Saturday, March 24, 2018

The Devil Within Her

Filmed as I DON’T WANT TO BE BORN and released by AIP in the U.S. as THE DEVIL WITHIN HER, this tawdry EXORCIST ripoff compared itself to ROSEMARY’S BABY in its advertising. It’s much closer — in story, not quality — to IT’S ALIVE, as a former stripper played by THE BITCH’s Joan Collins gives birth to a murderous baby.

Back in her peeler days, Joan rebuffed the pawing of slavering dwarf George Claydon (BERSERK), so he put a hex on her first-born child out of revenge, as horny dwarfs are wont to do. On little Nicholas’ first day of life, he claws the hell out of his mother’s face, and soon escalates to shoving the nanny into the lake and bashing her head on a rock. When Joan says quite seriously, “I think my baby has been possessed by the Devil,” her stripper best friend Caroline Munro (AT THE EARTH’S CORE) continues stirring her tea calmly like they’re discussing baseball stats. Thankfully, an Italian nun played by Dame Eileen Atkins, DBE (EQUUS) is qualified to do exorcisms, but not until most of the cast is dead.

Peter Sasdy, who directed Hammer’s TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA and HANDS OF THE RIPPER, is unable to catapult this film past “laughable” to “frightening.” Did he really believe Collins periodically looking into the baby’s crib to find the dwarf’s face staring back at her would send chills up the audience’s spines?

English actor Ralph Bates (DR. JEKYLL & SISTER HYDE) plays Joan’s husband with a shaky Italian accent (there’s no reason his character needs to be Italian). Stanley Price’s (SHOUT AT THE DEVIL) screenplay struggles with logic and coherency. Only Donald Pleasence (THE GREAT ESCAPE) as the doctor who delivers little Nicky sells the absurd dialogue as if he believes it. Also seen as THE MONSTER (somewhat accurate, if generic) and SHARON’S BABY (there is no character named Sharon in the film), THE DEVIL WITHIN HER is severely padded between campy death scenes, including a riveting sequence of Ralph Bates buying groceries.

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