To the Devil a Daughter (1976)
|Year Of Production||1976|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Peter Sykes|
Universal Pictures Home Video
Eva Maria Meineke
Frances De La Tour
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.66:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.66:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Dennis Wheatley (1897-1977) was a writer of popular fiction who dabbled in the field of occult fiction, producing several novels in the genre. While he is almost forgotten today, his books sold in their millions when first released. One suspects that the current crop of popular writers will meet the same fate for the most part.
Hammer had some success, critically if not financially, with a film version of a Wheatley novel - The Devil Rides Out - in 1968. That film starred Christopher Lee, who stars in this film as well. Lee befriended the author and intended producing a series of adaptations of his novels, but when that project fell through he offered the rights to this novel to Hammer. As it turned out, this would be the last horror film made by the company, with only a poor remake of Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes to follow three years later before the company entered long-term oblivion.
As the book predates The Exorcist, I cannot describe this film as a blatant Exorcist rip-off, but it certainly feels that way. Catherine (Nastassja Kinski) is a young nun sent to England to be with her father Henry Beddows (Denholm Elliott) on her birthday, which happens to be All Hallows Eve, the biggest date on the Satanist calendar. The order to which she belongs is run by Father Michael (Christopher Lee), a defrocked priest who has allied himself with Astaroth, one of the many guises of the Devil.
Beddows wants to keep Catherine from becoming the agency by which Astaroth walks the earth, so he enlists occult writer John Verney (Richard Widmark) to collect her from the airport. Verney soon realises that he is up against no ordinary bunch of Satanists, so the scene is set for a battle of wills and wits between the writer and Father Michael.
While this is a Hammer film, it was co-produced with a German company and is imitative of other devil-worshipping films of the era. As a result it does not have the feel of a genuine Hammer film. There is a lot of location shooting and the presence of American star Widmark and teenage Kinski give it a different flavour than the standard Hammer shocker. What is consistent with Hammer films of the 1970s is an under-developed script (apparently some of it was made up as it was filmed), an inconsistent tone and occasional incoherence. There is also an emphasis on sex and gore at the expense of genuine horror. It is a little disconcerting to see full frontal nudity from the then 16 year old Kinski, brief though that it is. The Astaroth puppet is quite laughable and not at all horrifying, although what it does to Catherine is a bit of a shock. The finale is abrupt and unconvincing, though the colour scheme is impressive.
Having said all that, the acting is slightly better than normal. Lee gets to do more than just bare his fangs, Widmark is appropriately world weary and Denholm Elliott does a nice turn as one of his frequent nervous and frightened victims. Honor Blackman seems wasted in the role of one of Verney's friends who meets a nasty end. The direction of Australian-born Peter Sykes is occasionally interesting but the feel of the film is that it has been cobbled together in a hurry, and so it will only be of interest to horror fans and not the general viewer.
There is some confusion about the exact title of this film. I have seen it rendered as To the Devil...a Daughter and To the Devil - a Daughter. However, on the print material used for this disc the title is simply To the Devil a Daughter. On this disc it is paired with Zoltan, Hound of Dracula, which is reviewed separately.
The film is presented in the original aspect ratio of 1.66:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.
It has the same look as most British films of the mid-1970s, that is lacking in vibrancy but realistic just the same. It is a pretty sharp transfer with a good level of detail. There are no issues with shadow detail, and contrast is good though not exceptional. Colour is slightly muted and washed out for the most part, but there are some vivid hues on display at times. Flesh tones are well rendered.
In terms of film to video artefacts there is some telecine wobble during the opening credits, and edge enhancement to a mild degree is visible throughout most of the film. Occasionally there is some mild shimmering, but of such a low level that it would not be an issue.
Film artefacts are more prevalent, mainly in the form of small white spots. Some sequences have a flurry of these, such as when Verney is questioning Catherine about her nightmare.
No subtitles are provided. This is a dual-layered disc, and as with all of these double-features, the film is entirely contained on one of the two layers, so there is no layer change during the film.
The sole audio track is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.
Dialogue is satisfactory, but overall the audio mix is a little disappointing. The mono sound is lifeless and sounds muffled from time to time. There is also a problem with audio sync being out slightly in places, presumably due to less care being taken with post-dubbing than required.
The music score is by Paul Glass. There are long sequences where there is no music at all, but when it arrives it is very discordant, in the style of more recent horror films. Some parts of the score include voices, and the music sounds somewhat like the Ligeti music included in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
|Surround Channel Use|
The US Region 1 release from Anchor Bay includes a 24-minute documentary about the film, including an interview with Christopher Lee, a photo gallery and theatrical trailer. There is also an Easter Egg with Lee's stunt double, who did the nude work in the orgy scene.
There is also a UK Region 2 release with the same barebones specifications as the Region 4, but it is only available as part of a boxed set of Hammer films.
A pretty poor film.
The video quality is good.
The audio quality is slightly below average.
No extras are provided.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-S733A, using Component output|
|Display||Sony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Speakers||Main: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175|