Newest Review: ... to fill in the blanks to work out the plot but again, that was probably down to the editing of the version I saw. What I did see, though,... more
It Happened At Nightmare Inn!
A Candle For The Devil (DVD)
Member Name: hogsflesh
A Candle For The Devil (DVD)
Advantages: Great incidental music
Disadvantages: Not scary, not sexy, not very interesting
A review of the Odeon Entertainment DVD, which is available for £6 on amazon.
This is a Spanish horror film from 1970. A small town in Spain has a sudden influx of British tourists, flocking to see its art museum. Two middle-aged, unmarried sisters run a guest-house. One is crazy religious, and takes exception to the scantily clad antics of some of the young tourists; her distaste soon boils over into murder. Their first victim's sister turns up looking for her, as is always the way in these things, and is not convinced when told that her sibling 'just left town'.
This isn't very good. It's the usual horror film formula: sexual repression + religious fervour = murdering hot young chicks. But it's been done before many times, and considerably better than it is here. It's perhaps interesting to see a Spanish perspective on the increasing popularity of Spain as a holiday destination - more and more Brits were travelling to what was still a very traditional country ruled by fascist dictatorship. But unfortunately this aspect of things isn't prominent enough to be anything more than a possible subtext (it might explain the dramatically unsatisfying ending, though).
The notional star is Judy Geeson, a pretty British actress notable for her later appearance in the lurid Alien knock-off Inseminoid. She's pretty good, although a bit too posh. The rest of the cast are Spanish and not familiar to me. As ever, their dialogue is dubbed into English, so it's difficult to judge their performances. They don't seem terribly animated, though; even the crazier of the two sisters is quite sedate.
There isn't much to praise here. There's one reasonably effective, Hitchockian suspense sequence, but I didn't care enough about the characters involved to be worried for them. Some of the sound effects are absurdly amplified in an almost-expressionistic way, although whether that's how they were intended is less certain. Otherwise there isn't a lot of originality or flair in the direction. Amusingly, whenever we see close-ups of the art in the museum, we always see bits of really famous Renaissance paintings that certainly aren't kept in a small Spanish town.
The music is probably the best thing (as is so often the case). Some great, blaring Spanish-style trumpet music is backed by funky bass throbs, the whole thing occasionally taking flight into insane lounge heights of unrestrained 'la la la-ing', or crashing mock-religious organ. This is another one I'd quite happily buy a soundtrack album for if it were available.
There's quite a bit of nudity, including a few flashes of female pubic hair (quite a surprise for a Spanish film of its era). There are a few flashes of male nudity, too (the crazier sister has a scene where she gets to spy on some boys bathing, hammering home a point we'd all figured out already). Oddly, the middle-aged spinsters have more topless shots than the young lovelies they victimise. This isn't a bad thing, it's just a surprise. Exploitation films usually revel in pert, youthful nudity, with the more mature lady rarely getting a look in.
What really dooms this, at least for me, is that after a while I started to see it as a Carry On film, but with blood and murder instead of comedy. There are plenty of shots of befuddled or randy locals eyeing up the latest bit of crumpet staying at the hotel (amusingly, as soon as one popsy dies, another arrives immediately). Amid shots of people cycling into walls because of distractingly buxom women, you half expect to see Bernard Breslaw going 'corrr', and the sisters could easily be Hattie Jacques and Joan Sims.
The plot is bad, the acting is nothing special, it isn't scary, it isn't particularly well made... it really isn't very good at all. I'm a bit puzzled by its 18 rating - there's no strong gore in it. It might be because there's a scene where someone's naked breasts get blood on them - that always flusters the delicate souls at the BBFC. I have no idea why it's called Candles for the Devil, I don't remember seeing any candles at all. The director, Eugenio Martin, later made the cult favourite Horror Express.
The picture quality on the DVD is poor, with quite a lot of damage to the print. The only extras are an image gallery (which has some of the film's best music playing in the background) and some trailers for other films. These are all other old horrors, some of which might be worth looking at. It includes a lot of Herschell Gordon Lewis trailers (all of which have the Something Weird Video watermark, I'm not sure why). The Blood Feast trailer alone is considerably more fun than the whole of Candles for the Devil. Oh, and there's a really annoying typo in the DVD blurb.
All in all, not recommended.
Summary: A disappointing Spanish horror from 1970