The Devil Within (1975), aka I Don’t Want to be Born, aka Sharon’s Baby, aka The Monster, is one of those movies that I didn’t find to be as bad as its reputation. However, that doesn’t mean it deserves a glowing endorsement. While it plays like a twisted sequel to Rosemary’s Baby (1968) and a pale imitation of The Exorcist (1973), it also foreshadows The Omen (1976) with some of its ideas.
The film’s greatest violation is the waste of a terrific cast. Ralph Bates drifts in and out of an awful Italian accent. I don’t know what accent Eileen Atkins is trying to use. Donald Pleasence is so low key as to be numb. Caroline Munro is wasted in a bit part. The cast also features Joan Collins, whom I don’t include in the “terrific” group, although for the level of her acting talent, she actually seems like she belongs.
The movie opens with Lucy Carlesi (Collins) going through a difficult childbirth. Dr. Finch (Pleasence) whispers, “This one doesn’t want to be born,” then pries it out of her with primitive looking medical tools. Before Lucy’s husband, Gino (Bates) even meets his son, the baby, named Nicholas, has scratched his mother’s face and lies at the bottom of the bed with blood on his cheek and fingernails.
It’s a big, strong baby, we’re told repeatedly. After arriving at home, his parents sometimes find his room “wrecked.” Maybe Nicholas has epilepsy, but he’s too young to diagnose. Dr. Finch’s best explanation for his odd behavior is a congenital birth defect. This gets Lucy to thinking... since she slept with her boss, Tommy Morris (John Steiner), the night before her wedding, and had the baby nine months later, maybe Gino isn’t the father.
Worrying that she doesn’t know much about Tommy’s family tree, she glosses over the fact that she was fondled by Hercules (George Claydon), a sinister little person from the show in which she performed as an exotic dancer, and he cursed her when she spurned him. This is never explained and is perhaps the reason the script for The Devil Within is considered nonsensical. The way the movie ends, perhaps Hercules is himself possessed by the devil.
There’s no backstory for him or explanation for how he was able to cause Gino and Lucy’s baby to be so darned ornery. He’s connected to it in some way, but what does that have to do with Tommy and Lucy having sex the night before her wedding? One of Lucy’s subsequent horrors is that Hercules’s face appears over Nicholas’s when bad things are happening. It may even be Hercules that pushes his nurse into a stream and punches Tommy in the face.
Yeah, it’s pretty silly, I guess. It’s not even filmed in a way that makes it eerie or dreamlike, which can sometimes suggest that things aren’t really happening and that they’re just imagined. Director Peter Sasdy did better work for Hammer with Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970) and Hands of the Ripper (1971.) Then again, he also made Countess Dracula (1971) and Nothing But the Night (1973) the one film for Christopher Lee’s Charlemagne Productions.
As I reflect, I guess The Devil Within Her deserves its 4.1 rating on IMDb. I usually give an average film five stars. This is below average, but not so bad to be rated a one, two, or three. Therefore, four stars is actually perfect for it. Some viewers have warmed to it for its camp factor, but I find it simply more odd than campy. If it were actually more over the top, it might have been better.
Written by Stanley Price
From the original story by Nato De Angeles
Directed by Peter Sasdy
Starring Joan Collins, Eileen Atkins, Ralph Bates, Donald Pleasence, Caroline Munro, Hilary Mason, John Steiner
RT 95 min.
Released June 1, 1975 (UK)
Home Video Scorpion Releasing (Blu-ray)