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Vineyard owner marquis Philippe de Montfaucon is called back to his castle Bellenac because of another dry season. He asks his wife and children to remain in Paris, but they still come after him. His wife Catherine de Montfaucon soon discovers that her husband is acting mysteriously and that his employees are following old pagan rituals that call for the life of the marquis himself to save the crops.Written by
Great cast! Great premise! ...something went wrong during the elaboration
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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