Directed by: Peter Sykes
Actors: Richard Widmark, Christopher Lee, Honor Blackman
Country: UK | West Germany
Also known as: Child of Satan
Description: Christopher Lee stars as Father Michael Rainer an out of his mind priest who wants to see the rebirth of the unholy one himself, The Lord Satan, ASAP. Rainer sets his sights on the innocent and young nun named Catherine (played by Klaus Kinski’s daughter, Nastassia) to see his plan come to fruition. It’s up to an occult novelist named John Varney a close friend of Catherine’s father, to help try and stop Rainer before it’s too late.
Without a doubt one of Hammer Studio’s most overlooked and under appreciated works, To the Devil a Daughter has always been a personal favorite of mine, pretty much since day one. Yes the film has a sordid history (don’t most Hammer productions?) and yes I’m certain that these troubles have quite often swayed the public and critic’s decisions throughout the years. If you can put the entire mumbo jumbo aside (troublesome actors, set troubles, altered scenes, you name it!) and sit down with To the Devil a Daughter to be accepted at face value, I’m fairly certain you’ll find something to like within.
The film itself is quite often chilling, unnerving and without a doubt ultimately disturbing. While practically bloodless (I did say practically), it relies on good old fashioned terror tactics to score its scare points. There are moments and images that are destined to stay with you once you hit the stop button. The film was deliriously created with extremely low and high angle shots and disorienting edits, mixed right in with long flowing scenes that almost seem to scream tranquillity… and right when we think we’re in a safety zone, we’re hit right upside the head. The film is unforgiving and unapologetic for its ultimate abrasivness, it certainly ain’t no cakewalk here, that’s for sure.
I stated earlier that one of the key strengths of the film lies within its incredible performances. Christopher Lee shines as the disturbed Priest Rainer and it’s evident that there was a star in the making with young Natassia Kinski. Other notable appearances include Honor Blackman (FRIGHT), Richard Widmark as Verney (not their first choice and purportedly a bastard on the set) and Denholm Elliot (Raiders of the Lost Ark). Of course we have to mention the fact that at the ripe young age of 15 Kinski is seen in some extremely disturbing scenes of a sexual nature. Also, who could ever forget the scene of Kinski toward the end of the film complete with full frontal nudity (completely restored for this release). These are the things that controversies are made of.