This is the first time this slice of demented Belgian/Italian sleaze has been available in it's full widescreen glory. Featuring a collection of shifty aristos, grumpy servants and a saucy homicidal succubbus played by the... more » lickable Erika Blanc--this is seventies gothic at its campiest best.« less
Even for seasoned horror fans, a really scary film
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Lost in a dim forest, a group of seven tourists on a bus make their way to a lonely castle that is, by lucky chance, prepared to receive guests. Their host is the Baron von Rhoneberg, a successful alchemist and ex-Luftwaffe general with a past. The castle is also inhabited by two ticked-off servants and a beautiful and mysterious female who happens to be a nymph of Satan, a succubus. After dinner, the six of herd begin to make complete pigs out of themselves -- fornicating in the hallways, attempting to steal the Baron's gold and to eat him out of house and home. Not to worry, one by one each of the tourists meets gruesome death at the hands of the succubus that parallels the seven deadly sins -- lust, avarice, lust again, gluttony, and being a cranky jerk (wait, that's five, no three, never mind). Or do they? Although a common complaint about the Devil's Nightmare, the logical structure of the narrative is actually fairly sound (watch it again! -- maybe if the seminarian woke up with a shout?). Highly atmospheric with some cool lab scenes, this film really delivers the chills. The tameness of the murders -- poison, a pit of gold dust, guillotine, iron maiden, exfenestration -- is offset the over-the-top relish with which the succubus commits them. The eerie facial talents of the (no, I mean really) exquisite Erica Blanc as she morphs from seductress to succubus, sexbomb to slayer. Daniel Emilfork, one of Frederico Fellini's stock weirdoes, is the height of creepy as the Prince of Darkness in what is definitely an homage to Bergman's Death. Like Orson Welles in The Third Man, his screen appearances are brief but his presence remains palpable throughout. Veteran French actor Jean Servais is suitably distressing as the cursed scion of the von Rhoneberg family. Video quality is good overall with some scratches and color-flattening during the main titles and around the reel changes (check out the trailer at the end to see the quality Redemption had to work with). Audio quality ranges from good to excellent (especially during the "gluttony" scene) with a far-out musical score by Alessandro Alessandroni. DVD contains the original, somewhat more in-your-face, Italian soundtrack on the second audio channel. Print also contains the prolonged, heavy lesbian sequence excised from earlier releases. A real find; definitely suited to repeated viewing."
A nice little gothic horror film from Belgium
Daniel Jolley | Shelby, North Carolina USA | 03/23/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Devil's Nightmare is a pretty impressive Belgian gothic horror film from 1971. The movie begins with a Nazi officer's wife giving birth during the collapse of the Third Reich; when he finds out the child is a girl, the officer, Baron von Rhoneberg, is rather displeased and shows his unhappiness in a pretty compelling way. Then we jump to the present day to find seven tourists forced to seek a night's shelter at the castle of von Rhoneberg (apparently Belgium had no hotels in 1971). Personally, the sight of the castle door opening all by itself would be enough to convince me to just sleep on the bus, but the seven tourists all rush inside to escape a sudden rainstorm. Along with the melancholy and mysterious Baron, the guests are welcomed by a sour puss of a serving lady and a rather grim butler type who has served the Baron since World War II. This guy delights in telling the guests just who died in what way and in what year in each of the bedrooms he assigns them. The tourists are not exactly rays of sunshine themselves. There is a greedy woman and her cheating husband, an ornery old man, a seminarian studying to become a priest, a pretty disgusting tour guide, a lazy blonde lady, and an especially lovely flirt whose hobby is collecting men. The castle is a perfectly gothic little setting, featuring an attic with a good selection of implements of torture, dark and intricate hallways, gloomy towers and balustrades, an alchemist's lab, etc.-basically everything a spooky old castle needs to have. Later that night, a sultry redhead arrives in the form of Erika Blanc, whose character turns out to be a little unusual. Before all the guests turn in for the night, they are naturally told the story of the ancient von Rhoneberg curse, a large part of which deals with each family member's eldest daughter being a succubus. After a good hour crafting the proper atmosphere for the film, characters finally start dying, each death patterned on one of the seven deadly sins. This succubus doesn't do the things a succubus is supposed to do, never going farther than a little flirting with the priest in training, but I suppose the results are what really count. Having a priest in the way presents something of a challenge, but Satan is more than read to step in if problems arise. I wouldn't call this film scary at all, nor is it too graphic (except for the disgusting scene wherein we have to watch the tour guide eat). The succubus' facial expressions when she is exerting her power are overdone to the point of being sort of silly, but Satan knows how to play his hand close to the vest. There is some light nudity and just a little female hanky-panky, which I was a little surprised to find in a movie from 1971. Erika Blanc is a strikingly sultry lady who lights up the screen, thanks in large part to the film's costume designer, but I find Ivana Novak even easier on these eyes of mine. The atmosphere of the movie is quite dramatic, with the story of the curse working in hand in hand with the great and properly gothic look of the mysterious old castle, and the distinctive organ music that is forever playing in the background really helps establish the proper mood for infernal goings-on here. The ending seemed as if it would leave me a little disappointed, but a nice touch at the last minute won me over. All told, this is an excellent example of foreign, campy gothic horror that I for one quite enjoyed."
Sexy succubus, stylish Euro-horror
Thomas M. Sipos | Santa Monica, CA | 06/08/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Mainstream critics made much of Seven (1995, aka Se7en) for its "innovative" twist on the serial killer oeuvre: A killer who took inspiration from the Seven Deadly Sins.
Not so innovative.
Innovative to big Hollywood studios. Innovative to ignorant mainstream critics. But for those who follow indie, low-budget, and foreign horror ... been there, done that.
More precisely, it was The Devil's Nightmare that did it. Not with a serial killer, but with a succubus (Italian actress Erika Blanc). No reason succubi can't take inspiration from the Seven Deadly Sins while committing slaughter.
In the film (The Devil's Nightmare is its most common US title, The Devil Walks at Midnight its most recent), a family of German aristocrats endures a centuries-old curse. Seems the first-born daughter in every generation becomes a succubus for Satan. She seems not to particularly target family members, so there's no reason this should be a big problem, but the family has long done the right thing by killing first-born daughters at birth. But it's 1945, and the Allies are bombing Germany, and confusion reigns. The Baron (Jean Servais), an officer in Hitler's army, kills the wrong daughter.
Flash-forward to 1971, and the prodigal first-born daughter returns to the family castle.
As luck would have it, that very night a busload of tourists is stranded at the castle. And coincidentally, each tourist is guilty of one of the Seven Deadly Sins. After slinking about in revealing dresses, the succubus begins killing the tourists, one by one. The women too. That's rare for succubi, as most only target men. And she's got help. When she is stymied by Father Sorel (guilty of pride, and played by Luciene Raimberg), Satan (Daniel Emilfork) steps in to help her out.
Succubus films are largely and properly judged by the quality of their succubi. Even more so than vampires, succubi are erotic monsters. Female demons who sexually tempt men to death and/or damnation. Why do they do so? Usually, the only explanation is that they're demons, and that's what demons do.
Being sexual monsters, succubi should be alluring. Erika Blanc is that and more. She is a mesmerizing demoness, with extreme angular features, a fleshy but curvaceous body, and clear bright eyes framed by a flaming red mane. Few modern succubi can compare. Today's direct-to-video succubi (and "femme fatales") tend to be short, scrawny, and disproportionately top-heavy with chicken legs. Perhaps most of today's low-budget producers are "breast men" attracted to anorexic starlets. Blanc is a classy succubus, well-proportioned, the kind that best tempts European (and, I think, most) men.
Personality-wise, her succubus is more pedestrian. Most succubi are heartless monsters, without feeling for their victims. Vampires often have more compassion, or at least passion. Ironically, succubi are often indifferent to sex, merely using it mechanically as a bait and/or method of execution, killing during copulation. But Blanc doesn't even touch her victims, gleefully watching them die from afar. She is an especially cold-blooded succubus, her sole loyalty to Satan.
Some succubi kill to survive, but Blanc kills to win souls for Satan. She kills sinners during their transgressions, ensuring that they'll be damned for eternity. This yields some curious theological results. One young lady is killed asleep in bed, presumably guilty of sloth.
Sleeping in the middle of the night -- Oh wicked woman!
Well, sloth is one of the Seven Deadly Sins. I dunno, maybe it was early evening. Just make sure there are no succubi around if you go to bed early.
Most succubi merely reflect a surface beauty, skin deep. At some point, their natural ugliness is revealed. In the "Demon In Lace" episode of Kolchak: The Night Stalker, the succubus's true appearance was that of a crone. Whenever Blanc kills, her true form manifests: her eyebrows shaved, her face shiny and bluish, her thin red lips in a tight sadistic smile.
My favorite succubus is Karen Morgan (played by Diane DiLascio in the "Black Widow" episode of Poltergeist: The Legacy). DiLascio portrayed a rarity: a succubus-with-a-heart-of-gold. Her succubus had feelings. Feelings that could be hurt by a harsh word. I'd never before seen a succubus played that way. Other viewers must have agreed, because DiLascio's succubus returned for a rare encore episode: "She Has the Devil in Her."
Erika Blanc would be enough to recommend The Devil's Nightmare, but the film is enjoyable all-around. The other actors do a fine job, and the cinematography is lush and colorful.
Welch Everman, in his Cult Horror Films, says: "This Belgian/Italian spooky- castle film is really pretty good, not because the plot is particularly original but because the pacing and atmosphere make it work in spite of its shortcomings." I guess he means the film waits 50 minutes to begin the killings, but he's right, the pacing works. It allows the atmosphere to build, the succubus to toy with her victims, and the characters to become established, if only a bit. (Why do all European actors, when dubbed, sound alike?)
Less kind is John Stanley in his Creature Features Movie Guide: "Campy dialogue and silly premise provide laughs in this Italian-Belgian flop ... Each generation's eldest daughter is born an evil witch lusting to kill." I wasn't laughing, and the story is plainly about a succubus, not a witch.
Foreign film spellings appear to confuse everyone. Welch Everman spells the name of the actor playing Father Sorel as both Luciene Raimberg and Lucien Raimbourg. He spells the aristocrat family's name as both von Rumberg and von Runberg, whereas John Stanley spells it von Rhoneberg.
Mildly annoying to me: In the dubbed version, the characters keep referring to "succubuses." The American Heritage Dictionary (1971) finds this acceptable, but I think "succubi" is preferable. ("Succubae" is also acceptable to American Heritage.)
If you like succubi -- and who doesn't? -- you'll like The Devil's Nightmare."
So bad it's Good
bob johnson | In front of the computer, typing this | 08/09/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I agree with an earlier review of said movie, but the sub-par plot, acting, and production values are exactly the reasons why this movie is so cool. Euro trash? Yes please. Maybe a little bit more if at all possible. Thank you."
A good surprise !
nussbaum22 | France | 03/04/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This film is a very good surprise. Erika Blanc looks even better than in "Kill Baby kill" from the great Mario Bava. What a Sexy Sin ! I would give my soul to the Devil !
Unfortunately the print used for this DVD is not so great. However it's a pleasure to discover such rare movies from the Sixties-Seventies. A fine combination of horror and erotism ! Lovers of European horror movies from that period will probably enjoy it."