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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

To The Devil A Daughter (1976)
(2018 Restored Blu-Ray & DVD Doubleplay)


Starring: Richard Widmark, Christopher Lee, Honor Blackman, Nastassja Kinski and Denholm Elliott
Distributor: StudioCanal
RRP: £TBC (Blu-Ray & DVD Dual Format)
Certificate: 18
Release Date: 29 January 2018

Henry Beddows approaches John Verney, a man with knowledge of the occult, to intercept and protect his daughter Catherine. She has been raised by a satanic cult called Children of the Lord. The leader is an excommunicated priest who is determined to get her back. It seems she is an integral part of a black magic ceremony involving a demonic baby...

This is one of a number of Hammer horror film releases which has been cleaned-up and presented as Doubleplay discs by StudioCanal.

To the Devil a Daughter (1976) is seen by many as the end of an era, and in many ways it was. However, no one can claim there was any slump in quality. This was the second Hammer adaptation of a Dennis Wheatley novel, who was the foremost writer of occult fiction. I’ve always thought this film plays second fiddle to the superior The Devil Rides Out… and I still believe that. Having viewed To the Devil a Daughter a handful of times over the years (I last reviewed the DVD in 2004) I undoubtedly enjoyed it infinitely more this time. Whether it is due to a retrospective appreciation of a classic or simply because I’ve just reviewed the relative mess that is Demons of the Mind and sought something better is debatable. Whilst being based on Wheatley’s novel this film is far from being a close representation. Wheatley was displeased with the result, calling it disgusting. He was incensed enough to prevent any more of his novels being adapted to screenplay.

To my mind this is an extreme view. To the Devil a Daughter is a decent enough movie to cause no detriment to the reputation of the book. Furthermore, the cast is a veritable who’s who of class actors. Richard Widmark plays the main protagonist John Verney. Admittedly, he’s been better – probably due to the fact he considered he was belittling himself with this British and German co-production – but he does enough to carry if off. Denholm Elliott  (Beddows) plays the character who gets in too deep and is caught between fear and doing the right thing. He really convinces as the terrified father. Honor (The Avengers) Blackman and Anthony (Raffles) Valentine play Verney’s agent and partner. The couple are close friends of the author and the charismatic connection brings the film momentarily out of the darkness.

So it’s all the more shocking when the mentally controlled Catherine stabs the agent in the neck. Nastassja Kinski plays Catherine, the daughter of Henry Beddows (Elliott), a nun raised by the Children of the Lord, a church formed by an excommunicated priest. And talk of the devil: Hammer stalwart Christopher Lee returns in one of his finest roles. It was a very clever and successful decision to cast Lee against type in The Devil Rides Out. However, he returns here as the anticipated bad guy in perhaps his most powerful portrayal since Horror of Dracula, and Rasputin the Mad Monk. Derek Francis plays the bishop to which Verney goes for information, and there’s an early appearance by Frances de la Tour as a Salvation Army officer.

Even Christopher Lee it seems wasn’t enamoured with the demon baby, believing it shouldn’t have been seen at all on screen. But it does work really well. The final scene in the blood circle – although rushed and all too easily overcome – does include Catherine on a stone altar pushing a clawed red demon baby into herself. The censors passed the film uncut. Bear in mind this was only two years after the 1974 UK release of The Exorcist. Black magic was selling. Both Hammer and Wheatley lost out by not settling their differences and adapting more of his books to film.


Ty Power

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