To the Devil… a Daughter (1976)

Synopsis:

An American author who specializes in the occult (Richard Widmark, Kiss of Death) tries to rescue an innocent teenage girl (Nastassja Kinski, Cat People) from the clutches of a coven of Satanists, who are planning to unleash hell on Earth.

Reaction & Thoughts:

“It is not heresy, and I will not recant!”

Without any fuss or loud fanfare, To the Devil… a Daughter entered the history books as the very last horror movie produced by Hammer Film Productions (by the way, the beloved horror factory was resurrected in 2008). It’s a real pity that the legendary British film company’s last scream isn’t a better movie.

Although more than technically competent, To the Devil… a Daughter has an insurmountable problem: The movie lacks focus. The narrative is interesting enough, but it’s all over the place — it’s just too scatterbrained to be completely effective.

The story is told from several points of view, a technique that isn’t all that engaging. Perhaps the fact that To the Devil… a Daughter went into production without a finished script — many scenes were written the day before they were shot — accounts for the film’s undisciplined structure. The ending is particularly unsatisfying.

As I said before, the movie does have some good technical elements. Given all the behind the scenes problems, director Peter Sykes (Demons of the Mind) is able to inject the film with a sense of dread. To the Devil… a Daughter has many eerie sequences courtesy of David Watkin’s (Chariots of Fire) beautifully atmospheric camerawork.

The outstanding cast also helps keep the movie afloat. Richard Widmark is effective as the story’s hero, an occult novelist (a cross between Professor Van Helsing and reporter Kolchak). Unfortunately, To the Devil… a Daughter never delves into the character’s motivations. Allegedly, Widmark wasn’t happy with the script, but he gives it his all — there is so much you can do with a severely underdeveloped character.

The great Sir Christopher Lee (Horror of Dracula) plays the leader of the devil worshipers. Lee is, of course, excellent as the ex-priest who has been seduced by “the dark side of the force.” The cast also includes Honor Blackman (Goldfinger), Denholm Elliott (Trading Places) and Michael Goodliffe (A Night to Remember) (sadly, Goodliffe committed suicide shortly after completing his work in the film).

Nastassja Kinski is good if a bit cold as the unwitting pawn in the evil scheme. Kinski’s performance has been tainted by her now-infamous nude scene. Because of her age, 14-year-old Kinski’s full-frontal nude scene is hard to justify. I’m still amazed that this completely unnecessary scene — it only lasts a few seconds and adds nothing to the story — hasn’t been edited out of the movie. This is child exploitation, plain and simple. Lee’s brief nude scene was done with a double, so, yes, there’s a double standard.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

To the Devil… a Daughter is based on Dennis Wheatley’s 1953 novel of the same. Hammer had previously adapted one of Wheatley’s books, The Devil Rides Out, with great success. I’m afraid lightning didn’t strike twice. The script is uneven. That being said, this horror movie isn’t as bad as some critics have made it out to be. I liked the actors and some scenes were good. Nastassja Kinski’s icky nude scene notwithstanding, To the Devil… a Daughter is deserving of at least one watch. Color, 95 minutes, Rated R.

This is my contribution to the Third Great Hammer-Amicus Blogathon, hosted by Cinematic Catharsis and Realweegiemidget Reviews.

19 responses to “To the Devil… a Daughter (1976)

  1. Agreed about the ick factor in exploiting young Miss Kinski, but ironic that her father Klaus Kinski was originally slated to play the Widmark role. I like a lot of things about this film but overall it is a bit of a jumble and strays far from the Wheatley novel…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I had no idea how young kinski was. As you say it adds nothing to the plot. I did like the story and the cast but now that scene needs cut out for sure. I reviewed Frances recently , a biopic on Frances Farmer. Since making the film it’s been said she didn’t have a lobotomy. So why not cut out that damning scene. It’s not respectful to the actress. Anyway thanks for joining us for the blogathon. Hope all well x

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: BLOGATHON… A Last Encore From the Houses of Hammer and Amicus – Realweegiemidget Reviews Films TV Books and more·

  4. Excellent review! I had a similar underwhelming response to the overall film. As far as the aforementioned infamous scene, I agree that it was exploitive and unnecessary. I heard that a much more elaborate ending was planned, but the production ran out of money. No big surprise, I guess, considering Hammer’s state at the time. Thank you so much for participating in the blogathon!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I remember this one! Thanks for the review. We can find elements we enjoyed, even in the drabbest examples offered. There’s very few works of creativity that can be wholly flushed down a toilet, I would say.
    But I looked up Goodliffe because he sounded vaguely familiar. How dumb is it for a mental institution to have fire escapes that patients can reach and then leap from?!! How sad.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I know.
    I’m gonna keep my eye out for To the Devil a Daughter, tho, if it ever pops up in our 200 million various channels, lol….

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I just recently (but have yet to watch) To the Devil a Daughter on Blu Ray based entirely on the superb cast and the Hammer pedigree with full knowledge that it has less than stellar reviews. Sometimes, you just have to roll the dice. I was not, however, aware of Kinski’s age nor the exploitive scene. That is disappointing.

    Liked by 1 person

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