With an evocative title like EYE OF THE DEVIL and a one-sheet that sells it as a horror film, ten-year-old me would have definitely bought a ticket to see this one when it was first released in 1966.
Ten-year-old me would have been sorely disappointed.
There's no monster and very little overt horror in this British MGM production. Capably shot in black and white by Erwin Hillier and directed by veteran J. Lee Thompson, EYE attempts to give a routine horror story a touch of class by casting stars David Niven and Deborah Kerr, both of whom still had a little bit of box-office clout (albeit not much) at this stage of their respective careers. Niven is Philippe, owner of an immense French estate which includes a vineyard. The estate has been in his family for years but the vines have withered and this year's grape crop is useless. Something must be done to restore vitality to the fields. Something like, oh, say, a human sacrifice.
Deborah Kerr is Catherine, Philippe's wife, who slowly uncovers the truth about what's going on. There's genre icon Donald Pleasance as a mysterious priest, Edward Mulhare is a sympathetic family friend (who you think will end up being the hero) and two odd twins, Odile (the stunning Sharon Tate in her film debut) and Christain (David Hemmings). Christain has a thing for archery while it appears that Odile is a witch.
EYE OF THE DEVIL prefigures Anthony Shaffer and Robin Hardy's THE WICKER MAN (1973), which is a far superior film in every way. Still, you have to give the team behind EYE credit for trying. The film has a definite French New Wave vibe to it as it opens on a series of quick cuts of random images before the Maurice Binder designed title sequence. Director Thompson and editor Ernest Walter favor abrupt smash cuts and camera movement in almost every scene. A camera will move in a shot, then BAM!, a cut into a different scene in which the camera is already moving. This technique is used repeatedly throughout the film, producing a growing sense of tension and unease.
EYE OF THE DEVIL isn't a bad little film at all. It's certainly worth seeing once if you're a horror film fan. There's no monster and few scares, which would have disappointed ten-year-old me. But sixty-year-old me enjoyed it, especially for the opportunity to watch the simply breathtaking Sharon Tate.