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!

Vampire Circus (1972)



First of all, this:


Second of all, Vampire Circus received a PG rating!  Unless scenes were cut for the American release, I can imagine the “hubba-hubba” elation I would have felt if I saw this movie in the theater as a little kid and can imagine my mom or dad angrily whispering, “turn your head, son!”

Vampire Circus is a later period Hammer film that loosely fits into their much steamier later period films such as Twins of Evil, The Vampire Lovers, Lust for a Vampire and Countess Dracula.  Notice they didn’t make Lust for Frankenstein or Frankenstein’s Sexy Nymphs because I don’t think there is any way to make a sexy Frankenstein picture.  And no, Frankenhooker wasn’t sexy.

As indicated above Hammer pictures was moving in a more salacious direction primarily to keep up with the changing trends in cinema and partially just to stay afloat.  In all of that came this remarkable vampire picture, which succeeds in being unique, creepy and, well, erotic.  I would say it borders on European erotic horror films; it certainly has the right amount of nudity for that!  Oh and there’s a surprising amount of gore for a PG rated movie as well.

In the prologue, a young, cute nymphette, Anna Mueller (Domini Blythe) runs to a castle to have a passionate romantic love affair with vampire Count Mitterhaus (Robert Tayman).  Both are caught by her husband Prof. Albert Mueller (Laurence Payne), who looks more like her dad (wonder why she ran way…).  Mueller impales the count but the count promises to get his revenge.  Afterwards Anna Mueller is brutally flogged by the town folk for her lechery and runs back to the castle, which the town folk then burn down.

Fifteen years later a plague has hit the town.  The superstitious people believe it’s the vampire’s curse but Prof. Mueller doesn’t believe vampires exist (after all, he killed the vampire but anyone would die from getting impaled, ya know?).  Then the caravan rolls in!

Led by the sexy Gypsy Woman (Adrienne Cori, who looks quite stunning with all that flowing red hair) and consisting of a painted up dwarf, a  strong man, two acrobatic types, a lion tamer of sorts, a naked tiger dancer and Emil (Anthony Higgins) who can shape shift into a leopard, the circus allegedly comes to bring the woa-begotten folk some joy.  They perform various circus tricks and it seems innocent enough – well, as innocent as a completely naked woman painted green with tiger stripes performing a sexually charged dance with the lion tamer in front of men, women and children can be – but soon things take a turn for the worst.

It’s revealed pretty early on that the circus hasn’t come out of good spirits but to avenge Count Mitterhaus.  What’s interesting is that not everyone in the group is a vampire; only the shape shifting Emil and the two acrobatic dancers.  The rest just do their cicusy thing, albeit maliciously.  Remember kids; dwarfs aren’t to be trusted!  The circus people do a variety of bad things whether it be traumatize an old man via a nightmarish carnival mirror, lure a group of people into a forest just to have the very same circus animals brutally ripped them to shreds and of course the standard blood sucking expected of the vampires.  In fact little kids aren’t even safe.

Which leads me to another point.  This movie has some weird overtones of pedophilia.  I dunno, maybe the vampires are just biting the little kids for their blood but, considering what vampirism has always implied, it adds a certain level of creepiness.  Otherwise though, Vampire Circus is an underrated little gem that deserves to be re-examined.  Hammer was going through some rough times financially which prompted them to think a little outside the box and this is a good example of that!

Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter (1974)



It’s been a month or so since I’ve seen a Hammer horror film.  Unfortunately Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter wasn’t the movie to bring me back into Hammer’s world.  There’s nothing particularly wrong with the film other than it’s just kind of dull.  The poster promises more than it delivers.  Don’t get me wrong; what you see in the poster is pretty much what happens in the movie but there just isn’t enough of it.

Apparently Brian Clemens’ only directorial effort was supposed to be the start of a series of Captain Kronos films and a story was later adapted into a comic book.  Maybe Hammer should have gotten a more seasoned director like Roy Ward Baker or Terence Fisher.  The movie goes against the typical vampire mythos by having them kill during the day rather than at night.  Also they don’t suck blood and create other vampires by doing so; they suck out the youth from young men and women and turn them old and dead.  The effect actually makes them look like Steven Tyler.

I guess my main problem with this movie is I kept wondering, “Where is Captain Kronos during all of this?  How is this alleged vampire hunter letting so many innocent souls get sucked away?”  Kronos is played by German actor Horst Jansen and is assisted by the hunchbacked doctor Dr. Marcus (John Carsen).  They traverse the countryside supposedly hunting vampires by burying toads in the ground and seeing if they’re alive or dead and if alive, oh who cares?

Kronos frees a cute little lady named Carla (Caroline Munroe) from a wooden rack but who is she?  What did she do?  The only background we are given about her character is that she was being punished for dancing on Sunday.  That’s it.  That’s her entire background.  I really hope Brian Clemens didn’t think, “well, she’s a woman!  What else do you need to know about her?”  Actually he might have been thinking that otherwise why else would her only purpose in the movie be to shack up with Kronos twice.  And she acts as vampire bate, whoopdy do!  I was about to blame Caroline Munroe for being so emotionless and useless but then I realized she didn’t write the character; she was just doing what the director told her to do!

The movie is heavily bogged down with useless subplot; three asshole swordsmen harass people at a local pub and, in one scene, the doctor expresses his gratitude for having such a great friend.  The doctor asks Kronos and Carla, “am I that ugly?”  Carla responds, “you have a kind soul, that’s what’s important.”  Uh, gee thanks…

There’s some blood and way neat looking castle set pieces so I enjoyed *looking* at stuff but as far as entertainment goes, I kept thinking, “can we please pick up the pace, here?”  And, to be perfectly honest, the actor who played Kronos wasn’t exactly a virtuoso either; he basically just held the same smart-ass, “ha! I kill vampires and sleep with hot women” expression the whole time.  So  you know, watch at your own risk, I guess.