Friday, October 1, 2021

Magdalena, vom Teufel besessen (1974)

... aka: A donde vas Magdalena? (Where Are You Going, Magdalena?)
... aka: Beyond the Darkness
... aka: Cadeau le du diable (The Devil's Gift)
... aka: Devil's Female, The
... aka: Magdalena and the Evil
... aka: Magdalena, la poseída del demonio (Magdalena, the Demon Possessed)
... aka: Magdalena l'exorcisée (Magdalena the Exorcised)
... aka: Magdalena, Possessed by the Devil
... aka: Magdalena - The Devil Inside the Female
... aka: Possessed by the Devil
... aka: Satánico exorcismo (Satanic Exorcism)

Directed by:
"Michael Walter" (Walter Boos)

Germany's contribution to the mid-70s Exorcist Xerox cycle is, unsurprisingly, one of the sleaziest. Though the director started out as an editor and assistant director to a number of respected directors like Roberto Rossellini and Robert Siodmak, he switched almost exclusively to softcore porn by the early 70s and is now probably best known for making various entries in the long-running "Schoolgirl Report" series. Those films were nothing more than smut hilariously dressed up as Do you know what your teenage daughters have been up to?-style parental paranoia warning pictures ("It's not porn! It's educational!"), just as this film is smut hilariously dressed up as a possession / horror film. However, it also appears this production was taken completely seriously at the time. It opens with a quote from Pope Paul VI and the supporting cast is filled with actors who've won top acting awards in Germany, both before and after appearing in this.

A drunken hooker discovers the corpse of an elderly man crucified against a gate door. An autopsy reveals that not only were the nails driven through both his feet and palms by someone with tremendous strength, but also that his throat had been crushed and a claw-like insignia was burnt onto the top of his head. Investigators immediately contact Madame Stolz (the eyebrow-less Elizabeth Volkmann) and her assistant Helen Price (Eva Kinsky), who run an all-girls boarding school in Munich. The murder victim is the grandfather and sole guardian of one of their girls: Pretty 17-year-old Magdalena Winter (Dagmar Hedrich). Both of Magdalena's parents were killed in an accident when she was 5 years old and she's been in the school ever since, only making the occasional trip to visit her grandfather, who's been paying her tuition and sending her money all those years but otherwise has little to do with her.

At the morgue, the grandfather's corpse briefly rises up off the table, unleashing an evil spirit in the process. At around the same time, the school girls are throwing an "Ash Wednesday party" (?!) when the sound of flies buzzing around is suddenly heard. Magdalena falls to the ground, starts convulsing and foaming at the mouth then awakens in a chipper mood as if nothing had happened. Later that night, she awakens in hysterics, screaming, sweating, kicking at something invisible and insisting they kill the school's pet dog. She then breaks all of the dishes in the kitchen and throws a knife at Helen before passing out. A doctor (Peter Martin Urtel) shows up to assure everyone not to worry and that "It can happen to almost anyone!" He then administers a mild sedative and is on his way.

Needless to say, doping Magdalena up for a night doesn't quite do the trick. Instead of going to her grandfather's funeral, she runs away from the school and then breaks the arm and shoulder of a guy who picks her up on the side of the road after he attempts to rape her. She's retrieved and brought back to the school, where the evil spirit throws furniture around in the attic and rapes Magdalena in her sleep. She then strips off all of her clothes, screams "Get out of here you sluts! I don't want to see you again!" to the headmistress and Helen and then starts masturbating on the floor ("I wanna fuck! I said I wanna fuck! You dirty whores! Come on, put it in! Put it in!"). Madame Stolz and Helen wrestle her onto the bed and the doctor notes her "obsessive compulsion to make lascivious gestures and bestial motions" and gives her another sedative. Maybe this one will do the trick? Nope.

Perhaps it's time for some divine intervention? Helen takes her to church to see Father Conrad (Rudolf Schündler) but upon laying eyes on a crucifix, she calls him a "dirty nun fucker" and asks for communion "not in my mouth but down here in my pussy." She's locked up in an office at the church but destroys furniture, rips a bible in half, uses her super-strength to bust through a chained / padlocked door and escapes again. She's found in the cemetery hovering over her grandfather's grave and talking to him. As usual, when she finally comes to, she remembers nothing of what's just occurred.

Magdalena is taken to see Professor Falk (Werner Bruhns, who committed suicide just a few years after appearing in this) and his younger colleague Dr. Michael Stone (Michael Hinz). She's hooked up to an electroencephalogram and the results come back perfectly normal. Sensing a little peace and quiet may help matters, Magdalena's then taken out to a secluded country home for a little vacation where she'll be observed by Falk, Stone, nurse Martha (Petra Peters) and an older lady named Mrs. Rokowski (Toni Treutler). Bicycling, horseback riding and ping pong seem to do the trick as she goes three entire days without an episode. During that time, she and Dr. Stone start developing feelings for one another, which probably not only violates a number of ethics laws (I would assume trying to have sex with mentally-unhinged patients is likely frowned upon in the medical community) but is even more than a little skeevy seeing how the patient is supposed to be 17 and he's like 40!

The spirit then returns, forcing Magdalena to strip naked and seduce two drunken men at a bar. With the promise of sex, she coerces one to stab the other to death before disappearing. She then starts teasing Dr. Stone, engaging him a little sexually but then pulling back or even crying rape whenever he attempts to touch her, and then informs him she won't have sex with him unless he kills Professor Falk. There's a hypnosis sequence to "penetrate her subconscious," another invisible demon rape scene and Magdalena finally starts speaking in a deep male voice and pukes up a snake, which is promptly (really) stomped on by someone's boot. The film also frequently cuts away to (utterly pointless) scenes featuring a pair of police detectives investigating the crucifixion murder.

I actually thought this was going to become one of my all time favorite Exorcist rip-offs... for a little while. We're basically launched directly into the possession shenanigans after just a few minutes, the dialogue is hilariously raunchy and blasphemous, it's fast-paced and the leading lady appears to be into the proceedings and really throws herself into the part. Unfortunately, it's soon obvious that the film has absolutely nowhere to go and it completely runs out of steam by the midpoint. Usually the boring stuff gets stuck at the beginning, but this time the movie explodes out of the gate and continues to just get worse the longer it goes. Nearly the entire supporting cast is shuffled around half way through, which has less to do with the plot and more to do with them needing new people to be outraged and shocked by Magdalena repeating the same antics over and over again. Disappointingly, there are also no notable special effects, they don't even bother with a make-up job on possessed girl and the "exorcism" finale is a bloody joke!

What we do get is plenty of full frontal nudity from the star throughout. I stopped counting after ten scenes but let's just say there's plenty of skin to be found here. Hedrich is a bit of a mystery herself. One would assume she came from those soft sex flicks the director had been making previously, especially seeing how she had breast implants done to prepare for such nude roles. However, this is one of her only credited parts and almost nothing is known about this actress. Doing a little digging, I was at least able to find a little additional background information on her.

Though Germany is usually her assumed birthplace, it appears she was actually born in Timbó, Brazil. After winning the beauty pageant title Miss Blumenau (Blumenau is a Brazilian city founded by German immigrants), she landed a starring role in the low budget, black-and-white Brazilian love triangle melodrama Férias No Sul in 1967. I skimmed through that film's credits and there's both a "Dagmar Heidrich" and a "Nara Heidrich" listed.

Afterward, Dagmar ended up in Europe working as a "foto-modell" using the name Mara Hädrich. While I was not able to pin down any Vogue or Cosmo assignments, I did find a number of professionally-shot nude photos of her. The next Dagmar film sighting was in the Austrian / German drama Sie nannten ihn Krambambuli. Though she was featured and named in numerous publicity photos released in November 1971, her name was nowhere to be found in the credits of the film itself when it was released in 1972. The actress became romantically linked to that film's star - Fritz Wepper (then known for the TV crime series Der Kommissar) - and ended up getting a little tabloid publicity at the same time, which apparently did very little to boost her career. She may have also appeared in a supporting role in the low budget French art film L'appel (1974). The Italian poster, using the new title Porno febbre del piacere, lists a "Mara Hendrich."

That makes Magdalena, vom Teufel besessen her one and only top-billed starring role in a film people have actually seen and she abruptly stopped acting soon after. As to why, that's another mystery in itself as this film gave her plenty of worldwide exposure (in more ways that one), was released basically everywhere in Europe, North and South America and Asia and probably raked in a small fortune. In April 1975, she even appeared in a nude pictorial in the German edition of Playboy titled "Des Teufels kesse Beute" ("The Devil's Sweet Prey"); a clear allusion to this film.

A cut, R-rated version appears to have first been released to U. S. theaters in 1976 under the new title Beyond the Darkness and reputedly played in some of our less-refined theaters and drive-ins for years after that. However, if there were any American VHS releases I'm unaware of them. In Canada, it played theatrically as The Devil's Female and was later released there under that same name on VHS on the CIC Video label. In the UK, this was theatrically released as just Magdalena and on an X-rated double bill with DERANGED (1974). The tagline was "...was she possessed by the Devil or by sex?" I'd say sex. Definitely sex.

A lot of shady distributors, like Desert Island Media, Frolic Pictures, Apprehensive Films, Rogue Media and a number of others, then picked this up for DVD distribution, but most of the versions these outlets hawk aren't in very good shape and are cut. Some of these releases even falsely claim the film runs for 120 minutes when the actual running time is either 79 minutes (for the cut version) or 83 minutes (the uncut). A restored and uncensored English-language version was then put out by a number of other labels. In 2007, it (under the title Magdalena, Possessed by the Devil!) was paired with the American blaxploitation possession film Abby (1974) for the Substance DVD release. A Blu-ray using the title The Devil's Female was released in 2021 by Dark Force Entertainment.

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