New York-based dress designer Jessica Gordon (Elyssa Davalos) shares a “meet cute” with smugly persistant Andy Stuart (Dack Rambo) who accidentally crashes into her car then keeps pestering her for a date. Inevitably she gives in and the pair gradually fall in love. However, their courtship is complicated by a series of unsettling incidents. A black cat follows wherever they go. A strange man captures their every move on camera. Windows inexplicably shatter in their apartment. A horse almost kills Andy while he and Jessica are out for a ride. Later, Jessica confesses her last three boyfriends all died in mysterious circumstances. None of this dissuades a smitten Andy from proposing marriage, but when Jessica enters the church the room darkens and genial Father Wheatley (John Harkins) notices she shrinks from the sight of Christ on the cross. What is going on? It all started twenty-two years ago when Jessica was born and suave satanist Mr. Rimmin (Richard Lynch) set in motion his plan to groom her to be the bride of the demon, Astaroth.
Anyone who rents Good Against Evil on DVD would be forgiven for expecting a satanic sex romp given the cover fixates upon the thrusting bottom of a lingerie-clad cutie. In reality this is merely a tepid and wildly derivative spooky TV movie-of-the-week of the kind that proliferated the small screen throughout the Seventies. Paul Wendkos remains best known for his beloved teen movies Gidget (1959), Gidget Goes Hawaiian (1961) and Gidget Goes to Rome (1963), and later became a prolific director of television thrillers, but in the Seventies enjoyed a run of accomplished horror films. Sadly, Good Against Evil falls way short of the striking Fear No Evil (1969) and his paranoid gem The Brotherhood of the Bell (1970) despite being scripted by Hammer horror veteran Jimmy Sangster.
Things actually get off to a fairly effective start with a sinister prologue set in 1955 where evil Mr. Rimmin ensures Jessica’s hysterical mother takes a fatal fall off a flight of steps before handing the child over to the local coven. Wendkos’ atmospheric direction lifts a few tricks from Roman Polanski and Val Lewton, although the battering ram approach favoured by Sangster’s screenplay leaves little room for subtlety. At first it appears the plot is about to weave a neat line in paranoia as the young lovers discover everyone close to Jessica is part of a vast satanic conspiracy, but for the most part Wendkos and Sangster keep the leads frustratingly in the dark and reveal too much information early on. Things seesaw inconsistently from sub-soap opera slush to scenes of a robed Richard Lynch chanting over pentagrams and black candles as though the viewer where channel surfing between episodes Dark Shadows and The Young and the Restless.
Given the plot revolves around a supposedly epic metaphysical conflict the film struggles to craft convincing proponents on either side, with Father Wheatley found hanging from his own church bell early on and grouchy, ranting Father Kemschler (Dan O’Herlihy) wheeled on late in the day to do his best Max Von Sydow impersonation and lapsing into outright parody. Sangster appears to have set out to deliver a sort of greatest hits compilation of devil movies given the schizophrenic plot abruptly dumps a brainwashed Jessica with Mr. Rimmin then leads Andy to an old flame played by future Sex & the City star Kim Cattrall. Cattrall gives a very credible performance as the distraught mother of a little girl (Natasha Ryan) assailed by demonic forces but this sudden swerve into blatant imitation of The Exorcist (1973) will irk those few who were faithfully following the first strand and want to know why the satanists don’t try to kill Andy. An inconclusive finale leaves Jessica in Rimmen’s hands and sets Andy on a road trip with Father Kemschler in which they would presumably share numerous occult adventures but no television series followed this pilot. Unless you count the like-named show that arrived thirty years later but had nothing to do with this film.