Monday, November 22, 2010

To The Devil, an Underage Sexpot

For many, many years it was an article of faith amongst us aficionados of classic Hammer horror films that, amongst their late period (1970-76) output, To The Devil a Daughter stands out as their absolute worst. It was always agreed that it was little wonder that this was their last horror movie - despite the presence of Hammer icon Christopher Lee and Hollywood heavyweight Richard Widmark, it is a truly dismal affair, with an incomprehensible script, no proper climax, a complete lack of atmosphere and poorly staged set-pieces. Personally, I've always preferred The Satanic Rites of Dracula - another frequently reviled product of Hammer's closing years - at least it's reasonably good fun to watch, coming over like an especially demented episode of The Avengers. Anyway, of late I've noticed several attempts by various writers to rehabilitate To The Devil a Daughter, pointing out that it represented Hammer's last-gasp attempt to transcend its Gothic horror-style and make a 'modern' horror film in the vein of The Exorcist, or The Omen, making the resulting film's lack of the usual Hammer trappings and slickness forgivable. Indeed, they argue, it is, at least partially, successful in this aim, it's more visceral approach and 'realistic' look being cited as evidence for this.

Whilst I respect this view, (and agree that Hammer really did need to move away from the Gothic in order to compete with its rivals in the 1970s - simply plonking Dracula down in 1970s London, as they did in Dracula AD1972, their initial answer to the new wave of contemporary horror appearing at this time, was never going to cut it), I think that they are wrong. I'm not adverse to reassessing films myself - I don't think the aforementioned Dracula AD1972 is anywhere near as bad as people always made it out to be, (although it still isn't very good), for instance - but I'm afraid that To The Devil a Daughter is irredeemable. It might well be a bold attempt at a new direction, but there's no getting away from the fact that it is quite simply poorly made. If it had a coherent script or a better budget, it might have succeeded. But it didn't. For many years I thought the only pleasure to be derived from watching it came from the sight of Natassia Kinski stark bollocking naked for large parts of the film. But now I find that I probably shouldn't even have been enjoying that. It was always assumed that Natassia Kinski was at least eighteen when she shot those scenes. However, I've recently read that there is actually some confusion over her birth date, and that she might have been only fifteen when she made the film. Meaning, of course, that I'm a peado for watching it. So are you, if you've seen it, or are now planning to buy the DVD. It seems Hammer really were ahead of their time with this film, producing child pornography before anyone had ever heard of it. A film that turns viewers into unwitting nonces - now that really is diabolical!



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