The Devil's Nightmare
Belgium - Italy / 1971
Directed by Jean Brismée
Starring
Erika Blanc
Jean Servais
Daniel Emilfork
Color / 93 Minutes / Not Rated
Format: DVD (R0 - NTSC)
Image Entertainment
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Review by
B. Lindsey
 
5
    3   10 = Highest Rating  
If you're a horror fan looking for a prime slice of sleazy '70s Eurotrash, this could very well be the ticket.
    The Devil's Nightmare opens with a sepia-toned prologue set in Berlin at the end of WWII. As Allied bombs rain down on the city, a woman dies giving birth to a child. The dead woman was the wife of Baron von Rhoneberg (Jean Servais), a high-ranking German general who seems more disappointed that the child is a girl than learning of his wife's demise. He dismisses the servants, then pulls out a dagger and stabs the baby to death as it lies in its crib. (This scene definitely shocked me. Though not gory, the blade is shown being stuck into the kid. I've never seen a baby murdered on screen before; that sort of thing always happens out of camera range. No doubt some folks would find this extremely offensive.)
    After the opening credits the story flashes forward 25 years. A bus carrying a small group of tourists a feuding married couple, a handsome young priest-in-training, an old crabby guy channeling Ross Perot, and a pair of foxy, groovily-attired Eurobabes is lost somewhere in rural Germany. The driver asks directions of a gaunt, creepy-looking dude (The City of Lost Children's Daniel Emilfork) encountered by the roadside. He directs them to the nearby Castle Rhoneberg; the Herr Baron, he tells them, should prove willing to take them in for the night.
    Though the baron's manservant Hans (also quite odd and creepy) nearly chases them off with his tales of past atrocities in the castle, the tour group decides to stay overnight. After being shown their respective rooms (the two single gals decide to bunk together yeah!), Baron Rhoneberg greets the party prior to dinner. From him they learn of his family's legendary curse, which
decrees that the first born girl-child of each generation must be given over to the Devil for services the Dark One once rendered an ancestor. (Thus filling in the backstory about the knifed baby; von Rhoneberg preferred to see his daughter dead by his own hand rather than give her to Satan.) Said girl-child would become a Succubus, a demonic creature that seduces and tricks its victims to their destruction. When asked if he himself ever had a daughter, the baron tells them no.
    The dinner party is crashed in a big way with the arrival of Lisa (sexy Erika Blanc), another wayward traveler who's lost her way though strangely she and the baron's old housekeeper, Greta, seem to know each other. Lisa makes
her entrance to the dining room in an eye-popping, flesh-revealing black dress that would give Liz Hurley or J. Lo a run for their money. Not long afterwards a dead cat is found impaled on a torture device in the attic, while von Rhoneberg shows the inquisitive Mrs. Foster his alchemy lab in the basement. (Don't ask.) Once everyone retires to their quarters for the night, even weirder things begin to happen.
    Albert, the aspiring priest, sees Lisa dressed in an even skimpier little nothing appear to him in his room, ghostlike, though she's not actually there. Corinne, one of the swingin' single gals, hooks up with Mr. Foster for a midnight rendezvous that proves fatal to them both. They're killed by Lisa, who is in fact the succubus of legend. Her victims are left with a symbol, the horned "Mark of the Devil", seared into their flesh. She tries to seduce Albert by teasingly revealing her breasts but the devout Christian rebukes her. Teleporting about the castle, she kills off the remaining members of the tour group (in various ways) until only Albert remains. Despite her considerable wiles he cannot be corrupted. Her master, the Devil, will have to propose a bargain if he wants Albert's soul...
    The Devil's Nightmare (the actual title on the print used by this DVD is one of its many Continental ones, La Terrificante Notte del Demonio) is silly, sexy Eurotrash fun. Capably directed (though actually helmed by up to 3 different people!), the film displays the occasionally artful stylized touch. It's got all the elements you'd expect, too a medieval castle (complete with guillotine), a bloody family curse, sexy women in various states of undress, lesbian love
scenes, death by various means, and a kitschy/groovy musical score. (The main melody, sometimes whistled, is reminiscent of the Dark Shadows theme.) Stunning redhead Erika Blanc easily steals the show as Lisa, however, in her barely-there outfits and undisguised lasciviousness. She can make evil look very sexy, which, after all, is what a succubus is all about. And since the low budget did not permit for elaborate makeup effects, when Lisa turns wacked-out monster Blanc has to achieve this mostly through acting. She's not entirely successful one interminable scene that has her stretching her face while making ludicrous expressions is more laughable than creepy but we got to thinking about that black dress again and so forgave her.
    The flick does have its share of boners (no pun intended). Characters walk around with candles to illuminate already well-lit rooms. A plotline which has the succubus killing the tourists to the litany of the Seven Deadly Sins is inexplicably jettisoned after the first four murders the characters left alive no longer fit the remaining categories. Gorehounds will be disappointed that special effects are minimal* and lean to the cheesy side. Frankly I was disgusted more by repeated close-ups of the bus driver eating than the baby-stabbing scene. The dubbing, as would be expected, is poor. Some of the dialog is pretty goofy. (This is likely the only film in which you'll ever hear the line "I'm a succubus, Albert.")
    Still, a neat little twist ending not to mention ample titillation should keep Eurotrash fans content
.
* For a severed head and the aforementioned baby-stabbing scene, EC rates the film a "Blood 'n' Guts" icon. (But just barely.)

The disc is one of Image's "Redemption" line of Eurohorror flicks for Region 1 DVD. A number of French director Jean Rollin's horror films have been released as part of this line. Apparently they all feature an introductory segment hosted by Razor Blade Smile's Eileen Daly, dressed up as a winged, leather-clad vampire woman with fangs and contact lenses.
    Apparently Daly is, or was, something of a horror hostess in Britain, akin to Elvira here in the States. The 'host segment' included with The Devil's Nightmare (the disc's 1st chapter stop; the film proper begins with Chapter 2) is a shot-on-video affair highlighted by lots of bare breasts and dripping blood. Daly talks for a few minutes about cannibals and the movie Cannibal Holocaust
(???) while topless women wrestle with pieces of fake guts. I was really puzzled, and actually a bit annoyed, by the whole thing. Obviously this was originally the introduction to an entirely different movie... Just what the hell it's doing with The Devil's Nightmare is a mystery. Perhaps Image or the company that sold 'em the rights simply tacked on the sequence thinking that most folks wouldn't notice as long as it had tits in it. (Hell, maybe they're right.)
    As for the movie itself, it's slightly letterboxed and comes with both English-dubbed and Italian language mono audio tracks. Video quality ranges from fine to somewhat washed out, with occasional print damage evident. (It still looks much better than it ever has in previous VHS incarnations.) The English audio track is the disc's main letdown, as it can be muffled and scratchy at times. In comparison the Italian track sounds much more clear, certainly fuller, but unfortunately there's no English subtitle option. And I don't speak Italian.
Aside from the U.S. theatrical trailer which is in pretty rough shape and some brief (uncredited) liner notes, the disc does not come with any Extras. I certainly don't think the utterly pointless Redemption intro, which I like to call Silicone Breast Implants of the Damned, can be counted as one. 6/21/01

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