Wednesday, February 17, 2010

To the Devil, a Daughter (Peter Sykes, 1976)

To the Devil, a Daughter is Hammer Film's follow up to the successful The Devil Rides Out ( Terrence Fisher, 1968). Both are based on stories by Dennis Wheatley, a popular novelist of occult fiction. According to Lee, Wheatley loved Hammer's interpretation The Devil Rides Out, and offered him rights to any of his stories for free. Hammer, who was on its last legs could not pass the opportunity up and chose To the Devil, a Daughter.

Now, this is a great story, in its way, and the film has a great cast. Christopher Lee as the heretical Father Rayner, Nastassja Kinski in a limited role as Catherine, the wonderful Honor Blackman, the ubiquitous Denholm Elliot, and Richard Wydmark as protagonist/occult expert, John Verney. Ft. Rayner leads a cult that is trying to bring the devil Astaroth into the world of men. Catherine is the vessel that will bring this about.

For the most part, this is a chilling, well done film. Lee is at top form as the ├╝ber-creepy-with-a-smile excommunicated priest. He gets a lot of great lines and face time. Denholm Elliot, as Henry Beddows (Catherine's perhaps-father) is manic and scared, a pawn of the cult and does his typical great work in that capacity. Honor Blackman is, well, Honor Blackman... Sexy beyond her years and lights up the screen when she appears.

This is one of the few DVDs where the "special features" are worth watching. There is a 24min reel about the making of the film. Hammer is quite good about this in general. You get to learn a lot of cool things like; they forgot to write an ending, Richard Wydmark is a dick, and both Christopher Lee and Dennis Wheatley were appalled by the finished product. Some old guard Hammer veterans were included in the interviews and they agree that this film was the final nail in Hammer's coffin. Wheatley refused to let them do any more films of his books, and the public had lost interest in what they were doing.

If you are a Lee fan, a Hammer fan, an occult horror fan, watch this one. If you are like me, you are used to the ending being inconclusive, or just plain bad. The build up is a lot of fun, and really, who cares how these things end? It's always the same.


Tom Allman said...

I will have to find this, I've been lost in my sci-fi funk for too long. As a matter of fact, I just started a Call of Cthulhu investigation called the "Children of the Eclipse" and this might fit in. Thanks.

Darius Whiteplume said...

I think it would be very CoC. Most of the "supernatural" powers Lee exhibits are psychic, so not a lot of magic to deal with. Also, the cult's temple was a seemingly ordinary graveyard, things were just placed carefully.

Another Hammer title you might like, if you have not seen it, is a Sci-Fi horror mix, Quatermass and the Pit, which definitely has some SAN check action :-)

Mickey Glitter said...

Mmmm. Honor Blackman. She's tremendous in everything she does, no matter how bad (queue this AND Shalako). Great review!

Darius Whiteplume said...

Wouldn't you love to see Honor and Eartha Kitt in a purr-off? :-D

I love Emma Peel, but if you want someone's teeth kicked in, you gotta go with Cathy Gale!

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