Thursday, 20 September 2007

I Don't Want to Be Born (1975)

I Don't Want to Be Born (also known as The Monster and The Devil Within Her) is a 1975 British horror flick starring Joan Collins. It’s one of several horror movies she made in the 70s. She’s a stripper who has a curse put her on her by her partner in her night-club act, a dwarf, whose sexual advances she has spurned. As a result she gives birth to a demonic child. Now I know what you’re thinking – not another “woman cursed by sex-starved dwarf” movie – but how many movies are there with evil babies that punch people out and drag corpses about? For some reason that is never explained the evil baby concerned did not want to be born, and now that it has been born it’s really peeved. It expresses its annoyance by making large amounts of noise, throwing its toys about the nursery, and killing people. It’s possible that some of the people involved may have believed they were making a serious horror movie. I’m quite certain that Joan Collins did not share this delusion. She gives an outrageously camp performance, and she’s one of the main reasons the movie is worth seeing.

There are other reasons to see it, though. There’s some mind-bogglingly awful dialogue, much of it delivered by Ralph Bates in one of the most unconvincing Italian accents I’ve ever heard. There’s Eileen Atkins as his sister the nun, with an even worse Italian accent. There’s Donald Pleasence as her doctor (and I’m sure Donald Pleasence also cherished no illusions about the quality of this motion picture). When you’re giving birth, what could be more comforting than to notice that the doctor in attendance is Donald Pleasence? You just know everything is going to be fine then. Yeah right. There’s also an exorcism scene, and they’re always fun. The movie tries to copy both The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby, and while it fails miserably it does have the advantage over those films of having the aforementioned sexually frustrated evil dwarf. And the final reason for seeing this cinematic gem is to see the strip club in which Miss Collins earns her living. I have no idea what strip clubs were like in London in 1975, but I’m fairly sure they were nothing like this. It seems more like a combination o a 19th century music hall, a circus and a ballet. Perhaps strip clubs really were like this in England in 1975. If so it’s a scary thought. And I’ve never seen a stripper wearing so many clothes! I always imagined that strippers took their clothes off, but Miss Collins seems to have added several additional layers of clothing. Curiously enough she does do a nude scene in the movie, but not in the strip club, which makes one wonder why they made her character a stripper? One can only assume it was done in the hope that audiences would flock to the film expecting Joan Collins to be naked for most of the running time, when in fact she’s naked for about six-tenths of a second.

The special effects were kept to a minimum, and you don’t see the evil baby performing any of its numerous acts of mayhem and murder. Presumably it was felt (quite rightly) that there was no way you were going to be able to convincingly portray a baby wielding an axe. The few special effects that are used are remarkably unexciting. Peter Sasdy had directed several quite good horror films for Hammer in the early 70s but he never really gets a grip on this one. I Don't Want to Be Born has just about everything you could hope for in a bad movie, and the end results are wonderfully entertaining. A true camp classic.

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