Wednesday, 8 February 2012

To the Devil a Daughter

Painting the enemy as Devils is common but in the Dennis Wheatley novel based To the Devil a Daughter, the devil is a reality. I saw the film in theatre as well as on TV in the past and the all star cast brings a credible dimension in the days when horror suspense movies relied on audience imagination more than CGI creation of fantasy.

The film also relies on the audience accepting that it is possible for a fanatical former priest to establish an order of nuns who worship the devil adorned by inverted crosses. The story begins with Richard Widmark an established author attending a exhibition with his agent played by Honor Blackman and her lover Anthony Valentine Widmark is approached by Denholme Elliot to meet his daughter who is arriving from Germany for her once a year birthday with her father. The man explains to Widmark knowing of interest in the occult that the assignment is to look after the girl at his London riverside home until collected by father because of an occult threat. With remarkable insight Blackman is fearful and urges her client and friend not to become involved.

The background is that nearly eighteen years before, the girl played by 15 year old Natasha Kinski is born by a “ natural” Caesarean to a mother willingly participating who understandable dies and the girl is then baptised in the blood of the mother. She is then raised by Christopher Lee as the devil worshipping priest and his consort within the nunnery until adolescence and then in a ceremony she is placed on an alter and stimulate sexual intercourse with a statue of the devil while Lee has actual intercourse n behalf of the devil with his consort. The woman gives birth by a similar method to that of the girl, a few days before her eighteen birthday and the most important night of the occupy year. The woman gives birth to a grotesque creature of the devil. The intention is that at 18 the girl will be baptised again in the blood of the creature and become the devil on earth enabling a new generation to be switched on although how she will do this is unclear.

Her father, played by Elliot is a drunk weakling who when he discovers what is happened is horrified but is visited by the spirit of his wife who warns that if he betrays her and the destiny of her daughter he will perish in a ball of fire and presents him with a an artefact as symbol of the pact of secrecy and obedience he has entered into. Lee takes charge of the “pact” which secreted in the alter of a church used by the cult. There is a scene of Elliot having sex with a young woman at the ceremony of his daughter and the conception of devil suggesting that part of the pact was to enjoy the experience of the young woman at their regular ceremonies. As the eighteenth birthday approaches he recants and hires Widmark to thwart the plan. However Widmark and Elliot underestimate the powerful force with Lee is able to generate.

At his home the girl appears to experience the horror of he birth of the devil at night and it is evident that she has memories of other situations in which she has participated in a trance like condition. First Lee sends a powerful auto suggestion via the phone, he holds a rope which turns into snake on the hand of Elliot in order to reveal where the girl is located. He is then able to send a message to girl to leave the home where she is being looked after by Blackman who stabs the woman to death in the head in order to leave the home and be picked up by an agent of Lee.

Widmark after being threatened over the phone by Lee goes to see a Bishop friend to gain access to ancient work on the occult held in the church library after reading up on the subject in his own references library. Here he reads the pages which are recorded a being read by the priests many years before but where the Library has a record as require by the church of all those whom read otherwise banned books. From this he understands what is happening only too late to save his friend and Valentine is understandably devastated and horrified with Widmark for allowing the situation to develop this way together with his own guilt for getting involved when Blackman had repeatedly warned against doing so,

Valentine insists on accompanying Widmark when they visit Elliot to find him seated in a protected circle against the power of the devil and he refuses to advise on the location of his daughter until they have retrieved the pact, They go in search of he church and first find it has moved with Frances de la Tour as a Salvation Army Major who has taken over the church, They find the church as advised by Elliot and here Valentine is mistaken by Lee for Elliot and is consumed by fire. Widmark takes the pact artefact to Elliot who realising it is broken reveals the location of the ceremony at an ancient church site.

Here Lee has created a circle with the blood of the woman who gave birth to the girl who eh has placed on an altar in the middle. Oddly the act is performed on his won without the entourage. He warns and also attempted to bribe Widmark from interfering. It is at this point that the film had its controversial moment in which the girl said to be eighteen years is played by the 15 year old Kinsky, appears full frontal naked as a potential gift to Widmark if he allows the ceremony to go ahead. Widmark hold, a stone with the protected blood to enter the circle which he then throw at the end of Lee to give him time to pick up the clothed girl from the altar outside the circle. The film ends ambiguously because as he leaves the circle Lee disappears and the girl with blood on brow looks at him in way which suggests he may have been too late.

Kinsky the daughter of German Actor Klaus Kinsky who she did not see from the age of ten had been spent her adolescence in a German Commune in the early 70’s and afterwards spoke of being exploited when she was too young to appreciate the long term implications of her appearance in the film. One wonders what her mother was up to?

Wheatley was one of the prolific writers of his day. He showed no aptitude for school or creative work as a child and young man joined the Merchant Navy. He served in the army in the First World War and experience a chlorine attack at Paschendale and then saw service at Ypres and in France. After the war he joined the family wine merchant business and went into a depression when the business commenced to fail, remarried and commenced to write.

It was in the second World War that he held a important role for the Government coordinating strategic deception and cover plans including how to cope with the anticipated invasion which he covers in his work Stranger than Fiction. He presented a paper to the War Cabinet in Total War. He wrote over 80 fiction and non fiction works which books about the cult contained in a number of he series for example the Molly Fountain Mini series included the Satanist in addition to the Devil a Daughter. The Devil Rides out was part of the Duke of De Richleau series. And part if he Gregory Sullust series included they used Dark Forces and the Witch of the South Seas. The Irish Witch part of The Roger Brook Series. There were three fiction works on the occult on their own and a science fiction series. Six books in total were made into feature films He died in 1977 aged 80.

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