Tuesday, October 11, 2005

To the Devil a Daughter

(1976) ***

I tried to watch this for last year, but the VHS tape was too degraded. This was a sharp, sophisticated Child of Satan story that totally derailed.

Denholm Elliott, before he was Indiana Jones's boss, sold his unborn daughter to Christopher Lee, head of the church of Asteroth. Eighteen years later he feels bad about it, and days before the ceremony that will cause her body to become Asteroth's vessel on Earth, he pawns her off on a noted occult author played by Richard Widmark. Then Dad hides in his mansion whimpering like a puppy, pausing only long enough to instantly tell Lee where to find his daughter.

Richard Widmark invites some friends over, including the always stately and charming Honor Blackman (Pussy Galore from Goldfinger), and gruffly sets about town gathering information. Natasha has visions of a weird ritual and a rubber bloody baby Satan, which is kind of creepy until they overplay it. It ends, naturally, with a confrontation on the altar itself, Richard Widmark on his own, and Christopher Lee with all his minions...actually, he's alone too. The good guy whonks the bad guy with a rock and a bad special effect later it's all over. Huh?

I think it's a great character trait of Satanic cults that they take so much of their trappings from Christianity. The fact that Rosemary ('s Baby) is such a special catch because she's devoutly religious, there were similar overtones with Keanu's mom in Devil's Advocate. In this, Christopher Lee wears a priest's collar, Natasha dresses like a nun (except for the two seconds she isn't wearing anything -- gulp! -- if my imdb math is correct she was 17). The icon of Asteroth is the goat-legged big A himself doing a Power Stance on a flipped cross. Helping this delightful atmosphere was Christopher Lee's toothy, perfectly evil performance. This had everything going for it, and they lowballed the ending for no reason I can figure.


JPX said...

The one thing I remember about this movie is that the ending was pretty weak. I mean, doesn't Christopher Lee get a rock thrown at him or something?

Octopunk said...

Yeah, the good guy shows that he's got some magical know-how b/c he got Lee's flunky's blood on a certain kind of rock, which allows him to enter the magic circle.

You think some magical showdown is about to start, then he just hucks the rock at Lee's head. Ptonk! Down in one shot.