To The Devil A Daughter

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Before Hammer Films was revived in the 2010s, To The Devil A Daughter (1976) had the distinction of being Hammer’s final film. As such, To The Devil A Daughter was hardly a fitting end for the studio. As a work of horror it lacks the Gothic ambience the studio had once been so identified with. But like The Devil Rides Out (1968), To The Devil A Daughter is an adaptation of a novel by Dennis Wheatley, albeit a poorly paced adaptation.

Unlike the earlier Wheatley adaptation To The Devil A Daughter suffers from following in the footsteps of Rosemary’s Baby (1968). To The Devil A Daughter plays with the iconography of Polanski’s film in a bid for Hammer to find some elusive cultural relevancy. To The Devil A Daughter is never as scary or grim as Rosemary’s Baby, playing instead like camp. Yet, in a way, Hammer going out on a campy note makes sense.

Throughout the seventies Hammer struggled to compete with the grittier grindhouse movies being churned out by the U.S. Hammer’s Gothic Horrors were out of step with the current cultural moment and many of their films of that period played more as campy variations on their groundbreaking films of the sixties and fifties. Not even the presence of Christopher Lee can elevate To The Devil A Daughter to the aesthetic and cultural heights that Hammer knew in decades past.

Part of the problem with To The Devil A Daughter is the casting of an elderly Richard Widmark in the lead role as a horror author. Widmark appears to just be going through the motions as if he deemed To The Devil A Daughter beneath him. His advanced age also makes the scene where a fifteen year old Nastassja Kinski appears nude feels awkward and controversial. Widmark is out of place in Hammer and he knew it, but for whatever reason executives felt his star power would help the film find its audience.

To The Devil A Daughter is campy, kinky, weird, and generally a mess of pacing. Yet that is precisely why it has obtained a kind of cult status even among Hammer films. There’s no other Hammer production quite as bonkers as To The Devil A Daughter which makes it a unique kind of classic. It isn’t just for Hammer completists but for anyone interested in the weirder outings of seventies horror films.