31 Days of Halloween – Day 30: To The Devil…A Daughter (1976)

To The Devil A Daughter 1976Christopher Lee is the last of the true horror legends that is still with us. In fact, he continues to make movies today with two more films due in The Hobbit trilogy. However, everyone best knows Lee for his numerous horror flicks from Hammer Films. Unfortunately, the last film he had a starring role in turned out to be the end of the original Hammer era. Hammer had acquired the permission of author Dennis Wheatley to produce another film based on one of his novels. Hammer had done so twice before (The Devil Rides Out and The Lost Continent) and with his novels dealing with the occult, the timing was perfect. Hollywood was dominating with movies concentrating on demonic possession and devil worship. Hammer, on the other hand, was struggling and needed a big theatrical hit. However, To The Devil…A Daughter (1976) ultimately wasn’t the film they were hoping for.

The movie starts off strong with Christopher Lee playing an excommunicated priest, Father Michael Raynor. Father Michael has left the church and is now the leader of a group of Satanists. When a member of his flock, Henry Beddows (Denholm Elliott, Raiders of the Lost Ark), reaches out to author John Verney (Richard Widmark, Kiss of Death), the story focuses on Beddows’ daughter Catherine (Natassia Kinksi, Cat People). A pact with the devil was made years earlier and now, at the time of her 18th birthday, it’s time for all of Father Michael’s work to come together.

There are countless problems with this movie. The script starts off strong but gets too convoluted along the way and totally falls apart in the last 10 minutes. Orgy scenes seem out of place and full frontal nudity from a 14-year old Kinski is unnecessary. And let’s not even talk about the “baby” scene, an obvious hand puppet gone wrong. While Lee puts in a great performance alongside others such as Denholm Elliott and Honor Blackman, Richard Widmark stands out as being poorly miscast. The end result is a bit of a mess that signified the end of the Hammer horror era and ensured Dennis Wheatley would never agree to one of his novels being adapted for film again. Watch the trailer but shop around before buying the DVD. It’s out of print and you really don’t want to spend more than you have to on this one.

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