The Devil's Nightmare [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Mondo Macabro
Review written by and copyright: Robert Segedy (9th August 2019).
The Film

As I watched this film, I couldnít help but think why do some people think that they can make a horror film on the cheap, without a big budget, stars, a great script, and other necessary items that help make a film truly frightening? The one thing that this film did have going for it was the authentic castle setting, but as far as the rest goes, no dice. Not that I donít give the director and his crew credit for trying to come up with something unique, but as far as scares go, this is not the place to come seeking chills. Essentially using the concept of the Seven Deadly Sins many years before David Fincher came up with the excellent thriller "Se7en" (1995), this film has its heart in the right place, but lacks in follow through. The screenwriter, Patrice Rhomm, just doesnít have the chops to make it as a horror writer, but he is hardly the only one to blame for this unfrightening film. And again, it is not that there arenít some interesting moments in the film, but it feels like it is too full of its own importance somehow to manage to be truly disturbing. So letís go back to the beginning of the film and try to focus on what does work.

It is the final days of World War II and we find ourselves at the castle of one Baron von Rhoneberg (Jean Servasis); his wife, the baroness, is struggling with childbirth as outside the bombs steadily fall on Berlin. He is accompanied by his adjutant, a corporal named Hans (Maurice Degroot) who bears witness to the birth of a daughter. The Baron is not pleased with being told that the sex of his child is female and after the midwife is ushered down into the basement, the Baron plunges a large dagger into the childís chest. Years later we catch up with the Baron being interviewed by a reporter for a magazine; he insists that he has nothing to say, and that photographs are absolutely forbidden. Well, we all know what that means. Yes, the reporter ignores the Baronís warnings and starts snapping photos on the grounds like she works for Home Beautiful. The next scene shows us the reporter being pursued by an unseen predator and she has the usual trip and fall that all noisy sleuths suffer when they donít listen. She recoils in absolute terror and then cut to the next scene of some villagers carrying a stretcher into a building; yes, it is the reporter and she seems to have died of fright, with a mysterious cloven hoof print on her left arm. The villagers naturally cluck their tongues and shake their heads; she was found on the grounds of Castle Rhoneberg and no one seems very surprised.

Enter a tour bus onto the scene, complete with a hodgepodge of seven people, who we already know are to be the next victims, and unfortunately none of them are the least bit likeable or sympathetic. It appears that they are behind schedule and after some bickering with the dim witted Duka (Christian Maillet) as he gnaws on a chicken leg while he drives (!) they decide to ask a gaunt man (Daniel Emilfork) who is standing near a bonfire for directions. Too late to catch the evening ferry, they are forced to drive to the Baronís castle for the night. The group makes their way to the castle where the front door opens by itself and then a piece of masonry falls from above almost clipping Regine (Shirley Corrigan) on the head. At the entrance they are met by Hans who is completely creepy and has a craggy face. These people are in store for a real treat however this is just the beginning. Yes, the Baron and Hans are the same characters as from the beginning of the film, except they havenít aged at all. In many ways this film feels like it was influenced by James Whaleís "The Old Dark House" (1932) where some guests are stranded in a gothic mansion because the road is washed out. Just like in the aforementioned film, the guests are all welcomed and are expected to stay the night. We are slowly introduced to each of them as Hans shows them to their rooms. His commentary to each guest about the history of the room they are staying in is rather grim and slightly humorous because apparently all of the visitors died rather painful deaths. The bus driver, a cranky older man named Mason (Lucien Raimbourg) and a man that is dressed as a priest though he is merely a seminarian, Father Alvin Sorel (Jacques Monseau) are all given individual rooms. The squabbling couple, Howard and Nancy (Lorenzo Terzon & Colette Emmanuelle) are given their rooms while Regine and Corrine (Ivanna Novak) are paired up together for company and some Sapphic lovemaking; thereís even time for a bath scene featuring Regine! Hey, it wouldnít be a Euro sleaze classic without the exploitative nudity and lesbian scene, would it?

Before you know it itís eight pm and dinner is served up by Martha the maid (Yvonne Garden) while Hans plays a dirge on the organ. The Baron, an alchemist, is down in the lab and he is shown mixing some type of formula in a large beaker. He takes a break from his investigations to join his guests for dinner and to make with the conversation he gives the guests a historical overview of the castle and briefs them on the family curse. Interrupting dinner is yet another guest who comes a knocking in search of shelter from the storm and even though Martha recognizes the beautiful stranger, Lisa MŁller (Erika Blanc), she nevertheless tries to give her the bums rush, but then ever helpful Hans interrupts, and tells the lovely lass that there is room for one more guest. And what a guest she makes! At first she is seen clad in a while dress, but after changing for dinner she dons a revealing gown that shows plenty of skin. Lisa simply oozes sex appeal as she glides into the room. The Baron is explaining that an ancestor of his made a pact with the devil whereas each firstborn daughter of the von Rhoneberg family line would turn into a succubus. Whatís that, you arenít familiar with that term, well, just wait for the explanation that the good father states: ďa succubus is a female demon that uses her sex appeal to lead men to perdition.Ē If you ask me, this place is basically crawling with succubae. Every dame in the place is giving the men the dreamy gaze that can only mean one thing. Yes, gothic castles always arouse me too!

So as the victimís each perish accordingly to their sin (Dukaís being the sin of gluttony, complete with many close ups of his face covered in grease as he inhales yet more food and drink) and the otherís all meet their well-deserved endings, the film actually moves along at a fairly brisk pace. Nothing wrong with a bunch of boobs being tossed out the window or being beheaded by an outdated torture device, but that obviously means that Lisa is the succubus, so she must be the Baronís offspring, right? Nope, here comes the swerve! Apparently the Baron had a secret affair with Martha and she kept her pregnancy a secret, so here is the fruition of the family curse, in the flesh as it were. Everyone but the good father falls victim to the succubus, but he too makes a deal with the devil in attempting to save his fellow passengerís souls from eternal damnation, but you know what happens when you try to outsmart the devil at his own game, you inevitably get hoisted by your own petard and old scratch has the last laugh. Erika Blanc is really the reason for enduring this serving of Euro trash because she is a fairly hot number; there are plenty of alluring close-ups of her face and with her flaming red hair, she is the picture of seduction. The special effects man must have had his work cut out for him because through the use of some subtle makeup, they change Blancís gorgeous face into a hideous visage and the effect are fairly impressive. She goes through the guests one by one and eliminates all of them except for the good father, and in the end it looks like he too will be yet another victim as he holds Blanc in a suggestive embrace.

Old Scratch reappears driving the hearse and he commands the succubus to depart; it seems that there is a last minute business transaction that needs to be discussed. The seminarian strikes a deal that in exchange for the souls of the others, he signs a scroll (with a quill pen no less) that his soul will be sold to the devil instead. Surely a man of the clothís soul would be more valuable than six other fools, right. We cut to the next morning and the seminarian is awoken by the bus driver telling him that it is time to leave. Turns out that the previous nightís activities were all a dream after all! The Baron is outside fencing with Hans and is mortally wounded; he makes a deathbed confession that he slayed his only daughter because of the family curse. The maid then spills the beans to the seminarian about Lisa and her unholy origins. The bus is filled and the passengers are on board; the seminarian tells the driver that he cannot leave the Baron in his hour of need and that he will remain behind. Then as the driver Duka is once again preoccupied with gnawing on a greasy chicken leg he loses control of the bus, in order to avoid the hearse driven by Old Scratch. The bus plunges to a fiery crash over the mountainside and all inside perish. You see, you just canít beat the devil. Lisa and the seminarian see the crash from the castle and Lisa looks right at the camera for the last shot. It wonít be long until the seminarian finds himself falling victim to the wiles of the tempting flesh. Roll the credits!

Video

Presented in 1.66:1 mastered in HD 1080p 24/fps mastered in AVC MPEG-4 compression. There is a warning at the beginning of the film that this production has been sourced from older materials and that the picture is not pristine, but nonetheless I thought that the film looked very good for it being made in 1971. The picture quality, both indoors and exteriors, was more than acceptable and the close ups of Erika Blanc were definitely impressive with her skin tone looking very true to form. The interiors were a little on the dark side but that was more of a production issue that a reproduction flaw.

Audio

There are two versions of the film, an "English" version and a "French" version, both options include LPCM 1.0 mono audio. The French version being a bit classier than the overly familiar dubbed voices used. Music provided by Alessandro Alessandroni and a certain vocal track of wordless voice exercise is supplied by the artist known as ďJulieĒ offers a certain gothic allure to the entire production. The English version features optional subtitles in English and the French version included forced English subtitles.

Extras

There is an audio commentary track from author Troy Howarth who is very enthusiastic and really loves this film.

Interview with director Jean Brismťe, (32:40) in French with optional English subtitles. Even though this is the only feature film that he made, Brismťe has made over 40 short films, documentaries and TV programs. He speaks about Belgian cinema and the role this film has played.

Interview with Assistant Director Robert Lombaerts (23:04) in French with optional English subtitles. He was a student at INSAS film School in Brussels and ended up being brought into the film as an assistant director.

Interview with avant-garde filmmaker and Belgian cinema insider Roland Lethem (29:14), this is another walk down memory lane chat with the author and filmmaker who was on the set and assisted with the film; he too was a former student of Brismťe's.

There are a series of theatrical trailers for:

- "U.S." theatrical trailer 1 (3:02)
- "U.S." theatrical trailer 2 (3:08)
- "U.S." TV spot (0:58)
- "U.K." theatrical trailer (3:07)
- "Mondo Macabro" clip reel (11:10) this is more previews from Mondo Macabro featuring a snazzy soundtrack, naked women, and various clips of coming attractions.

Packaging

Features newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx and comes packaged in a standard Blu-ray keep case.

Overall

While this is an effective if not overwrought piece of Euro sleaze that has bounced around under a number of names from a variety of sources. This is probably the best that the film has ever looked and collectors should be titillated with the packaging served up by Mondo Macabro.

The Film: C+ Video: B+ Audio: B+ Extras: A Overall: B-

 


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