To the Devil a Daughter

Starring: Richard Widmark, Christopher Lee, Honor Blackman and Denholm Elliot
Warner Home Video
RRP: 7.99
Certificate: 18
Available 11 October 2004

Father Michael is excommunicated from the holy church for heresy and voicing his objectives to create an avatar, the personification of a living god. Twenty years later he has not only established his own church in Germany but instilled Catherine, the person who will make his goals a reality. Catherine is seen on to a plane bound for London where she meets her father, Henry Beddows, once a year for her birthday. However, her father is involved with a group of Satanists run by Father Michael, and asks John Verney, a leading novelist on the occult to intercept Catherine and keep her safe. Verney's agent, Anna, and her husband David become involved through their own curiosity, but Father Michael has powers over Catherine making anyone around her vulnerable. Verney's fondness for the seventeen year old finds himself being dragged ever deeper into an abominable scheme to have a devil live inside Catherine...

To the Devil a Daughter from 1976 is based on a novel by Dennis Wheatley. Black magic is the order of the day, as you might have guessed, but there are no soft centres here! There's theatre blood aplenty, pentagrams and blood circles, ancient scripture and sacrificial altars, a demonic creature and several nasty deaths. There's plenty of horror here, though it's tastefully done (as much as it can be in this genre), unlike the plethora of so-called video nasties which materialised only a handful of years later.

There's a veritable cornucopia of recognisable faces in the cast; in fact more than you can safely shake a script at: Richard Widmark gives John Verney logic and calm reassurance, but at times seems more concerned about his hair and invisible fluff on his suit than any diabolical plan which might be in progress. Christopher Lee (who else?) looks comfortable as Father Michael. The presence of Anthony Valentine brings back fond memories of Raffles the gentleman thief, and there are appearances by Honor Blackman, Denholm Elliott, Derek Francis, Brian Wilde and Frances De La Tour. This almost certainly confirms the confidence Hammer Productions had in the project and the status they wanted it to achieve.

The movie itself is well acted and structured fine until the final scene in the blood circle, which seems to be over almost before it's started. It's all too easy after the initial fear and panic. The temptation of Catherine (Nastassja Kinski) naked, which Father Michael shows to John Verney, might as well have been Hattie Jacques naked for all the effect it had. Minor quibbles aside, this is another good offering from Hammer.

Ty Power

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