Monday, December 7, 2009

Devil Within Her, The (1975)

...aka: Baby, The
...aka: Evil Baby
...aka: I Don't Want to Be Born!
...aka: It Lives Within Her
...aka: It's Growing Inside Her
...aka: Monster, The
...aka: Sharon's Baby

Directed by:
Peter Sasdy

Former stripper Lucy Carlesi (Joan Collins) has just given birth to a 12-pound baby boy... who scratches her face and licks her blood just minutes after it exits the womb! Dr. Finch (Donald Pleasence) recommends she not breast feed because what just occured is clearly a sign of post partum depression. Lucy, her bland Italian husband Gino (Ralph Bates) and infant Nicholas all return home and things quickly go from bad to worse. Lucy relates a howlingly funny flashback to her former glory days as an exotic dancer to her completely useless best friend Mandy (Caroline Munro). You see, a year or so earlier, right after performing her patented Hunchback of Notre Dame-inspired strip act (!!) Lucy's dwarf co-star Hercules (George Claydon), Quasimodo to her Esmeralda, decided to try for some backstage action. After a failed attempt to grab her breast, Lucy shrieks, her sleazy boss Tommy (John Steiner) barges in and kicks the dwarf out so he can have sex with her instead. As Lucy is exiting the building later that night, the spurned dwarf emerges from behind the stage to curse her and tell her she's going to have a possessed baby.

So what does having a possessed infant entail? Well, it's messy. The baby manages to completely destroy its room and all its toys in a matter of seconds. It's super-strong. The baby easily draws blood by clawing and smacking people around. It hates crosses and has a fit during an attempted baptism. And it's deadly. The baby pushes its sitter (Janet Key) into a pond, where she hits her head on a rock and drowns. It also manages to tie a noose, climb into a tree, lower it around someone's neck and then lift them off the ground until they're dead. And it's even got enough oomph to pick up a shovel and swing it with enough force to decapitate someone during the film's only gory moment. Thankfully, Gino's full time nun / part time animal pathologist (!?) sister Albana (Eileen Atkins), who shows her affection for her brother by rubbing noses with him (!?) has flown in from Italy for a visit. After nearly everyone is already dead, Albana finally gets around to performing an exorcism on the baby during an exciting climax where the crib shakes, the baby rolls over onto its stomach twice and the dwarf keels over dead in the middle of a showgirl act. The end.

Sound like one of the most ridiculous and ill-conceived films ever created? Yep, it pretty much is. Obviously the filmmakers were wanting to cash in on both the big early 70s devil craze created by ROSEMARY'S BABY (1968) and THE EXORCIST (1973) while also tapping IT'S ALIVE (1974), the surprise 'killer baby' hit made the previous year. Needless to say, they fail hard on both counts. The baby itself is never actually shown really doing anything. The film simply has one of the actors lean over the crib and suddenly jerk back, exclaiming "It bit me!" or "It hit me!" or "It spat on me!" followed by a shot of the baby lying in its crib wondering what the hell that big contraption is pointed in its face. I'll admit that I did laugh quite a few times watching this movie, but it also grows tiresome after awhile and has so many incredibly dull stretches that I'm not going to give it a "SBIG" rating.

There are many familiar faces in the cast... and most of them are terrible! While Collins does put some effort into her role, the woman just isn't a very sympathetic presence and her near-constant hysterics get highly irritating after awhile. And it pains me to say this, but Pleaseance and Bates (two actors I usually enjoy) are even worse. Pleasence is so subdued he might as well not even be there, while Bates' Italian accent is one of the worst ever commited to film. Atkins is also asked to do an Italian accent and while hers is pretty bad too (some of the unintented comic high points are her constant exclamations of "Day-Veeeel!") she's at least not utterly boring to watch like her male co-stars. Munro is around simply to look good but her character, who's screwing the same scrawny sleazebag who used to run around with her supposed best friend and may actually be the real father of the killer baby, has nothing to do and is distasteful. The most solid performance in the film is contributed by Hilary Mason (from DON'T LOOK NOW) as an elderly housekeeper who loathes the baby.

Even though I haven't seen everything from the usually-competent Sasdy, I can assume this is the low-point of his career. It's well-distributed in the UK and other countries, but there's no R1 release of this one.

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