Monday, June 9, 2014

"The Devil Within Her" (1975) d/ Peter Sasdy

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Hungarian-born director Peter Sasdy has had some great genre moments over the years, from Taste the Blood of Dracula(1970) and Countess Dracula(1971), to Hands of the Ripper(1971) and Nothing But the Night(1973). Tonight's review, alternately known as The Monster, Sharon's Baby, and I Don't Want to be Born, is an entirely different story altogether. Besides Joan Collins showing her full acting range as a pleasure-starved trollop in various states of undress, you've got Donald Pleasence, Caroline Munro, and Ralph Bates and Eileen Atkins in a "Worst Italian Accent-Off" that'll have your ears bleeding out like a pair of emo-cutters on a suicide pact in a warehouse full of cutlery. Wait, it gets worse...

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Acting 101: Is Joan Collins giving birth or in the sensual throes of earth-shattering orgasm?
Despite being in her forties, we first see Lucy (Where does "Sharon's Baby" factor in to any of this? I don't think anybody in the whole cast is named Sharon...) as she's clearly enjoying the arrival of a nearly twelve pound baby boy through her birth canal. Dr. Finch (Pleasence) notes that her son "doesn't want to be born", before the little bugger scratches up his mother's facepiece (off-camera) to further amplify that sentiment. So troubled she is from the outset at her boy's antisocial behavior, that her ridiculous-sounding Italian husband Gino (Ralph Bates) seeks out his even more ridiculous-sounding Italian sister, a nun called Albana (Eileen Atkins) for help, as his little troublemaker makes a general off-camera nuisance of himself; shoving his pram-pushing babysitter into the Thames, punching Lucy's former lovers in the face, and biting anyone foolish enough to let their baby talking rubber faces slip too close to the little devil, or " dev-EEL" as Albana would say.

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" 'Ere, Bates, was that supposed to be an Italian accent, then?"
A distraught Lucy confides to one of her stripper mates named Mandy (Caroline Munro), in between shopping sprees and candlelit dinners, that all of this strange phenomena may be occurring since she once denied the amorous advances of the co-star of her stage show during her own dancing days, a British dwarf named Hercules(!), and the jilted little fellow slapped a curse on her. Sounds legit. In any case, Lucy's son escapes his playpen, bending the bars on his nursery window, and hanging-ah poor Gino-ah from a tree outside-ah. He later lops off Dr. Finch's head with a spade, and runs his own mother through with a dagger in the tit. Albana performs a mostly uninteresting exorcism on the troubled infant in the end, while Hercules unconvincingly slumps dead on stage at the strip club, surrounded by showgirls. Phew, that one hurt.

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" I've 'eard you was a free-thinking sexy broad with a dirty mouth. Wanna try for 'free-thinking sexy broad with a dirty mouth wot's shagged a randy dwarf in a jester costume' ?"
Pleasence gives the only performance that doesn't reek of week old rubbish here, and even then, it's not even one of his better turns, by a fucking long shot. Even the ever stunning Caroline Munro is wasted as a stripper who never strips, only spouting mundane Cockney dialog that seemingly always ends in exaggerated hand gestures and "Dahhhhhling!". Ralph Bates probably should have known better, too. Despite possessing exactly zero moments of on-screen tension and plenty of hokey off-screen mayhem, you just might spend the whole screening laughing out loud, as I did, and whether that was the intent of the film's producers or not(it wasn't), laughing's never a bad thing. One wop on the scale...

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So that's how Donald Pleasence's head comes off. Always wondered about that.
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