Diane’s Date with a Devilish Destiny…
After her mother’s death, a young woman finds out she’s now the Princess of Darkness. As you do, if your dad is the devil.
A father returns to claim his 21 year old daughter, in an early 1970s horror TV Movie named The Devils Daughter (1973). The film starring Shelley Winters, Joseph Cotten, Robert Foxworth and Belinda J Montgomery. These acting names already proving this film is already a better than average TV Movie. So get a cushion, to hide behind when – and if – you need to and I’ll tell you more…
A woman Alice (Diane Ladd) is praying in church. She’s crying and a kindly priest comforts her. On returning home, she’s confronted by two sinister heavies who demand that she settle her debt. A third man joins them, after we hear his footsteps at the door. We only see his feet and we learn that he’s on crutches, but that’s all we see of him. His booming voice tells this woman that he’s stayed away for 21 years and he now wants to reclaim what’s his… his daughter. Alice shoots him, but somehow is shot dead herself… with this same bullet.
After the James Bond type silhouette themed blood red credits, the film starts at the woman’s funeral, where her young daughter Diane (Belinda J Montgomery) is mourning her. Diane seems on first instincts and appearances as quite sweet, naive and unworldy. With it later revealed that she didn’t know her mother that well, and only knew her as being quite religious. Diane tells how she had a sheltered life and brought up in a series of convents, and she now wants to settle down and get a job.
Lilith Malone (Shelley Winters) turns up after the funeral service in her Rolls Royce, driven by Mr. Howard (Jonathan Frid) her mute (but highly expressive) driver. In her friendly way, Lilith convinces Diane that she grew up with her mother and they were good pals. Lilith insists Diane join her for lunchand Diane joins her. We learn Lilith hasn’t seen Diane since she was a baby, and Lilith that didn’t come to the religious bit of the funeral as it not her thing (but Lilith adds nonchalantly, that Diane’s mother would understand her reasons).
Lilith, appears an apparently well meaning woman and she invites Diane to move in with her until her mother’s estate is settled by the local judge. Lilth seems very keen she accepts this offer, even telling that her mother would have wanted this so Diane accepts her offer. Lilith introduces Diane to her neighbours, the Poole sisters. The Poole sisters are two sinister ladies who dress the same way and they also claim to have known Daine’s mother. Diane finds the sisters a wee bit odd, she talks about it with Lilith who ignores her concerns.
Lilith gives Diane a ring that belonged to Diane’s mother, which has a cross type symbol on it. The same symbol eerily also seen in a portrait that Lilith owns – of a man who resembles the Devil (but this fact appears to go over Diane’s wee head) – and the symbol is seen on Lilith’s cigarettes. Diane (instead) asks Lilith about this symbol but she is rattled briefly then tells its a quite common symbol for that part of the world.
Diane starts to have nightmares and after overhearing Lilith lose her temper with her driver, she’s a wee bit perturbed by this. Diane accidentally opens a secret desk and learns that Lilith has photograph album (with the same spooky symbol on it) with pictures of Diane as a baby, a child and as she grew up to the present day. There’s also a picture of her mother with her friends in this book…
The priest suggests to Diane she moves in with someone her own age and finds a man (!). On hearing Diane wants to move out, this news immediately riles Lilith who totally loses her rag with her house guest. Lilith apologises, saying she thinks of Diane as her own daughter as she never had kids. However, as she watches Diane leave for her new home, it’s clear Lilith’s not a happy woman. But Diane promises to return later that week for a get together with her mother’s friends that Lilith has organised.
Diane then shares an apartment with a kindergarten teacher, Susan (Barbara Sammeth) who loves horses. One day, Diane waits for her to finish work and she watches a child walk into a busy road. The child almost gets run over, but Diane saves him in the nick of time. She tells Susan that she had been thinking about this near accident before it happened. On meeting Susan’s horse, it rears up in fear. These two freak near accidents frighten Diane. Lilith visits Diane and her new flat mate and is more than a wee bit interested in Susan’s horse riding hobby and Lilith’s increasingly overbearing behaviour during a visits, upset Diane even more.
Diane goes to Lilith’s party and during this she is invited (as guest of honour) to take part in a dance organised by a ṕarty guest. During the dance, we discover that Lilith and her mothers old friends are part of a devil worshipping group, as they start to chant about Diane’s true identity. As Diane is hypnotically lost in the dance rhythm, through their chanting we learn Diane’s the Princess of Darkness.
Diane is told she is destined to marry the Demon of Endor, aka the man with the golden eyes. It’s revealed that Diane’s mother left this group, and found religion. However she was allowed to leave by Diane’s father, who is the Devil, on provision that he could reclaim Diane at 21. All of this news of her parentage and Lilith’s, naturally freaks Diane out, and she talks over her fears with the kindly supportive judge (Joseph Cotten) who is settling her mother’s estate. Susan goes on a date with a new neighbour Steve Stone (Robert Foxworth) – a man who literally bumped into Diane earlier – then during their date, he phones telling Diane, Susan’s died in freak accident with her horse.
Diane then spends more time with Steve and they fall in love, and she meets his mother (Martha Scott). This romance seen in a sappy montage and later in a proposal of marriage. which Diane accepts. She hopes to get away from the controlling Lilith and her friends. This with her new life, the love of her life, and her sweet mother-in-law. Diane, although she has accepted her father is the devil, has decided to have nothing to do with him. She asks the judge to give her away at the wedding, but he calls to say he’s been involved in an accident. So Diane confronts Lilith…
I did enjoy Szwarc’s direction of this film, with his use of camera shots showing the plot and actions, as seen in mirrors and through windows. These creative tactics reminding me of their use in his later film, Somewhere in Time (1980). In The Devil’s Daughter, however these shots added to the eerieness and were quite unsettling at times. Other times where others character’s reactions to on screen circumstances were seen in these ways, these shots added to the then chilling untold story.
The early script and plot often hinting at the darker story with a hint of humour in those early scenes, written by Colin Higgins reminded me of black comedy moments in his film script, Harold and Maude (1971). I also loved his multi-layered script, with some of the lines and characters appearing innocent but then later believed to have more sinister undertones. The script dropping clues and the symbolic props seen at Lilith’s home in early scenes setting up the later scenes of horror. It was also a nice distraction as this plot switched from a horror film to a romantic storyline complete with a by the numbers (or tongue in cheek) montage. Before these contrived scenes led to more chilling moments.
The accompanying soundtrack is just as sinister and eerie, chilling side with lots of ominous drum beats as required. This music designed to scare adds to the atmosphere during the more chillingly dramatic moments of the film. However the romantic montage and its accompanying music almost lulls you into believing its turning into a different movie.
The film was wonderfully cast and Shelley Winters gave it her all as Lilith. Like Diane, at the start you believed this well meaning woman had all but good intentions for Diane. Winters however added a subtle subtext to her actions and in her script performance in those scenes leading up to the get together. Lilith’s neighbours the Pools, her friends and those henchmen present at the start also added to the unease. Later, as more of the tale revealed I even questioned the role of that kindly priest.
Once the true nature of Lilith’s role in ensuring Diane’s destiny fulfilled, Winters role is seen as more strong, controlling and manipulative. This as we see her character reveal more of her true nature in later scenes. When she loses her temper I believe it’s as she feels she has lost control of Diane’s character. Later on Lilith’s visit to Sandra and Diane’s flat and her questioning, this scene raises your paranoia of her motives. When we learn she’s part of a cult who follows the devil, her dominating and overbearing character in this film, established as a true villainess. Winters showing these sides to her character easily, subtly and in full force as demanded by the script.
Belinda J Montgomery, also seemed a good casting choice with Diane seemingly a sweet character and quite meek. However I was happy to note, that she appeared more stronger at times. Joseph Cotten as the judge appeared a parental figure for Diane, his support was much needed after the stifling control from Lilith.
Foxworth, as Diane’s charming romantic interest also seemed to have Diane’s best interests at heart. Even if it was a bit creepy that the couple got together so soon after Susan’s death. These romantic moments leading directly to the final scenes of the movie seemed a wee bit rushed where it didn’t need to. But if you’ve 75 minutes to kill, and want a sinister 1970s horror to watch, I’m sure this TV Movie with a delightfully devilish Shelley Winters one hell of a choice. If only to cotton on just who it was as the third man in those beginning scenes, and the devil in disguise.
Weeper Rating: 😦 😦/10
Handsqueeze Rating: /10
Hulk Rating: /10
Bonus Trailer: No
The Shelley Winters Blogathon 2019
This post was added to this blogathon run by myself and Erica from The Poppity Talks Classic Film. Other film and TV Reviews with this cast on this blog include Shelley Winters in The Love Boat, Hotel, SOB, Batman, He Ran All the Way and The Poseidon Adventure. Robert Foxworth in Airport 77 , Murder She Wrote, Columbo and Damien : Omen II. Belinda J Montgomery in Magnum PI, Dynasty andThe Man from Atlantis. Joseph Cotten also starred in Airport 77 and in an episode HERE of The Love Boat and HERE of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Martha Scott appears in Dallas and those Airport movies.