Overall | To the Devil a Daughter (1976) | Zoltan, Hound of Dracula (1978)

To the Devil ...a Daughter/Zoltan: Hound of Dracula (Double Feature)

To the Devil ...a Daughter/Zoltan: Hound of Dracula (Double Feature)

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Released 22-Sep-2004

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Overall Package

    This double-feature disc contains two films that could well have been left mouldering in the grave. To the Devil a Daughter was the last Hammer horror film, and the sense of impending doom is palpable. Zoltan, Hound of Dracula bites big time, but it is good for a few laughs here and there. Horror film completists will want to see these two lesser works, but I cannot imagine that the general viewer will be that interested. Kudos is due to Universal for releasing these films in Region 4, so at least anyone who is interested can acquire them at a low price.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Tuesday, September 28, 2004
Other Reviews NONE
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Overall | To the Devil a Daughter (1976) | Zoltan, Hound of Dracula (1978)

To the Devil a Daughter (1976)

To the Devil a Daughter (1976)

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Released 7-Sep-2004

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror None
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1976
Running Time 88:51
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Peter Sykes
Studio
Distributor
Hammer Productions
Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Christopher Lee
Richard Widmark
Nastassja Kinski
Denholm Elliott
Honor Blackman
Anthony Valentine
Michael Goodliffe
Eva Maria Meineke
Derek Francis
Isabella Telezynska
Constantine Gregory
Frances De La Tour
Brian Wilde
Case ?
RPI Box Music Paul Glass


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.66:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    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.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    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.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    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.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    No extras.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    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.

Summary

    A pretty poor film.

    The video quality is good.

    The audio quality is slightly below average.

    No extras are provided.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Sunday, September 26, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Not like the book - Pearce

Overall | To the Devil a Daughter (1976) | Zoltan, Hound of Dracula (1978)

Zoltan, Hound of Dracula (1978)

Zoltan, Hound of Dracula (1978)

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Released 22-Sep-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Vampire None
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1978
Running Time 83:47
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Albert Band
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring José Ferrer
Michael Pataki
Reggie Nalder
Jan Shutan
Libby Chase
John Levin
Simmy Bow
JoJo D'Amore
Arlene Martel
Cleo Harrington
Roger Pancake
Case ?
RPI Box Music Andrew Belling


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.66:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    One of the mottos of the history of cinema could be "if you're on a good thing, flog it to death". Whenever there is a successful movie made in a particular genre, hordes of producers creep out of the woodwork making variations and rip-offs. The Star Wars clones that appeared in the late 1970s and early 1980s are one example. One of the most successful genres has been the vampire film, with probably thousands made since the first efforts in the 1920s. We have had male vampires, female vampires, gay vampires, lesbian vampires, alien vampires, comic vampires, black vampires, Chinese vampires, Japanese vampires, circus vampires, hardcore porn vampires, and with this film, canine vampires.

    Yes, that's right, dogs with long fangs that want to drink your blood. A group of Romanian soldiers come across a buried tomb. Inside the coffins clearly marked "Dracula" (which should have been a warning to the curious) are staked and shrouded bodies. One of the soldiers foolishly removes a stake, resurrecting Zoltan, the Hound of Hell. After feasting on the soldier, Zoltan removes the stake from the body of Veidt Smit (Reggie Nalder), who is thusly also resurrected. As we learn shortly, Smit is a fractional lamia, a half-vampire, who has all the vampire traits except the lust for blood and the need to sleep during the daytime. In order to survive, Smit needs to serve a vampire master. The only surviving member of the Dracula clan is Michael Drake (Michael Pataki), who conveniently lives in Los Angeles, thus saving the producers the cost of filming in Europe.

    Enter Inspector Branco (José Ferrer), who travels from his native Romania (which looks a lot like California) to ensure that Zoltan does not turn Michael into a vampire. Michael and his family are off on a camping trip with their two Alsatians and a litter of puppies in the wilderness (which looks a lot like Romania). They are followed by Smit, driving a hearse with Zoltan in a box in the back. Much terror ensues.

    It seems that canine vampires did not really take off as a box office force. This film is probably the sole reason. While not appalling, it is very silly and fails to deliver much in the way of horror, although a sequence involving the dogs attacking a fisherman's hut is well done. Zoltan gives a fine performance as the dog, looking quite spectral and growling a lot. The other dogs also do well. The humans are not quite so good. José Ferrer gives a brilliant performance if only because he manages to keep a straight face when delivering some ludicrous dialogue. Why this Oscar-winning actor was in this film I cannot imagine, although I guess it may have something to do with (a) a complete lack of discrimination or (b) the need to buy food. Probably both.

    Michael Pataki is reasonable as the last of the Draculas, though he really is not called upon to do anything but look mystified. Reggie Nalder was an Austrian actor who had suffered burns to the lower part of his face, resulting in a memorably wrinkled and withered look, and he was often used in horror films. Apart from a couple of flashback sequences explaining the origins of Zoltan he does not speak, though his thoughts instructing the devil dog are heard in the soundtrack. The camera lingers a bit too often on him as he makes mysterious facial expressions.

    Directed by schlockmeister Albert Band and also known as Dracula's Dog, this is an unintentionally hilarious film, but I doubt whether anyone would want to watch it repeatedly. It comes on a double-feature disc with To the Devil a Daughter, reviewed separately.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This is a pretty good transfer in the original aspect ratio of 1.66:1, and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The video transfer is reasonably sharp and clear, and detail levels are good. Contrast is adequate, and despite a lot of night scenes shadow detail is fine.

    Colour is also good, with lifelike hues and realistic-looking blood. Flesh tones, whether alive or undead, are satisfactory.

    There are a few instances of minor aliasing in the usual places, such as car grilles and coffin lids. There is also some slight edge enhancement visible. Otherwise the film is free of film to video artefacts.

    There are quite a few white spots throughout, mostly quite small, though there are some larger instances. This is not really distracting in my opinion.

    The film comes on a dual-layered disc with this film contained entirely on one layer, avoiding the need for a layer change. There are no subtitles.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The sole audio track is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

    Despite being a mono track, I had to listen quite carefully to confirm that it was not stereo, as it sounds pretty vivid. Dialogue is clear and distinct for the most part, though there was one sequence where Branco is explaining to his female superior about the vampires which I had to listen to again to understand what was being said. Some of the earlier audio sounds a little muffled. Otherwise the audio track is satisfactory, with a reasonable dynamic range meaning that it does not sound as flat as most mono tracks.

    The music score is by Andrew Belling and consists of synthesizers and drums, containing all of the clichés found in 1970s horror TV shows. I even found myself laughing occasionally at the score, not something that happens very often.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    No extras are provided.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The US Region 1 DVD release from Anchor Bay contains a theatrical trailer, as well as an optional French soundtrack and a replica theatrical poster as an insert card. Not enough in my opinion to sway the potential purchaser.

Summary

    I can imagine that this will be a cult film for some people, but for most of us this will be a waste of time.

    The video quality is reasonably good.

    The audio quality is satisfactory despite a couple of problems.

    There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Monday, September 27, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
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Zoltan's a cool movie - Cassidy (The bionic man)