Thursday, June 12, 2014

"The Devil's Daughter" (1973) d/ Jeannot Szwarc

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By 1973, devils, demons, and diabolical dealings had become all the rage in Hollywood, thanks in part, to the success of Roman Polanski's occult shocker, Rosemary's Baby (1968). Of course, I was three years old when they first broadcast tonight's review, so Sesame Street, Electric Company, and Let's All Sing with Tony Saletan all had my minimal attention span on lockdown back then. It's a shame, too, because only a year or so later I'd have grooved on such a made-for-tv effort, starring Canadian brunette Belinda Montgomery, who was no stranger to the genre, having appeared in Ritual of Evil for the networks three years earlier. Of course, Shelley Winters is at the top of her early seventies hamminess here, and you've also got to factor in a cast of supporting names like Joseph Cotten, Robert Foxworth, Dianne Ladd, Lucille Benson, Abe "Fish" Vigoda, and a post-Dark Shadows Barnabus Collins himself, Jonathan Frid.

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"Marry a demon? I'd sooner play the mother of a licensed fourteen year old doctor...for ninety-seven episodes."
Diane's (Belinda Montgomery) mom prearranges a marriage between her daughter and the son of Satan in exchange for some folding money, eventually backing out on the deal when she tries to assassinate the Devil with a bullet, fatally shooting herself in the process, like the foolish mortal that she is. When Diane comes out of her sheltered existence of private schools and convents to attend her mother's funeral, she's approached by an obnoxious redheaded Satanist named Lilith (Shelley Winters) and her mute chauffeur, Mr. Howard (Jonathan Frid), and asked to be a guest at her luxurious mansion, where a strange seal bearing intersected crosses seems to be everywhere.

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"Before any Satanic orgies commence, I always like to consult my painting of Hugh Jackman."
Creeped out by Lilith's Pan-born pushiness, Diane breaks out like viral conjunctivitis and scores herself an apartment of her own, makes new less-black arts inclined acquaintances in a girl named Alice Shaw (Dianne Ladd), but Lilith and her associates are as resourceful as they are diligent, and the theft of a small glass horse figurine spells a deadly horse riding accident for Alice. Naturally, Diane hooks up with her newly deceased pal's boyfriend, Steve (Robert Foxworth). There's a big party at Lilith's pad, where Diane drinks a little too much, shakes it loose, and is hailed as the "Princess of Darkness" by a guest list that includes Abe Vigoda, ferchrissakes. She later meets with a judge (Joseph Cotten) who informs her of a trust fund she's entitled to, as set up by her father, and even volunteers to give the bride away at her upcoming spur-of-the-moment wedding to Steve. Cue: Trick ending, and one worthy of the pages of a seventies D.C. horror anthology.

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"Have you seen me in 'A Double Life'? Errrr... I've got an Academy Award I can show you, too..."
If the director's name sounds familiar to you, it's probably because he was responsible for genre fodder like the made-for-tv Night of Terror (1972), Bug (1975), and Jaws 2 (1978), as well as no less than nineteen episodes of the excellent television horror anthology, Night Gallery. We'll try to erase his credits on Supergirl (1984) and Santa Claus (1985) from our collective memory if we can. Jonathan Frid would turn up the following year in Ollie Stone's feature-length debut, Seizure, his only role thereafter, save for in a cameo in Tim Burton's Dark Shadows (2012) the same year he passed away. On the scale, Daughter ties the infernal knot with a couple of cloven Wops, a devilishly enjoyable time to be had, for sure. Hunt it down!

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"....set my Little Orphan Annie decoder ring to B2 to find out the secret message..."
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