Film Review: To the Devil A Daughter (1976)

Also known as: Dennis Wheatley’s To the Devil a Daughter (Netherlands), Child of Satan (US VHS title)
Release Date: March 4th, 1976 (UK)
Directed by: Peter Sykes
Written by: Chris Wicking, John Peacock, Gerald Vaughan-Hughes
Based on: To the Devil A Daughter by Dennis Wheatley
Music by: Paul Glass
Cast: Richard Widmark, Christopher Lee, Honor Blackman, Nastassja Kinski, Denholm Elliott, Michael Goodliffe, Anthony Valentine, Eva Maria Meineke

Terra-Filmkunst, Hammer Films, 95 Minutes

Review:

“It is not heresy, and I will not recant!” – Father Michael Rayner

This has been a film I’ve wanted to see for years but I was never actually able to find it on VHS or DVD when I was still buying those things. Granted, I’m leaning back towards owning physical media again after some recent shenanigans by studios and streaming services but that’s a totally different article.

Anyway, this actually exceeded my expectations for it and it kind of sucks that Hammer was already fading away by the time this was released.

The movie features Christopher Lee, one of Hammer’s two greatest actors, but it also features the legendary Richard Widmark, Indiana Jones’ Denholm Elliott, Goldfinger‘s Honor Blackman and a very young Nastassja Kinski before she would go on to give stellar performances in Cat People and one of my favorite films of all-time, Paris, Texas.

While this is sort of your typical Antichrist movie, it stars Lee as an evil priest and Kinski as the daughter of the Devil. Kinski plays a nun and she’s been raised and protected by her father, who was forced into a pact with the evil priest and the Devil. However, he wants to keep his daughter away from her evil destiny and sends her to Widmark, a renowned demonology writer, who uncovers what’s happening and sets out to conquer the Devil and his top minion.

For a mid-’70s low budget horror flick, this is really well acted but, as I’ve already pointed out, it had a stacked cast.

What works most for this film is its atmosphere and the general creepiness of it. It also features some neat practical effects that make some moments in the film a real mindfuck. Needless to say, I was impressed by what the filmmakers were able to do with so little in regards to the production’s resources.

To the Devil A Daughter is sort of bittersweet in the fact that it’s so surprisingly good and it showed that Hammer was evolving with the times but it wasn’t enough to save the studio from having to focus more on television and not future feature films.

However, the damage was already done, as this was a co-production with a German studio. Because of that, despite this being a financial success, the profits had to be split with the other company.

While Hammer has never actually died off, this does feel like a worthy sendoff to the once great studio.

After decades of hibernation, Hammer started making films again in recent years.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other occult horror films with Christopher Lee or put out by Hammer or Amicus.

Film Review: Gus (1976)

Release Date: July 7th, 1976
Directed by: Vincent McEveety
Written by: Arthur Alsberg, Don Nelson, Ted Key
Music by: Robert F. Brunner
Cast: Don Knotts, Edward Asner, Gary Grimes, Tim Conway, Harold Gould, Ronnie Schell, Tom Bosley, Louise Williams, Dick Butkus, Dick Van Patten, Bob Crane, Johnny Unitas, Richard Kiel, Stu Nahan

Walt Disney Productions, 96 Minutes

Review:

“Ready, Gus. Oich!” – Andy Petrovic

I was an avid viewer of just about every live-action Disney film put out from the ’50s up through the early ’90s. I had the Disney Channel, in its original subscription form, back in the late ’80s and a bit beyond. So stuff like this was on my television all the time. It’s also hard not to be an old school Disney nut when raised in Florida.

Still, this movie remained unknown to me until I got Disney+ and saw it available on there. Since I had never seen it and since I love Don Knotts, I had to check it out.

Unfortunately, Don Knotts isn’t in the movie anywhere near enough. He plays the wacky coach of a loser football team but most of the film focuses on Andy and his field goal kicking mule.

This is one of many Disney animal movies, as well as one of many Disney sports films. It’s cool seeing the two things come together though, as the concept, at least by this point, hadn’t been done to death courtesy of the Air Bud franchise and it’s 97 sequels and spinoffs.

At its core, this film is lighthearted and positive. It’s also got a lot of slapstick humor and some seriously good physical gags. My favorite sequence in the film features Tom Bosley and his buddy trying to capture Gus, the mule, in a supermarket. It plays like a live-action Road Runner cartoon, as the bumbling goofs continue to get upstaged and made into fools.

I can’t really say much on the sports elements of the film other than you have to turn your brain off because this is, after all, a movie about a mule playing in the National Football League.

While the team in the movie is fictitious, I liked that this was made with help from the NFL and featured some of the iconic teams, as well as former players and legends in various roles.

Gus isn’t a bad movie but it’s far from great. It’s one of the more enjoyable Disney animal comedies of the ’70s but for most people, this will probably come across as a very dated relic that will just be dismissed as stupid schlock.

And it could’ve used a lot more Don Knotts.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: other wacky live-action Disney movies featuring animals.

 

Film Review: Kill or Be Killed (1976)

Also known as: Karate Olympia (South African English title), Karate Killer (original US release)
Release Date: June 17th, 1976 (South Africa)
Directed by: Ivan Hall
Written by: C.F. Beyers-Boshoff
Cast: James Ryan, Charlotte Michelle, Nroman Coombes, Raymond Ho-Tong, Danie DuPlessis, Stan Schmidt

Kavalier Films, Film Ventures International, 90 Minutes

Review:

When I watched and reviewed this film’s sequel, I didn’t know that this one existed. I guess it kind of flew under my radar for years.

Overall, it’s probably a better movie than its sequel but I’d say that it’s less enjoyable, as the sequel was more bonkers than this one and it was just much more over the top.

That’s not to say that this one also isn’t a bit crazy.

The story is about a Nazi general that felt embarrassed when his fighting team lost in the Olympics way back in the day because Miyagi, the leader of the Japanese team, paid off the judges with diamonds. Now, years later, the general trains and holds tournaments in a fortress in the desert.

This brings in James Ryan, as Steve – the same character he plays in the sequel, who is essentially a badass karate fighter that is forced to fight in the Nazi dude’s tournament. This movie is basically a ’90s fighting game with a Nazi twist to it.

Steve and his girlfriend want to escape the Nazi fortress but they run into problems along the way but end up getting assistance from other fighters and a midget that is sympathetic to them, even though he is the henchman of the Nazi general.

See, this movie is pretty nuts.

Anyway, it’s fairly enjoyable for what it is and I loved the locations where this movie was shot. South Africa is pretty beautiful and it provided some spectacular landscapes that made this low budget action flick seem like a much bigger production.

I thought the tournament fights and general action sequences were well done and even though this doesn’t hold a candle to the best action films Cannon made in the ’80s, it really channels the same sort of energy and vibe. It’s almost like this is a proto-Cannon film.

Overall, most people would probably serve themselves best by skipping this movie. But for those of us who enjoy martial arts schlock from outside of the US, this is worth checking out.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: its sequel, Kill and Kill Again.

Film Review: Cannonball! (1976)

Also known as: Carquake! (UK)
Release Date: July 6th, 1976
Directed by: Paul Bartel
Written by: Paul Bartel, Donald C. Simpson
Music by: David A. Axelrod
Cast: David Carradine, Bill McKinney, Veronica Hamel, Gerrit Graham, Robert Carradine, Belinda Balaski, Mary Woronov, James Keach, Dick Miller, Paul Bartel, Joe Dante, Allan Arkush, Jonathan Kaplan, Roger Corman, Don Simpson, Martin Scorsese (uncredited), Sylvester Stallone (uncredited)

Cross Country Productions, Harbor Productions, New World Pictures, 90 Minutes

Review:

“I thought this car could beat anything on the road.” – Linda Maxwell, “This car’s a winner.” – Coy ‘Cannonball’ Buckman

A year after Paul Bartel directed the cult classic Death Race 2000, he made a very similar film with a lot of the same core cast members, as well as producer and B-movie legend, Roger Corman.

In this film, take the Death Race 2000 concept and strip away the futuristic sci-fi setting, the slapstick uber violence and the plot to assassinate a corrupt president and you’ve essentially got the same film.

Granted, Cannonball! isn’t as good and I kind of blame that on stripping away the things that made Death Race 2000 so unique. This is still really enjoyable, though, and fans of that more beloved flick will probably dig this one too.

The race car driving hero is still David Carradine and he’s re-joined in the cast by Mary Woronov, Paul Bartel (the director), Sylvester Stallone in an uncredited cameo, as well as some of the other bit players.

Like Death Race, the film follows a cross-country auto race, all the wacky characters involved and all the crazy shenanigans of racers trying to sabotage and outperform one another.

I like a lot of the new additions to the cast like the always great Gerrit Graham, Robert Carradine, Bill McKinney, Belinda Balaski and the inclusion of Dick Miller, Joe Dante, Allan Arkush, Jonathan Kaplan, Roger Corman (the producer), Don Simpson and Martin Scorsese, who is also uncredited for his appearance here.

The action is good, the comedy still works and this film has that unique Paul Bartel charm.

In the end, this isn’t quite a classic but it did help pave the way for all the other movies like it that followed for years to come.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Paul Bartel’s Death Race 2000, as well as other cross-country racing movies of the ’70s and ’80s like the Cannonball Run films, The Gumball Rally and Speed Zone.

Film Review: The Enforcer (1976)

Also known as: Moving Target, Dirty Harry III (working titles)
Release Date: December 16th, 1976 (London premiere)
Directed by: James Fargo
Written by: Stirling Silliphant, Dean Riesner, Gail Morgan Hickman, S.W. Schurr
Based on: characters by Harry Julian Fink, R.M. Fink
Music by: Jerry Fielding
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Harry Guardino, Bradford Dillman, Tyne Daly, John Mitchum, DeVeren Bookwalter, Albert Popwell, John Crawford, Dick Durock, Jocelyn Jones

The Malpaso Company, Warner Bros., 96 Minutes

Review:

“I’ll tell you what you are to me, little man. You’re just a maggot who sells dirty pictures.” – ‘Dirty’ Harry Callahan

By the time you get to the third film in a movie series, one would usually expect the quality to start waning. However, Death Wish 3 has the greatest action finale of any movie ever made, so maybe Dirty Harry 3 a.k.a. The Enforcer would follow suit.

Well, this is no Death Wish 3 and it’s also not Dirty Harry 1 but I do like it slightly better than Dirty Harry 2 a.k.a. Magnum Force and thought that it was a very worthy sequel that kept the Harry character relevant.

This film gets away from the “system is broken” plot line that was featured so heavily in the first two movies. Sure, we see an idiot mayor and city officials that run the town like morons but this is also San Francisco and we all know how that city turned out in the future: hobo poop and dirty needles everywhere.

Anyway, this film focuses on a different political message in that it forces Harry to have to team up with a new partner: a woman. This woman is played by Tyne Daly of Cagney & Lacey fame and I’ve always kind of liked her, so it was cool seeing her play another female cop, albeit younger than she would be by the time that television show rolled around.

The story is about a group of extreme revolutionaries that steal some high grade military shit and start terrorizing the town. There is a subplot featuring black militants, as they are set up by the mayor’s people to take the fall. This is also done to give credit to Harry and his new female partner, which the mayor uses to “prove” that his feminist cop initiative is a success. Of course, this doesn’t sit well with Harry or the female cop, especially since Harry worked out a deal with the leader of the black militants minutes before they were arrested.

As should be expected, this is an action heavy film and it moves at a much better pace due to its shorter running time. I like the bad guys, the subplots, Harry is still Harry, Tyne Daly is really good and I dug the finale, as it takes place at Alcatraz.

Sadly, Tyne Daly gets killed in the end, which was predictable but also cost the series a really good co-star. Her chemistry with Clint Eastwood was good and I really wanted to see her grow over the course of future films.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the other Dirty Harry movies, as well as the Death Wish series.

Film Review: Alice, Sweet Alice (1976)

Also known as: Communion (original title), Holy Terror (edited version), The Mask Murders (reissue title), Sweet Alice (Sweden)
Release Date: November 12th, 1976 (Chicago International Film Festival)
Directed by: Alfred Sole
Written by: Rosemary Ritvo, Alfred Sole
Music by: Stephen J. Lawrence
Cast: Linda Miller, Mildred Clinton, Paula Sheppard, Niles McMaster, Brooke Shields

Harristown Funding, Allied Artists, 98 Minutes, 108 Minutes (unrated version)

Review:

“She is a weird little girl. Did you notice her tits? When I put the tube around her she looked at me, like she wanted me to feel her up.” – Detective Cranston

Many people try to debate over which movie was the first slasher film. While this one isn’t it, it does predate Halloween by a few years. Although, it did come out after Black Christmas. But to me, none of those are the first and I feel like slasher films were born out of Italian giallo. The reason I even bring that up is that this is considered a slasher movie, and it is, but it has a strong resemblance to the giallo style.

This isn’t an Italian picture though. In fact, it was made in New Jersey. But it very strongly takes its cues from the films of Dario Argento, Mario Bava, Lucio Fulci and others.

It’s lacking the visual allure of giallo, as it has a more natural and muted color palate but the story structure, the violence and the general tone just fits well with those cool flicks.

The story is about a little girl who is believed to have horribly murdered her younger sister in the church during her first communion. While things aren’t quite what they seem in this movie, the little girl is a real shit and she’s certainly pretty fucked in the head.

However, this seems to be more about tapping into the fear of the nuclear family breaking down in American society. It also might be a critique on the Catholic church. Many people seem to think so. Personally, I think it’s just a story that happens to take place in and around the Catholic church, which has a big presence in New Jersey and the Northeast in general, especially in the ’70s.

All things considered, this is a film that probably shocked some of its audience in its day but it’s hardly as shocking as a lot of the exploitation movies that were at their peak in the same decade. All the things that would’ve caught people off guard all stem from the fact that the title character is a young child.

This isn’t really gory. There’s some blood but the worst stuff is more implied and happens once the camera cuts away. That could also be due to the budget of the production.

Overall, this was a cool movie to check out. It has some cult status among ’70s horror aficionados but it doesn’t really hit the mark for me. At least, it doesn’t reach the heights of the best giallo pictures and I certainly wouldn’t put this above Black Christmas or Halloween.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other ’70s slasher pictures and Italian giallo.

Film Review: Eaten Alive (1976)

Also known as: Brutes and Savages, Slaughter Hotel, Death Trap, Horror Hotel, Horror Hotel Massacre, Legend of the Bayou, Murder on the Bayou, Starlight Slaughter, The Devil’s Swamp (alternative titles)
Release Date: October, 1976 (limited)
Directed by: Tobe Hooper
Written by: Kim Henkel, Alvin L. Fast, Mardi Rustam
Music by: Wayne Bell, Tobe Hooper
Cast: Neville Brand, Mel Ferrer, Carolyn Jones, Marilyn Burns, William Finley, Roberta Collins, Robert Englund

Mars Productions Corporation, 91 Minutes

Review:

“Name’s Buck… and I’m rarin’ to fuck.” – Buck

A film that was directed by a young Tobe Hooper that features both Robert Englund and William Finley is enough to hook me. Now add in great TV legends Neville Brand and Carolyn Jones and you’ve got me hooked even further. Toss in Mel Ferrer, Marilyn Burns and Roberta Collins and this picture is now boasting some serious f’n talent!

But overall, this isn’t a classic and from a historical and cultural perspective, doesn’t hold a candle to Hooper’s previous film: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

However, this was still an awesome experience and even though I know that I had seen it in my youth, I barely remembered anything about it other than it taking place in a shitty bayou hotel where the owner chases people with his scythe until they fall into a pit where he keeps a large man eating crocodile.

But you don’t really need to know more than that. And frankly, that’s all the film needs to be. One doesn’t need to get bogged down by details and an elaborate story. This was ’70s horror. Just throw boobies and blood at the screen every few minutes and consider it a job well done. Granted, this could’ve used more boobage.

This is gritty and pretty brutal but not so much so that it’s a gore festival. But if you like watching people get slashed by a madman and then chomped by a large animal, this should satisfy.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: Tobe Hooper’s other earlier films: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Funhouse and Salem’s Lot.

Film Review: Logan’s Run (1976)

Release Date: June 23rd, 1976
Directed by: Michael Anderson
Written by: David Zelag Goodman
Based on: Logan’s Run by William F. Nolan, George Clayton Johnson
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: Michael York, Jenny Agutter, Richard Jordan, Roscoe Lee Browne, Farrah Fawcett, Peter Ustinov

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, United Artists, 118 Minutes

Review:

“[seeing the sun for the first time] What is it?” – Jessica, “I don’t know. Whatever it is, it’s warm.” – Logan

Logan’s Run was one of my favorite movies as a kid. As an adult, I still love going back and watching this every few years. When I first saw it, I was probably about six or seven and by that point, this movie was already a decade old.

However, I loved the style and look of it because it felt similar to the original Battlestar Galactica and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, two TV shows that I watched in syndication almost daily back then. But what made this cooler than those shows is that it was darker, more violent and it had some boobies in it.

This is about a dystopian future dressed up like a utopian future. Once the layers are peeled back a bit, the truth becomes apparent and the illusion of a perfect society comes crumbling down.

The story follows Logan who is a Sandman. His job is to stop Runners. A Runner is a person that doesn’t go to Carousel for “Renewal” and instead, goes on the run, defying the most important law in this society. Basically, when you turn 30, you have to die. But this society believes that by surrendering yourself to this holy event called Carousel, that you will be resurrected and thus, live forever, as long as you continue to repeat the cycle every 30 years.

Logan is sent on a covert mission to infiltrate a group that is resistant to societal laws. He is tasked with finding a place called Sanctuary, where it is believed that over 1000 Runners have escaped to. However, the more Logan learns, the more he feels the need to become a Runner himself and to reach Sanctuary.

The story may sound complicated but it really isn’t. It’s actually interesting and it plays out really well over the course of the story.

Despite the colorful allure of this picture and the world these characters live in, this isn’t too dissimilar from stories like Nineteen Eighty-FourFahrenheit 451 and A Brave New World. The shiny and vivid visuals almost spit in the face of the viewer, as the proceedings and how this world unravels is incredibly dark.

I’m a big fan of what many now call “retro futurism” and this motion picture really is the epitome of retro futurism in that it looks very 1970s, even with its technological advancements. In that regard, it makes the picture cooler than it would have been if it were made in a later decade. In fact, a contemporary remake of this movie would completely miss this visual element that actually enhances the picture due to its otherworldliness. This quality is why I absolutely love old sci-fi movies because it’s just cool to see how past generations envisioned the future through the cultural eyes of their time.

The movie isn’t stupendously acted but both Michael York and Jenny Agutter give this their all and put in very convincing performances. York had charisma and he and Agutter felt natural together. I also really liked Richard Jordan and he pretty much steals the scenes he’s in.

Logan’s Run may feel dated but that doesn’t prevent it from being a cool movie. In fact, it makes it more endearing and a lot more fun to look at than similar films.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: other ’70s sci-fi films: The Omega Man, Soylent GreenThe Black Hole, etc.

Film Review: Return of the 18 Bronzemen (1976)

Also known as: Yong zheng da po shi ba tong ren (original Chinese title), The 18 Bronzemen Part 2, 18 Bronzemen II
Release Date: August 14th, 1976 (Taiwan)
Directed by: Joseph Kuo
Written by: Chien Chin, Ting Hung Kuo, Han Meng
Music by: Fu Liang Chou
Cast: Lingfeng Shangguan, Peng Tien

Karlot, Kuo Hwa Motion Pictures Co., Taiwan Li Cheng Film Company, 93 Minutes

Review:

I don’t know if the dubbed version of this that I watched missed a lot of things in its translation but the film was hard to follow from a narrative standpoint.

The main character is a prince. He decides to go through the trials in the temple where all the Bronzemen from the first film are. There is some sort of conflict and the prince isn’t supposed to become a supreme warrior under the monks that control the Bronzemen but he hides his identity and trains to be the biggest badass in China anyway.

There were a few decent fights early in the film but the first half of this picture was really slow and incredibly boring. The action bits helped to break that up but it was a real drag to get through.

However, at about the midway point, things really pick up. The back half of this movie is much better. Things shift into high gear and our prince hero goes through each room and corridor, fighting Bronzemen and trying to survive their other trials.

The physicality in this movie is great, the fighting is above average and the choreography was nice.

Unfortunately, it is bogged down by being too incoherent and for the first half being literal Ambien.

If you do have the urge to watch this, you probably just want to start at about 45 minutes in. I hate saying that but I can’t recommend the first half. The second half is a different film where everything you want in a ’70s kung fu movie is all crammed into half of the normal running time.

Rating: 4.75/10
Pairs well with: Its predecessor, The 18 Bronzemen, as well as other mystical Hong Kong martial arts films of the era.

 

Film Review: Riding with Death (1976)

Also known as: Codename: Minus One (UK)
Release Date: 1976 (original episodes), 1981 (TV movie edit)
Directed by: Michael Caffey, Alan Crosland Jr., Alan J. Levi
Written by: Leslie Stevens, Steven E. de Souza, Frank Telford
Based on: Gemini Man TV series and The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells
Music by: Lee Holdridge, Mark Snow, Billy Goldenberg
Cast: Ben Murphy, William Sylvester, Katherine Crawford

Harve Bennett Productions, Universal Television, NBC, 97 Minutes

Review:

“You have any idea who those turkeys were?” – Sam Casey

This is another film that was featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 that wasn’t really a movie but was actually two television episodes edited into a feature length cut. And like the other examples of this terrible phenomenon, this was an atrocious and unwatchable mess.

However, there was a pretty amusing fight scene in the middle of the movie where one of the two main dork dicks was performing, got heckled and then a bar fight broke out featuring the other main dork dick using his mastery of invisibility to cheap shot rednecks.

Frankly, that weird bar fight is about all that I can even recall from this film that I just watched last night.

There were some sci-fi bits I guess, which is why the dude had invisibility powers, but this was such a mess it was hard not to zone out for most of this film.

I don’t know, unless you’re a hardcore MST3K completist, this one is really friggin’ hard to get through.

There’s trucker stuff, sci-fi wizardry, invisibility kung fu and acting so bad that everyone here could beat out Carrot Top for a Golden Raspberry Award.

As for the rating, it really gets a 1/10. I added that extra .75 for the invisibility kung fu.

Rating: 1.75/10
Pairs well with: Master Ninja I and II, Fugitive Alien I and IITime of the ApesMighty Jack and Cosmic Princess.