Updated: Mar 3
BLU-RAY REVIEW / FRAME SHOTS
Legendary British stars Deborah Kerr and David Niven play the wealthy French couple Catherine and Philippe de Montfaucon.
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“EYE OF THE DEVIL” – WARNER ARCHIVE COLLECTION
Blu-ray; 1966; Not Rated
Best extra: None
THIS little-known black and white curiosity of a B-movie gothic horror, based on a 1964 novel by Philip Loraine, is full of surprises. Not the least of which is its cast, featuring Deborah Kerr and David Niven, both a tad past their prime but still looking fine, as the wealthy Catherine and Philippe de Montfaucon.
Philippe is summoned from his Paris home to the country estate and vineyard that has been in his family for generations, because the grape crop is failing for the third year in a row. He insists on going alone, but is soon followed by Catherine and the couple’s two cute little children. As soon as she arrives, Catherine is horrified at the sight of what the stunningly gorgeous brother and sister Odile and Christian (Sharon Tate in her feature debut; and David Hemmings) are up to on the Montfaucon property. Christian is hunting doves with bow and arrow, as Odile cheers him on, and one poor victim lands at Catherine’s feet. The two wicked siblings get up to increasingly dangerous antics, but Catherine soon becomes more alarmed by the menacing atmosphere at the chateau.
She spies a group of men in black cowls engaging in some kind of ceremony with Philippe, after which she’s terrorized and chased through the forest by the hooded men. She later discovers that Philippe’s father, whom she thought had died, has been secretly living in a tower of the chateau. He explains that Philippe is planning a shocking sacrifice as part of a generations-old ritual, in order to save the grape harvest. Catherine tries as best she can to prevent the tragedy, but everyone in the nearby village is involved in what they consider a sacred rite, so she’s repeatedly thwarted. With Donald Pleasence (best-known for all his creepy appearances in the “Halloween” films) as a rather questionable priest, and other fine English actors – such as Flora Robson and Emlyn Williams – in supporting roles, “Eye of the Devil” is a thoroughly enjoyable, if campy, bit of horror.
(1&2) A black-tie dinner and private concert at the de Montfaucon’s Paris home. (3) Philippe gets word that he must return to his family’s country estate after the third unsuccessful harvest from the vineyard. (4) He tells Catherine he’ll go alone and for her to remain in Paris with their two children Jacques and Antoinette.
The new 1080p transfer (1.66:1 aspect ratio) looks pristine from Warner Archive, with no noticeable flaws, and plenty of sharp detail. The soundtrack is also clean and well-balanced. Sound effects are realistic, and the English dialogue is always clear. Subtitles are provided.
Unfortunately, there are no bonus features with this presentation, but it would certainly be a nice addition to any Halloween movie marathon.
— Peggy Earle
(1) Philippe drives his sports car to the ancestral chateau. (2) Priest Père Dominic (Donald Pleasence) greets Philippe at the chateau. (3) The Eye of the Devil necklace. (4) A dove is shot with an arrow by the menacing Christian de Caray (David Hemmings).
(1) Catherine was concerned with Philippe’s behavior and decided to come to the country with the two children. She stumbles upon a mystical ceremony at one of the Chateau’s towers, with 12 hooded men, and with Christian de Caray and his sister Odile (Sharon Tate) holding the dead dove. (2) Odile asks Jacques and Antoinette if they believe in magic? She tells them she’ll turn a frog into a dove. (3) Tate was married to director Roman Polanski and they were expecting a child when she was murdered in August of 1969, by members of the Charles Manson family cult. (4) Philippe takes part in another ceremony.
(1) Philippe and his aunt, Countess Estelle (Flora Robson), argue in her room at the chateau. (2) Catherine finds Philippe's father, Alain (Emlyn Williams), living in a tower of the chateau. He explains the dark history of the Montfaucon family. (3) Held prisoner in the chateau, Catherine escapes through a secret tunnel, revealed to her by Alain. (4) Philippe leads the bleak procession as part of the generations-old ceremony. (5) Christian performs his role in the ritual. (6&7) Philippe resignedly awaits his fate as Catherine is unable to stop the inevitable.