To the Devil a Daughter

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Stirring Stuff

Mar 27, 2003 (Updated Mar 29, 2003)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating: Excellent

  • Action Factor:
  • Special Effects:
  • Suspense:

Pros:Lee's performance, a green teen Natassia Kinski, erotica

Cons:I will let the kind and gentle reader figure that one out

The Bottom Line: Remarkable results completely meet the pulse racing requirements of the horror fan, definitely one for your video collection

Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.

(I will inform readers when the full review starts so that some of the suspense is not lost from seeing the film for the first time.)

Director Peter Sykes "To the Devil a Daughter"(1976) by Hammer Film Productions, London and Terra Film Kunst, Gmbh, Berlin, falls not into the genre of pure horror (like the Exorcist) but, erotic horror (like "Fright Night"). A couple of sickening, avoidable scenes fade into insignificance as the compelling story by Dennis Wheatley, based on the rituals or beliefs of an imaginary satanic cult, unfolds. The film was produced by Roy Skegs.

John Verney(Richard Widmark), a fortunate writer in Britain and his friends, (Anna(Honor Blackman, remember "Goldfinger" (1964)?) ) and David(Anthony Valentine)), have to outwit the satanists lead by the trio of Father Michael (a return to Christopher Lee's momentous performance in "The Horror of Dracula" (1958) )) Evaline (Eva Marie Meineke) and George (Michael Goodlife) equipped with a stockpile of tricks like mind control, curses and mesmerism, to save Catherine Beddows(Nastassia Kinski) from becoming the avataar(a reincarnation) of the Devil.

The theme of secret societies worshipping satan is not new to cinema. "Rosemary's Baby"(1968), "The Omen"(1976) and more recently, "End of Days" , all belong to this genre. The movie was shot at captivating locations in Germany and Hertfordshire studios, England. I was impressed by the tremendous impact even with 1970's special effects. The work of the musical team and composition by Paul Glass, deserve recognition. I would suggest the viewer check out "The End of Days" for comparing the advances in special effects and a strikingly similar theme. Wheatley perhaps envisages all the perverted actions, material for dedicated pay channels, in the film to be associated with satanists. I may stop at only saying that Nastassia Kinski is a beautiful child in the movie. I am sure fans of "The Twilight Zone", like myself will enjoy the movie.

(Readers may stop reading at this point to avoid losing some of the suspense)
(WARNING: I request faint hearted readers who may have read my comedy/ action reviews not to
read any further, since this is an effort at my favourite category, horror and has some adult material)

... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...Role:
Christopher Lee
... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...Father Michael Rainard
Richard Widmark
... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...John Verney
Honor Blackman
... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...Anna
Anthony Valentine
... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...David
Denholm Elliot
... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...Henry Beddows
Michael Goodlife
... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...George De Grass
Nastassia Kinski
... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...Catherine Beddows
Eva Marie Meineke
... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...Eveline De Grass
Anna Bentnick
... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...Isabella Beddows
Derek Francis
... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...Bishop
Isabella Telezynska
... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...Margaret

(Please read para.1 in [1]A BRIEF REVIEW earlier)

The film starts with a ceremony in a church, the Bishop including Father Michael (a return to Christopher Lee's momentous performance in "The Horror of Dracula" (1958) ), the only priest dressed in black. Father Michael's thoughts; "It is not heresy, I will not recant", are a hint abut the object of the ceremony. Now the film shifts to splendid locations in Bavaria, stone churches, islands, boats, etc., 20 years later, as the subtitles announce. Father Michael hands over a young nun of about 16 years age Catherine(Nastassia Kinski, brunette, bangs, shoulder high) to George De Grass (Michael Goodlife, medium built, in his late 40s) and Evaline De Grass(Eva Marie Meineke, auburn hair, bobbed, also in late 40s). George gives Cathy a gift wrapped in gilded paper with instructions not to open it til the day arrives. They take her to the airport where she boards the Munich-London flight.

John Verney (played to perfection by Richard Widmark, silver haired, light build, perhaps late 40s) reluctanly enters the press reception for his new book "The Devil", at Picadilly gallery, London. Wheatley has perhaps based Verney's character on himself, and he gives evidence of criticism of Verney's works as one visitor puts it; "... still selling sensationalism?...". It is at this time that David(Anthony Valentine, dark haired, lean,.clean shaven, perhaps early 40s ) introduces Henry Beddows (Denholm Elliot, stocky, receding hair line, late 40s), an uninvited guest to Verney. A desperate Beddows elicits occult expert, Verney's help to escape the satanists who are out to annihilate him him or his daughter. Armed with her photograph, he arrives in his Bentley at the airport to pick up Catherine and hide her.

Back in Germany, Dr.George De Grass meets Father Michael and Eveline De Grass at his clinic. Margaret (dark haired, not Latino but a German, plumpy, still has a figure, early 30s), a pregnant lady at the clinic is hidden by their accomplices from her husband.who searches for her. Father Michael's grimly malignant grin chills the viewers as he securely binds Margaret to the bed posts, as she enters the final stages of child labour. In London, John has arrived at his spacious dwellings and having fed Catherine, puzzled about not seeing her father at the airport., but reassured by her father's phone call, to bed. At this time in Germany, Father Michael has tied Margaret's legs together securely. He turns menacingly toward her holding a red hot iron rod while mumbling incantations.

The viewers are left to imagine why George and Evaline grimace and turn their faces away in the few seconds that follow. Catherine sees all that occurs in her nightmare and John hears her cry out in fear. Father Michael places the new baby in an incubator. George kills a weak Margaret wearing a bloody night gown after her ordeal, by injecting a lethal substance. Evidently, Margaret was also a disciple of the cult. It is this short scene that sends this film from erotic fairy tale theatre to barbaric fantasy, the former suited for the age group, teenagers up, but the latter only for the dedicated horror, violent and R or X rated cable TV channels, for the pervs as some may prefer. However, the scene is small enough to be mentally deleted or even skipped forward and should not be a problem for most viewers.

Anna (Honor Blackman, auburn hair, shoulder high, late 40s, still retaining the glamour of Purssy Galore in "Goldfinger"(1964)) and her lover, David visit their friend, Verney and learn that she is quite innocent but for her nightmare that gave her knowledge on a subconscience level, about the events of the night before. From her relation of how she lived with Father Michael, George and "Mama George" (Evaline) for the past 18 years in a church the Children of Our Lord, in Germany, her father who visited her only once a year on her birthday, and her real mother who died at her birth at Radley Manor, Gilford, they understand the guilelessness of this nun. Since it is two days to All-Hallows-Eve and also Cathy's 18th birthday, Verney suspects that the satanists really want Cathy for some evil motive.

Father Michael, George and Evaline and the newborn in an incubator, board a chartered plane to England. After Father Michael arrives in England and learns of the loss of Cathy at the airport, he telephones Beddows and by the power of mystical persuasion extorts the whereabouts of Cathy. Verney leaves Cathy in the care of Anna and David and leaves to make some enquiries about the Children of Our Lord. Henry has a weird flashback of the pact of fire when his wife Isabella (Anna Bentnick, a petite, Latino, brunette, curly hair), whom he discovered giving birth to Cathy, quite like Margaret did, in the presence of the satanists lead by Father Michael, dies and appears as a ghost, warning him not to betray the cult or be consumed by fire, as written in an amulet, the pact of fire.

Father Michael from far away, forces Cathy to open her secret gift, an amulet of silver, an (you guessed it) inverted crucifix showing a handsome demon in an explicit position. She now gives Anna and David the slip and very nearly joins the satanists at their hideout, when by sheer chance, Verney spots her and snatches away the hexed amulet. When they return to Verney's lodgings, she has a flash back of fornicating with their God, Aesteroth, while sharing the sensations of Margaret who actually did, and becomes hysterical when Verney points out that she was the devil's chosen one. She has a vision in the mirror of the demon that she (thinks, but actually Margaret) gave birth to and is calmed by Verney.

Father Michael again controls Cathy's mind and uses her to kill Anna, by stabbing her in the neck with a letter opener. She reaches the lair of the satanists. An enraged David and Verney, after discovering Anna, reach Henry's residence, and find him in a semi trance, seated surrounded by dishes of holy water in the centre of a chalk star drawn on the floor. David kicks one of the dishes and invites the evil upon himself. Henry refuses to reveal where they are holding Catherine unless the pact of fire, hidden in a cavity behind the alter of Radley Church is returned to him. Verney tells David he has learnt that Father Michael plans to baptise Cathy who was raised in seclusion after being baptised in the blood of her mother, 18 years ago, again as a devil.

The recoveryof the pact by Verney and David is one of the most spine chilling scenes in cinematographic history. David dies of spontaneous combustion after he seizes the pact from Verney. With a play of light and a malicious smile, Christopher Lee simply freezes blood. Father Michael, knocks Verney unconscious for several hours after David's death.

After the pact is returned, Henry sends Verney to the mausoleum, the hill above Walberton. Evaline dies after giving all her blood for the ritual to follow. As the midnight hour approaches, Verney enters the temple after knocking out a disciple with a stone. Father Michael places the entranced body of Cathy at the centre of a circle of the blood of his disciple, Evaline. Some object insertion fetish is suggested. Verney and Father Michael stand face to face, as he is about to baptise her in the blood of the sacrificed infant, and is warned not to enter the circle on this hill of flint, the sacred stone of Aesteroth, else be destroyed by the demons. I will leave the reader at this point in the suspense. Enjoy!

DYNAMITE; not a dull moment was my impression after my first viewing. I must emphasize that the movie is for a mature audience. Something that varies, nowadays from child to child, from culture to culture and I will not mention an age limit. Far eastern cultures have long had stories of evil magicians kidnapping young girls, for instance, stories from the Arabian Nights. This story is one of them to be written in the west, comparable to Bram Stoker's "Dracula", that also deals with turning young girls into vampires or evil ones. Secret societies and devil worshippers have appeared in such movies as "Rosemary's Baby"(1968), "The Omen"(1976) and more recently, "End of Days" (stg. Arnie and Gabriel Byrne, with quite a similar story that the readers might like to check out with this film, to compare the progress in special effects).

I won't criticise the story writer for any part of the work, even in the story, Verney sought the permission of the bishop before reading any evil material. The scene of recovery of the amulet of fire alone will be worth half of the ticket price or any expense incurred, a piece of cinematographic history. I am sure fans of "The Twilight Zone", like myself will enjoy the movie, after mentally ignoring the few perverted scenes, thus making it true erotic horror.

Nastassia Kinski, Honor Blackman, the characters of Margaret, Isabella as well as other supporting female characters never cease to allure, consequences of the excellent casting. Christopher Lee's diabolical smile is all that's required to send one into fits of anxiety, thereby placing him in a class of his own. With a simple zoom on a china tea cup, the director takes us into the middle of the plot as does the musical genius of composer Paul Glass and the musical team. I saw the movie on VHS and am unable to comment on the DVD edition, definitely one for your video collection.

Recommend this product? Yes

Viewing Format: VHS
Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older

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