Saturday, February 04, 2017

143. The Devil's Nightmare

143. The Devil’s Nightmare aka La plus longue nuit du diable (1971)
Director: Jean Brismée
Writers: Patrice Rhomm from a scenario by Pierre-Claude Garnier and Patrice Rhomm
From: Pure Terror

A band of tourists gets stranded at the castle of a Baron whose family is cursed by a succubus.

The movie opens with stock footage of allied planes bombing Berlin in 1945. A German Baroness dies while giving birth to a daughter, news that makes the Baron visibly unhappy. He sends his brother and maid into the bomb shelter while he christens then murders the baby.

Suffice it to say no one’s going to accuse this movie of subtlety.

Cut to the present day, a busload of tourists hit a roadblock and ask a thin, pasty bald man dressed all in black staring at a fire in the middle of a field for advice on where to go. The guy looks like Death taking a break from a Bergman film or a vampire mime, and that means trustworthy in their book! He directs them to the Baron’s castle.

The butler shows each of them to their rooms, telling each a grim story about that room’s history. You’d think the stories will relate to how the tourists die, but they don’t. Another seeming misstep is there are seven tourists and, initially, it feels like their deaths will be based upon the seven deadly sins, but that goes out the window pretty quickly too.

Briefly, there’s the gluttonous tour guide, a cranky old man, a seminarian, a husband with a wandering eye, his gold-obsessed wife, and a blond and brunette who end up sharing a room. All these people may well have names in the movie, but you’d be hard pressed to give them more characterization than I just did.

Also, the two women sharing a room immediately start hanging out in their underwear and then fooling around. Pretty intensely, to be honest, and much more graphic than I expected from 1971 and one of these flicks. Enjoy it while it lasts—and it lasts—because it’s the only time it happens in the movie, but you know it was also the selling point.

Anyway, the Baron tells the group over dinner that his family was cursed because a 12th century ancestor sold his soul to the Devil and promised that each generation’s eldest daughter would serve as a succubus. While he’s telling this story, a woman arrives at the castle. The maid recognizes her and denies her entry, but the butler lets her in.

Obviously she’s the succubus and now the deaths can get underway. Although I should note that she arrives in perfectly normal dress and then joins the dinner in the weirdest mix of bondage gear as lingerie as fashion. Elvira would describe her as unduly tarted up.

The tour guide is tempted by a feast in the kitchen and, after a long, long (long) montage of him eating, he finally chokes to death. The wife follows the Baron into his alchemical laboratory (because he’s an alchemist for no reason) and becomes obsessed with finding his gold. The succubus leads her to a mountain of gold and the wife sinks in it like quicksand.

The husband and brunette sneak off to fool around and wind up in the attic which is full of medieval torture equipment. The succubus throws the husband onto the guillotine and cuts off his head while the brunette falls into the iron maiden. The old man is angry about the noise and chases the succubus through the castle until she turns on him and throws him over the wall onto some stakes. She picks up a stick, turns it into a snake, and it slides into the blond’s room where it kills her.

All that’s left is the seminarian who the succubus is trying to seduce. He figures things out, runs to the church on the property where he’s confronted by the vampire mime who, of course, is the Devil. The Devil says the souls of the six are his, but the seminarian offers his soul in trade for theirs. The Devil agrees, the seminarian signs a contract that immediately bursts into flames, and then the seminarian wakes up in his bed.

At breakfast, everyone is fine and the Baron is fencing with the butler outside. The Baron gets stabbed and confesses to the seminarian that he killed his daughter. Then the maid tells the seminarian that she’d had a daughter by the Baron’s brother—making the child the actual eldest daughter—and she was the woman who’d arrived the night before. In the church, the seminarian finds the ashes of the contract. He decides to stay at the castle and watches as the busload of tourists drives away then off a cliff. THE END.

Obviously a pretty silly flick. It’s b-grade exploitation that I think misses the mark by putting too much effort into titillation. A big problem is that it has too many characters so there isn’t time to develop each character enough to make them interesting, it’s just waiting for everyone’s inevitable death.

Not to say there isn’t any atmosphere or charm. The movie has good sets and it even feels like a nice setup for a Gothic tale, it just never delivers on that promise. Ultimately, it has a good enough tone and is kind of campy in its over-the-top moments. I mean, one of the first things that happens is a Nazi stabs a baby. It’s very easy to laugh at this movie’s excesses.

If this movie was ever in the public domain, it’s likely not now due to GATT. I’d say it’s worth checking out if you stumble across it, though. The sex scene runs a little too long to be comfortable for group watching (it crosses the line into, “is this what this movie’s going to be now?”), but apart from that, I think you can have some fun laughing at this picture.

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