Holding the status as the last horror film that Hammer produced (until 2010’s Let Me In), and second-to-last film in any genre, 1976’s To The Devil A Daughter is based on the novel of the same name by Dennis Wheatley, and stars Richard Widmark, Christopher Lee, Honor Blackman, Nastassja Kinski and Denholm Elliott. However the finished product barely resembles the acutual novel. Wheatley disliked the film because the film did not follow his novel and found it obscene. Wheatley told Hammer Production that they were not to make another film from his novels ever again. It’s a movie that sufferred & languished for a few years until funding could be achieved.
The movie starts with the excommunication of Father Michael Raymer (Lee) from the Catholic church, for acts of what they consider to be heresy. Raymer would state the iconic quote “Excommunication… It is not heresy, and I will not recant!” Years later we see him heading a church & community in Bavaria as it’s leader & head priest (obviously not sanctioned by the Catholic Church). Raymer sends Catherine, a young nun, to meet up with the girl’s adoptive parents, George and Eveline De Grass to be put on a plane to London. She is to meet with her biological father Henry Beddows. Accompaning her on the flight is a bodyguard. Meanwhile in London, a disturned looking Henry goes to meet reknowened occult expert & novelist John Verney at the release of his latest book. Henry convinces Verney that he (Beddows) was once part of a Satanist (or, more properly, Astarothite) coven headed by Father Rayner, and that he was forced to pledge his daughter to the cult upon her birth. Raymer had caused this by using his powers to create a vision of Beddows wife, who had died on giving birth to Catherine, which communicated her desire to leave Catherine with the cult. Now that purpose is about to be effected, and Beddows has come down with a case of cold feet. As Verney is an expert on the occult, Beddows has reached out to him to rescue Catherine.
Troubled by what this stranger has told him Verney agrees & rushes over to the airport and introduces himself to Catherine as a friend of her father’s while her bodyguard is busy with a telephone call. Verney ushers young Catherine to his car drives off to his house. The bodyguard goes to Beddows’s residence to find out if he was involved but is shot in the abdomen by Henry. Meanwhile at Verney’s residence Catherin hallucinates during the night as a pregnant woman delivers a grotesque evil looking puppet creature (which I presume to be the essence of Astaroth) at the church by a woman, who dies immediately. The creature is flown to London. Verney has his publisher Anna Fountain and her boyfriend, David look after Catherine while he investigates about Astaroth. But Raymer reaches out with his powers and has Catherine escape from the house but she is caught by Verney who then slaps her when she goes into a hysteria. As Catherine then sleeps in her bed, Verney leaves his friends once again to look after her (why would he do that when they have proven to be inept the first time) and researches at the local church’s library. Catherine, once again under the spell of Raymer, gets up and kills Anna and slips away. A distraught David confronts Verney on his return and the two go to meet Beddows, who is cowering in a locked room. It is here that Beddows rehashes the story of how his wife died and him pledging his daughter to the cult & Raymer. The evil priest aims to turn Catherine into a physical vessel for Astaroth himself and initiate thereby the reign of the Devil on Earth! Verney & David head to the church to retrive his pledge but David is burned to ashes as Raymer’s impressieve black magic powers attacks them.
We are subjected to a Satanic ritual with some nudity and sexual activity going on, including two men who use a statue of Astaroth to simulate sex with the young Catherine while Raymer disrobes and has sex with another woman. And then the red, grotesque evil looking puppet creature enters Catherine through her vagina – in a bizzare reverse birth. Verney then sneaks up on Raymer in the location where the sacrifice of Catherine & birth of Astaroth is to take place and confronts the evil priest. In a rushed & unexplained manner, Raymer is destroyed and disappears and Verney carries a dazed Catherine away. HELLO? What about the grotesque evil looking puppet creature??? This movie disappoints and with it’s many gapping holes in it’s plot (the scriptwriter deviating from the novel does a piss poor job) and hence we have a totally unsatisfying story. Astaroth isn’t the devil, he is supposed to be Crowned Prince of Hell. He is a male figure named after the Canaanite goddess Ashtoreth – a blasphemous act by the Old Testament & Judeo-Christianity to undermine the Pagan gods & religions. 6 outta 10!