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  Devil's Daughter, The daddy's girl
Year: 1973
Director: Jeannot Szwarc
Stars: Shelley Winters, Jonathan Frid, Belinda J. Montgomery, Robert Foxworth, Abe Vigoda, Diane Ladd, Joseph Cotten, Martha Scott, Barbara Sammeth, Lucille Benson, Thelma Carpenter, Robert Cornthwaite
Genre: Horror, TV MovieBuy from Amazon
Rating:  3 (from 1 vote)
Review: In this Rosemary’s Baby (1968)-inspired TV movie, a wigged-out cultist (Diane Ladd) sires the spawn of Satan. Twenty years later, she has second thoughts when daddy comes a-callin’, demanding his ‘property’, and is swiftly dispatched. After mom’s funeral, our heroine Diane (Belinda J. Montgomery) moves in with old family friend, Lillith (Shelley Winters) and her mute chauffeur/“companion” Mr. Howard (Dark Shadows’ Jonathan Frid), wherein things turn freaky. Weird neighbours mutter portentous words (“Hail Diane, daughter of darkness!”) A portrait of Satan - straight out of Marvel Comics - hangs over the fireplace. Diane’s magic ring compels her to shove a little boy before oncoming traffic. Fleeing Lillith’s influence, Diane moves in with schoolteacher Susan and finds a friend in fatherly Judge Weatherby (Joseph Cotten). But after Susan dies in a “freak horse-riding accident”, her boyfriend Steve (Robert Foxworth) wastes no time in putting the moves on our harried heroine. One soft-focus, romantic montage later, Steve and Diane are ready to tie the knot, but her devilish daddy throws one more surprise…

Spooky TV movies became all the rage in the mid-seventies following the ratings smash of The Night Stalker (1971). Some were inspired (Trilogy of Terror (1975)), others were dire (Harvest Home), and a few were good, campy fun (Devil Dog, Hound from Hell (1978)). Though it draws heavily from Roman Polanski’s classic tale of devilish deeds, The Devil’s Daughter is lightweight by comparison, a satanic soap opera. Belinda J. Montgomery is sweet and likeable as fresh-faced Diane, but the title pretty much gives the game away and she spends most of the story playing catch-up. The Satanists are arch and knowing, and occasionally stray into outright camp (“Sorry I missed the funeral service, but your mother would’ve understood”). Good is presented in the ineffectual form of a well-meaning priest. Jonathan Frid’s would-be tragic mute manservant, who sheds a tear over Diane’s fate, is sorely underwritten, while Shelley Winters was scarier in Pete’s Dragon (1977). TV regular, Robert Foxworth would later battle mutant bears in John Frankenheimer’s horror flop, Prophecy (1979). Steve is your typical, seventies jerk ‘hero’ who talks about himself incessantly and swiftly switches his romantic allegiances barely days after Susan’s death. Like many devil movies this has a streak of fatalism that leaves the story with nowhere to go and the ending a foregone conclusion. A reminder that, aside from Rosemary’s Baby, and regardless of the devil’s place in horror lore, it’s a pretty worthless sub-genre.

Best approached as a period piece, the film features that mix of gothic and the groovy unique to the 1970s. A modern horror would cast the coven as death-metal head-bangers but here it’s all black candles and lithe lovelies in diaphanous gowns, while mysterious Mr. Alekan (Abe Vigoda - Tessio in The Godfather (1972)) hypnotises Diane into a dreamy interpretive dance. Wild Eye’s DVD features a grainy, jumpy print with faded colours and crackling sound. Screenwriter Colin Higgins is best known for scripting lovable comedy-thrillers Silver Streak (1976) and Foul Play (1978), and directing the Dolly Parton/Jane Fonda/Lily Tomlin farce Nine to Five (1980)!
Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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Jeannot Szwarc  (1939 - )

French director of American television, whose big screen efforts had a mixed reception, including Bug, Jaws 2, cult romance Somewhere in Time, Supergirl and Santa Claus.

 
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