The Devil's Nightmare Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by Mondo Macabro
Directed by Jean Brismée
Written by Patrice Rhomm
1971, 95 minutes, Not Rated
Released on May 14th, 2019
Erika Blanc as Hilse Müller
Jean Servais as Baron von Rhoneberg
Jacques Monseau as Father Sorel
Lorenzo Terzon as Howard
Colette Emmanuelle as Nancy
Ivana Novak as Corrine
Shirley Corrigan as Regine
Our story opens in war-torn Berlin, 1945, with a woman in labor, her soldier husband looking on. She dies in childbirth, but he appears more upset that she has delivered a daughter when he clearly wanted a son. He dismisses the attendants and stabs the newborn baby to death with his bayonet. With this shocking intro out of the way, we jump ahead thirty years and find Baron von Rhoneberg, the former soldier in discussion, with a beautiful journalist. She asks to take photographs of his castle, but he refuses. She explores the grounds anyway and is met by an evil presence that chases her down. Her body is recovered bearing a burn on her arm that is said to be the mark of the Devil; the doctor says she died of fright. It is unclear at this point what these two scenes have to do with each other, but in time it will sort of make sense.
We join a group of seven tourists travelling by bus across the Belgian countryside. They come to a road closure and ask a creepy man for directions who in turn points them to von Rhoneberg’s castle for shelter and lodging. The driver thanks the stranger and heads out, arriving that night just before a large storm hits. A standoffish servant says they have been expected and shows them to their prepared rooms. Everyone gets settled in and meets the Baron in the drawing room, where the group gets more acquainted. Over dinner, talk shifts from alchemy to the family curse in which a twelfth-century ancestor made a deal with the Devil. In price, the first-born daughter is doomed to an existence as a succubus. With that set up out of the way, there is a knock at the door and the party is soon joined by a mysterious woman named Hilse Müller. She is beautiful and enticing, but she is also dangerous. It is quickly revealed that she is a succubus bent on destroying the gang.
Throughout the night, the woman appears to each of the travelers and seems to provide just what they need. For the gluttonous driver, she offers a huge meal. For the greedy tourist, she reveals a room filled with gold – and so on. Wishes are granted but come with a steep cost, as each victim represents one of the seven deadly sins. She makes quick work of most of the company but may face a worthy opponent in the young seminarian, Father Sorel, whose sin is less obvious. There are twisted revelations connecting the woman to the Baron’s curse and the priest must face off against the Devil himself in order to save the souls of his fallen companions. Everything builds to an exciting final act that pits good against evil in a clever match of wills.
The Devil’s Nightmare is an old dark house story set in a remote castle on a spooky, stormy night. The gothic setting lends a creepy atmosphere and sets the tone right away. Each character is developed just enough to expose their corresponding sin for which they shall be punished. Patrice Rhomm’s script moves at a steady pace, gradually building a sense of dread as it approaches the engaging finale. Director Jean Brismée makes a strong feature debut with this gothic tale that pits our heroes against both a ferocious succubus and in time, the Devil. The picture is light on suspense but Brismée knows how to deliver a murder set-piece. He also caters to audience expectations of the material and manages to work in a gratuitous lesbian sex scene before dinner.
Starring Erika Blanc (The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave) as the succubus, she delivers a knock-out performance that is both alluring and terrifying with minimal make-up application. She commands every minute of her generous screen time, seducing her victims before leading them to their deaths. Blanc is a prominent fixture in Euro-horror of the 1960s and ‘70s and her work here offers just a sample of her ample talent. The other name in the cast is Jean Servais (Rififi) as Baron von Rhoneberg, who serves as a reluctant antagonist. He has spent years trying to avoid the family curse, but once it catches up to him, he may not be prepared for the coming confrontation.
The Devil’s Nightmare meanders a bit before hitting its stride but builds to a satisfying conclusion. There’s a double twist ending that is a lot of fun, though audiences will likely see it coming. Blanc shines as a sexy monster with an agenda and the supporting cast does a fine job as well. The picture came out with a half-dozen titles, including La plus longue nuit du diable, Castle of Death, Nightmare of Terror and The Devil’s Longest Night, but has managed to build a dedicated following over the years. If this sounds like your kind of movie, I can easily recommend it for purchase, while casual viewers may want to give it a look first.
Video and Audio:
The disc opens with a disclaimer regarding limitations in image quality due to damage to the original camera negative. The picture looks fantastic with a few passing moments of chemical stains and some minor scratches. Presented in the 1.66:1 aspect ratio, colors are vibrant and black levels are solid with natural looking flesh tones appearing throughout.
A LPCM 1.0 mono mix is available in both English and French with optional English subtitles provided for anyone in need. There is a brief bit of damage to the audio but for the most part dialogue levels are clean and free from hiss or other distortion.
Film historian Troy Howarth provides a thoughtful and engaging audio commentary that is highly informative. Loaded with interesting trivia and facts about the production, he delivers his notes without lengthy gaps of silence or onscreen narration.
Director Jean Brismée is the subject of an all-new interview in which he discusses a wide range of topics regarding the history of the Belgian film scene. He talks about getting this project off the ground and shares a few insightful production stories. This segment is in French with English subtitles.
Independent filmmaker Roland Lethem shares his memories of film school in 1960s Belgium and moving on to make a series of movies before ending up on the set of The Devil’s Nightmare. This interview is conducted in English.
Robert Lombaerts served as the film’s assistant director and shares his memories of the production with a series of stories in this newly recorded interview (23 minutes) in French with English subtitles.
A pair of domestic trailers is paired with a UK trailer and a US TV spot.
A trailer reel (11 minutes) of additional titles available from Mondo Macabro has been included.
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