2012 Film Challenge #6 - To The Devil a Daughter

I tried to watch this a few days ago on The Horror Channel, but the signal wasn't strong enough. Can you believe that?

Luckily, not one week later an opportunity arose to dip into a Hammer Boxset. So we did, and we started like this. It was unfinished business.

And it really wasn't bad, you know. Based on a Dennis Wheatley novel (who I've never read, but have heard described as “abhorrent” and “odious”), it felt lacking in depth and cohesion. But Christopher Lee was in it, coming across as a sort of deranged Christian version of Lord Summerisle. Scary intensity, his leering grin at the bloodbath satanic birth wasn't the sort of thing you'd want looming over you.

Then there was Richard Widmark – an occult novelist with a great dockside flat – who was working really hard to save the day in a meddlesome above-his-station Diagnosis Murder sort of way.

I can imagine that films like this reaped a lot of stick for glorifying Satanism. Well, I didn't get that at all. The lies, subterfuge and dark rituals were terrifyingly potent – I doubt anyone would emerge from a viewing with fresh evil intent.

But perhaps that's more owing to the rushed “will this do” ending? Throughout we're haunted by a weird sinewy foetus puppet who, after crawling into a girl's vagina, is sort of forgotten about. Then things get suddenly psychedelic, a bloody stone acquires magic bullet qualities and we're done.

Roll credits. Did we miss something?

What will become of poor Anna now? After all, she was groomed for a life of Satanism and, with a throw of a rock, her entire world has just come crashing down around her. Now what? Is she going to be content living as a secretary-with-benefits for a creepy American pulp novelist?

Well, for me that will always be a dream. In the meantime, we have a film which contains one of those lines which will be forever etched into my memory as a sterling example of the knife-edge that can exist between the sublime and the ridiculous:

“With your permission, I would like to read the grimoir of Asteroth.”

Oh, yes please.

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