Easter Egg: In the Extras Menu, move the Cursor down to the Talent Bios, and press Arrow Left. A Pentagram will appear to the far left, hit enter and a 1988 interview with Eddie Powell (7:17) from a Hammer convention will play. The first stuntman in England to perform a full-body immolation, Powell describes the ordeal of being set on fire, and offers a humorous anecdote on his surprise nude scene, with a choice closing statement.
Deliberately tailoring their marketing campaign for fans of "Rosemary's Baby" and "The Omen," Hammer's third adaptation of a Dennis Wheatley novel - after "The Lost Continent" and "The Devil Rides Out" - was quite successful on its original theatrical run, but became the last Hammer film destined for theatres when the post-investor revenues failed to sufficiently keep the theatrical branch alive. After a few television ventures, Hammer finally folded, and a survivor of England's clobbered film industry - once reviled as a cheap, sleazy outfit by high-nosed talent - was quietly laid to rest.
The Hammer name will always have an immediate attraction to thriller and horror fans, and "To The Devil A Daughter" has rather improved with age - perhaps because the production values are much higher than standard Hammer fare, and Christopher Lee - who owned the Wheatley film rights at the time - wanted the accuracy of Satanic rituals to thoroughly frighten audiences. Wheatley, whose books outsold the works by Ian Fleming in England, wasn't too pleased with the film version, but "To The Devil" manages to offer a great mix of high camp, and some startling shock montages; call it "The AntiChrist" light, peppered with the kind of A-list talent that already leavened Hollywood's religious sleaze epics (namely the "Omen" trilogy) to glossy, money-making shockers.
Skip the trailer, watch the film first, and then sit back and enjoy the featurette which uses the productions history to dissect Hammer's gradual demise. "To The Devil - The Death Of Hammer" makes an important observation: the foresight and audacity that made the company's output in the fifties profitable and forced Europe and Hollywood to acknowledge the successful brew of sex and graphic violence - had failed to keep up with the times, and by the seventies the studio also suffered from the lack of investment needed to keep any company in business.
Well-paced and full of choice anecdotes and observations, the featurette includes lengthy interviews with underrated director Peter Sykes, star Christopher Lee, and co-stars Anthony Valentine and Honor Blackman, co-writer Christopher Wicking, and writer Gerald Vaughn-Hughes; fresh from Ridley Scott's "The Duelists," Vanghn-Hughes was literally rewriting while the film was in production, adding material that changed the tone of Wicking's original draft.
Sykes is also candid about star Richard Widmark (branded "a difficult monkey"), and cinematographer David Watkin adds several piquant recollections, in which the Widmark exchanged several nasty barbs with the cinematographer, concerning lighting and wind effects.
Visually, the film looks gorgeous. The DVD transfer faithfully retains the film's rather cold colour schemes, and the optical effects show some minor grain from the original processing. The film's 'demonvision' finale - using minor solarization-styled effects - looks clean, and though the DVD doesn't contain any extra footage of the film's original ending, the documentary uses a few stills to explain the changes Hammer made.
The mono soundtrack is pretty straightforward, and the real star is Paul Glass' Pendereki-styled soundtrack - a discordant, non-melodic work that blankets the film with a constant unease.
Also included are an anamorphic trailer - neatly aligning the film as the ultimate experience in the "Rosemary's Baby"/"Omen" vein - and the usual detailed Talent Bios, for stars Christopher Lee, and Richard Widmark.
© 2002 Mark R. Hasan