One of the seemingly endless chain of rip offs of The Exorcist that were churned out during the mid-seventies, 1975's The Devil Within Her (renamed by AIP for American release - the original UK title was I Don't Want To Be Born) stars Joan Collins as a woman named Lisa who gives birth to a big, strong baby boy that she and her Italian husband, Gino (played by Ralph Bates), name Nicholas. Everything seems fine at first, though Dr. Finch (Donald Pleasance) notes that he's one of the biggest babies he's ever seen - but erratic behavior soon becomes the order of the day as the infant scratches his mother across the face when she tries to hold him.
Our loving couple take their baby home and soon his strange behavior becomes more frequent. They hire a babysitter for him (Janet Key) but before you know it, young Nicholas has punched her so hard she's fallen into a nearby river and died! The cops, of course, figure it had to have been an accident - but Lisa starts wondering if there isn't something more to it. Soon enough, Gino's sister, a nun named Albana (Eileen Atkins) comes to visit and, after a talk with Dr. Finch, starts to wonder if maybe Lisa is right and the child is possessed. Lisa, on the other hand, is doing damage control. You see, as Lisa tells her friend (Caroline Munro), she had sex with the guy (John Steiner) who ran the strip club she used to work at the night before she married Gino, and as Finch wants to do some testing on the baby's genetic make-up, she needs to make sure that there's nothing in his family bloodline to be concerned about. She's also concerned about a curse put on her by a dwarf who worked at the strip club named Hercules (George Claydon)!
Hand's down one of the goofiest British horror films of the seventies (and that's saying something!), The Devil Within Her mixes up plenty of exploitative elements and makes for a pretty awesome time at the (bad) movies. Not only do we get a killer baby who manages to kill off various people in increasingly gruesome ways but we get some mild gore, a good bit of topless and full frontal nudity (some mild nudity comes courtesy of Collins, the rest from the strippers at the club), a killer midget, a gratuitous Donald Pleasance bit part and an exorcism. Truly one of those movies that really does have it all, the film goes by at a good pace, never spending too much time on character development or logical plot points before bombarding us with the next murder set pieces or creepy baby attack meaning that, if the movie doesn't always make a whole lot of sense it does at least always hold our attention.
Director Sasdy, best known for his Hammer horror output like Taste The Blood Of Dracula, infuses just enough style into the film that it has a certain slickness to it, though as so much of this comes from the screwy seventies fashions and furnishings that it's hard to say how much of the credit for that he deserves. Regardless, the movie looks cool and everyone who appears in it is dressed to the nines, the ladies in particular. Collins' wardrobe is always flashy and Munro looks as stunning as she always does here in her knee high boots and fancy fur coat strutting through the streets of London. Collins is decent enough in the lead but the scene stealers are Pleasance and Atkins, the later playing her Italian nun with one of the most unusual 'Italian' accents you're ever likely to hear in a movie. Ralph Bates is far more convincing as her Italian brother and doesn't mangle the accent so much - he's also quite likable in his role as the concerned husband and father.
Ultimately it's hard not to see the movie as a cash-in on the success of Rosemary's Baby and The Exorcist, two films that obviously function incredibly well as 'serious' horror movies - but The Devil Within Her throws in so much lunacy and is put together in such a bizarre and haphazard manner that it never comes close to the success of those aforementioned movies. It does, however, work incredibly well as a silly, trashy, nonsensical popcorn movie and fans of such movies will definitely get a huge kick out of it.
Note: This review is based on a test disc that may or may not represent finished retail product.
The Devil Within Her looks pretty good in this 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen presentation. While the image is frequently grainy there aren't really any actual print damage problems to complain about, just a minor speck here and there. Colors generally fare quite well and skin tones look lifelike and accurate. There are no problems with mpeg compression artifacts or heavy edge enhancement and all in all, the transfer holds up very well.
The English language Dolby Digital Mono mix that's on this disc is also fine, delivering the movie with clear dialogue and properly balanced levels and devoid of any hiss or distortion. There are no alternate language options or subtitles provided.
As this is a Katarina's Nightmare Theater release you have the option to watch the movie on its own or with some amusing intro/outro footage featuring former WWE Diva and current TNA Knockout Katarina Leigh Waters who starts the disc off with an amusing skit before giving us some welcome trivia about the movie. There's also a fifteen minute interview here with John Steiner who speaks about his work on this picture, his thoughts on co-star Joan Collins and about some of the Italian films he would wind up becoming rather well known for. A trailer for the feature, trailers for a few other Scorpion releases, and some animated menus round out the extras.
The Devil Within Her is awesome. If the idea of Joan Collins taking on an evil baby that may or may not be possessed by either the devil or an evil midget appeals to you, and you dig strippers, weird seventies fashions and exorcisms, well, this is the movie you, like so many others, have been waiting for. Fans of screwy seventies horror movies will eat this one right up and Scorpion have done a very nice job with the presentation. Highly recommended for fans of psychotronic cinema and bizarre seventies horror films.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.