Three Devil Movie Reviews

I admit I’ve been on a Satan kick lately.  No I don’t worship the devil nor have I read the Satanic Bible or think of Anton LaVey as anything more than a huckster.  I just think the devil or Satan or Lucifer or Beelzebub is a cool looking, evil scary guy with horns and a tail but damn was the movie going public obsessed with him from the late 60s right through most of the 70s!  Hell I can’t get enough of him!  It’s kind of surprising how many films were made about the devil during this period.  I just downloaded Eye of the Devil, Race with the Devil and The Devils today!  So here we go with reviews of three different movies, which, if nothing else, could serve as a way to compare and contrast the different ways ol’ Lucifer has been handled on screen.

The Devil Rides Out (1968)

Our first picture is, in my humble opinion, the weakest of the three devil pictures up for review.  How is it possible to rate The Devil Rides Out, a Hammer film, as anything but a piece of classic horror?  Believe me I REALLY wanted to like this movie.  The poster is enough to make you drool for the devil, right?  And that image IS in the movie so what’s the problem?

Terence Fisher directs it just fine and Christopher Lee is great as always but the main problem is that The Devil Rides Out is handled with the same classic, gothic and melodramatic approach used on classic Dracula and Frankenstein movies and contains a standard “good vs. evil” plot even though the film takes place in the present.  That renders the characters pretty dull as there’s no nuance to any of them.

You just have the good guys, Nicholas (Christopher Lee) and Rex (Leone Greene), visiting their old buddy Simon (Patrick Mower) and soon discovering that their old chum has joined a coven and practices black magic.  The rest of the film involves the leader of the coven, Mocata (Charles Grey) attempting to hypnotize the rest of the cast in order to collect souls to sacrifice to the devil.

I’m not saying I hated the movie; it was perfectly fine.  The Satanic concepts are hilariously literal; we see the actual horned devil (who looks cool as heck, mind you), the angel of death and some other demon type thing all summoned in the flesh and, in order to destroy these creatures, Nicholas or Rex literally throw crucifixes at them.

The film was given a G rating so, in spite being about the devil, the good guys triumph in the end and there is pretty much no gore in the entire movie.  With that said I still thought the Satanic coven sequence was pretty darn cool.

To the Devil a Daughter (1976)

Next up we have To the Devil a Daughter, which I absolutely loved!  To the Devil a Daughter was made right at the end of Hammer’s existence.  I believe they might have made one or two other films after this before closing up shop.  But, if they had continued to make freak fests like this, who knows how far they could have gone into the next couple decades?  Unlike The Devil Rides Out, To the Devil a Daughter takes things in a completely odd and twisted direction.  Those of you who are more astute than me might have been able to pick out the twist early on and I had my inclinations but that didn’t stop me from going along for the ride!

Let me start from the beginning.  In the prologue we see Father Michael (Christopher Lee) being excommunicated from the Catholic Church.  This immediately piqued my interest because I wasn’t sure if Christopher Lee was going to be the good guy or the bad guy.  And BOY did I find out!  Fast forward 20 years and Father Michael is now the head of a congregation and we see him being chummy with the nuns in a local convent among whom include a young nun named Catherine (Nastassja Kinski).

After that we’re introduced to an occult novelist named John Verney (played wonderfully by Richard Widmark), who makes money from arguably bogus, sensationalistic devil books and is signing said books in some modern art gallery in London.  Verney meets a neurotic, nut job named Henry Beddows (again played wonderfully by Denholm Elliot), who convinces Verney to meet his daughter Catherine at the airport and take her in his care, which he inexplicably does because apparently Beddows is being chased by cult members for going back on a deal with the devil.

And from there the mystery begins to unfold as we learn some disturbing facts about the convent that Father Michael was the head of, the nunnery in which Catherine was raised and the twisted plans they have for Catherine.

Unlike the G rated, family friendly The Devil Rides Out, To the Devil a Daughter goes right down to the gore (albeit briefly) with the murders of a couple tertiary characters and a full on Satanic ritual orgy sequence.  Furthermore, if you didn’t already guess, it has a killer cast!  I already mentioned it but Richard Widmark does such a good job remaining reasonably skeptical even when witnessing the power of the devil, Denholm Elliot turns into a complete, paranoid wreck and Nastassja Kinski plays the naive, innocent role very well.  Christopher Lee is Christopher Lee, hamming it up as if he’s still in a classic era Hammer picture rather than one set in 1976 but the old timiness works within the context of the film.

The Devil Within Her (1975)

Lastly we have The Devil Within Her (a.k.a. Sharon’s Baby and I Don’t Want to Be Born; wonder if that’s where Venom got the line from “Leave Me in Hell”) which shouldn’t be confused for another film called The Devil Within Her (a.k.a. Beyond the Door).  The latter is an Italian production that came out in 1974, was directed by Ovidio G. Assonitis and is about a woman who gives birth to the devil’s baby.  The one I’m reviewing is a British production that came out in 1975, was directed by Peter Sasdy and is about a woman who gives birth to the devil’s baby.

Though not a Hammer production, The Devil Within Her features Hammer people both in director Peter Sasdy and actresses Joan Collins and Caroline Munroe.  So, if The Devil Rides Out was underwhelming and To the Devil a Daughter was awesomely awesome, I’d say The Devil Within Her is just plain silly.  Most people would consider it the worst of these three films but I’m not most people and I got a major kick out of it even if it was for the wrong reasons.

Also a lot of people compare it to Rosemary’s Baby and that’s just plane foolish and wrong.  The movie begins with the birth of the devil’s baby.  And no, it’s not a spoiler.  We know from the beginning that this little tyke is one mean, nasty son of a bitch (or rather the son of a cheating, lying whore as the plot will reveal!).  From the moment the mother and father try to coddle their baby, junior bites, scratches, punches and kills anyone who tries to get close.

His weakness?  Ugghhhh… crucifixes and Catholic prayer.  The main character is a former burlesque dancer named Lucy (Joan Collins) (so where the hell does Sharon’s Baby come from???) and her husband is the suave, sexy Italian Gino (Ralph Bates), who apparently wasn’t suave and sexy enough since it’s revealed that Lucy had an affair with the burlesque theater manager Tommy Morris (John Steiner) and thinks the baby might be his.

Then there’s the midget Hercules (George Claydon), a creepy little bastard who made moves on Lucy and is vaguely implicated in having something to do with the baby being the devil’s kid.  Little of it makes sense so it’s best to turn your mind off and giggle as we see a little baby punch a man in the face and the man react angrily rather than startled or watch the same little baby decapitate someone with a shovel.

I could mention something about Caroline Munroe but it seems as though she was only put in the movie to look cute and chew the scenery.  And that about covers of it.  This is my 100th blog post.  Hail Satan!

The Blood of Fu Manchu (1968)



I think if you’ve read my review for The Brides of Fu Manchu, I mention how The Blood of Fu Manchu came next and then came The Castle of Fu Manchu even though the events from The Castle of Fu Manchu reference the events in The Brides of Fu Manchu, entirely skipping over those in The Blood of Fu Manchu.  And indeed, The Blood of Fu Manchu tells an entirely different story from that one.  It’s not like you need to watch these ridiculous films in any particular order to get what’s going on.  But, I just thought I’d clear that up if you were wondering.

For what it’s worth, The Blood of Fu Manchu was directed by Jess Franco, which makes the movie a bit more compelling in spite its stupidity and needlessly complicated plot.  Plus there’s quintessential Franco-isms like women chained by their hands from the ceiling having their clothes ripped from them.  Unfortunately, there isn’t nearly as much naughty stuff as what would be in later Franco films either because he had to conform to the Fu Manchu premise or because of the fascist Spanish censors.

Anyway, Christopher Lee reprises his role as Fu Manchu, the evil one who wants to take over the world for no particular reason.  This time he’s holed up in a temple in the amazon, where he holds women captive, administers snake venom to them and sends them off to kill his enemies via a kiss; hence the hilarious American title Kiss and Kill where Christopher Lee’s character isn’t called Fu Manchu but Mr. Evil.

Now, while it’s not hard to follow, the plot for this film is still needlessly convoluted, switching to a group of Mexican banditos that are led by a big, fat guy and invade some town, kill a bunch of people, steal stuff and rape the women – who, ya know, kind of enjoy it since it is Franco’s world, after all.  Then a bunch of other stuff happens involving a couple of brave, white guys who go to stop Fu Manchu – hey, I never said these movies were PC! – and there is some action and other stuff.  Also, a woman gets run over by a car so that’s cool.  Look, it’s not bad but there’s not much to say for Fu Manchu films.  They are what they are.

Also, if you’re one of those people who just watches the movie and doesn’t care for the special features, watch them this time.  Jess Franco talks about his fascination with Sax Romer’s novels and the interviews with Lee and Tsai Chin, who plays Fu Manchu’s assistant, provide some pretty interesting insight as well.  Chin admitted that these films and the concept of the “yellow peril”, as campy as it is, are indeed very racist and that it was either take these parts or not work.  Lee also didn’t feel too comfortable about the role; both morally and physically since he didn’t enjoy the amount of makeup needed to look Asian.  It’s also revealed that the reason Lee took so many Dracula roles is because Hammer had already sold the rights to the next sequel without asking and basically told Lee that he could walk away from the films if he wanted to put people out of work.  As he said in the interview, “that’s blackmail, isn’t it?”

The Brides of Fu Manchu (1966)



If you’re one of my loyal readers into the music profiles, I apologize for the movie overload.  It’s way easier to write movie reviews than really lengthy band profiles where you review every album.  I’m working on part one on a piece about the Stranglers so stay tuned.

In some interview on some DVD special feature, Christopher Lee scoffed at the ignoramuses who claimed that he played Count Dracula 10 times.  “Ha ha, I don’t know what people are talking about!  They say I played Count Dracula 10 times, haha!”  Well, he actually played Count Dracula eight times so pardon the fans for rounding up.  Furthermore Lee has played the mummy, Rasputin and Frankenstein’s monster among others.  But, what’s funny about all of his roles is that, while he laughed at the idea of being tied to Dracula, he never seemed to blink once when playing Fu Manchu five times.

Do you know what that means?  That means that in five different films, he had people put putty over his eyes so he looked Asian and acted like a maniacal super villain.  Clearly he would have to find Fu Manchu a much more laughable role than Count Dracula!  We can only hope.

And I’m not politically correct enough to find it offensive that a white man would play an Asian.  As far as I gather, the only Fu Manchu film to really cause any controversy was The Mask of Fu Manchu where Karloff’s take on the character and situations involved caused people from back then to consider the film offensive.  But, as far as I gather, Lee’s Fu Manchu does not exhibit any Asian stereotypes nor does he want to destroy the white race and rape its women; he just wants to destroy the human race so it’s okay.

I’m confused though.  I’d already watched The Castle of Fu Manchu and that one begins where The Brides of Fu Manchu ends; that is, with the underground hideout exploding and Fu Manchu escaping.  But there is another film that came out between the two called The Blood of Fu Manchu, which I have yet to see.  So, I’ll have to get back to you on that one.

The Brides of Fu Manchu is not surprisingly really stupid and, for the most part, pretty boring.  It’s basically a cross between a less interesting James Bond movie with a Sherlock Holmes mystery; the main detective looks like Peter Sellers playing Sherlock Holmes and his assistant looks like a Watson type.

So why two iron crosses?  I like the hideout sets in the pyramid and the hilarious, “futuristic” command center from which Fu Manchu operates.  There are also lots of Italian/Spanish tan-skin, big-eye cuties to look at.  Otherwise, this film is completely lacking in gore, suspense or anything interesting at all.  The “brides” don’t even really do anything.  The only cool thing that happens is when one is dropped into a pit of snakes.

I apologize if this review is lacking in content but there really isn’t much to say about the film.

Raw Meat (1973)



Christopher Lee has  to be a in a movie for more than two minutes for it to be fair for American International to advertise him on the bill, I think.

I realize that this movie really doesn’t deserve three out of four iron crosses and that most people who might stumble upon it will find it incredibly boring, but what can I say?  It appealed to me because it has some creepy looking sets and surprisingly realistic looking gore for 1973.  If I’m not mistaken, the old blood formula made most blood look like red paint; at least this is what Tom Savini said in a special feature to some movie I saw a long time ago.

There isn’t much in the way of plot in Raw Meat.  In fact, you’d be pressed to think of a reason for it to even be 87 minutes because there is almost nothing going on!  An American student and his adorable, red-head gal discover a body of someone who’s important or something laying on the steps of a subway and go report it to the police in Scotland Yard.  The police chief is Donald Pleasence who is delightfully dry and sarcastic the entire time.

After that, it’s basically a police precedural crossed with a gross horror movie.  All of the horror takes place in a grimy, underground sewer-like hideaway, where dwells a grotesque looking man, and, over the course of the film, we get to see some awesome shots of half-eaten and decomposing corpses laying around old furniture in a dirty underground hideaway.  There are some hints as to how these were apparently people who got stuck in the subway due to something happening.  I honestly don’t remember the explanation and didn’t find it all that important to story.

Eventually, the not quite bad guy, who is more just a confused or retarded mutant like thing, with sick looking head wounds and messy strands of hair, kidnaps the cutie and the police go to find her.  And that’s it!  There is absolutely nothing else to say about this movie!  There are very minor plot points here and there, like when the girl leaves the guy out of anger because he didn’t feel like reporting his finding a corpse to the cops, followed by her going back to him and a brief interrogation of whoever Christopher Lee is supposed to play.

But most of that is just padding for time.  Again: I gave the film three just because I enjoyed the dimly lit set and gory makeup effects, but if you’re one of those “story” people who wants a movie to move from point a to point b in a reasonable amount of time with actual bits of intrigue and characters you care about, then you’d best look elsewhere.