The Devil's Daughter (1973)
By: Robert Winter on February 13, 2008  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Wild Eye (USA). All Region, NTSC. 4:3. English 2.0. 73 minutes
The Movie
Director: Jeannot Szwarc
Starring: Shelley Winters, Belinda Montgomery, Robert Foxworth
Writer: Colin Higgins
Country: USA
Way back in the late 60s and early 70s when the righteous conservative majority lived in fear of the self-seeking, acid-inspired, anything-goes generation devastating the wholesome family unit, a number of filmmakers keenly mirrored and captured this anxiety with striking pro-religious metaphor. 

Theatrically, Rosemary's Baby, The Exorcist and The Omen hit a raw nerve with the God-fearing film-going public. Mia Farrow as the satanically infected, hormonally restless new mother, Linda Blair as the possessed, pre-menstrual offspring living in a single parent household and poor young Damien as the son of a Jackal, all encapsulated and personified a frighteningly virtuous, moral mainlining of conjugal rights and domestic harmony into the collective social vein.

This little gem from 1973 took the sanctimonious proselytising of family values out of the realm of the darkened theatrical temple and brought it to the altar of our dimly-lit living rooms. Made by Jeannot Szwarc (Supergirl, Jaws 2) and starring the scathing matriarch Shelley Winters and creepy, Dark Shadows icon Jonathan Frid, The Devil's Daughter is a virtual re-engineering of Polanski's Rosemary's Baby, or more to the point, Whatever Happened to Rosemary's Baby, but with a more lurid satanic bent.

When Diane Shaw (Elizabeth Montgomery) attends her mother's funeral, she meets an old family friend, Lilith Malone (Shelley Winters). Lilith is very kind and offers her home to the grieving daughter. But as the days pass, Diane becomes increasingly suspicious of Lilith's strange behaviour, which culminates in a satanic ritual where Diane learns the horrific truth about herself and her slutty mother.

Although the narrative is somewhat contrived, the film is shot and directed with a creeping sense of menace. Shelley Winters positively radiates as the demented grandmother, both nurturing and cruel, while Belinda Montgomery as the bedeviled daughter ranges from believably hysterical to histrionic. The nasty cabal is made up of upper-middle-class characters who delight in the bond the dark power provides them. The camera also revels in providing the audience with sensational kitschy close-ups and enough zoom-in and –outs to make your head spin. 
The full-frame transfer is a bit of a shocker. The print is very hazy and at times quite grainy. Shadow detail is often lost amid washed-out colours that bleed like a third generation Snuff film. The print is watchable, but if you demand a crisp, clean transfer, then you'll be severely disappointed.
The mono audio is tinny and lacks aural depth. The soundtrack buzzes and pops throughout the film. However, where it counts dialogue and the spooky score is clearly audible.
Extra Features
Not one cloven hoof.
The Verdict
Proving that tele-horror movies need not be trashy fodder for late-night insomniacs, The Devil's Daughter is a creepy, highly enjoyable filmic time capsule from the days when the Devil had the power to scare the living crap out of us.
Movie Score
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