‘It’s evil… it’s horrific… it’s conceived by the Devil!’
I Don’t Want to Be Born – aka The Devil Within Her – is a 1975 British supernatural horror feature film directed by Peter Sasdy (Nothing But the Night; Hands of the Ripper; Countess Dracula; Taste the Blood of Dracula) from a screenplay written by Stanley Price, based on a story by executive producer Nato De Angeles. The Unicapital production stars Joan Collins, Ralph Bates, Eileen Atkins and Donald Pleasence.
It’s a thoroughly ludicrous, totally ridiculous movie and what makes it all the more memorable is that it doesn’t seem to realise how silly it all is. This is a crazy movie that tells its story in the most serious way possible. This damn film is almost sombre, it’s so serious.
Lucy (Joan Collins) is an exotic dancer who performs her act with a dodgy dwarf named Hercules (George Claydon). When Hercules tries to force himself on Lucy, he is tossed out of the club by Tommy (who is played by John Steiner, a good actor who somehow always turned up in movies like this one.) After she and Tommy get it on, Lucy is confronted by Hercules who curses her, telling her that she will have a baby “as big as I am small and possessed by the devil himself!” Oh, Hercules, you weirdo.
Nine months later, Lucy’s life has somehow completely changed. She’s no longer a dancer. ow, she’s married to a rich Italian named Gino (played by Ralph Bates, speaking in a bizarre cod-Italian accent).
When Lucy has her baby, it’s a long and difficult delivery. The baby is huge! Not only is he huge, but he also has a bad temper and unnaturally sharp nails. The first time that Lucy holds him, he attacks her. Whenever the baby is introduced to anyone new, he responds by biting them. When Tommy drops by to take a look at the baby that might be his son, he ends up with a bloody nose!
Yet, that’s not all this baby can do! Anytime he’s left alone in a room, the room ends up getting destroyed. Eventually, he apparently figures out how to climb trees and how efficiently slip a noose around the neck of anyone who walks underneath him. And don’t think that you can escape this baby simply because you’re taller and faster. One unfortunate person is decapitated, even though he’s standing at the time. How did the baby reach his neck? Who knows?
Does this baby need an exorcism? Lucy’s sister-in-law, Sister Albana (Eileen Atkins), certainly believes that it does. As Lucy thinks about whether the baby’s behaviour is in any way odd, she glances over at the baby and — oh my God! The baby has Hercules’s face!
And it just keeps going from there. Again, I feel the need to repeat that this film is meant to be taken very seriously. The script may be full of awkward and clichéd dialogue but most of the cast attempts to act the Hell out of it.
Speaking of the cast, there’s a lot of familiar horror people in this one. Along with John Steiner, there’s also Caroline Munro and Donald Pleasence. Those three give performances that somehow manage to remain credible, perhaps because they had the experience necessary to understand what type of movie they were in. But the rest of the cast … you feel bad for them because they’re just trying so hard.
It’s a terrible movie, however it’s so warped that I have to recommend that everyone see it once. If for nothing else, see it for the scene where Hercules responds to an attempt to exorcise the baby by swaying drunkenly on the stage. It’s weird and it’s hard for mere words to do it justice.
Lisa Marie Bowman, guest reviewer via Through the Shattered Lens
“It’s empty, unoriginal, utterly worthless on every level […] This is probably Sasdy’s worst film and it’s probably doing better financially than any of his others.” Cinefantastique, 1975
“It’s funniest when the baby turns into the dwarf and then changes back. For the most part, the real baby is filmed when staring intently off camera. Some shots where the baby’s eyes wander should have been edited out. It’s generally well-made but the persisting silliness of the main idea dooms it to camp.” David Elroy Goldweber, Claws & Saucers
“The cast seems to be trying their best, but their efforts are wasted in the type of movie where a grown man is punched in the nose by a baby. If The Devil Within Her had a Z-grade budget and second rate actors it would have been an amusing piece of genre junk. What makes it truly exceptional is the fact that this appears to be a serious attempt at a suspenseful horror film.” Cool Cinema Trash
” …about as convincing as something you’d see in a Benny Hill skit (the baby’s hand is seen pushing a woman into a lake from his carriage). As a whole, it’s a perfect example of why by this point in time, many British horror films commercially and critically failed and compared unfavorably with the competition out of Hollywood by the mid 1970s.” DVD Drive-In
“There are no attempts at character development or anything of the like, and while I know it’s a lot to hope for in a movie like this, character development is part of the reason why films like Rosemary’s Baby are successful, you know? Frequently you’ll be wondering if The Devil Within Her is actually meant to be comedic.” Final Girl
” …mindless and silly exploitation piece that merely tries to combine It’s Alive! and the The Exorcist and gets nowhere as a result.” Alan Frank, The Horror Film Handbook
“This is without a doubt the silliest killer-child movie I’ve ever seen. That’s not a bad thing, and it’s way more fun than Larry Cohen’s snooze-fest It’s Alive! But just don’t expect something serious and scary, just expect a staring baby with eerie music in the background, a dashing Joan Collins and a very nice performance by Donald Pleasence.” Ninja Dixon
” …a cash-in on the success of Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist, two films that obviously function incredibly well as ‘serious’ horror movies – but The Devil Within Her throws in so much lunacy and is put together in such a bizarre and haphazard manner that it never comes close to the success of those aforementioned movies. It does, however, work incredibly well as a silly, trashy, nonsensical popcorn movie…” Rock! Shock! Pop!
“In this film’s aims to be chilling, it is hopeless, but as a comedy, it’s funnier than much of the British film industry’s attempts in that area from this time.” The Spinning Image
“Sharon’s Baby is listed as a horror film and I’m sure it was written to instill terror in the hearts of 1970’s filmgoers. However, it is best labeled these days as a horror/comedy. It is unintentionally funny but it’s funny nonetheless. If you view this film in this light, you’ll find it to be an enjoyable viewing experience.” Vintage Horror Films
Buy Spanish Blu-ray (with English audio option): Amazon.co.uk
Cast and characters:
- Joan Collins … Lucy Carlesi
- Eileen Atkins … Sister Albana
- Ralph Bates … Gino Carlesi
- Donald Pleasence … Doctor Finch
- Caroline Munro … Mandy Gregory
- Hilary Mason … Mrs. Hyde
- John Steiner … Tommy Morris
- Janet Key … Jill Fletcher
- George Claydon … Hercules
- Derek Benfield … Police Inspector
- Stanley Lebor … Police Sergeant
- Judy Buxton … Sheila
- Andy Secombe … Delivery Boy
- Susan Richards … Old Lady
- Phyllis McMahon … Nun
- John Moore … Priest
- Floella Benjamin … 1st Nurse
- Penny Darch … 2nd Nurse
- Maria Lopez … Exotic dancer
- Susie Lightning … Exotic dancer
- Val Hoadley … Dancer
- Janice Brett … Dancer
32 Wellington Square, Kensington, London, England
Hyde Park Corner, London, England
Kings Road, Chelsea, London, England
Parliament Square, Westminster, London, England
Fortnum & Mason, Piccadilly, London, England
Pinewood Studios, Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire, England
94 minutes | 1.85: 1 | Eastmancolor
The Baby – shooting title
It Lives Within Her – alternate British VHS title
British censorship body the BBFC demanded cuts for an ‘X’ certificate, issued on 28 January 1975.
Dwarfs in Horror Cinema – article