Young nun Catherine Beddoes (Nastassja Kinski) is raised in seclusion by a heretical order led by an excommunicated priest (Christopher Lee) and when she is let out for an annual birthday visit with her father, her panicky dad (Denholm Elliot) leaves her in the care of a friend (Richard Widmark) who's an expert on the occult. Ordered by her father to have no contact with anyone save for the occult expert, the nun becomes the object of a search by the excommunicated priest so that she can be the focal point of a ritual that will make her into the earthly host for the arch-demon Astaroth, aka The Devil.
If truth be told, the only reason I even bothered to post about TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER was so I could warn any fellow Hammer-lovers who haven't seen it yet. Three years on from the massive international box office success of THE EXORCIST and studios were still churning out devil-themed flicks so sate the public's interest, so it was perhaps inevitable that Hammer films, once a trendsetting groundbreaker in the field of cinematic horror, would want to wet its beak. Sadly, the studio's best days were behind it by at least five years and each release in the 1970's brought less and less to the table. Working from Dennis Wheatley's source novel, TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER would prove to be the last of the line for Hammer films and it's a damned shame that they went out on such a feeble note. The film is slow-moving to the point of near-torpor, boring to a fault, not scary in the least, completely wastes the talents of Christopher Lee, and bears absolutely none of the signature flavor and mojo that made Hammer films one of the great horror houses. The only thing that made me sit up and really pay attention was a sequence involving full-frontal nudity from Nastassja Kinki — with whom I was understandably obsessed with during my high school years — a scene that works more for shock than 'batin' material, and one that made me feel rather skeeved-out afterward because she was only an obvious fifteen years of age at the time. I very much doubt if they could get away with such a scene today. And even though it opened within a month of THE OMEN, the film bears a number of stylistic touches that one could easily mistake as bold-faced thievery from THE OMEN's anti-Christ-driven narrative.
Anyway, the bottom line is that TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER was an ignoble swan song to a studio that contributed a slew of great additions to the genre for about a fifteen-year run, and I advise giving it a miss if you don't want to see the last vestiges of the once mighty Hammer sputter out like a weak fart.
Poster from the theatrical release.