Come with me, gentle viewer, back to the state of horror on TV, Anno Domini 1973. After her long-absent mother dies in mysterious circumstances, Belinda Montgomery attends the funeral where she meets Shelley Winters, an old friend of the family, or so she claims. Winters takes Montgomery into her home, and there our young heroine meets all sorts of strange people, and gradually realizes she is in the clutches of a Satanic cult who believe she is Satan’s daughter.
Televised horror has made great strides since this Movie-of-the-Week era, though even the likes of Masters of Horror still has to work, on its best days, to reach the level of a decent theatrical release. But The Devil’s Daughter is eye-witness to an era where mediocrity was, with very rare exceptions, the best one could hope for. Awful as it is, this pick is awful in entertaining ways. So here we have Shelley Winters teasing us with the promise that she might not take the volume to 11, and then spectacularly breaking that promise; Abe Vigoda channelling the spirit of Boris Karloff; Jonathan Frid stuck with a mute character of unclear motivations; Montgomery’s character portrayed as such an incurious wallflower (she’s only mildly interested in the Rather Big Clue that is the portrait of a cloven-hoofed Satan hanging over Winters’ fireplace) that sympathy is very difficult to muster; Robert Foxworth showing up late in the day as a plot device only the dullest of viewers will fail to see coming; Joseph Cotten doing ditto; and such treasures as a photo album complete with a picture of all the Satanists, in full black regalia, happily posing for a group shot. In other words, the camp comes thick and fast, and that kind of entertainment value is what accounts for this terrible movie’s star rating.
Oh dear. The years have not been kind to the print. We’ll get to the picture in due course, but the sound has its own issues. The static is pretty bad, there are moments where the sound skips altogether, and there’s a general air of slight muzziness. There isn’t any difficulty in making out the (hilarious) dialogue, but there’s no pleasure to be had either, beyond the nostalgic aura such damage can provide.
Yoiks. I’ve reviewed half-century-old stag loops that didn’t look much worse than this. The print is in rough shape: dirty, damaged, blemished, grainy, even prone to strobing. The image is soft and the colours are sometimes very faded. Then there are the blacks, which are among the worst I’ve ever seen, quite often appearing as red, to extremely bizarre effect. If you saw this film when it first aired, here’s a print that will make you feel even older.
The film looks and sounds like crap, and it’s a crap film. But I can’t deny being completely entertained.