It was probably inevitable that the folks at Hammer Films would produce a movie in the vein of Rosemary’s Baby (1968), because nothing screams Hammer like the lurid intersection of sex and supernatural thrills. Unfortunately, To the Devil . . . A Daughter lacks the comic-book fun of the best Hammer flicks—it’s a ploddingly serious psychodrama hampered by indifferent leading performances. And because certain scenes push the boundaries of good taste in terms of displaying nubile flesh, the whole endeavor feels needlessly sleazy. Therefore, even though director Peter Sykes mounts a generally handsome production, with sleek camerawork by the great David Watkin and several atmospheric locations, the cons outweigh the pros. Richard Widmark stars as John Verney, a supernatural expert recruited by worried dad Henry Beddows (Denholm Elliot) to look after Henry’s teenaged daughter, Catherine (Nastassja Kinski), who has spent years cloistered with a mysterious religious organization in Europe. Long story short, it turns out the head of the organization, Father Michael Rayner (Christopher Lee), is a Satanist grooming Catherine for some sort of unholy union with a demon. Verney attempts to save Catherine. The saucy plot could have worked, but Widmark seems so bored that he sucks the life out of every scene he’s in, while Lee—as always, more interesting as a physical presence than as an actor—merely glowers like he’s making one of his interchangeable Dracula movies. In the absence of dynamic leading performances, all eyes turn to Kinski’s exotic beauty. Had she been cast as an innocent whose sexual power was merely implied, Kinski could have justified the movie’s existence with her innately beguiling qualities. Instead, the filmmakers went too far and displayed the actress fully nude, despite the fact that she was a minor at the time of filming. Toying with the erotic implications of a provocative story is one thing, but brazenly showcasing a child as a sex object is putrid.
To the Devil . . . a Daughter: LAME