AND YOU CALL YOURSELF A SCIENTIST!
Strikes Back /
The Reel World /
It's A Disaster! /
Etc., Etc., Etc.... /
Dialogue / Links
MAGDALENA, VOM TEUFEL BESESSEN (MAGDALENA, POSSESSED BY THE DEVIL) (1974)
[aka The Devil’s Female aka Beyond The Darkness]
|“We want to find out what suddenly makes a sweet girl like you turn into a monster.”|
Director: Michael Walter (Walter Boos)
Starring: Dagmar Hedrich, Werner Bruhns, Michael Hinz, Rudolf Schündler, Elisabeth Volkmann, Eva Kinsky, Günter Clemens, Claus Tinney, Karl Walter Diess, Helena Rosenkranz, Toni Treutler
Screenplay: August Rieger
Synopsis: A prostitute (Helena Rosenkrantz) staggers drunkenly into her apartment block, only to be confronted by the sight of another of the building’s tenants, who has been nailed to an inside door in a crucifixion pose... The coroner reports to the Commissioner of Police (Karl Walter Diess) that the dead man, Josef Winter, was murdered by having his throat crushed before being nailed up. He also points out a strange mark, like a burn in the shape of a claw, on the victim’s forehead. The police interview Winter’s landlady and the prostitute. The former insists that she heard nothing out of the ordinary on the night of the murder, and tells the Commissioner that Winter had visitors at odd hours, including one woman with a large and vicious dog, and that his only relative, possibly his granddaughter, was a young girl called Magdalena. The prostitute describes a man in a trenchcoat who was lurking near the building just before she discovered the body. In Munich, Magdalena Winter (Dagmar Hedrich) is a resident of a girls’ boarding-school, where she was placed after the death of her parents when she was only five. A police inspector (Günter Clemens) calls upon the director of the school, Madame Stolz (Elisabeth Volkmann), who wonders how to break the news to Magdalena. She decides to delay the announcement until the following day, as that night, as a treat, the girls are being given a party. Meanwhile, at the morgue, there is the sound of flies buzzing...and suddenly the dead body of Josef Winter sits up... At the school, Magdalena gasps, drops her glass and collapses. She then undergoes a strange fit, drooling white and tearing at her own clothes as she thrashes around. Madame Stolz, her assistant Hilde Preis (Eva Kinsky) and the other girls gather around, staring in shock. At that moment, there is the sound of flies in the room. Miss Preis runs to call the doctor, but cannot reach him. Madame Stolz hurries to her own room to get a tranquiliser, but recoils when her friendly little dog snarls and snaps at her. Downstairs, having sent the other girls to bed, Miss Preis makes Magdalena comfortable on a couch. As Madame Stolz joins her, they again hear the sound of flies. Magdalena wakes up, in perfect health and with no memory of her attack. Later that night, Magdalena begins to moan and thrash around in her sleep. Suddenly, she sits up; a deep, growling sound echoes through the school. There is the sound of breaking glass. Madame Stolz hurries out to find Magdalena on the staircase, striking and kicking out and imploring something to, “Go away! Go away!” She then flees to the kitchen where, finding the door locked, she smashes her way through it and strews s the floor in front of her with broken glasses and plates, shrieking, “Take the dog away!” Seizing a knife, she rushes back out into the main hall. Crying, “That dog must die!”, she hurls the knife, embedding it in a chair – and then faints. Having sedated her, Dr Berger (Claus Tinney), the physician attached to the school, promises to examine Magdalena properly in the morning, and to arrange psychiatric help if it seems necessary. Meanwhile, Magdalena talks in her sleep, at first uttering a protest, but then moaning softly in pleasure. Tearing open her nightgown and exposing her naked body, she begins to writhe on the bed....
Comments: All throughout 1974, rip-offs of The Exorcist came thick and fast on the international exploitation scene. We’ve already taken a look at the two most innocuous ones, Seytan and Abby, from Turkey and the US, respectively; now we see the first arrival upon the scene of sleaze, with the West German production Magdalena, Possessed By The Devil. As an, ahem, artistic choice, this is hardly surprising, once we realise that hiding behind the pseudonym “Michael Walter” is none other than Walter Boos, director of the notorious Schoolgirl Report series – which I am surprised and a little disappointed to realise that my colleague El Santo has yet to tackle.
This film has a sad and incomplete history on video,
existing chiefly in cut prints of different lengths, often with varying
degrees of legality and (not coincidentally) carrying a wide variety of
subtitles. My own print is that released by Substance [sic.]
Video as a double-bill with Abby.
It runs about eighty-five minutes, and at the beginning carries Asian
subtitles, which completely disappear beyond the opening credits –
certainly suggesting a compilation print. The screen ratio changes
from time to time, too.
The screen ratio changes from time to time, too.
Online sources suggest that in its original format, this film may have run close to two hours. The copy I’m reviewing contains plenty of nudity, foul language and blasphemy, and certainly doesn’t seem censored; but still, there’s an indication that something is missing in the prominent billing given to Peter Martin Urtel as Josef Winter, who barely appears in this version, but is fourth in the credits and given a double listing as “The Satanist / Magdalena’s grandfather”. We also get a sense of dangling plotlines from the fact that we are given no indication of why Magdalena is possessed, and that, not at the time of her grandfather’s death, but some hours afterwards. More subtly, we also have the question of Josef Winter’s visitor with the “ferocious” dog – and Magdalena’s extraordinary battle with an invisible assailant which she insists is a dog.
All this would seem to imply the absence of an entire, and major, subplot; while there’s no denying that, as is, nothing in this film makes the slightest sense. Not that this in itself is particularly significant: a logical plot, as we’ve already seen, means very little in the world of the Exorcist rip-off. Still, it seems highly likely that somewhere out there lurks a very different version of Magdalena, Possessed By The Devil than the one I’ll be talking about here. So if you’re a completist, or really into Satanism on film, you can try to track down an uncut print. On the other hand, if you’re just here to watch Dagmar Hedrich repeatedly expose her disturbingly multidirectionally symmetrical breasts, have sex with invisible partners, play ping-pong, and call a priest, “Nun-fucker”, then this version has everything you need.
(On this subject, you may notice that at a few points in this review, I had to scratch for screenshots. Most of the “action” here consists of Dagmar Hedrich taking her clothes off; and while some of you might not object to an accompanying set of images, I have to say that after a while I began to find it all rather tedious. But still, yeah, there are some boobies. Creepy boobies, but boobies.)
You have GOT to be kidding.
You have GOT to be kidding.
A prostitute clad in an outfit appallingly ugly even by the standards of 1974 and, well, the standards of prostitution staggers home at 5.00 in the morning to discover her neighbour, Josef Winter, nailed up on the inside of the front door to their apartment building. Despite this, the cause of death is a crushed larynx. The coroner draws attention to a strange mark on the victim’s head, which he comments isn’t exactly a scratch, more like a burn – although personally, I think it looks like he’s been spending too much time in the park with Tippi Hedren. The coroner then concludes his report with a disapproving, “And on Ash Wednesday!”
The Commissioner of Police and a police inspector interview the caretaker of Winter’s building and the prostitute who found the body – and I must say, I like the fact that these unpromising witnesses are properly listened to, although (at least in the film as it stands) nothing that they have to say amounts to much. The caretaker does direct the police to the existence of Josef Winter’s only relative, a young girl called Magdalena.
Cut to Munich, and some time spent on establishing Magdalena as sweet, rather young for her age, and virginal. The Inspector calls at Magdalena’s boarding-school, where the director, Madame Stolz, wonders how to tell the girl what has happened. She decides to put her task off until after the evening, when the girls are having a party.
That night, as the students dance to some improbable music (more ’64 than ’74), Madame Stolz and her assistant, Miss Preis, suddenly march into the room waving bottles of wine – and I must say, I can only admire a school that not only throws its students a party, but supplies the booze. Of course, based upon the lesbian couple slow-dancing in the corner – who before too much longer will be explicitly feeling each other up on the staircase – we’ve probably already figured out this particular school is run upon rather advanced lines.
The bottles get passed around while Madame Stolz and Miss Preis are fetching trays of glasses, and even the innocent Magdalena takes a swig.
So everything that happens next IS ENTIRELY HER OWN FAULT – right??
Oh. Right. This isn’t an American movie, so maybe not.
I'm going to give her the benefit of the doubt and assume
those are her work clothes.
I'm going to give her the benefit of the doubt and assume those are her work clothes.
Magdalena calls for quiet so that she can propose a host to Madame and Miss (a muttering Lesbian #1 referring to her sardonically as, “The Holy Virgin”). We then get intercutting between the school and the morgue, the two linked by the sound of flies buzzing: a touch that these days puts the viewer in mind of The Amityville Horror rather than The Exorcist. Suddenly, Josef Winter’s body sits up – and just as suddenly falls back again, his head hitting the slab with such a resounding thunk, it’s just as well he’s already dead.
In Munich, Magdalena suddenly freezes – then drops her glass and collapses, convulsing on the floor.
We should all take a moment to enjoy this scene,
people, as I believe it represents the last moment in the film when
Magdalena is indisputably wearing knickers.
Curiously, while Magdalena is thrashing around and drooling horribly, her companions and teachers seem more concerned with the fact that there seem to be flies out so early in the year. Miss Preis runs out to call the doctor attached to the school, but cannot contact him:Miss Preis: “Dr Berger isn’t at home! Shall I call the emergency ward?”
Madame Stolz: “Absolutely not! All she needs is a tranquiliser.”
Mummy, mummy! I want to go to this school!
In search of said prescription drugs, Madame Stolz runs into her own rooms – whereupon we get one of the film’s more delicious absurdities, as her fox terrier, Alfie, turns savage.
To the sound of snarling and growling (the dubbing here about as accurate as that for the human characters), a terrified Madame Stolz flings herself back out of her room and slams the door. Phew! That was....too close.
And yet, we got
into trouble if our skirts were a bit short.
And yet, we got into trouble if our skirts were a bit short.
Meanwhile, the efficient Miss Preis has managed to settle Magdalena on a couch, and is busy sending the other girls to bed. As Madame and Miss again contemplate early-season flies, Magdalena slowly comes to....and then sits up, bright as a button, and with no memory of what happened but blaming her “faint” on – dum, dum, dummm – drinking her wine too fast.
Miss Preis sends her off to take a shower (remarkably, though, no shower scene; although given Magdalena’s subsequent difficulty in keeping her clothes on, it’s hardly necessary); while up on the staircase, the lesbians shake their heads, blaming Magdalena’s uptightness for her troubles, and settle down to a demonstration of how un-uptight they are.
As Magdalena sleeps, there comes the sound of flies buzzing in her room.... Abruptly, she sits up, glaring about the room in an angry and suspicious way. Her lips move, and a deep growling fills the air – but thanks to the nature of the dubbing, it is impossible to tell whether it’s supposed to be coming from Magdalena or not; although for what’s it’s worth, Madame blames it on the unfortunate Alfie.
As far as I’ve got with this study of Exorcist rip-offs, there seems to be two constants: the first is that the quality of the films (both in part and in their entirety) tends to be inversely proportional to their distance from their model; the second, that the European ones, at least, manage to evoke the most extraordinary contributions from their leading ladies. So it was in L’Anticristo, and so it is here; and while I think that Carla Gravina is a much better actress than Dagmar Hedrich, in terms of Hedrich’s commitment to her role, her physicality, and her willingness to get her kit off and do the most outrageous things in front of the camera, the two performances are quite comparable.
And as to which of them does the most outrageous things--- It’s a win to Gravina, but only just; the goat scene puts her over the line. Hedrich, on the other hand, is twice asked to mimic sex with an invisible partner, once consensual, once – not; yet her most memorable scene is probably this one, which is not only unlike anything we’ve seen so far in any of these films, but becomes, simultaneously, hilarious and disturbing as it just goes on and on and on and on....
HE'S A KILLER, I TELL YOU!! A KILLER!!!!
HE'S A KILLER, I TELL YOU!! A KILLER!!!!
It begins with breaking glass, as Magdalena, clad only – and I mean only – in a short shirt, smashes a window halfway up the staircase. As a crowd gathers, the girl begins panting desperately, “Go away! Go away! Go away!” as she kicks out repeatedly at something no-one else can see. Miss Preis runs up and grabs her but Magdalena hurls her away, then likewise disposes of Madame. This struggle sees Magdalena also fall to the floor, where she resumes kicking and shrieking, propelling herself backwards along the floor in the process and revealing what she has on under her shirt....i.e. nada. She then clambers to her feet and tries to run into the kitchen, but for some reason the door is locked; and so – in the single incident generally most fondly remembered about this entire bizarre interlude – Magdalena backs off, takes a running jump, and drop-kicks her way through the kitchen door.
Once inside, still spitting, “Go away, go away!”, Magdalena begins backing through the kitchen, hurling anything she can get her hands on – mostly crockery and glassware – onto the floor, obviously trying to put a barrier between herself and whatever it is. And during this sequence, her desperate cry becomes, “Take the dog away!”
Madame, perhaps realising that her supply of tranquilisers isn’t up to the task at hand, manages to get hold of Dr Berger, begging him to come at once: “One of our students is having a fit!”
Meanwhile--- Smashsmashsmashsmahhgoawaygoawaygoaway!!!!!! But evidently the broken crockery isn’t working, because next Magdalena goes for the knife drawer. Weapon in hand, she runs out of the kitchen, still looking down at something and ordering it away. At this point, most of Magdalena’s fellow students, a naturally interested audience as they hang over the banisters, beat a prudent retreat; but the brave and/or foolhardy Miss Preis gets closer, begging Magdalena to give her the knife. If the girl hears her, she gives no sign. Still staring down at the floor she hisses, “That dog must die!”....and then throws the knife at Miss Preis.
I think that’s a bit unkind.
But Miss Preis, ducking in a somewhat leisurely manner, it seems to me, manages to evade the knife, which embeds itself in the railing of the staircase. And then Magdalena – or possibly Dagmar Hedrich – collapses.
Fun fact: demonic possession gives you mad karate skillz.
Fun fact: demonic possession gives you mad karate skillz.
She’s been tucked up in bed by the time Dr Berger arrives, which possibly accounts for his fatuous assertion that, “This sort of seizure could happen to anyone!” Magdalena already seems rather out of it, but Berger gives her a sedative anyway, promising to come back in the morning and have a talk with her – “To find out what’s bothering her”, clearly expecting the usual teenage blues to be at the root of it all. You know – boy trouble, bad hair day, demonic possession....
As he sticks the needle rather roughly in Magdalena’s arm, Dr Berger asks her condescendingly, “Now, what dog is our lovely little patient afraid of?” – which turns out to be the last mention of a dog in this version of the film.
Downstairs, Madame and Miss Preis describe Magdalena’s “fit”, which at least convinces Dr Berger that there’s more wrong here than a little acting out. He promises to examine her and, if necessary, get psychiatric help. And then he dares suggest that she might have taken drugs, which makes Madame very indignant. “It’s out of the question!” Yeah! – she’s had nothing more than a bottle of wine and a handful of tranquilisers! And then, having put Dr Berger slightly on the back foot, Madame sticks him with the task of breaking the news about Josef Winter’s murder.
Up in her room, wine, tranquilisers and a sedative notwithstanding, Magdalena begins to moan and toss in her sleep....and the flies are back. At first Magdalena’s mutterings are a protest – “No, please! Please! You mustn’t do that!” – but then they become moans of pleasure. Whispering, “I want you to open me!”, she rips open her surprisingly flimsy shirt and----
Now, you’ll have to excuse me here, but----
It’s not just me, right? These boobs are creepy, right?
If they'd just move, or sag a bit, or something....
Sorry, where were we? Oh, yeah! – enthusiastic sex with an invisible partner! Naturally.
The next morning, Dr Berger performs his double-duty, leaving Magdalena more annoyed than upset. She complains about having to attend her grandfather’s funeral, conceding that she did love him when he was alive, “Only now he’s dead – and I despise the dead!” And with that she takes off, scrambling up and over the high wall surrounding the churchyard where the two have been talking, and leaving Dr Berger with his jaw flapping in the wind.
That night, a young man picks up a hitchhiker, and hardly knows whether to be amused or annoyed when she falls asleep almost immediately – so he compromises by driving off the road.... His hands, among other things, are all over Magdalena by the time she wakes up, and he laughs off her desperate protests and struggles. So we don’t feel all that sorry when the screaming starts – and the bone-breaking. Although possibly the gleeful smile is a bit much....
Some time later, a dazed Magdalena is found by a police patrol, huddled at the side of the main road. She is delivered to the school with no memory of her latest adventure. Dr Berger, we are relieved to discover, has accelerated past both “a little chat” and “a thorough examination”, and is fretting about his inability to get hold of Professor Falk, the psychiatrist. And then the dear doctor reminds why we do love him so, by telling Miss Preis that Magdalena shouldnt be left alone for a second – while allowing her to leave Magdalena to escort him outside to his car. “You must call me the minute she has another of these attacks. I hope you have a good night!” he concludes.
And sure enough, by the time Miss Preis is back inside, there is a commotion in the attic. Madame and Miss rush up there, where they find the spare furniture throwing itself around the room with great enthusiasm – putting us in mind of a similarly unconvincing sequence in L'Anticristo only this one is accompanied by the sound of a cat yowling. And as the Number One Fan of Amityville: The Evil Escapes, I could not repress a gleeful chuckle as a clearly eeeee-vil lamp flew across the room. And also rather like The Evil Escapes, neither Madame nor Miss evinces anything more than mild bemusement as the entire room destroys itself – until a cupboard throws itself directly at them, at which they beat a hasty retreat.
Round up the usual suspects.
Round up the usual suspects.
And somehow, somehow....Madame concludes that Magdalena was doing all that! They just, um, couldn’t see her. For some reason. Miss Preis gallantly refrains from mocking this openly, simply confirming that Magdalena is asleep in her own bed.
The next morning, Madame leads Dr Berger up to the attic, still insisting that Magdalena was somehow responsible for the destruction. And of course she’s right, even if she doesn’t believe in “spooks and miracles” (?). But when she opens the door, everything is hale and hearty and back in its place. “The clock!” cries Madame. “The chandelier!” The lamp! Dr Berger, naturally, starts to chuckle condescending – women, you know how they exaggerate! – as Miss Preis points out a stranger on the premises: a rather handsome black cat, perched on a good-as-new wooden chest.
“Awwww,” says Madame, sticking out her hand and making kissy noises; but the cat, recognising a dog person who’s just faking it when she sees one, expresses her opinion of Madame’s hypocrisy. At that moment, Magdalena arrives, cooing, “Isn’t she adorable!” – while the cat, now sweet as pie, allows itself to be cuddled, as Magdalena gives the others what I can only call her psycho-killer smile.
And Madame’s conclusion? “Yes, it must have been the cat that knocked everything over last night. She must have loosened something, and everything else just fell over.” And flew across the room. And tried to kill me!
And perhaps not surprisingly, the others are so entranced by Madame’s theory that they completely fail to notice that the cat has literally vanished....
It falls to the eee-vil Magdalena to state the obvious, as she stalks out of the attic: “Then who put all the furniture back in place?”
The dog? The little suck-up....
"Back off, or I'll sic mah hooman on you! And
"Back off, or I'll sic mah hooman on you! And she's nuts."
By the time the other three are halfway down the stairs, there’s another racket, this time coming from Magdalena’s own room, where she is stark naked and busy wrecking the joint. As we watch (in what feels very much like another loose plot-thread), she pulls her photograph of her dead parents from its frame, and rips it in half, while Madame, Miss and Dr Berger stare in stunned horror. Then the foul language and matching behaviour starts, as Madgalena requests that one of them – she doesn’t specify which – perform a certain service for her and, when they decline, starts helping herself.
See how delicate I can be when I try?
It again falls to Miss Preis to take the first whack at restraining Magdalena (was this really in her job description?), but Magdalena knocks her down, pulls her hair and whales on her. Madame then intervenes, but Magdalena shoves her down too, stopping to kick at her teachers before picking up a piece of glass and threatening to, “Cut your fucking throats!”
And then she seems to run out of steam – which doesn’t stop the outraged Madame slapping her around and, with Miss Preis, forcing her across the room and down onto the bed.
And where is Dr Berger all this time? Just looking.
They finally manage to pump another sedative into Magdalena, which really does seem to be Berger’s answer to everything. They tuck her up again, and a dazed Magdalena picks up the torn photograph, demanding to know who could have done such a thing? Curiously, her follow-up question is not, “And why am I stark naked?”
The next morning, Magdalena, now her usual sweet self, announces that she feels much better and that she’d like to go to church. The others worry about the possibility of another freakout, but finally conclude that the visit might do her good. “Father Conrad is very understanding,” comments Miss Preis.
Just as well, really.
This one's for you, boys!
This one's for you, boys!
When Magdalena and Miss Preis arrive, they do not enter the church itself, but make their way into the vestry, which is a separate building. Father Conrad beams at seeing Magdalena, but her gaze has already slipped past him to rest upon a crucifix. Her expression hardens; and then we get the film’s other signature sequence:
“I want to take communion – but not in my mouth – down here in my pussy! You dirty nun-fucker! When are you going to screw your housekeeper again? Go on, answer, you motherfucker!”
And as the sound of flies is heard, Magdalena leans back against the wall, laughing hysterically.
And yes, I know: so much for delicacy.
And yes, I know: so much for delicacy.
“I’d better call Dr Berger!” says Miss Preis, scuttling towards the door.
Father Conrad, actually not looking as perturbed by all this as we might expect, one way or the other, makes the sign of the cross over Magdalena, who slumps to the floor. Father Conrad and his curate lift her into a chair. In a weird bit of editing, we see the curate sealing the vestry via a lock made up of chains and a padlock (!), and then cut back to Father Conrad inside, urging the unresponsive Magdalena to pray.
Whether he intended it earlier or not, Father Conrad’s sermon is now taken from Luke: And Jesus asked him, saying what is thy name? And he said Legion, for many devils were entered into him.... We cross-cut between the priest and Magdalena, who is now reading along in a bible; and for a moment she struggles free, falling to her knees with the bible clutched to her chest and crying aloud (even as Father Conrad reads the words), “Torment me not! Torment me not!” But she is overcome again a moment later, and tears the bible in half. She does a little more room-wrecking and then, in spite of the chains and padlock, manages to rip open the vestry door.
Outside, Magdalena ducks behind some headstones just as Miss Preis leads Dr Berger to the vestry. They stare in disbelief at the broken lock and the wrecked room (which has not reassembled itself), with Dr Berger muttering worriedly that they have to find her before she “does something drastic”. It’s dark before they catch up with her, lying on Josef Winter’s grave and apparently in the middle of an intense conversation with him. “It’s so pleasant chatting with the dead,” she observes dazedly, as the others gently draw her away. “They answer you, too. You just have to hold your ear close to the ground.”
"Three woman are having a violent cat-fight! Perhaps I
should intervene. Then again...."
"Three woman are having a violent cat-fight! Perhaps I should intervene. Then again...."
At long last, Dr Berger brings in Professor Falk, the psychiatrist. Berger comments on the sudden shifts in Magdalena’s behaviour, and how sometimes she seems, “Almost like some sort of demon”. Falk replies calmly that in a few minutes, they’ll have an answer. “My assistant, Dr Stone, is doing an electroencephalogram on the patient.”
Somehow, I just knew he would be.
Actually, in context this sequence is rather interesting. We remember the absurd ECG sequence in Chi Sei?, which looks more like our possess-ee is getting a perm than having her brain scanned. What we see here is built along the same lines, but on closer inspection is a real tangle of wires and electrodes, with a metallic net underneath wrapping around the patient’s head. I wonder, was this the real deal, circa 1974, and Chi Sei?’s the best mock-up they could manage?
The ECG result is normal, which doesn’t surprise Falk. He asks Magdalena how she spent her Sunday. She tells him about her visit to church, that suddenly she felt nauseous, and apparently fainted. Falk recommends a change of air, and tells Magdalena about his house in the country where, as we learn, he sometimes takes patients so that they can rest but be kept under observation: at least one of the “housekeepers” is a nurse. In another loose plot-thread moment, Falk has Stone administer sodium pentothal to Madgalena....and we never hear the interview.
Falk reports Magdalena’s ECG results to the others, and tells them she’s agreed to stay at his house. “For my part,” says Father Conrad, “I’ve already reached my own opinion of the case, Professor.”
“So have I, Father,” responds Falk smugly. “I believe that Magdalena Winter’s case isn’t typical. As we’ve all observed, the patient’s symptoms swing sharply from hysteria to manic depressive psychosis to schizophrenia – or split personality – plus signs of epilepsy, et cetera, et cetera.”
Father Conrad’s explanation, needless to say, is somewhat shorter – and, for that matter, simpler.
This is why collar and cuffs don't match.
This is why collar and cuffs don't match.
Several days later, out in the country, the two “housekeepers” are marvelling over what a sweet and lovely girl Magdalena is; how she insists on doing most of the housework to spare them. They do worry, though, that’s she’s getting a little too fond of Dr Stone....
Possession films, Exorcist rip-offs in particular, are all about transgression, of course; and although there’s plenty of that in Magdalena’s behaviour and language, it has to be said that the most remarkable thing about Magdalena, Possessed By The Devil, at least in this cut, is that the ickiest part of it has nothing to do with the supernatural, but is an entirely real-world phenomenon....sad to say.
Because, yes, from here on in, a relationship develops between Magdalena and Dr Stone, who is, let me remind you, not just a doctor but a psychiatrist. He knows Magdalena has severe mental problems – to say the least; he knows she acts out sexually; and yet he blithely gets romantically involved with her when she is herself, and responds to her sexual advances when she isn’t! What on earth is his rationalisation here? – “Oh, she’s not my patient, she’s Professor Falk’s!” And the fact that there’s a considerable age difference between the lovebirds, while Magdalena isn’t that far over the age of consent, is just the final nasty cherry on a very sour sundae.
We’re out in the country, remember, so in lieu of holding hands, walking on the beach and eating ice cream, we get a montage of Stone and Magdalena riding bicycles, playing ping-pong, him giving her riding lessons (NB: not a euphemism), and her playing the piano for him.
Meanwhile, back in the increasingly irrelevant police investigation subplot (Lieutenant Kinderman, these guys are not; they’re not even Superintendent Lurker), the Commissioner has learned from his scientific team that the nails taken from Josef Winter’s body were driven through his hands and feet without the use of a tool of any kind. The Inspector takes a closer look at one of the nails – only to have to jerk itself from his grasp and embed itself in the floor----
----while out in the country, to the sound of flies buzzing, Magdalena sits up in her bed.
To paraphrase Paul Sorvino in
The Stuff: "I
don't mind the sight of demonic possession, but
that is disgusting!"
To paraphrase Paul Sorvino in The Stuff: "I don't mind the sight of demonic possession, but that is disgusting!"
Although it has its moments, Magdalena, Possessed By The Devil just isn’t a very good film – and nor, in its other moments, does it often manage to be quite so entertainingly bad as most of its competition. Perhaps its greatest shortcoming is its dismal lack of imagination. Its only real purpose is to get Dagmar Hedrich naked; and, having done so, it struggles to think of anything for her character to do. Hence the repetitious furniture-wrecking, which is amusing, but wears rather thin. Hence, too, the way Magdalena’s possession manifests itself, which is even more repetitive. It speaks volumes for the mindset of this film – and, perhaps, for that of society in general – that given a young girl possessed by the devil to work with, the makers of this film could think of nothing worse for her to do than to behave like a tease.
Here we get a protracted sequence that, up to its conclusion – scratch that, including its conclusion – might have been lifted wholesale out of a Carry On movie. We cut to a tavern, where the brothers George and Robbie are having a good old-fashioned booze-up together. Robbie is invited to dance. While George is on his own, he glances up to see Magdalena outside the tavern, pressing one breast against the window. George responds promptly to this invitation; and out in the shadows, Magdalena throws herself all over him, begging him to, “Stick it in me!” and guiding his hand between her legs while reaching for his zipper. But then she pushes him away, ordering him to meet her “over by the bowling-alley” (!) in ten minutes.
So George goes back inside to run down the clock. Meanwhile, Robbie is back from his dance and finishing his beer when he looks up to see Magdalena pressing one breast against the window....
With Robbie, though, Magdalena doesn’t want to wait.
She literally drags him over into the bowling-alley (!!) and, once
inside, rips off her dress. She gyrates her hips at Robbie for a moment
before throwing her arms around him....and looking past him at George,
whose ten minutes are up.
Well! – George isn’t having any of that!George: “Why, you bastard, she was waiting for me!”
Robbie: “That’s what you think! I’ll show you, you son of a bitch!”
Cue "Wacky Sax".
And sure enough, they fight. Magdalena urges George on by telling him that Robbie, finding her there, tried to rape her – which hardly accords with what George saw through the window; but, let’s face it, neither one of these idiots is thinking with his primary brain right now; a point rather underscored by the fact that, even when a giggling Magdalena gives her game away by purring at them, “Let’s see which one is stronger! The winner gets me!”, before lying down in an alley with her legs spread, Robbie pulls a knife and shivs his brother in the gut.
Um....I take it Robbie hasn’t had any for a while?
And then, as Robbie stares down in horror at George’s body, Magdalena laughs hysterically – and vanishes....
The next day, Magdalena is in town shopping with one of the housekeepers, and so just happens to be on the spot when Robbie is being escorted out of his house in handcuffs. He sees Magdalena watching and gives her a look, but doesn’t speak a word, which seems unlikely. (Although actually, I’m more interested in his apparent failure to turn himself in.) “How awful! I wonder what the poor man did?” muses Magdalena, as she and her companion walk on.
And then it’s time for more romantic bicycling – although there’s a Theremin on the soundtrack now, so Dr Romeo Stone had better watch out.
(In fact, the music for the rest of the film is an awful melding of ooh-ooh-spooky! Theremin with the treacly piano “love theme” that Magdalena plays for Stone: the abrupt cutting between the two here is hilarious.)
Magdalena bikes off the road and stages a most unconvincing pratfall, allowing Stone to hurry up to her rescue. But as soon as he touches her, piano gives way to Theremin as Magdalena snarls, “I think I’ll tell the Professor you were trying to rape me!”
Oh, jeez, girl – give it a rest! (See what I mean about lack of imagination?)
Next thing we know, the two are playing ping-pong again. Magdalena’s shot sends the ball off into the bushes, and by the time Stone has retrieved it, Magdalena has bent forward over the table from the waist, her arms folded, giving Stone an inviting look. Treacly piano tells us that this is Magdalena #1 not Magdalena #2, but as for Stone, all he knows is that the last time this girl gave him an apparent come-on, it ended in a threatened accusation of rape. Does this slow him down? It does not. As he approaches, Magdalena turns over and lies back on the table, and Stone leans in for a snog.
"Wanna see something else I can do with a ping-pong ball?"
"Wanna see something else I can do with a ping-pong ball?"
Honestly, this guy makes George and Robbie look like a pair of geniuses.
Uh-oh – Theremin! Magdalena #2 shoves Stone off and runs away laughing. An instant later, it’s treacly piano and riding lessons and more snogging. What!? And then, uh-oh – Theremin!
Stone gives Magdalena a puzzled look – the significance of the whole “mentally unbalanced and behaving erratically” part of her diagnosis having escaped him, evidently.
“You know you’re going to have to kill him. You’re going to have to kill him because he won’t let me out,” comments Magdalena.
“Who?” responds Stone obtusely.
Well, let’s see: there are two men in the household and one of them isn’t you.... No, you got me – I give up.
And speak of the devil, ha, ha, Professor Falk drives up. Magdalena runs to him, chatting about how well she feels and how kind everyone is and how it’s a pity he can’t be there more often.... Falk asks Stone how it’s going, and after a moment he insists it’s fine, just fine....
When Magdalena has gone, Stone tells Falk that Father Conrad is waiting to see him in the village. Over tea, Falk tells the priest that, “Dr Stone has the patient under continuous observation.” I’ll say!
Meanwhile, Stone confronts Magdalena. “What’s going on between you?” he demands jealously. “I’ve been watching you and the Professor!”
Have you? Well, it’s great pity that the Professor hasn’t been watching you and Magdalena!
Magdalena protests that she doesn’t know what he’s talking about, which provokes Stone into grabbing her by the shoulders and shaking her. “You’re not up to your damn tricks again – are you?”
Uh-oh – Theremin!
"The bible!? Next you'll be telling me you believe in God!"
"The bible!? Next you'll be telling me you believe in God!"
Falk tells Father Conrad that he’s puzzled by the lack of a pattern in Magdalena’s behaviour (could’ve fooled me), and that he plans putting her under hypnosis. It is at this point that the priest reveals that he has asked permission to conduct an exorcism – prompting some superior smiling from Falk. “Father, you certainly don’t believe there’s a devil, and that he can be exorcised by you!”
Of course not! What kind of priest would believe that?
Anyway, Conrad takes Falk’s sneering in good part, adding that in any case, he was denied permission on the grounds of insufficiently compelling evidence. Falk tells him patronisingly that he can come up for a talk whenever he feels the need.
Back at Casa de Bipolar, Stone finds Magdalena playing treacly piano while starkers. Hoo! – talk about mixed messages! And yes, more snogging – in the middle of which, Magdalena’s expression changes. She slips behind Stone, still caressing him, and grabs hold of the two ends of his scarf....
Unfortunately, before she can finish the job, Falk returns. Magdalena literally streaks to her bedroom, leaving Stone to gasp and rub his throat and not tell his boss what just happened.
That night, Magdalena goes to Stone’s room. Leaning in, she comments, “I guess neither of us is sleepy, Michael. Come to my room.”
And he does.
Quite a piece of work, isn’t he? And I must say, depressing as this film is in its attitude to woman, it’s actually even more insulting to men.
So yes, only hours after Magdalena tried to murder him, Stone has sex with her. Although there’s treacly piano in the background, so I guess everything’s kosher. “I love you, Magdalena!” declares Stone....and why wouldn’t he? Only then we hear flies, and Magdalena starts crying rape.
Wow – sure didn’t see that coming!
Do it! DO IT!!
Do it! DO IT!!
Magdalena sobs and cries to Falk and one of the housekeepers, who wraps her in a blanket, as Stone emerges from Magdalena’s bedroom looking not nearly abashed enough, and announces that he’ll be leaving in the morning. In handcuffs, one would hope.
The next morning, Falk does hypnotise Magdalena. “You just want me to pass out so you can fuck me – ass-licker,” she mutters as she drifts off. Up to a point this sequence follows the rules of a post-Exorcist hypnosis session, with Magdalena speaking in a deep voice not hers, and in an unfamiliar language, but there’s one strange omission: Falk suffers no sort of genital-trauma for his temerity.
Father Conrad is waiting outside, and although Falk hasn’t come around to his way of thinking just yet, we can see he’s unbending just a tad – chiefly, it seems, because the priest predicted what Magdalena’s behaviour under hypnosis would be. Falk admits he’s baffled, and while he again rejects the thought of an exorcism, this time he’s not nearly so snotty about it.
Then the Legion inside Magdalena begins to speak. As Falk and Father Conrad listen, we hear of a vast range of violent crimes: of a mistress strangled, of a body thrown over a cliff; of mutilation; of sodomy and bestiality, and vengeful castration; and finally----
“She strangled me, and crucified me – to the door of my house....”
And you know? I bet in the original cut of this film, this was a really effective sequence. Even as things stand, it’s pretty good.
Father Conrad, at this point, is unwise enough to exclaim, “Josef Winter!” Possessed Magdalena immediately latches onto his throat. The others drag her off and she bolts, but only as far as the staircase, where they find her herself again, complaining of a headache. A rueful Father Conrad assures Falk that he’s all right, counselling him, should Magdalena have another such outbreak, not to forget “the other method”.
“The word of God is a very powerful tool,” he tells Falk, who remains dogged in his refusal to listen.
I should say that throughout the film, we’ve had a parallel and not very important subplot about the man in a trench-coat seen lurking near the murder site, who is eventually caught searching Winter’s apartment. He insists he had nothing to do with the murder, but knows who’s responsible: “The man in black – the devil!” Here we wrap things up when, as the suspect is being brought to the Commissioner for more questioning, he gets away from not exactly the most vigilant guard in the world and throws himself down a four-storey stairwell.
I was kind of hoping
arm would snap off.
I was kind of hoping his arm would snap off.
At this moment, a strange force rips through Magdalena’s room, pushing her back onto the bed – and refusing to take “no” for an answer....
Our old friend Stone – wait, weren’t you gone? – if not locked up? – chooses this moment not only to return to the house, but to walk straight into Magdalena’s bedroom without so much as a by-your-leave....and finds her on the bed, on her knees, her arms cruelly pinned behind her back, and being violently taken from behind, by...?
(I tell you---- We really do have to admire Dagmar Hedrich’s courage, if not necessarily her wisdom.)
As Stone looks on, whatever it is releases Magdalena, who first promises to do anything she’s told – then begs her assailant to kill her – but finally agrees to do as it demands. She leaves the room without even noticing Stone, who follows her out into the body of the house, where she takes a knife from the kitchen. Thus armed, she makes her way to Falk’s bedroom, where he lies sleeping. She raises the knife – only to be overpowered by Stone.
With Magdalena safely straitjacketed – for the moment – Falk and Stone have a little chat about their mutually embarrassing situation. Stone confesses that he came back to see Magdalena, that he wanted to go away with her – you what!? He has already described what he saw, which Falk describes as, “Her combat with her self-conscious.” Stone comments, “It looked almost as if some invisible creature was raping her.”
And then we get my favourite line of dialogue in the whole film:
Falk: “You’re an honest man, Stone!”
Falk is confessing to Stone that he’s made no progress at all with Magdalena – unlike Stone, nyuck-nyuck – when the housekeeper comes running in to announce that Magdalena has ripped open her straitjacket and escaped. The three rush outside, where Magdalena has just set fire to the woodpile. She sees the others and snatches up a small hatchet.
“Now I’ll kill you all – in the name of the devil!” she cries.
She runs at Stone, and we get some really misleading editing here, as it seems she must have done him some severe damage, if not lopped his arm off, but no such luck. I can only assume that post-production tampering is to blame; that some idiot thought Stone surviving this and ending up with an exorcised Magdalena would somehow constitute “a happy ending”; but I’m here to tell you, sometimes nothing says “a happy ending” quite like an arterial blood spray.
Not even a scratch - !?
“Magdalena!” says Falk sharply.
He stares at her, regaining hypnotic control; and as he does so, Father Conrad’s voice echoes in his head – “Try another method....God’s.... The word of God is a powerful tool....” – in a moment wonderfully prescient of, “Luke, use the force....”
Busted again, hey, Lucas??
Falk puts Magdalena to sleep, and lowers her to the ground; and then, oh irony! – he says to her exactly what Father Conrad said to him, asking her to think back to when she was a child, to her faith in God, and to how she used to pray. Magdalena thrashes around, resisting him, but finally he compels her to obey him by reminding her, “Jesus knew a Magdalena – and he forgave her.”
“In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,” Magdalena gasps – and then sits up, clutching herself in pain. She gags....and vomits up a small adder; a real adder, which begins to side-wind away.
And Stone slams his foot down on it.
OH YOU SON OF A BITCH.
And just when I thought I couldn’t possibly hate this guy any more.
And then he does it again. But even after that, the snake moves, and there’s no blood, so maybe, maybe....
And then, like every other manifestation in the film, the snake just vanishes. As does the sound of flies. And guess what, folks? – that’s it. Magdalena is exorcised.
So there you have it: the single most pathetic exorcism in the history of cinema. Congratulations, Magdalena, Possessed By The Devil!
(Makes you see the disco-ball exorcism in Abby in a whole new light, doesn’t it?)
And even more sadly, that’s not the end of the film. After some silent disbelieving gawping, Falk says solemnly, “There are – some things between heaven and hell.” Treacly piano music starts up, and Magdalena puts her hands on Stone’s arm. They smile, and walk off together, climbing the grassy hill behind the house, walking across a field, and heading down the road, passing a large birdhouse hanging in a tree. We notice that, somewhere between the house and the road, the barefooted Magdalena managed to acquire shoes. EEK!! She must be possessed again!!
Our lovers then walk out of shot, and the camera
stares blankly at the birdhouse for a good five seconds before the
screen goes black. But even this doesn’t finish it – oh, no! First we
get to stare at blank, crackly, end-of-reel film shots and listen to
that damn piano music for another
I’m not sure about God....but this film certainly makes you believe in the devil.