Or Tales of the Expected (Part Two)… This film has atmosphere aplenty but not so much tension or indeed mystery; the premise reveals itself quite early on and as you wait for supernatural twists and turns or a resolving hero it still carries on its course.
There is a top notch cast – legends in fact: Niven and Kerr – along with eye-catching new-comers such as David Hemmings and the simply-stunning Sharon Tate and all perform well. J. Lee Thompson directs with assurance and the cinematography from Erwin Hillier makes the most of some lovely locations, most notably the Château de Hautefort. But the whole is slightly less than the sum of these fascinating parts.
|Sharon and some friends...|
This might be the result of numerous changes in personnel during production: Kim Novak either injured herself in a riding accident or fell out with the producers and was replaced by Deborah Kerr whilst a number of directors came and went and Terry Southern was brought in (uncredited) to add zip to the screenplay. The result is not so much uneven as just a bit flat. But… if you like black and white forebodings, a touch of the pagan, beautiful blondes and Donald Pleasence… then you won’t be wasting your time.
|David Niven and Deborah Kerr|
Where Phillipe a Lancastrian cotton merchant there might be trouble at mill but right now he has malady du vin as poor crops have led to a collapse in his yield and the community based around his family seat is struggling. A man arrives asking him to return immediately: he is the only one who can save the situation.
His wife is confused wondering how much he can do – one man balanced against the combined forces of the weather and the soil. But you wonder how well she knows her man as his home isn’t exactly “normal”…
|The de Caray's watch and take aim...|
|David Hemmings swings|
His sister Odile (Sharon Tate) has other, more sinister weapons at her disposal and charms the children with her frog to dove conversion whilst encouraging them to walk on the edge of the roof. Christine sees this and rushes to intervene but is overcome with what can only be seen as Odile appears to freeze her in her tracks and then, through auto-suggestion, move her closer to the edge.
|It's a long way down isn't it?|
At night Christine sees men arriving on horseback and following them encounters her husband who says he’s heard and seen nothing. Later she spies a ritual in the Chateau’s chapel; it’s clearly not Christian…
|Watching and waiting|
|The people understand...|
|The ritual begins...|
Dusty verdict: Eye of the Devil is a well-made film and looks superb even in black and white. It’s worth a watch with top-notch performances from Kerr, Niven, Pleasence and Robson but don’t expect to be haunted… except by the stunning Sharon.