• Devil Story (CMV Laservision) DVD Review

    Released by: CMV Laservision
    Released on: April 20th, 2018.
    Director: Bernard Launois
    Cast: Véronique Renaud, Marcel Portier, Catherine Day, Nicole Desailly, Pascal Simon
    Year: 1985
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    Devil Story - Movie Review:

    Directed by 1985 by Eurcine alum Bernard Launois, Devil Story (or, if you prefer, Il était une fois le diable in its native France), starts out with a scene where a deformed man (Pascal Simon) referred to as a monster and then later as a gargoyle running about rural France in an SS uniform wreaking havoc. First a woman gathers logs in the woods and literally skips (no seriously, we see her skipping through the woods – and she’s not a little kid either, she’s at least late teens/early twenties from the looks of things) her way back to a tent – she doesn’t make it, he kills her. couple run out of gas on a remote road. The man gets out of the car, sees the mutant in Nazi garb, and wisely asks him for directions. It doesn’t end well. His girlfriend gets murdered next, her corpse left beside their late seventies model Peugeot sedan.

    A few more random deaths later and we meet a young couple, just married (Marcel Portier and Veronique Renaud), driving about France on their honeymoon. Their car breaks down in the middle of nowhere and so, somewhat puzzlingly, she wanders off towards the white face of a mountain where she, a pretty blonde, is randomly attacked by a flying black cat. Her husband finds her soon after and consoles her – something is fishy in the area. From there, a storm breaks out and they take shelter for the night in a huge old mansion owned by a wacky old coot with a shotgun. As the couple approach the house the soundtrack switches from repetitive synth music to Bach’s ‘Tocatta and Fugue in D Minor’ for reasons unknown. The owner of the admittedly impressive home regales the young couple with tales of Napoleonic times and tells them a story about how a bunch of local assholes messed with ships that came near the shore in the night, causing them to wreck. From there he talks about how a woman who lives in the area had a daughter that has disappeared and how her ‘misshapen’ son may have something to do with it.

    As the evening wanes down and everyone goes to bed, they’re all woken up in the middle of the night by the sudden and unusually loud arrival of a horse that the old man believes belongs to the devil himself! He grabs his shotgun and goes after it. Blondie decides to take this opportunity to go for a midnight stroll (in some lingerie and a yellow rain slick!) only to get abducted by the mutant Nazi and his mother, the old woman that the shotgun blasting horse-hating guy told her about. It turns out blondie is a dead ringer for the missing daughter (which makes sense as Renaud plays both parts). Just when it looks like she’s done for the horse shows up and kicks the mutant Nazi in the balls, then the head and then through a wall and frees her – but then the mountain that blondie was obsessing over earlier, the one with the cat on it, well… it opens up and a ship from the Napoleonic story the old man told comes out and a fucking mummy shows up and starts killing people.


    Devil Story is pretty nutty stuff. It doesn’t make very much sense so don’t think about it too hard, but man oh man oh man is it a lot of goofy, gory fun if you’re in the right mood for it. This was clearly made for peanuts and it would stand to reason that most of the budget went to the movie’s ‘never quite convincing but still kind of gross anyway’ gore effects – there are a lot of them, and they’re always awesome. At one point the mummy steps on a guy’s chest and his guts come oozing out, oh and the mummy likes to drool green/blue slime out of his mouth for some reason. The Nazi mutant is clearly just a guy in a goofy mask zipping about, but it works (sort of) thanks to the sheer absurdity of it all.

    It’s tough to really gauge the quality of the acting in the picture when the English dubbing is as… strangely inspired as it is in this picture. The voice actors approached their work with gusto, subtlety was not an option here. Still, the guy who plays the old man with the shotgun deserves special mention simply because seeing him obsessively go after the horse is nothing short of awesome (and it takes up an unusually large part of this seventy-three-minute film’s running time!). He really, really hates that horse. We’ve also got to admire Pascal Simon’s work as ‘du monstre’ in the film. He doesn’t really have any dialogue per se, but he does run around making strange growling noises for most of his screen time, kind of like the noises Karloff made when Frankenstein was being chased by the villagers at the end of the original Universal film. It’s never made clear why he was an SS uniform, but who cares.

    Quick in its pacing and nothing short of delirious, Devil Story may not stand as much of a testament to Bernard Launois’ directorial abilities, in fact it’s completely shoddy in every way a movie can be completely shoddy except for one – it’s never dull, and that’s what matters the most here. Yeah, it’s poorly made but it’s also completely unpredictable and wholly entertaining (if not necessarily for all the right reasons).

    For some reason one of the license plates on one of the cars in the movie is from Florida, ‘The Palm State.’

    Devil Story - DVD Review:

    CMV Laservision brings Devil Story to Blu-ray in an anamorphic 1.78.1 widescreen transfer on a PAL Region 2 locked DVD. The interlaced image is watchable enough but it doesn’t look particularly great. The image is fairly murky and detail looks… kind of squishy. Still, the framing seems okay here and, to be fair, it’s very likely that this was just poorly shot and not very well lit in the first place. It’s also a fairly grainy affair, likely shot on 16mm, and there’s a fair bit of print damage here, in addition to poor compression and some obvious marcoblocking. Really, it’s not a good picture.

    Dolby Digital Mono tracks are provided in French, German and a very enthusiastically dubbed English track. There are no subtitles provided. Audio is a bit muffled in spots but for the most part the English dubbing is easy enough to understand. The levels are mostly well-balanced but there are spots where the insanely rudimentary synth score is a bit high in the mix. No serious issues here, unless you count the fact that the sound goes out of sync by about 4-5 seconds for a few minutes around the half hour mark.

    Extras? There are a few, starting with an audio commentary from Christoph N. Kellerbach, Florian Throwing Tree and Kevin Zindler that was recorded in German without any subtitles. I don’t speak German so I’ve no idea if it’s any good or not, but they sound like they’re having fun here.

    Up next is a five minute behind the scenes piece that looks like it was recorded for French television back in 1985. It shows off some footage shot on the set during the production, including the scene where the Nazi guy is set on fire, and it includes some interviews with Bernard Launois and an out of makeup Pascal Simon. Oh, and we get to see the devil horse in action too.

    Outside of that, we get a really long trailer for the feature that gives away a lot of the movie’s good parts, a decent sized still gallery featuring a host of lobby cards and home video art and some menus (with a lot of groaning sound effects that play over top) and chapter selection.

    Devil Story - The Final Word:

    Devil Story ranks up there alongside Ogroff The Mad Mutilator as one of the more bizarre horror pictures to come out of France – and it’s a blast from start to finish. Throw logic out the window and appreciate the lunacy that Launois and company are able to capture with this one!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Matt H.'s Avatar
      Matt H. -
      The old man blasting his shotgun endlessly becomes absolutely hypnotic.