Archive for the Satanists Category

Screaming Streaming: TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER

Posted in 1970s Movies, 2011, 70s Horror, Devil Movies, Hammer Films, Horror, Michael Arruda Reviews, Satanists, Screaming Streaming with tags , , , , , , on July 20, 2011 by knifefighter

SCREAMING STREAMING!
Movie Review: TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER (1976)
By Michael Arruda

 

Welcome to the first ever SCREAMING STREAMING! movie review column, where I’ll be reviewing movies available on screaming— er, streaming video. I’ll cover a mix of old movies and new releases, as well as different genres, including horror, action, thriller, mystery, and comedies. Chick flicks?— no.

We begin with an oldie, the Christopher Lee/Hammer movie TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER (1976), notable because it was Hammer Film’s last horror movie, that is, until its recent comeback film LET ME IN (2010). And that’s really all that’s notable about it. It was a flop back in 1976. I saw TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER several years after it was released, in the early 1980s on HBO, and I hated it. Other than Nastassja Kinski’s full- frontal nude scene, there was nothing memorable about it. In fact, as I sat down this week to watch the movie again, that’s the only thing I remembered about it!

TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER is a story about Satanists, which comes as no surprise, since it’s based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Dennis Wheatley, who also wrote the novel THE DEVIL RIDES OUT, also about Satanists, also filmed by Hammer in 1968, with the U.S. title THE DEVIL’S BRIDE, also starring Christopher Lee. Wheatley died in 1977 at age 80.

In TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER, a distraught man, Henry Beddows (Denholm Elliott) seeks out the help of an American occult novelist John Verney (Richard Widmark) to protect his daughter Catherine (Nastassja Kinski) from an evil Satanist, an excommunicated priest named Father Michael (Christopher Lee). It seems, years earlier, at Catherine’s birth, her parents made a “deal with the devil” promising the girl’s soul to Father Michael on her eighteenth birthday. Father Michael intends to hand over Catherine to Satan for reasons we can only imagine— let’s see, she’s 18 and beautiful, what do you think he wants her for? Sounds like a marriage made in Hell.

It also sounds like a plot I just saw in a movie a few years ago, THE HAUNTING OF MOLLY HARTLEY (2008), as that film was also about parents who made a deal with Satanists to turn their daughter’s soul over to them when the girl turned 18, and in that movie the dad also changed his mind and tried to protect his daughter.

And that in a nutshell is the plot of TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER, as Verney vows to protect Catherine from Father Michael, and Father Michael vows to find Catherine and get her to the altar in time to make whoopee with Satan. Along the way there are some satanic goings-on by Father Michael and his cohorts, including the painful birth of a baby which they plan to sacrifice later. What is it about Satanists and babies, and why do they always want to sacrifice the little infants? I just finished watching DRIVE ANGRY (2011) on DVD starring Nicholas Cage, another movie about Satanists, and what did these folks want to do? Sacrifice a baby, only they picked the wrong baby, Cage’s granddaughter, and he’s not about to let that happen, which is why he’s driving angry.

Anyway, back to TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER. In addition to the Satanic shenanigans, we also get to watch John Verney try to solve the mystery of what’ s up with Catherine, since her daddy wasn’t exactly truthful in his explanation of why he wanted Verney to watch over his daughter. Of course, Verney eventually figures everything out, being the intelligent occult novelist that he is, which sets us up for the final and dramatic confrontation between tough guy Richard Widmark and Dracula himself, Christopher Lee.

All of this sounds better than it actually is. Truth be told, age hasn’t really helped this movie. It’s still all rather dull.

A lot of the blame here falls on the shoulders of screenwriter Christopher Wicking, who wrote the screenplay. There really isn’t much of a story, which is why it’s so dull. Not much happens, and the little that does is painfully stretched out to fill the 90 minute running time.

The characters aren’t fleshed out. We know very little about the evil Father Michael. Christopher Lee is fun to watch, as he does evil as good as anybody, but Father Michael isn’t developed beyond being a bad guy. Lee looks like Dracula wearing a priest’s collar. Since Lee always looks good as Dracula, he looks good here, too, but other than being a straightforward evil baddie, he does little else. Compared to Lee’s Lord Summerisle in THE WICKER MAN (1973), a character who was chilling because he was an oddball who was difficult to gauge, Father Michael is a one-trick pony.

Richard Widmark’s occult author John Verney is dreadfully dull, about as boring a hero as you’re going to find in a horror movie. He has very little personality, and comes off as wooden as a fence post. Nastassja Kinski’s Catherine is also a bore. She hardly says two words, but she’s beautiful in this movie, and that’s probably all the filmmakers were going for here.

Some memorable dialogue would have helped this movie. Christopher Lee gets one of the best lines in the movie, and really, it’s memorable not so much because of the line, but because of the way Lee delivers it. After the woman has given birth to the Satanists sacrificial baby, Lee leans close to her and says with a smile, “You can die now.” It’s Lee at his evil best.

Christopher Wicking also wrote the screenplay for Hammer’s BLOOD FROM THE MUMMY’S TOMB (1971), Hammer’s final Mummy movie, and for the movie SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN (1970), famous for the first-time triple teaming of Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, and Peter Cushing, and also famous for being one of the most confusing horror movies ever made!) Storytelling with clarity doesn’t seem to be Wicking’s strong point.

Wicking died in 2008 at the age of 64.

TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER was directed by Peter Sykes, and he does an okay job at the helm. And, photography wise, the film looks good. It’s handsomely photographed and makes good use of some on-location filming in the German countryside. But in terms of memorable scenes, there’s nothing.

For a movie that compared itself in its original theatrical trailers to ROSEMARY’S BABY (1968) and THE EXORCIST (1973), it forgot one very important ingredient: it forgot to be scary, and that’s really the major problem with TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER. It’s NOT scary. Not a good thing when you’re a horror movie about Satanists.

It’s no surprise then that Hammer struggled in the 1970s and eventually went out of business. Their style of movies couldn’t compare to the other horror movies of the 1970s. Just look at THE EXORCIST, for example. Besides the obvious, that THE EXORCIST is scary, it also has realistic and very memorable characters. Father Karras (Jason Miller), for instance, seems like a real person. The characters in TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER don’t seem real at all.

If there’s a reason to watch TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER, it’s the cast, which is the best part of the movie. Father Michael may be a one-dimensional character, but Christopher Lee at least makes that one dimension— evil— fun to watch. Over the years, nobody has done evil as well as Lee, and in TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER, he’s at his evil best. Plus at this point, pretty much anything Lee has done is required viewing. Just don’t expect THE WICKER MAN.

Richard Widmark runs hot and cold as American author John Verney. When he’s doing his “tough guy” routine, and he gets to be physical and fight, he looks more at home. When he’s talking about the occult and Satanists, he seems out of place. He also doesn’t really sound like an author. He sounds like a police detective. Widmark died in 2008 at 93.

Honor Blackman (Miss Pussy Galore herself from GOLDFINGER (1964), and from THE AVENGERS TV show (1961-69), is on hand as Verney’s agent Anna, and she adds style and class to the proceedings with a very good performance.

Denholm Elliott as scared daddy Henry Beddows gives the best performance in the movie, other than Christopher Lee. He seems scared to death throughout. Elliott died in 1992 at age 70.

And while Nastassja Kinski is beautiful in this movie, her performance is blah, and other than her beauty, she doesn’t stand out a bit.

But in spite of its strong cast, TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER is slow and dull. Hammer had much more success with their other Dennis Wheatley film, THE DEVIL’S BRIDE, but of course that one was directed by their best director, Terence Fisher, and Richard Matheson wrote the screenplay. TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER can’t boast of such talent.

TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER is a mixed bag, with very little to offer other than Christopher Lee’s demonic performance. Of course, there IS that Nastassja Kinski full-frontal nude scene.

—END—

© Copyright 2011 by Michael Arruda

Advertisements

DRIVE ANGRY 3D!

Posted in 2011, 3-D, Action Movies, Campy Movies, Cinema Knife Fights, Demons, Fast Cars, Nicolas Cage Movies, Satanists, VIOLENCE! with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 28, 2011 by knifefighter

Cinema Knife Fight: DRIVE ANGRY 3D
By L.L. Soares (and Michael Arruda)

FADE IN

(The scene: A long stretch of highway. LL SOARES is driving a Dodge Charger as fast as it can go, miles of desert on either side of him. Motorhead’s song “Ace of Spades” plays loud over the car stereo)

LS (shouting): Oh there you are. I’m here driving solo, reviewing the new movie DRIVE ANGRY that just came out in theaters. My sidekick is bowing out on this one…

(The music stops and MICHAEL ARRUDA’s voice comes on the radio)

MA: Hello? You there?

LS: Hey! I was enjoying that song!

MA: Yeah, well, I just want to set the record straight. I didn’t bow out on this one on purpose. I’m stuck at my house buried under several feet of snow; snow, it seems, that has been falling since January!  I mean, the snow banks around here have gotten so big they’re going to start lending money.

LS (turns off radio):  Like anybody cares. I was enjoying that song. Hopefully, he’s gone now. (Turns on radio. “Ace of Spades” is playing again.)  That’s more like it. So, where was I?  Yeah, DRIVE ANGRY.

(MA’s voice returns on the radio.)

MA:  What do you mean?  Nobody cares?  I have readers who would care if I’m stuck in the snow someplace.

(Flash to a little old lady seated in front of a computer, tapping impatiently at the screen rather than the keyboard.)

LITTLE OLD LADY:  Where’s that Michael Arruda?  I haven’t seen his reviews in a while. He writes such sweet things about these movies.

(Scene returns to LS driving in car.)

LS:  Hey, how did you know what I said if I shut the radio off first?

MA:  Actually, you dissed me as you were turning the radio off.

LS (grimaces at camera):  Yeah, I’ll buy that. Sure.

MA: So what did you think of DRIVE ANGRY?

LS: Actually, the full title is DRIVE ANGRY 3D, I guess. Although I’m sure some theaters somewhere were showing it in 2D.

DRIVE ANGRY gives us Nicolas Cage as John Milton (get it?)—.

MA:  —That would be a reference to that classic of literature, PARADISE LOST by John Milton.

LS:  Thank you, Professor. But this John Milton is a long-haired, intense guy who just escaped from hell in a souped-up car.

Turns out Hell is just a giant prison, and he’s a breakout artist. The reason he’s come back is to save his baby granddaughter, who has been abducted by Satanists. The baby’s mother – John’s daughter – was part of a cult, but got second thoughts, so the leader, the charismatic Jonah King (Billy Burke), killed her and took her baby, and is planning to use the infant to make a blood sacrifice to Satan. The plan being to open a portal and bring Hell to earth.

Meanwhile, a demonic lawman, called only The Accountant (William Fichtner) is hot on Milton’s trail, intent to bringing him back to the land of fire and brimstone. (Most people probably know Fichtner as the crooked federal agent from the TV series PRISON BREAK.)

Along the way, Milton picks up feisty blonde firecracker Piper (Amber Heard), at first for her car, and then later the two bond and she agrees to help him get his granddaughter back.

So Jonah King and his men are out to kill Milton. So is The Accountant. And Milton is intent on avoiding The Accountant and killing King and his minions, and saving the baby. Got it so far?

MA: Yep.

(We go back to the LITTLE OLD LADY, who is now getting into a souped-up 1957 Chevy and is gunning the engine)

LITTLE OLD LADY: I’ll teach them to give me a Cinema Knife Fight review without sweet little Michael Arruda! GOSH DARN IT!

(She peels out in a screech of tires)

(Back to LS)

LS: This movie creates its mood right from the get go, letting us know this is going to be an all-out, over-the-top, balls-to-the-wall, live-action loony tune from the very first scene. Nick Cage does his usual hammy overacting (he gives an enjoyable performance here, but it’s getting harder and harder to believe this guy once won an Oscar) as Milton, and Fichtner is damn near perfect as the demonic Accountant (who looks exactly like the FBI man he keeps telling everyone he is – his suit doesn’t get rumpled even once). Hell, the acting is good all around here, including Burke (the dad from the TWILIGHT movies – I knew he looked familiar) as the very charismatic Jonah King (you can believe this guy leads a cult) and the hot, tough, and fun-to-watch Heard as Piper. Other good supporting players include David Morse as Milton’s long-time friend, Webster, and Tom Atkins as the chief of police trying to chase everyone else down.

From the trailers, I thought this was just going to be a straight story of a normal guy chasing down the cultists who stole his daughter (is Nick Cage really old enough to play grandfathers now? I guess he is). I didn’t find out about the supernatural elements until a few days before the movie opened, and I didn’t know what to expect from that. All this talk of Hell and demons and vengeance smacks a lot of a previous Cage outing, GHOST RIDER (2007), which was flawed at best. But for some reason, it all works better here. John Milton is a man on a mission and Cage gives us enough intensity and his just plain patented goofiness throughout to keep the fans wanting more.

(Cherry red ’57 Chevy roars up behind him and drives up beside him)

LITTLE OLD LADY: Where is Michael Arruda this week, you mean man!

LS: Huh? What are you talking about? I’m trying to do a movie review here, lady.

LITTLE OLD LADY: Damn, smartass kids!

(She pulls out a shotgun and aims it at LS)

LITTLE OLD LADY: I represent “Old Timers For Arruda” and we are not going to tolerate reviews that leave him out.

LS: Lady, he’s stuck in the snow. It’s not my fault.

LITTLE OLD LADY: Not good enough, sonny!

(Before she can shoot, LS rams her car with his, and she goes over the railing, spinning down the hills, bursting into a giant ball of flame)

LS: So long, sucker! (cackles in glee)

Where was I?

MA (voice on the radio): You were wrapping up your review, I think. I have to admit, I’m sad you killed that old lady. She sounded very smart.

LS: Yeah, it is kind of sad to think I might have killed off your only fan.

MA: Get to the review!

LS: The dialogue gets a little absurd at times, but the silliest lines are the ones coming out of Cage’s mouth, and he says them as if they were diamonds. No one makes bad dialogue sound good and funny like Nicolas Cage.

For the most part, the script is pretty good, the acting top-notch, and the direction by Patrick Lussier – whose remake of MY BLOODY VALENTINE (also in 3D) in 2009 was one of the better horror flicks since the new 3D renaissance – keeps things moving at a nice speed throughout. Sure, there are plenty of goofy aspects to the proceedings, but they’re all part of the ride—speaking of which, there are also some very cool cars in this flick, too.

Is the 3D worth it? Well, there are stretches where you kind of don’t notice (as is the case with a lot of 3D movies), and then, suddenly, a bullet will come your way, or part of someone’s skull will hurtle towards you. This movie earns its R rating with plenty of blood and dismemberment, as well plenty of nude girls, so what’s not to love? That said, I’m still not a big fan of the whole 3D thing, and didn’t think it added that much to the movie. I still think the entire 3D craze is a sham created to raise ticket prices and sell new televisions. But when a movie is an entertaining as this one – and most 3D movies aren’t – I’m willing to let it slide. But I bet it would have been just as fun in regular 2D.

MA:  I’m with you on this point. The majority of the new 3D movies haven’t been worth the extra ticket prices.

LS:  So is this movie worth seeing? Hell yeah. After the showing I went to, there were surveys so I filled one out. One question asked “Why did you want to see this movie?” and I checked off “Nicolas Cage” with a giant X next to his name, and smaller x’s for William Fichtner and the fact that it was “Directed by the guy who made MY BLOODY VALENTINE.”

DRIVE ANGRY is a hoot and a holler and a drag race out of hell and back. I give it three and a half knives.

MA:  Sounds like a lot of fun, and I’m sorry I missed it.

(LITTLE OLD LADY’s voice come on the radio)

LITTLE OLD LADY: You better be part of the next review, Michael! I am boiling mad!

(LS turns off the radio. The vast desert on either side of him turns into walls of flame as he takes a right turn into Hell)

LS: Well, I’m home. So long folks! See you next time.

FADE OUT

© Copyright 2011 by L.L. Soares (with some input from Michael Arruda)

LL SOARES gives DRIVE ANGRY 3Dthree and a half knives

Meanwhile, MICHAEL ARRUDA is stuck in the snow


WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS (1971)

Posted in 2010, 70s Horror, Biker Films, Grindhouse, LL Soares Reviews, Low Budget Movies, Satanists, Trasmissions to Earth, Werewolf Movies with tags , , , , on October 19, 2010 by knifefighter

TRANSMISSIONS TO EARTH # 4: WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS (1971)
by L. L. Soares

If Billy and Captain America from EASY RIDER (1969) took a detour into the pits of hell, it might looks something like WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS (1971).

Mixing three exploitation film staples – bikers, Satanists and werewolves, WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS starts out like most biker films, with a gang of motorcycle hooligans going around causing trouble. First they beat up a redneck who forces one of them off the road with his truck. Then they harass a gas station attendant and fill up their tanks with no intention of paying. Like in most biker movies of the period, these guys take what they want and are eager to fight anyone who gets in their way.

At one point, Adam (Steve Oliver), the leader of the gang, has the gang’s mystical guy, Tarot (Duece Berry) read his “old lady” Helen (D.J. Anderson)’s fortune. The results aren’t good: Helen will die in a tower, struck by lightning. But that’s okay, Adam doesn’t believe in that stuff anyway and just keeps Tarot (everyone pronounces his name “Tuh-roe”) around for laughs, even though he’s the most serious one of the bunch and is the only one who seems to be in tune with the evil that awaits them.

Eventually, they reach a strange tower off the highway that is topped off by a weird devil symbol, and Adam and the boys approach it to taunt it with shouts of “Come out, Satan.” Of course, the place isn’t empty, but instead holds a bunch of satanic monks led by The One (Severn Darden), who “speaks where the others must be silent forever.” He sends his monks out to give the bikers loaves of bread and goblets of wine, which of course are drugged, and when the gang is out cold, The One uses black magic to lure Helen to the tower so she can be anointed as the Bride of Satan. This mainly involves a long sequence where Helen dances (badly) in a trance while naked, holding a python in one hand and a skull in the other.

Big Daddy Adam and his boys wake up and go to the monastery, where they beat up the monks fairly easily, but the damage is done. Helen will be haunted by weird visions from this point onward, and weird claw marks (or are they ash smears?) on the biker’s faces, caused by the monks, will make the rest of the gang act strangely as well. In fact, some of them start to get really hairy at night and have strong urges to kill.

When Helen continues to act weirdly long after they’ve escaped from the Satanists, and the bikers wake up to find some of their members dead (poor Mouse and Shirley!) , Adam is convinced that the only way to get rid of these “bad vibes” is to go back and finish the monks off once and for all. But it’s not that easy. They have to find  their way back, first. While riding their bikes in a fog, they suddenly find themselves lost in the middle of the desert, and then things just get weirder, with lots of psychedelic imagery.

When we finally see the werewolves up close, they don’t look half bad, considering how low the budget is for this movie. At least they don’t take their shirts off and flash their abs like in the TWILIGHT movies. Director Michel Levesque does he can with the material. As with a lot of low-budget 70s flicks, there are parts of this one that don’t make a whole lot of sense, and there’s a stretch in the middle where it moves kind of slow, but overall, it’s entertaining enough. Nothing spectacular, but at least it delivers what the title promises. The mostly unknown cast ranges from good (the leads aren’t that bad) to just plain awful (one guy seems to talk constantly in a John Wayne imitation). There are a few brief gore scenes and a nice helping of nudity.

At just 85 minutes, it’s not on long enough to get too awful, and there are some scenes that are downright fun. With more scruffy bikers and chanting satanic monks than you can shake a stick at. Check WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS out if you dig bikers, Satanists, werewolves, or all three!

© Copyright 2010 by L.L. Soares