DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER (director: Peter Sykes; screenwriters: Chris Wicking/novel by Dennis Wheatley; cinematographer: David Watkin; editor: John Trumper; music:  Paul Glass; cast: Richard Widmark (John Verney), Natassja Kinski (Catherine Beddows), Christopher Lee (Father Michael Rayner), Denholm Elliott (Henry Beddows), Anthony Valentine (David Kennedy), Honor Blackman (Anna Fountain), Eve Maria Meincke (Eveline de Grass), Derek Francis (Bishop), Isabella Telezynska (Margaret), Constantin De Goguel (Kolide), Anna Bentinck (Isabel), Frances de la Tour  (Salvation Army Major); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Roy Skeggs; Hammer Films; 1976-UK/W. Germany)


"The black magic thriller is undoubtedly cheesy but, no matter,  I always get a kick out of Christopher Lee and Richard Widmark, even if the latter is miscast."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Director Peter Sykes ("Demons of the Mind"/"Venom"/"The House in Nightmare Park") helms a hokey and humorless Hammer Satanist flick in the post-Exorcist era. This was the last ever Hammer horror flick. It's based on the novel by Dennis Wheatley and is written by Chris Wicking.

American intellectual occult writer, John Verney (Richard Widmark), a skeptic on the supernatural, lives in London. A nervous businessman, Henry Beddows (Denholm Elliott), asks John at an art exhibit to look after his teenager daughter Catherine (Natassja Kinski) while he attends to some emergency business. His daughter is a sweet nun with The Children of the Lord sect, that's led by the Satanist excommunicated priest Father Michael Rayner (Christopher Lee) who pretends his church is Catholic. Eighteen years ago, after Catherine's mother (Anna Bentinck) died at childbirth at the hands of Father Michael, the weak-minded Henry signed a pact that gave the child to Father Michael. The church raised Catherine  in their Bavaria location and allowed her once a year to visit her father. Now that she's nearly 18, she visits dad. But he has second thoughts about the pact he signed, realizing he's in grant danger if tries to get out of the deal.

We learn that Father Michael has plans to make an avatar of Catherine as Astaroth and baptize her as the Devil. Dad only hopes Verney can stop Father Michael from abducting his daughter, while he rolls up in the fetal position at home scared shitless of what can happen. The puzzled but stoic Verney, learning the facts on the run, takes Catherine from the airport and keeps her in his apartment. Meanwhile the sinister Father Michael uses his black magic to possess her and harm those who guard her (such as Verney's book agent -Honor Blackman -and her friend - Anthony Valentine). Father Michael soon leads the sweet nun to the site of the temple in London, where on her birthday he plans to carry out his perverted baptism ritual.

There's too much hooey to get through before the climax comes to life, as it has Christopher Lee at last coming face-to-face with Richard Widmark to duke it out over Catherine.

The black magic thriller is undoubtedly cheesy but, no matter, I always get a kick out of Christopher Lee and Richard Widmark, even if the latter is miscast.

REVIEWED ON 12/19/2014       GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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