Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Devil’s Plaything [1973]

I was interested in checking out any Joe Sarno film ever since the LJ cult film community featured a few recently. I’m not sure if I’ve seen one of his films before but the name definetly rings a bell with me – and the bell it rings is ‘avoid’ – I’m not exactly sure why – but The Devil’s Plaything may be a good example.

Inexplicably people just show up at a castle on the hillside – and have to stay there. They mention that there’s an inheritance – but the fact that there’s 3 different women and they all can’t inherit the same castle especially considering they don’t act like they know each other – or infer that they are related in any way. Then – again with little explanation – a couple shows up claiming their car was wrecked in the mountain side and need a place to stay for the night. The only problem with this is – they stay for a week.

Each night (and they come frequently) there is bongo playing – and gyrating naked women in the basement. This keeps some of the women up at night – but no one bothers to mention it to their hostess. The hostess (played wonderfully by the often smirking Nadia Henkowa, picutred on the far right) claims the castle used to belong to a female vampire – who was burned at the stake many years ago – and is prophesized to be resurrected into a new body. The bongos are obviously part of the ritual to resurrect their master – and after strange behavior by several of the guests – and constant nights of bongos – it’s very odd no one is creeped out enough to say something – or to leave all together.

There are story problems with this movie – so much that I lost interest and paused it every 15 minutes to check my e-mail or to mop the floor. Watching cult films – I should be more prepared for rambling stories that seem not to go anywhere – but every 5 minutes it’s a new night – and every night there’s the same gyrating naked women in the basement with the same bongo beat – it got to be too much for my state of mind.

The fact that the couple shows up and the woman is actually a self-expressed occult expert – is bothersome as you know the vampire cult SHOULD do something about her immediately – but they take their time. So, you know that there’s going to be conflict – and eventually it will come down to the headmistress/the vampire master vs. the occult expert and her brother/boyfriend – who’s the only male character who seems to have more than a bit part.

The headmistress and the occult expert – had a delightful scene together very early on – where there was so much smirking at each other that I had to laugh out loud. Another laugh out loud scene involved two women characters who were standing next to each other – and one of them (pictured wearing a tie above) started tripping up over her lines – and then looked next to the camera and started reading those lines in the most obvious way. Right up there with the smirking scene – was a scene where black triangles that were supposed to be bats were attacking the occult expert. The “bats” made a noise like they were giving her little kisses. It was bizarre to be sure – and the fact that in order to get rid of the “bats” she tore off her own clothes – made the kissing noises even more bizarre.

Over all – it was a poorly executed film – and for the most part kind of boring (or as boring as gyrating naked women can be). I shy away from the whole ‘so bad it’s good’ comment – simply because it’s a movie it either provides entertainment or it doesn’t. This film wouldn’t qualify for that description anyway – it’s not ambitious enough to be entertaining – but there were some of those elements that you say to yourself ‘what the fuck?’ and you are laughing unintentionally. If you’ve seen one film about women lured to a castle by cultists – you’ve seen this film.

I give it 2 out of 5 stars.


  1. It was Sarno's only attempt at horror, and it proved that horror was definitely not his forte. Eurohorror needs a more over-the-top approach so you don't notice the weaknesses in plotting.

  2. I didn't know that this was Sarno's "only" attempt at horror - I may have gone a little easier on him if I did. You are right - Eurohorror NEEDS to be over-the-top - at least to grab my attention and keep it.