Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Devil's Nightmare (1971)

Another little seen Satanic film from 1971 is The Devil’s Nightmare (La Plus Longue Nuit du Diable) aka Castle of Death aka Nightmare of Terror aka Succubus, etc., etc. Usually only familiar in Euro-sleaze or Euro-horror circles, The Devil’s Nightmare is a surprisingly entertaining flick dripping with gothic atmosphere and surreal scenes.

The film begins during WWII, where the Baron’s wife is giving birth. Upon learning that the babe is a girl and that his wife died in childbirth, he stabs the baby to death. Quite a shocking opening from a 1970’s film!

We then jump ahead a few years, where a reporter is interviewing the Baron in his dark and dreary castle about his family’s past. He seems to think his family is cursed, having made a pact with the Devil centuries ago that states the oldest daughter of each generation must serve the devil by becoming a succubus (and explaining the earlier scene where he killed his daughter). After this illuminating interview, the reporter makes the mistake of tarrying too long taking photographs of the castle and meets a grisly end. We then meet a group of travelers who are forced to take refuge in the Baron’s castle after becoming lost and taking directions from a creepy, corpse-like man. Each of these seven travelers is supposed to represent one of the Seven Deadly Sins (Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, and Pride), though some are easier to distinguish than others.

That night, they are introduced to a mysterious visitor (played by stunning redhead Erika Blanc, known for her sleazy Euro-horror roles in films like The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave and Kill, Baby… Kill!), who begins to lead each traveler down the road of temptation! Turns out she is a succubus and lures the sinners to their damnation with their specific vices. The only one who doesn’t fall under her decadent-but-deadly spell is the lone priest in the group, but can he stop her and the Devil before all their souls are damned to Hell?

While the story, written by Jean Brismée (who also directed) and Pierre-Claude Garnier, seems like a pretty straightforward allegory inspired by medieval morality tales, it also features a surprising and clever twist ending. I definitely didn’t see the ending coming, and when it actually happened it threw me for a loop! Quite the wicked little surprise that shows you should never make a deal with the Devil! Besides the ending, the story is kept lively by the colorful and sinful characters, keeping the audience rooting for their deaths! There is the annoying married couple, with the sleazy husband who covets other women (Envy) and the distrustful yet rich wife (Greed), a nymphomaniac brunette (Lust), a lazy blonde (Sloth), a holier-than-thou priest (Pride), a cranky old man (Wrath) and a hungry tour guide (Gluttony).

There isn’t much gore to speak of, but some of the ways the travelers are done away with are pretty amusing. The glutton of the group eats himself to death and chokes on poisoned wine (and the close-ups of him stuffing his greasy mouth are probably the most disturbing of the movie) while a greedy woman drowns in a mound of gold. Other kill scenes make little sense and don’t seem to tie into the specific person’s sin (like the Sloth woman dying from snakebite while she sleeps). Still, the scenes of the succubus stalking her prey, with her sunken cheekbones and ghoulish makeup, are always entertaining.

I also enjoyed the Baron’s creepy gothic castle that looked like it was transplanted straight from Transylvania. With its intricate stonework, gaudy Baroque furnishings and rich red drapes, Dracula would have felt right at home! Of course, Satan’s succubus considered it pretty comfy as well.

My only complaints were that the film drags a bit too much in certain parts, especially during some drawn-out lesbian scenes that go on for way too long. Maybe certain guys will enjoy them, but the soft-focus, girl-on-girl action did nothing for me, especially with the ridiculous paisley decorating scheme and the horrible ‘70s music lurking in the background. I also wished that some of the deaths tied more into each traveler’s particular sin instead of running out of ideas halfway through the film and having them die in seemingly random ways.

Though The Devil’s Nightmare certainly has its faults, I was still surprised by the entertainment value it offered. This film isn’t for everyone, but those that appreciate classic Euro-horror will most likely get a kick out of it. If you haven’t seen it, it at least deserves one viewing! It would be a sin not to see it!

Order it on Amazon!

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