Revival House: Ten Movies With the Devil Personified

With a movie literally called Devil coming out this weekend, I decided to take a look at some memorable films in which Satan has taken shape in one way or another. People weary of spoilers should proceed with caution, as at least one film on this list intended that devilish revelation as a twist ending.

The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941). When the Devil, who goes by Mr. Scratch (Walter Huston), comes to collect a soul of a New Hampshire farmer who made a deal with him, orator Daniel Webster (Edward Arnold) agrees to defend the farmer in a court case — with Webster’s own soul now at stake. Scratch’s “jury of the damned” (as described by Webster) consists of (as described by Scratch) “Dastards, liars, traitors, knaves … Americans all.” Adapted from Stephen Vincent Benét’s short story, the film was originally released under the title All That Money Can Buy. Bernard Herrmann won his only Oscar for his score to this film, beating out his own score for Citizen Kane that year.

Crossroads (1986). Walter Hill directed this tale, inspired by the “true story” of blues legend Robert Johnson who, according to myth, made a deal with the Devil in exchange for his musical abilities. The final guitar duel between Eugene (Ralph Macchio) and “Scratch’s” guitar player (Steve Vai) is pretty epic as guitar battles for the soul go.


Legend (1985). It’s never been one of my favorite fantasy films by a long shot, though Ridley Scott’s 113-minute director’s cut (with Jerry Goldsmith’s score restored) is a vast improvement over the 89-minute version that was released in U.S. theaters. But I’ve always been impressed by Tim Curry’s performance as Darkness and also the amazing prosthetic makeup created by Rob Bottin.

The Witches of Eastwick (1987). In this adaptation of the John Updike novel, the Devil is presented in the form of Jack Nicholson as Daryl Van Horne, a mysterious stranger who arrives in town and begins to seduce the three bored housewives (Cher, Susan Sarandon and Michelle Pfeiffer) who summoned him. Despite the film’s climax, which is a bit too over the top, it’s a fun ride — with Nicholson pretty much born to play the role.

Angel Heart (1987). In director Alan Parker’s adaptation of the William Hjortsberg novel Falling Angel, a strange manipulative gentleman with long fingernails named Louis Cyphre (Robert De Niro) hires private investigator Harry Angel (Mickey Rourke) to find Johnny Favorite, a famous big band singer who supposedly owes Mr. Cyphre some kind of debt. The final revelation was something I should have totally seen coming, but totally didn’t. Hjortsberg, it turns out, also wrote the screenplay for Legend, which makes me wonder if he’s cut some kind of deal with the dark one himself.

South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999). In Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s big screen opus, it turns out that Satan, the dark prince, Saddam Hussein’s gay lover, secretly (in song) laments for a very different life — and boy can this particular Devil belt out a tune.

Time Bandits (1981). Okay so technically David Warner’s character is called simply Evil (or “The Evil Genius” on the film’s poster) but let’s face it — he’s pretty much the Devil to Ralph Richardson’s Supreme Being. He also seems to very much enjoy blowing up people every now and then, even his own minions. The final confrontation in which Evil takes on “the cavalry” (five of them in fact) is particularly fun.

Rosemary’s Baby (1968). Rosemary (Mia Farrow) discovers that she is pregnant after experiencing a strange “dream” in which she is raped by some kind of demonic presence. Afterwards she begins to suspect that her husband, neighbors and (as it turns out) just about everyone she knows might be part of a Devil worshipping cult. Director Roman Polanski’s first Hollywood studio film is, to this day, one of the great cinematic thrillers.

The Omen (1976). The son of Satan takes the form of a child — born June 6th at 6am — and winds up in the care of the U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain, Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck). With an army of Rottweilers and a psychotic nanny at his side, young Damien Thorn (Harvey Stephens) will stop at nothing to rise in the world of politics — with a series of fatal “accidents” that seem to befall anyone who gets in the way. That creepy, knowing smile at the end says it all.

The Exorcist (1973). When it became necessary to show the actors’ breath, director William Friedkin actually made the room cold — one of the many reasons why the events depicted in the film seem as though they’re really happening. This particular demon, the downright scariest on this list, is personified through actress Linda Blair (playing 12-year-old Regan MacNeil) and also the amazing voice work of Mercedes McCambridge — who was reportedly strapped to a chair during the recording sessions in an effort to make her feel more “trapped” in the body of the girl (especially during those moments when Regan is herself strapped down to the bed).
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  • LostShaker

    Nice list, although I’d have to toss a vote to Al Pacino in the Devil’s Advocate.

  • http://www.popdose.com Michael Parr

    I’d second that vote.

  • Guest11

    Where’s the Pick of Destiny?

  • Turdferguson

    End of days , gabriel byrne ?

  • J@jellyjules.com

    Nice list, though Bedazzled certainly needs to be included! Esp. the Moore/Cook version.

  • Anonymous

    Walter HUSTON.

  • http://notthatyoung.blogspot.com Anonymous

    That Crossroads guitar duel is killer! It totally made the movie and almost made me forgive Ralph Macchio for making Karate Kid II…

  • http://twitter.com/jeffyjohnson Jeff Johnson

    D’oh! Thanks for pointing that out. I’ll see about getting it corrected.

  • Social Faux-Pas

    For all of the movie’s faults, the Lucifer in Constantine remains my favorite portrayal of him.

  • Social Faux-Pas

    For all of the movie’s faults, the Lucifer in Constantine remains my favorite portrayal of him.

  • Weezle41

    How about Viggo Mortenson as Lucifer in the Prophecy?

  • Kees

    Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny, The Devils Horn Bong

  • Kees

    Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny, The Devils Horn Bong

  • http://www.popdose.com Anonymous

    I actually really liked Emmanuelle Seigner in The Ninth Gate. I think in general I enjoyed that movie more than most people, though.

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    Crossroads perfect all time :)

  • Exergone

    Ninth Gate and Something Wicked This Way Comes were the first to pop in mind.

  • spiros

    what? no Pacino in devil’s advocate?

  • Yermom

    man im surprised no ones flipping shits about the major angel heart spoiler

  • JonCummings

    Which spoiler? The one about Denise Huxtable having nipples as long as your arm?

  • JonCummings

    You forgot to mention that “The Devil and Daniel Webster” was remade a few years ago as “Shortcut to Happiness,” with Alec Baldwin and Anthony Hopkins (and Jennifer Love Hewitt). Oh — did you forget because nobody saw that movie? I remember stumbling across the filming of it on the Upper East Side one evening in ’01 or ’02, then wondering for years how a movie with Alec & Anthony could just disappear.

  • Guest

    makes me wonder if Jeff Johnson ever saw these films. The Exorcist = a demon, not the devil. The Omen = son of the devil, not the devil. Rosemary’s Baby = a baby, no devil. so much for “10 films with the devil personified.” may as well have included The Ninth Gate, since the devil has zero screen time in that one as well.

  • ritchered

    um…..”The Devil’s Advocate”………..Al Pacino rants his satanic monologues in a well choreographed morality tale

  • JJ

    Actually, the devil makes an appearance in Rosemary’s Baby in the scene where he rapes her… Also in the Exorcist the demon says that he is the devil… and… I’ll agree with you on The Omen.

  • http://www.thatmoviesucked.com/ ThatMovieSucked.com

    That was actually the first one to come to mind when I stumbled across this article.

  • Commentsclown

    Let’s not forget “Mr. Frost” with Jeff Goldblum playing the Devil himself.

  • Transluccavestti

     
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Ahora yo les cuento algo Personal, Secreto y Privado de mi propia vida y les digo que yo soy Homosexual, Gay y Transvestti, y porque no ¿??? si es que todos Los Semi-Dioses lo son porque siempre han contado con Los Dos Sexos, asi es que por consecuencia resulto ser un Profeta, porque les aseguro que en El Futuro a partir de hoy, van haber Terremotos como nunca en La Historia de La Tierra, Hambres, Pestes, Noticias de Guerra y Noticias de Paz y que van haber mas Guerras y cuando digan Paz El Mundo se va acabar. Ya Lo Ven ??? Que Fácil Es Pronosticar ??? Y es que no se necesita ser Profeta para saber que El Mundo va directo a La Destrucción por La simple Causa de La Sobrepoblación Mundial y es La Causa Terrible e Irremediable que se desarrolle toda La Delincuencia en El Planeta porque ya no cabemos en La Tierra con tanta gente indeseable que no tiene nada porque estar aquí y que ya esta sobrando y que El Mundo de un momento a otro nos va a vomitar como un borracho en La Pulquería. 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The Future Kiss. transvestti1 http://www.myspace.com/transvestti http://www.patrocinadores.net/transvestti1 http://www.the-blanwhit-records.com http://www.flickr.com/people/transvestti1 http://transvestti1.blogspot.com Trans Lucca Vestti.- Calle 2 Priv. Porfirio Diaz # 16 Col. Pantitlan Mexico Distrito Federal 08100 Phone… ( 55 ) 555 – 8 – 3952 e-mail address transvestti1 cel.55-32-10-91-80 ________________________________________ submit: Enviar consulta ________________________________________ • Return to The Black And White Records Homepage ________________________________________ staff@playboy.com.mxhttp://www.playboy.com.mx/© Revista Playboy México. Todos los derechos reservados 

  • http://www.scribd.com/pauper Andrè M. Pietroschek

    Thanks.