DONíT DELIVER US FROM EVIL
Yet another film whose
reputation precedes it. 1971ís DONíT DELIVER US FROM EVIL, about teen girls who
dedicate themselves to evil, was banned in France for eight months, and wasnít
distributed in the U.S. until 35 years later. Now that this notorious work has
finally been unveiled, the furor is revealed as much ado about very little.
DONíT DELIVER US FROM EVIL (MAIS NE
NOUS DELIVREZ PAS DU MAL--literally BUT DO NOT DELIVER US FROM EVIL) was
the filmmaking debut of actor Joel Seria. His inspiration was the Parker-Hulme
murder that occurred in New Zealand in 1954; its perpetrators were Pauline
Parker and Juliet Hulme, teenagers who indulged a shared fantasy world and then
murdered Parkerís mother when it seemed the two might be split up. The case was
the inspiration for Peter Jacksonís
HEAVENLY CREATURES (1994), a more literal
dramatization than DONíT DELIVER US FROM EVIL (whose lead actresses were both in
their twenties at the time of filming), and also a much better film.
Seriaís film nevertheless became a minor cause celebre when released
in England, courtesy of the legendary avant-garde filmmaker/distributor Anthony
Balch. It was Balch who was responsible for the irresistible tagline ďA
French film banned in France!Ē
Anne is a dissatisfied Catholic schoolgirl who befriends the equally
dissatisfied Lore. In rebellion against the strict moral codes of their
superiors, the girls dedicate themselves to evil.
During the summer Anne and Lore live at their respective homes, where they
torture cats and steal church wafers, which they use in satanic rituals. They
also seduce the retarded gardener but he becomes violent and abusive. The girls
retaliate by killing his pet bird.
Anne and Lore try the seduction gambit again, this time on a middle-aged
man they invite to Anneís house one night when her parents are out. Again,
however, the man becomes overexcited, and Anne bashes his head in with a heavy
Anne and Lore do their best to cover up the killing, but both realize that
capture is inevitable. Worse, they stand to be split up, a fate neither can
bear. They decide to commit joint suicide, and do so during a childrenís play.
In the midst of the performance the girls take the stage, recite a Baudelaire
poem and incinerate themselves before the stunned audience.
I find this film dull and excessively drawn-out, although that might be
because Iím not Catholic. It seems lapsed Catholics respond best to DONíT
DELIVER US FROM EVIL; that includes the English crime writer Paul Buck, who
provides an enthusiastic dissertation of the film on the Mondo Macabro DVD,
claiming it made him flash back on his own Catholic upbringing. For his part,
writer-director Joel Seria claims the filmís oppressive Catholic boarding school
was taken directly from his own childhood.
To be fair, the film isnít all bad. The early scenes set a hypnotic tone,
with the two girls in bed, whispering under the covers. This heralds an aura of
secrets and intrigue, bolstered by languid pacing and much lingering,
fetishistic imagery. This doesnít make for a terribly exciting film, especially
since the story is so painfully thin--and just as painfully drawn-out. Whatever
shock value it might once have possessed has long since worn off, leaving a
mildly interesting relic thatís best viewed as a warm-up for HEAVENLY CREATURES,
which is everything DONíT DELIVER US FROM EVIL wants to be.
DONíT DELIVER US
FROM EVIL (MAIS NE NOUS DELIVREZ PAS DU
Societe Generale De Production/Productions Tanit
Director: Joel Seria
Producer: Bernard Legargeant
Screenplay: Joel Seria
Cinematography: Marcel Combes
Editing: Philippe Gosselet
Cast: Jeanne Goupil, Catherine Wagener, Bernard Dheran, Michael Robin, Gerard
Darrieu, Marc Dudicourt, Veronique Silver, Jean-Pierre Helbert, Nicole Merouze,
Henri Poirier, Serge Frederic, Rene Berthier, Frederic Nort