Excessively Sprawling Story Cannot Be Satisfactorily Organiz
rsoonsa | Lake Isabella, California | 10/20/2006
(2 out of 5 stars)
"This was meant as a pilot film, being an initial sequence for a projected television series that did not come about, and it is quite clear why it was not found to be acceptable, since it is immensely uninventive, with both its format and attitudes plainly copied from William Friedkin's THE EXORCIST, released but a few years prior, and the 1968 ROSEMARY'S BABY, directed by Roman Polanski. Two primary threads are woven into the narrative, the first relating the efforts of one Mister Rimmin (Richard Lynch), who is in fact Astaroth a Grand Duke of Hell, to breed with a young woman, Jessica (Elyssa Davalos), who has been reared and protected by a coterie of Satanists from infancy through her 22nd year (the present), with an objective to produce a child that will rule the world in favour of The Forces Of Evil. Since Satan and his court, whose acolytes are legion, may readily mate with any number of women at any time that they choose, there seems to be little point in Rimmin tarrying for Jessica. However, such flaws in logic are matched with those of risible continuity issues. The second principal theme in the plot is of the soap opera variety, a blithely groundless love affair between Jessica and a young man, Andy (Dack Rambo) whose romantic role in Jessica's life upsets the Duke of Darkness no end. His attempts to interfere with the budding relationship of the young lovers is empty of those cunning components that are requisite for films of the "Thriller" genre. The original television airing was for only 72 minutes, and the reason is revealed by an ongoing spate of orchestral crescendi along with fades indicating arrival of commercial interruptions. The release in the DVD format adds about 25 minutes, with little overall improvement, because of uninspired parallel editing that fails to engage a viewer with either of the contrasting storylines. There is even an exorcism here, in spite of its having little significant connection to the narrative but rather a bit more with the Friedkin film that it partially apes. Direction seems to be unfocussed, and few able acting turns are to be found; nonetheless Richard Lynch, playing Astaroth as earthling, is impressive as ever. The film ends abruptly, with some lead-in dialogue to subsequent chapters that did not occur, an unsatisfactory finish to a work that is rapidly paced, easy to watch, and easy to forget. There are a good many such minor productions being reissued with fresh packaging to cash in on the burgeoning popularity of DVDs. This one should probably have remained wherever it was mouldering."
Robert P. Beveridge | Cleveland, OH | 04/29/2008
(1 out of 5 stars)
"Good Against Evil (Paul Wendkos, 1977)
You'd think that a Satanist, and one who's been charged with watching over the devil's daughter, would know the difference between the pentacle and a pentagram. That is, unfortunately, only the least of the woes to be found in Paul Wendkos' depressingly boring non-thriller.
It's tough to give a synopsis without spoilers, since the actual plot of the film doesn't actually start until about forty-five minutes into the movie, but it involves a writer (Dallas' Dack Rambo) and a fashion designer (Elyssa Davalos, who recently appeared in Nancy Drew) who fall in love and, after a long and tortuous (for the viewer, anyway) courtship, decide to get married. The priest who is tabbed to perform the ceremony (John Harkins), however, has some doubts, fearing the girl to be possessed by the devil. Once the truth comes out, it's time to exorcise the devil!
Wendkos may have done some excellent film work in the 1960s (the Gidget films and Guns of the Magnificent Seven are his work), but watching this gives no evidence. Jimmy Sangster's brutally bad script is pushed along by a whole lot of wooden acting (including a young Kim Cattrall in her first TV appearance; she's gotten better at the whole acting thing over the years). There's just nothing about this movie to recommend going out of your way to watch it; for that matter, there's nothing to recommend watching it if it falls into your lap. *"
Where Is The Child?!
Larry L. Chalfant, Jr. | louisville, ohio | 08/16/2008
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Honestly, the first time I watched this movie was at night, half awake, and I had to watch it again the next day to be sure I had seen what I thought I had. The reviewer who stated this was a pilot for a show was a big help, I couldn't comprehend why the movie took such a side turn to the story with Kim Cattrall's kid! Dan O'Herlihy's entrance to the story was hysterical (his opening line is the title above). Dack Rambo's character is so obnoxious I can't believe his would-be girlfriend didn't have him arrested for stalking her. The opening sequence was good, and as stated above Richard Lynch is calmly creepy as Satan on Earth, but the subplot (or maybe it was the main plot?) was out of left field. And then it just ends. WTH? This was in a collection of 16 horror classics I received for Christmas, and worth watching once, I suppose, but otherwise forget it."
The winner of Good vs. Evil is Boredom
Andrew McCaffrey | Satellite of Love, Maryland | 10/05/2008
(2 out of 5 stars)
"GOOD AGAINST EVIL is an odd film whose structural strangeness is only partially explained by the fact that it's actually a failed television pilot and not a standalone film at all. Theoretically, this should have been a decent film: the director (Paul Wendkos, GIDGET) and writer (Jimmy Sangster, multiple Hammer horror films) both have many successful credits to their name. However, it's the limitations in the pilot format which prevent the film from being viable as a standalone work and the inherent problems within the idea itself which presumably prevented the film from ever progressing beyond a pilot.
The film begins in the New York City of 1955. A baby is born, and Satan is all over it. Appearing in the form of a black cat, he kills the mother (after first messing with her mind via jerky camera work, strange intercutting and spooky incidental music) and then oversees a weird Satanic ritual, the subject is, of course, the newborn.
We then jump forward to the present day (the present day circa 1977). The tainted child has grown up, but is oblivious to the evil that lurks either within her or very near to her (we're a little vague on the exact theology here). She is now is a successful designer in the California fashion industry (one of the morals of our story is that the fashion industry is filled with Satan worshipers). As she joins our story, her parked car is sideswiped by the film's hero and his deliberately ramshackle van.
Since this is a movie, this minor traffic incident results in a continuing stalking situation, which only relents when the Satan Lady (Elyssa Davalos) agrees to date our hero (Dack Rambo) after several long instances of his Not Getting The Hint. After a long and painful courtship (which must take about half of the film's running time) the romance takes a wild turn when -- just before their marriage -- the Satan Lady is hypnotized, kidnapped and taken to New Orleans. Rambo's attempt at rescue involves an exorcism, a vandalized church and a young Kim Cattrall.
It's difficult to judge GOOD AGAINST EVIL as a standalone piece of television because it was originally supposed to be only the first chapter in a continuing story. That possibly explains why the main conflict isn't even hinted at until halfway through. One has to make allowances for the fact that the last twenty minutes appear to come from nowhere (it's all setup for the series). The courtship takes longer to establish because the producers need to have this initial meeting and romance to drive the action -- not just for the remainder of the film -- but for an entire TV series. While these pacing issues are understandable, they do not make for an enjoyable viewing experience. The totality of what we have is mostly a mess.
While one could see some small potential in GOOD AGAINST EVIL as a series, it's not difficult to see why the pilot didn't set the world on fire. Foremost of its sins is that there is an hour in the middle that is intensely boring. Given that this was supposed to air on broadcast television I was beginning to wonder if the producers were relying on advertising breaks and news updates to liven up the action. We're halfway through the film before any kind of urgency is implemented; I can't imagine many in the audience simply having the required patience.
And while its an intriguing premise, it isn't immediately obvious to how a series would proceed. Would every episode begin with Richard Lynch moving his victim to another city and end with Dack Rambo teaming up with a bad-tempered priest to perform an exorcism on Kim Cattrall's daughter? Would the Satan Lady be catatonic in every scene? Would Satan's army of house cats be a recurring element?
Questions, alas, for which there are no answers."