Italy, 1974, 112 minutes, Colour.
Carla Gravina, Arthur Kennedy, Mel Ferrer, George Colouris, Alida Valli, Anita Strindberg, Umberto Orsini.
Directed by Albert de Martino.
The Antichrist is one of the first films made after the release of The Exorcist, a derivative of The Exorcist only more sensationalised. As with the westerns, the Italians took the American themes and magnified them, giving them a Mediterranean hypermelodrama. This is the first of the spaghetti horror films, so to speak.
The focus is on a young woman, affected by the death of her mother. She is wheelchair-bound. After working with a psychologist, she regresses into the past, discovering that she was a witch during the Inquisition – and this leads to more than witchlike behaviour as she starts to seduce men in order to kill them. It is decided, of course, that an exorcism is necessary.
Carla Gravina does give a solid performance as the young woman in the wheelchair, giving some gravity to an otherwise sensationalised story. As was to happen with many of these films (like Beyond the Door with Richard Johnson and Juliet Mills, House of Exorcism with Telly Savalas and Elke Sommer), there are some American actors in the cast with Mel Ferrer as the psychiatrist and Arthur Kennedy as the bishop. George Coulouris appears as a priest and there is a guest performance by Alida Valli.
Director Alberto de Simonis had made the 1967 film Operation Kid Brother, a parody of the James Bond films, starring Sean Connery’s brother, Neil. He made a number of routine and genre films and also made Holocaust 2000, another post-Exorcist apocalyptic film with Kirk Douglas.
1. How impressive a film? In itself, in the tradition of 'The Exorcist' and the trend of the seventies? Was it an exploitation film?
2. Did the plot have any plausibility? Did it seem real, credible? What was the point in presenting this plot? Interest, entertainment message?
3. The importance of the prologue and the emphasis on Italian superstition? The fanaticism, the need for a cure, the association of superstition and traditional religion? How did this theme continue throughout the film? How well was it illustrated? The comment on superstition, on Catholicism?
4. The initial presentation of the Prince and his daughter? Their seeking for the cure? The attitude and atmosphere of guilt in the memory of the car crash? The memories and the flashbacks?
5. The atmosphere of the family: the Prince in himself, his personality, concern for his daughter? His relationship with Gretel and Ippolita and her resentment? Was this influential in her later possession by the Devil? Philip? The tensions within the family?
6. The character of the Bishop, his reaction to the superstition. his involvement in the possession. his scepticism, his explanation of traditional Catholic beliefs and history? How convincing? His reluctance to be involved in the exorcism? His involvement and fear?
7. The contribution of the psychiatrist the viewpoint of the modern sceptic, his delving into Ippolita's memory?
8. The dramatic importance of the flashbacks and the theme of ritual, magic and witchcraft? Ippolita as identified with the witch? The dramatic presentation of Ippolita in the past, acting out the past in the present? How credible was this? How did it indicate the themes of religion, superstition, devil possession?
9. How conventional were the visual presentations of diabolical possession? The physical effects, the flying objects, vomit, language, etc.? The seduction of Philip? The impact upon the rest of the family? On Ippolita herself?
10. The contribution of Irene and the seeking out of the faith healer, his impotence in the face of diabolical possession?
11. The actual exorcism and the mysterious presence of Father Mittner, in the past and in the present? How convincing was the ritual of exorcism?
12. The melodrama of Ippolita's impulse to suicide, the sequences in the Colosseum, the cross, the violence and the abating of the Devil's power? how credible was the ending? The emphasis on the antichrist and his birth?
13. Was this a religious film in any way? How convincing in its analysis and presentation of the occult and religion?