Catherine.
"To the Devil a Daughter" is the last film from Hammer with a promising story and a great cast with Richard Widmark, Christopher Lee, Nastassja Kinski and Denholm Elliott. Unfortunately they are wasted in a lame screenplay with many flaws and a disappointing conclusion. The gorgeous Nastassja Kinski (officially born on 24 Jan 1961, but sources tell that she was born in 1959) naked does not seem to be only fifteen years old; seventeen would be more acceptable. My vote is five.
Title (Brazil): "Uma Filha para o Diabo" ("A Daughter to the Devil")
An American occult novelist (Richard Widmark) battles to save the soul
of a young nun (Nastassja Kinski) from a group of Satanists, led by an
excommunicated priest (Christopher Lee), who plan on using her as the
representative of the Devil on Earth.
As a White Zombie fan, I was thrilled to hear the Latin of the excommunication scene and finally know where one of their best songs took its clips from. That alone makes the movie satisfying (though it hardly carries the entire film).
Despite being a Hammer film and featuring Christopher Lee, the film does not seem well-liked by many people. IMDb rates it below a 6 and Rotten Tomatoes has it holding a 17% approval rating. I feel obligated to defend it, if even just a little bit. I mean, wow, what a truly creepy and disturbing birthing ritual -- the blood, the bondage, Lee's diabolical grin... Oh, and that other ritual...
I would say this film is a winner, despite the harsh criticism people seem to have for it. Some parts are a bit slow or bland, but the overall story is interesting and the imagery is fascinating. A lot of work was put into this one.
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