Thursday, 26 January 2012

To The Devil A Daughter (1976)

Hammer’s final horror picture (at least until the recent revival of the company) kicks off by introducing us straight away to its villain, Father Michael Rayner. We know he’s the villain partly because he’s being excommunicated, secondly because he doesn’t feel one bit sorry for whatever naughtiness he’s been accused of, but mainly because he’s being played by Christopher Lee in a Hammer film that isn’t THE DEVIL RIDES OUT.
A brief title sequence and suddenly it’s twenty years later and we’re in Bavaria where naughty Christopher has somehow become responsible, along with his two German character actor friends, for nun Nastassja Kinski, presumably atoning for her father’s numerous on and off set atrocities over the years. Nastassja gets put on a plane for England where she’s supposed to be met by her sweaty nervous Denholm Elliott of a dad. When she gets there however it's scowly behatted Richard Widmark who gets to take her off to his place for ‘safe keeping’ after being convinced to do so by worried old Denholm at a book signing Widmark seems to exhibit no interest at all in attending, which is odd seeing as it’s his own book that’s being launched.
Widmark is playing John Verney, who is allegedly an expert on the occult, although he appears to be more of an expert in wearing blue herringbone tweed, Gucci loafer slip ons, and looking exceedingly pissed off, all the time. His friends Honor ‘My God did she ever look in the mirror to see what she was wearing?’ Blackman and Anthony ‘At least this is better than my bit part in Tower of Evil’ Valentine are on hand to help (i.e. get murdered) and meanwhile back in Bavaria another German extra is having her legs tied together so her baby can be born unnaturally, following her impregnation by Christopher Lee’s character in a scene where we Most Definitely Do Not Get To See His Actual Bottom.
The baby, which when we get to see it, appears to be the kind of thing that would be more at home in Norman J Warren’s INSEMINOID rather than Nastassja Kinksi’s womb somehow ends up there anyway, or at least it does in a dream sequence. Nastassja and the baby are both needed to bring back Astaroth (I think), a process which requires a hill of flint, a whole woman’s worth of blood, and the complete and utter absence of Richard Widmark holding a rock that he can throw at Christopher Lee’s head. Unfortunately all does not go according to plan and one totally unnecessary and possibly even illegal nude scene later and the film is over. Apparently Dennis wasn’t pleased.


  1. Yes, the stone throwing death scene at the end was hilarious.

    As for nastassia being underage, yeah this is much illegal, she was probably 14-15 years at the time. But hey, I am not surprised by Euro cinema of the 1970s.

  2. I was asked on Facebook if I actually like the film, which I guess doesn't necessarily come through in my review. I have to say while I think it's well directed the script is pretty awful, making a complex pig's ear out of a straightforward story. I suspect all the writers were to blame at least a bit, but having seen John Peacock's awful kitchen-sink arty psycho-drama STRAIGHT ON TILL MORNING (another reason Hammer bit the dust) it may be more his fault than anyone. I see he later quit writing and became a costume designer.

  3. An excellent write-up, good sir. I've not seen this film since I saw it on its release at the cinema, and your description does little to make me want to see it again!
    Interestingly, one reviewer on imdb says "the gore scenes are suitably erotic..." Hmm - what to make of that?

  4. Many thanks, Mr Curtis! And yes, I do occasionally stumble across comments like that that make me wonder what on earth is going through some people's minds!

  5. Given the film was first released in March of 1976, it's probable that it was shot in the summer of 1975, which makes Miss K fourteen at the time, as she was born in January of 1961. I had been thinking of seeing this, but now I'm a bit creeped out by the idea. If, however, I had seen it when thirteen years old myself, that would have been just fine, thank you! Now, however, I simply feel icky.

  6. Excellent review. Saw this a few months back, from the depths of a friend's Hammer box set. I didn't realise this was the actually the last of the original Hammer horror run, but that doesn't surprise me in the slightest. Widmark is disastrously miscast, and seems to know it. He gives the impression that the action of the film is keeping him from his round of golf. Lee gives it his professional best, as ever, but otherwise it's a film that has WILL THIS DO? written all over it.

  7. Thanks! It's even more of a shame that this was Hammer's most lavishly-budgeted horror film!

  8. I think a large part of the budget of this film went to Richard Widmark...Richard was a Hollywood top billed A lister back in the 1970s.

  9. Hard to see why, from this outing at any rate. Denholm Elliot or - with gender-appropriate script tweaks - Honor Blackman would both have made a much better fist of the lead role.

  10. True but in the 1970s and early 1980s I noticed that some British TV shows and movie had to put at least one top billed(at the time) American actor.

    Thriller(Brian Clemens), Hammer House of Mystery & Suspense had at least one American actor in each episode. Who Dares Wins had two top bill American actors(Richard Widmark).

    Probably done too make the movie marketable internationally esp. in the States.

  11. And Dennis was right.

    With very few exceptions I can enjoy Hammer, but this one just fails on every level.

    It is quite sad that Wheatley fared so badly with his movies. The DEVIL RIDES OUT was filmed a few years too early to be true to the good parts of the novel. I know that it is mostly held in high regards, but a lot of the toned down aspects just kill it for me every time I see it. DAUGHTER was a train wreck.

    And while I normally loathe remakes, these are indeed worthwhile projects for a new version. Maybe not for cinema, but for tv.