Eye of the Devil – UK, 1966

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‘This is the climax in mind-chilling terror!’

Eye of the Devil is a 1966 British horror film with occult and supernatural themes directed by J. Lee Thompson (10 to MidnightHappy Birthday to Me; The Reincarnation of Peter Proud) from a screenplay by Robin Estridge and Dennis Murphy. Producers John Calley and Martin Ransohoff (See No Evil aka Blind Terror) brought in noted script doctor Terry Southern to provide an uncredited “tightening and brightening” of the screenplay. The Filmways Picture was released by MGM.

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The original director was Sidney J. Furie (Doctor Blood’s Coffin; The Snake Woman; The Entity). In August 1965, shortly before filming was to begin, Furie was replaced by Michael Anderson (Magic). When Anderson fell ill, he was replaced in turn by J. Lee Thompson. Kim Novak (Tales That Witness Madness; Satan’s Triangle) was the original lead but suffered a riding accident and was replaced by Deborah Kerr.

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The film is set in rural France and was filmed at the Château de Hautefort in Dordogne and the MGM Studios in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, England. Eye of the Devil is based on the novel Day of the Arrow by Robin Estridge and was initially titled and marketed as 13.

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Main cast:

Deborah Kerr (The Innocents), David Niven (Vampira), Donald Pleasence,Edward Mulhare, Flora Robson (The Beast in the Cellar), Emlyn Williams, Sharon Tate (The Fearless Vampire Killers), David Hemmings (Deep Red; Harlequin; Thirst), John Le Mesurier, .

David Niven plays the owner of a vineyard, who is called back to the estate when it falls on hard times. Accompanied by his wife (Deborah Kerr), the couple are confronted by a beautiful witch (Sharon Tate), who also lives on the estate with her brother (David Hemmings). As time passes it becomes clear that a blood sacrifice is expected to return the vineyard to its former glory…

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Reviews:

“The plot is certainly intriguing, complicated and has an interesting premise; relying on metaphysical fantasy, using mesmerizing candlelight to illustrate the subject matter. Though the writing can be patchy at times due to the cramming in of story, it all becomes a little muddy and you occasionally need a moment to work out what’s just happened; perhaps too much plot interweaving does not benefit a film of this genre.” Nia Jones, The Spooky Isles

“It is a moody and atmospheric film, photographed exquisitely in black and white by Erwin Hillier …  From lush, countryside vistas to the caverns of the family home, the film is crisp and clean, accentuating and lending to the horror presented within. Though the performances are great and the music by Gary McFarland compliments the picture perfectly, it is the cinematography that really takes your breath away more than anything.” The Telltale Mind

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“This leisurely paced occult thriller wants to unsettle you as well as enchant you and it manages to do just that in its first few minutes. Most horror films will take their time building suspense or they’ll bludgeon you over the head with a few shocks to get your heart racing but Eye of the Devil takes an entirely different approach to terror…” Kimberly Lindbergs, Movie Morlocks

“There are a couple of good bits: Catherine is chased through a forest by a gang of cowled figures at one point and later suffers a nightmare in which she relives this and any other vaguely scary bit from the film, with a few new scenes chucked in for good measure. Hemmings and Tate also wander around with a bow and arrow trying to get kids to jump off ramparts and turning toads into doves…” Chris Wood, The Shrieking Sixties: British Horror Films 1960 – 1969

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“Viewers new to Eye of the Devil may compare it unfavorably with the later The Wicker Man, a much more elaborate chiller about a resurgence of paganism into the modern world. Eye may have been an inspiration for the later film’s source novel. For many people Eye of the Devil is an engaging thriller with an impressive cast of favorites.” Glenn Erickson, DVD Savant

“The occult brotherhood – 12 hooded figures parading through the grounds – does produce some picturesque images, but the awkward attempts to evoke echoes of The Innocents (1961), with Kerr looking mystified and two youngsters (Tate and Hemmings) behaving ever so oddly, fail miserably.” The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror

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Cast and characters:

  • Deborah Kerr as Catherine
  • David Niven as Philippe
  • Flora Robson as Countess Estel
  • Donald Pleasence as Pere Dominic
  • David Hemmings as Christian de Caray
  • Sharon Tate as Odile de Caray
  • Edward Mulhare as Jean-Claude
  • Emlyn Williams as Alain

WikipediaIMDb | Image credits: Monsters Forever

Related: The Vineyard

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