Eye of the Devil

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Eye of the Devil
Theatrical release poster
Directed by J. Lee Thompson
Screenplay by
Based onDay of the Arrow
1964 novel
by Philip Loraine
Produced by
Cinematography Erwin Hillier
Edited byErnest Walter
Music by Gary McFarland
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release dates
  • 18 November 1966 (1966-11-18)(Milan)
  • 31 March 1968 (1968-03-31)(United Kingdom)
Running time
96 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget$3 million [1]

Eye of the Devil, also known by its working title 13 [2] or Thirteen, [3] is a 1966 British mystery horror film directed by J. Lee Thompson and starring Deborah Kerr, David Niven, Donald Pleasence and Sharon Tate. Adapted from the 1964 novel Day of the Arrow by Philip Loraine, [3] the movie is set in rural France. It was shot at the Château de Hautefort and in England. [4] [ failed verification ] The film's plot concerns a family inheritance of an estate shrouded by a mysterious and highly ritualistic veil of secrets, and the investigation that follows in trying to uncover the meaning of these ominous peculiarities.


The film was not a commercial success upon release but is considered by some to have obtained a cult status of sorts. [5]


Title card from the film's trailer Eye of the Devil trailer title.jpg
Title card from the film's trailer

Philippe de Montfaucon, Marquis de Bellenac, [6] (David Niven) the hereditary owner of an ancient estate in Bordeaux whose vineyards have produced no fruit for three years, lives in Paris with his devoted wife Catherine and two young children, Jacques and Antoinette. He is abruptly summoned to Bellac, where a sinister priest (Donald Pleasence) gives him a strange amulet. After their son, Jacques, dreams that his father needs him, the Marquise (Deborah Kerr) takes their children to the chateau. When they arrive, archer Christian de Caray (David Hemmings) shoots a dove, which then falls at Catherine's feet. Upon questioning, Philippe's aunt Estelle observes that Christian is "a very wicked boy" and his sister Odile (Sharon Tate) is "no better". Estelle dismisses Catherine, telling her maid "This time, I can't be involved."

Late at night, Catherine discovers Odile and Christian ceremoniously carrying the impaled dove into a candlelit room where robed figures sit. They present the dove first to an altar whose cross resembles the amulet and then to the figure sitting at the head. The doors close in Catherine's face, and an old man warns her to take her children and never return.

Philippe is quick to dismiss Catherine's concerns—the valley is steeped in ancient superstition. He speaks of his family's 1000-year history in Bellenac and the grave responsibilities he thus has. His aunt tells him she would "rather die" than "say anything" to Catherine, and begs him to flee. Meanwhile, Odile enchants Jacques by changing a toad into a dove. Catherine is quick to pick up on the unusual fixation of Christian and Odile on her son, and grows increasingly disturbed by their increasing presence in his company.

A family friend, Jean-Claude, helps Catherine discover the Montfaucon history: twenty-two of the heads of the family have died in "mysterious circumstances", going back to the 1200s. Meanwhile, Philippe visits the blighted vineyards and returns to learn that Catherine has ridden out to the tomb of Edouard de Montfaucon. There she finds a carving matching a painting in the chateau and an inscription referring to twelve dancers. Emerging from the mausoleum, she is pursued by robed figures, faints, and revives in her bed. Philippe gives her a sedative and kisses her.

Emerging from and fleeing through a series of nightmares, Catherine finds herself locked inside the bedroom chamber; she is eventually able to break open the window shutter and signal to Estel, who sends her maid. Catherine wakes, and all is normal. The doctor tells her she was given belladonna, a hallucinogen. The community is celebrating "Les Trente Jours" (The Thirteen Days). People fill the church, where Père Dominic prays in Latin. Philippe kneels alone; Estelle and the children sit in the front pew. Philippe pauses when he sees Catherine, but the priest repeats "Procedamos in pace" (Proceed in peace). Outside, twelve robed figures form a circle in front of Philippe and sway from side to side. Philippe kisses Jacques; the crowd gasps. Philippe welcomes all to the Festival, paraphrasing Genesis 1:11: "Let the Earth bring forth vines, yielding fruit after its kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth, and the Word was God". Estelle screams.

In her room, for Jacques's sake, Estelle reveals to Catherine that her brother Alain, Philippe's father, did not die, but ran away, to escape. He now lives in the tower above. Upstairs, she recognizes Alain, who warned her. He explains: les treize jours/jouyeurs, the thirteen days/dancers, are the twelve apostles dancing around Christ, or in the case of the heretical town of Bellenac, a living god suitable for blood sacrifice. Père Dominic, a pagan, celebrates a Black Mass. When Philippe kissed Jacques, it showed that Philippe was doomed.

Elsewhere, Jacques watches the priest praying over his father. The priest brings Catherine to Philippe. Detached, he tells her it can't be stopped, that Philippe is dying for what he believes in, and that no one will believe her testimony of what she has uncovered. As Philippe rides away with the ritually-robed figures and Christian, Catherine manages to escape and pursue the group, though she is unable to save her husband; her efforts come in too little, too late, as Christian strikes down Philippe in the thick of the forest. Philippe's body is then ceremonially brought back through the vineyards and into the heart of Bellenac. Jacques watches.

Cut to torrential rain, Jean-Claude is seen reading a newspaper account of the "accident". As the family prepares to drive away, Jacques stops and insists that he retrieve his watch; inside, the priest is waiting for him, holding the amulet for Jacques, who kisses it and then returns to the car. In the final shot, the car is shown driving away from the chateau before the camera pans to Odile sitting outside in a windstorm, smiling enigmatically and knowingly.



Donald Pleasence in the trailer for the film Donald Pleasence in Eye of the Devil trailer 1.jpg
Donald Pleasence in the trailer for the film


In his New York Times column Criminals at Large, Anthony Boucher praised the 1964 novel Day of the Arrow, written by Robin Estridge under the pen name Philip Loraine. Boucher compared the book to the works of Daphne du Maurier, Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt, Norah Lofts and Evelyn Berckman, writing that it "tells very much the same kind of brooding, atmospheric story, in very much the same kind of setting (an ancestral castle in the Auvergne), but from a male viewpoint and with a mind working in a completely masculine manner. ... This is a setting for [a] highly civilized and aristocratic nightmare, as a young Scottish painter [lower-alpha 1] tries to identify the sinister forces that are taking control of his friend the Marquis. The answer will come as no surprise to anyone who has ever leafed through The Golden Bough , but its obviousness in no way diminishes its power. The book is as full of tantalizing and terror‐hinting symbols as a pack of tarot cards, and as oddly vivid in its invented folklore as Ngaio Marsh's Death of a Fool." [7]

Martin Ransohoff of Filmways, who had a multi-picture deal with MGM, bought the film rights to Day of the Arrow. [8]

Estridge adapted his own novel for the screen. Dennis Murphy shared credit for the screenplay. [9] Terry Southern did additional "tightening and brightening" of the script, uncredited. [10]

Kim Novak, who had signed a three-picture deal with Ransohoff in 1961, [11] was signed to play the lead, [12] with Niven co-starring.

Tate had been discovered by Ransohoff when she auditioned for Petticoat Junction . Impressed, he signed her to a seven-year contract. [13] She then spent months studying and playing small roles at Ransohoff's expense, such as a recurring role on The Beverly Hillbillies , before making her feature film debut in Eye of the Devil. [14] Said Ransohoff, "Everybody should make an effort to show a new face in every major picture". [15]

Sidney J. Furie, who had signed a three-picture deal with Ransohoff, was originally slated to direct Eye of the Devil. [16] In August 1965, shortly before filming was to begin, Furie was replaced by Michael Anderson. [17] Anderson fell ill, and was replaced, in turn, by J. Lee Thompson. [18]

Alex Sanders, an English occultist and Wiccan, was hired as a consultant to give the pagan rites some authenticity. [19]

The feature's title was changed from Day of the Arrow to 13 shortly before shooting started. [20]


Filming commenced on 13 September 1965.[ citation needed ] Shooting locations included the Château de Hautefort and the surrounding area, and MGM British Studios in Borehamwood, England.[ citation needed ]

In November, two weeks before filming was scheduled to conclude, Novak was thrown from a horse while performing in a key scene, and injured her back. The production shot around Novak while she recovered, filming scenes that did not require her. Novak returned to the set after two weeks, but was exhausted after only a day's work, and forced to take more time off. When the production was told that she would need another eight weeks to recover before returning to work, it was decided to replace her with Kerr, even though this meant reshooting a significant amount of footage, since Novak appeared in nearly three-quarters of what already had been filmed. [21] [22] [5]

"It is tragic, but without Kim or a replacement, we cannot go on," David Niven said. "The person I feel most sorry for is director J. Lee Thompson. He has put everything into this picture." [1] As to Novak's injury, her husband, Richard Johnson, said, "It is not something that will trouble her for the rest of her life. She will recover eventually. It is going to take time and will not be an easy matter." [1] Novak would later say that she had fractured a vertebra. [23]

Filming resumed in December 1965 with Kerr. [24] Some long shots of Novak, filmed before her injury, did make it into the movie. [5]

In his autobiography, Hemmings disputed that Novak had been replaced because of an injury. He said that he had seen a bitter argument take place between Novak and Ransohoff near the end of filming, and that Novak had been sacked as a result. [25] [26]

When asked about working with such a distinguished cast, Tate responded, "Of course I was nervous but I was flattered rather than intimidated because everybody put me at such ease. They are such pros. You don't see their technique but when you are surrounded by the best it brings out the best in you." [13]


Upon hitting theatres on 31 March 1968, Eye of the Devil was met with little critical attention and was generally ignored by mainstream critics. The film was not a commercial success, and later in the year it was listed as one of only three films released by producer Martin Ransohoff that had not made money (the other two were Don't Make Waves and The Loved One ). [27] Although it was not a commercial success in the United States when first released, Eye of the Devil was popular in the United Kingdom and Europe. The film, in the years since its release, has garnered praise for its atmospheric cinemtaography, offbeat tone and the performances of Kerr and Tate; it has acquired a degree of cult status not only due to its surreal themes but the murder of Tate in 1969. [5]

Sharon Tate's debut did not do much for her career - American reviews of her performance were less than stellar, such as The New York Times characterizing her performance as "chillingly beautiful but expressionless", [28] whereas writers outside of North America were more favorable, with retrospectives noting how "Tate makes a significant visual impression, but it should be noted that her immaculate British accent was dubbed" [29] and that "she certainly displays a screen presence [...] and a glittering future ahead of her". [30]

Eye of the Devil was the last black-and-white film released by MGM. By 1967, all of the major studios had effectively moved entirely to colour.

Home media

Eye of the Devil was released as a Region 1, widescreen DVD on 21 February 2011 by Warner Home Video, via its Warner Archive DVD-on-demand service.

On 26 October 2021, Warner Archive released the film on Blu-ray. For this release Warner Bros. newly restored the film by scanning the original film elements in 4K.

See also

Explanatory notes

  1. This character was omitted from the film.

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  2. 1 2 3 4 5 "Eye of the Devil". www.tcm.com. Retrieved 7 March 2021.
  3. 1 2 Chibnall, Steve (2001). J. Lee Thompson. Manchester University Press. p. 307. ISBN   9780719060120.
  4. Crowther, Bosley (7 December 1967). "Screen: 'Eye of the Devil' Begins Run". New York Times.
  5. 1 2 3 4 Capua, Michelangelo (2010). Deborah Kerr: A Biography. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland. pp. 148–49. ISBN   978-0-7864-5882-0.
  6. 1 2 3 Although TCM.com gives the name of the estate as “Bellac”, this is an error. It appears on the Festival banner and is pronounced by many characters. The New York Times' review of the original book gives the name of the estate as Bellac. This may be the source of this error.
  7. "Criminals At Large (Published 1964)". The New York Times. 1 March 1964. ISSN   0362-4331 . Retrieved 7 March 2021.
  8. Bathollywood, Peter (3 January 1965). "Message Merchant On The Run". New York Times. p. X9.
  9. "Dennis Murphy". www.tcm.com. Retrieved 7 March 2021.
  10. Hill, Lee (2001). A Grand Guy : the Art and Life of Terry Southern. New York: Harper Collins. ISBN   9780380977864.
  11. "Kim Novak Signs Three-Picture Deal". Los Angeles Times. 28 July 1961. p. A7.
  12. "Movie Call Sheet: Kim Novak Will Star in 'Day of the Arrow'". Los Angeles Times. 30 April 1965. p. c14.
  13. 1 2 Thomas, Kevin (18 January 1966). "Miss Tate: Old, New Hollywood". Los Angeles Times. p. c11.
  14. Browning, Norma Lee (8 September 1966). "Starlet Discovered After 3 Years Under Wraps". Chicago Tribune. p. c1.
  15. Thomas, Kevin (1 May 1966). "Ransohoff: Mr. Big in Land of Giants". Los Angeles Times. p. 10.
  16. Martin, Betty (12 June 1965). "Another Role for Shelley". Los Angeles Times. p. 23.
  17. Martin, Betty (7 August 1965). "Movie Call Sheet: Couple Reteamed in 'Time'". Los Angeles Times. p. B8.
  18. Martin, Betty (26 August 1965). "Movie Call Sheet: Thompson Will Direct '13'". Los Angeles Times. p. d12.
  19. Ellis, Bill (2000). Raising the Devil: Satanism, New Religions, and the Media. University Press of Kentucky. p. 157. ISBN   0-8131-2170-1.
  20. Martin, Betty (12 July 1965). "Movie Call Sheet: Shaw Signed". Los Angeles Times. p. c13.
  21. Kleno, Larry (1980). Kim Novak on Camera . LaJolla, California: A.S. Barnes & Company. pp.  230–231. ISBN   9780498024573.
  22. "Deborah Kerr to Take Injured Kim's Role". Chicago Tribune. 30 November 1965. p. b4.
  23. "Kim Novak's Injury Assessed". New York Times. 14 December 1965. p. 55.
  24. "'Thunderball' Stirs Box Office Storm". Los Angeles Times. 18 December 1965. p. a13.
  25. Hemmings, David (2004). Blow Up... and Other Exaggerations: The Autobiography of David Hemmings. Robson. p. 125.
  26. Statman, Alisa; Tate, Brie (21 February 2012). Restless Souls: The Sharon Tate Family's Account of Stardom, the Manson Murders, and a Crusade for Justice. Harper Collins.
  27. Haber, Joyce (14 January 1968). "'Baggy Pants' Ransohoff Changes Suits, Image". Los Angeles Times. p. d8.
  28. King, Greg (2000). Sharon Tate and the Manson Murders. Barricade Books. p. 79. ISBN   1-56980-157-6.
  29. Pfeiffer, Lee (21 March 2022). "Review: "Eye of the Devil" (1966)". CinemaRetro. Archived from the original on 12 February 2024. Retrieved 12 February 2024.
  30. Jones, Nia (12 August 2012). "Eye of the Devil 1966 Review". Spooky Isles. Archived from the original on 12 February 2024. Retrieved 12 February 2024.