Saturday, January 07, 2017

To The Devil A Daughter (1976)

I watched this film this week and it was an interesting effort from Hammer but ultimately not a vey satisfying one. The story's central character is a nun called Catherine, played by Natasha Kinski, who has been raised by an excommunicated Catholic order in Bavaria I think. The order is led by a priest played by Christopher Lee who is using black magic to bring Asteroth to life, which I understand to be the devil. Catherine's father last name of Beddows, played by Denholm Elliot, has arranged for her to be picked up by a character, last name Verney, played by Richard Widmark. He seems to be a good guy and knows about black magic. In his care, he recognises that Catherine's behaviour is troublesome and begins to understand why Beddows asked him to look after her. In some back story scenes we understand that there was a pact made between the priest and Beddows' wife. The priest and his disciples travel to England with an incubator that we presume contains a baby demon. The point of Catherine is that she is needed to perform some black magic ritual on her 18th birthday, which is why the priest and his disciples have come to England. It transpires that Catherine is under the spell of the priest and he performs some kind of mind control when she is alone. Verney leaves Catherine with friends while he goes to look up some important black magic information that he thinks the priest is aware of but while he's out the spell Catherine is under makes her kill one of his friends and she escapes. So Catherine falls into the priests hands and he can perform the ceremony. One of the priests disciples is seen donating blood, all of her blood infact for the ritual. The ritual is performed in a ruined church and the priest uses the blood to create a protective circle. The ritual starts and Catherine is briefly seen naked. It seems to be that the baby demon climbs inside her through her vagina however I'm not too sure about that. Verney manages to kill a disciple guarding the ritual by cracking him on the skull with a stone he picks up. But the priest thinks he is safe and powerful inside the circle of blood and standing on stone ground made from flint. What he doesn't know though is that Verney learned that he can enter the circle if he carries a flint rock with the blood of the priests disciple on it. Verney attacks the priest with the rock and the film ends with Verney carrying a limp Catherine away to safety outside the circle.
It is a strange, downer of an ending because the viewer is left with the impression that actually Catherine has not really been saved. It is an odd film and one that doesn't leave me feeling like I understood everything in it - I probably have some of the above wrong. It is based on a book by Dennis Wheatley, who apparently didn't like the film because it didn't follow the book and he didn't want Hammer to use any further novels of his in further films.

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