Hammer returns to the material of Dennis Wheatley, this time with a markedly inferior final result and with a movie that would remain their last horror film until their 21st century resurgence (however long THAT lasts).
Richard Widmark plays occult novelist John Verney, a man placed in a
very unusual position when he agrees to take in and take care of
Denholm Elliott's daughter, a young nun named Catherine (played by the
lovely Nastassja Kinski). What he doesn't know is that Catherine is
being pursued by some . . . . . right nasty sorts (led by Christopher
Lee as Father Michael Rayner) with a right nasty plan, to put it
There is nothing here of any real note except, I suppose, how far
removed it is from Hammer's usual restraint and class. The script by Christopher Wicking (with help from John Peacock and an uncredited Gerald Vaughan-Hughes) is
okay, if a little clumsy in it's exposition of far-out ideas. The
direction by Peter Sykes is unremarkable but also inoffensive. The acting is also
distinctly okay but unspectacular (featuring, as it does, those already
mentioned and also the likes of Honor Blackman, Anthony Valentine and
even Frances de la Tour in a small role). And I suppose that some of
the black magic rituals shown at least have a ring of authenticity
about them, despite the rather lame effects/editing used.
Some of the stuff on show is, for Hammer, rather shocking. Not only do
we get some bizarre, gory "muppet" moments but there's also more
full-frontal female nudity than I have seen in any other Hammer movie.
To be fair, I have not seen every Hammer film, but I
have always known them to be, for the most part, more concerned with
blood than sex although the latter is often catered for with suggestive
scenes/performances and the occasional flashes from buxom beauties.
P.S. On an unrelated, and rather moronic-sounding, note: this movie has the
single best bridge scene I have ever seen. I just liked the mechanism
on display and had to mention it.