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Eye of the Devil is a 1966 horror film directed by J. Lee Thompson, starring Deborah Kerr, David Niven, Donald Pleasence, Sharon Tate, and David Hemmings.

Philippe de Montfaucon (Niven), a French nobleman, receives an ominous message from a creepy bearded messenger, and tells his wife Catherine (Kerr) that he must leave for the family estate of Bellenac, a vineyard out in the country. Catherine at first lets him go, but changes her mind and goes after him later, toting along their children Jacques and Antoinette. She finds a thoroughly creepy town with thoroughly creepy people who all look at her oddly. The Montfaucon mansion is a creepy old castle. Odile and Christian de Caray, two super-creepy siblings (Tate and Hemmings) roam the grounds of the mansion, shooting doves out of the sky. A creepy Obviously Evil priest (Pleasence) knows a lot more than he is telling. And on her first night in the mansion, Catherine stumbles on a creepy ceremony in which the de Carays present one of their dead doves to a mysterious group of people in black cloaks.

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Basically, it's creepy.

Film debut of Tate, released three years before she was murdered by the Manson Family.


Tropes:

  • And Starring: Tate gets an "And Introducing" credit after all the other actors are credited.
  • Bald of Evil: As so often in his career, Pleasence plays a weird evil bald guy.
  • Black Cloak: How the cultists dress for their ceremonies, like whatever was going on with the dead dove, or the ritual sacrifice of Phillipe at the end.
  • The Cavalry Arrives Late: Not that it's clear what she would have done anyway, but Catherine arrives just in time to see Phillipe take an arrow from Christian.
  • The Chains of Commanding: It's nice to be a count with a large estate and a whole town to work it for you, but it's less nice when you are obligated to come back home to be ritually murdered.
  • Chiaroscuro: It's a black and white film, and the vast empty spaces of Castle Bellenac are artfully lit, filling the place with spooky shadows.
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  • Contralto of Danger: Odile is one of the main villains and speaks in a very low, menacing voice. Sharon Tate even took extensive voice lessons to make her voice deeper to fit the character.
  • Cult: The entire town is a pagan cult masquerading as a normal French Catholic village.
  • Disturbed Doves: A flock of doves flies away when Catherine drives into the courtyard of the castle. The doves get more disturbed when Christian shoots one out of the air.
  • Downer Ending: Phillipe dies in a pagan human sacrifice ritual. And little Jacques has bought into the religion and will continue the tradition.
  • Dream Sequence: Catherine has a nightmare of all the scary things she's seen in and around the castle.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: It's revealed that Pere Dominic and other followers don't want to kill Catherine, simply to frighten her enough to leave so the ceremony can be conducted. He gets extremely angry with Odile when she tries to kill Catherine solely for her own amusement.
  • Everybody Lives: Other than Phillipe, whose fate was sealed pretty much from the start and who went to his death completely willingly, every major character is still alive at the end of the film.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Phillipe knows exactly what is expected of him and fully accepts his fate from the start and goes without any resistance.
  • Face of an Angel, Mind of a Demon: Odile is played by the stunningly beautiful Sharon Tate and is a witch who is not afraid to use her magic for wicked ends.
  • Fake Shemp: Inverted. Some long shots of Kim Novak were still used after she was replaced.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Odile is very charismatic and always has a polite tone and extremely creepy and sadistic.
  • A Fête Worse Than Death: "Le treize jour,", in English "the thirteen days", supposedly the town fair but actually the rite for the human sacrifice.
  • For Doom the Bell Tolls: The chiming bells of the "le treize jour" parade come off as scary in context.
  • Foreshadowing: Catherine mentions that on her one previous visit to Bellenac, it struck her as "someplace out of the middle ages." She's quite right.
  • Gray Rain of Depression: It's pouring rain as Catherine takes her children away after failing to save Phillipe.
  • Hot Witch: Besides being a pagan, Odile can do some magic, like when she causes a toad to appear and then changes the toad into a dove. She is also played by Sharon Tate, crammed into some tight black dresses.
  • Human Sacrifice: The men of the de Montfaucon family, going back for centuries, are occasionally sacrificed in a fertility rite, when the crops are failing. Phillipe is called back home to be sacrificed because the vineyard is failing after three years of drought. Unlike many examples of this trope, he is fully aware of this from the start and goes to his fate completely voluntarily, never even trying to run away.
  • Hypnotic Eyes: Odile has these, as seen when she hypnotizes Catherine with her stare and nearly gets Catherine to kill herself.
  • Impairment Shot: Catherine's vision goes blurry when Odile is hypnotizing her, with a view to make her take a fatal step off a high wall. They're interrupted just in time.
  • Kick the Dog: Odile hypnotizes Catherine and tries to get her to walk off the roof of the church for no other reason than sheer sadism.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: The very very ominous mass conducted by Pere Dominic. Turns out it's a pagan ritual.
  • Psychic-Assisted Suicide: Odile tries to do this to Catherine solely for for own amusement and nearly succeeds.
  • Religion of Evil: A cult of pagans who conduct ritual human sacrifice surely qualifies.
  • Religious Horror: A local pagan cult, which has taken on much of the iconography and symbolism of the Catholic Church, including black masses that look a lot like the regular Mass, and the use of crosses and Christian symbolism for their human sacrifice.
  • Sinister Minister: The unblinking, ominous Pere Dominic, who speaks in a spooky monotone and is bald Donald Pleasance, so therefore Obviously Evil. Turns out he's not a Catholic priest, he's a pagan priest.
  • Secret Circle of Secrets: The coven of pagans, which dons the standard black robes when conducting occult rites.
  • Sleepwalking: Jacques is apparently prone to this, as seen when he wanders out of his bedroom and starts talking about how he wants to take a motorcar to see his dad, while still asleep.
  • Spiritual Successor: It has one in The Wicker Man (1973), another British Horror film about a small community with a dark secret, whose leads are constantly put off by the creepy behavior they encounter.
  • The Straight and Arrow Path: Philippe is ritually sacrificed with an arrow to the heart.
  • A Taste of the Lash: In a fairly obvious appeal to Fetish, Phillipe whips Odile after Odile tries to kill Catherine.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: The village is full of pagans who occasionally conduct human sacrifices.
  • Translation Convention: A film set in France with a cast speaking English. Makes for a couple of odd moments, like when Catherine finds a carved inscription written in French and reads it in English.
  • Unbuilt Trope: It preceded The Wicker Man (1973) and other films in that vein but avoids many of the conventions of the Town with a Dark Secret genre. Most notably, Philippe, rather than being an unwitting outsider, is a lifelong and full fledged member of the religion, is fully aware of the town's secret and what is expected of him and never tries to run away, meeting his eventual fate without resistance and seeing it as a necessary part of his faith, and the focus is mostly on Catherine and her encounters with the townspeople. And the creepy behavior she encounters is deliberately over the top, a way to frighten her enough to leave so she won't interfere with the sacrifice. And despite some close calls, Catherine and her children both survive and it's made clear Pere Dominic never wanted to hurt them either, albeit with the implication that her son Jacques is being groomed take over Philippe's role in the pagan religion.

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