Film Reviews

The Antichrist (1974) – Blu-ray Review

The Antichrist (not to be confused with Lars von Trier’s Antichrist from 2009) is the creation of writer/director Alberto De Martino (100.000 dollari per Ringo) and writers Gianfranco Clerici (Cannibal Holocaust) and Vincenzo Mannino (The New York Ripper).

Released in 1974, it tells the story of Ippolita Oderisi (Carla Gravina), a young woman who became paralysed as a child, following the car crash that also killed her mother. She lives with her father, Massimo (Mel Ferrer), and her brother, Filippo (Remo Girone). Her father has recently taken a new lover, Greta (Anita Strindberg), and Ippolita harbours resentment towards Greta and her father, both because Greta is taking the place of her mother, and because Ippolita herself is unable to have any sort of sexual relationship.

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Following a failed attempt to ask a statue of the Virgin Mary to bless her and restore her ability to walk, Ippolita is referred to a psychiatrist who claims he can help her to walk again by using a memory regression technique. But oops, as so often seem so to happen in these situations, he regresses Ippolita back to her former life, when it turns out she pledged herself to Satan, opening her up in the present day to demonic possession, as Satan decides to have another try at bringing the Antichrist into the real world.

© 1974 Capitolina Produzioni Cinematografiche.

It’s not a bad set up, as these things go, and the actors really do commit to their parts, especially Carla in her portrayal of Ippolita. She foams at the mouth, she howls obscenities, she spits and bites and hawks up pea-green vomit. She absolutely gives it her all. But she’s let down by a plodding script that, while being very faithful in its replication of the process of an exorcism, takes far too long to really get anywhere. There’s a lot of “oh, it can’t really be anything bad” or “she’s just overwrought” and it’s not until she literally starts foaming at the mouth and sending plates and furniture flying around that people seem to take the whole thing seriously.

At 1hr 51mins, this film is slightly shorter than Friedkin’s seminal The Exorcist, but it feels so much longer. That’s not to say it doesn’t have any redeeming features, as it does have some great moments. Ippolita’s seduction of the boy from the tour group has a real air of tension and unease to it. The scene where she re-enacts the events from her past life really has the actress giving it her all as she pantomimes performing oral sex on a goat. Yes, that’s a scene that’s in this film and she absolutely commits to it to the point it’s really quite unsettling to watch.

© 1974 Capitolina Produzioni Cinematografiche.

There’s some lovely little touches with the practical effects as well. In the previous scene involving the goat, in the past life the leader of the coven is leaning over, getting ready to have sex with her, and in the present day you see her mattress indented where his arms and knees would be. It’s a nice little effect, showing the audience that past events are very definitely having a present day impact. Sadly the rest of the effects are a very mixed bag, with the less said about the uses of bluescreen the better. This is always a problem when old films like this are restored and transferred to pin-sharp high-def. It shows up every weakness in the old effects.

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Coming to us on Studiocanal‘s Cult Classics label, the Blu-ray comes with a set of art cards that show scenes from the film. There’s no poster or book of essays, and the special features are kind of thin on the ground. There are two featurettes: ‘Sacred and Profane: The Audio Recollections of Alberto De Martino’, an audio interview with the director which is well worth a listen, featuring some interesting background information about the film and what happened when it was released; and ‘Raising Hell: Featuring Alberto De Martino and Ennio Morricone’, which looks at the making of the film and the accompanying soundtrack. There’s an audio commentary track with Australian critics Lee Gambin and Sally Christie which is decent enough, but not a must-listen. There’s also the opening credits for The Tempter, which seems to be an alternate name for the film, a TV spot, and that’s your lot.

The Antichrist is an interesting little addition to the extensive subgenre of satanic/exorcism films and it certainly looks good in this new Blu-ray transfer, but perhaps only one for hardcore genre fans only.

The Antichrist is out on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital on 11th September from Studiocanal.

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