The Monster (1975)
AKA I Don’t Want to Be Born
Noah Rymer takes a look at Network's recent remaster of The Monster, starring Joan Collins and Donald Pleasence...
A word of introduction from your temporary editor: since 1997, Network Distributing Ltd have been curating, restoring and re-releasing a diverse mix of TV and film, including a vast catalogue of UK productions. They launched The British Film label in 2013, covering hundreds of films over nine decades, and even won an award for their work on Gerry Anderson’s Joe 90.
For Hallowe’en 2021, they released two British classics for the first time in HD. One of these was The Monster (UK, Peter Sasdy, 1975), which also did the rounds as I Don’t Want to Be Born, The Devil Within Her, and even Sharon’s Baby. Sasdy is a Hammer veteran who also worked on several TV shows, including – likely to be beloved of Horrified readers – 1972’s The Stone Tape by Nigel Keale.
Despite a fairly stellar cast including Joan Collins and Donald Pleasence, The Monster had some detractors on release. Roger Ebert gave it one and a half stars, dismissing it as ‘a third-rate rip-off of The Exorcist.’ However, after finding its niche on late night TV, Sasdy’s film began to pick up steam in the Eighties, appealing to connoisseurs of campy horror. It is, in the words of FrightFest reviewer Chris Ward, ‘a British production featuring a cast of familiar faces all trying to take it all so seriously that you can’t help but find it hilarious.’ Or, more concisely: ‘an absolute hoot, albeit an unintentional one.’
It’s perhaps unsurprising that the film caught Network’s eye, since their brand and mission statement were inspired by one line of dialogue in the Sidney Lumet film of the same name: ‘I never want to see anything conventional on this network.’ As well as the HD remaster, the 2021 release of The Monster includes a limited edition booklet by Adrian Smith and a new audio commentary by the Second Features podcast team.
Noah Rymer watched the film for Horrified and gives his review below…
Monstrous Melodrama: Sadsy’s Sordid Family Affairs
By Noah Rymer
The Monster (AKA I Don’t Want To Be Born) (UK, Peter Sasdy, 1975)
Summary: A couple gives birth to a rather large baby, who quickly goes on a murderous rampage. Their child is thought to be possessed by the devil.
A gauzy 70s family melodrama, entangled within a web of affairs and prophecies, framed with the introduction of a devil-possessed child, and draped in a transcendent, audial psychedelic veil. It can be comic in the presentation of the monster (which is simply the normal looking baby of the couple) and the bright, giallo-esque poster paint blood, but that psychotronic grindhouse lemon zest of a soundtrack and a smattering of dreamlike hallucinations makes it feel all the more surreal which adds to the charm of it! Factor in Donald Pleasence’s downplayed doctor and this film is honestly better than it has any right to be.
The tension between the family members definitely carries, and is the core of what makes the movie; this isn’t a creature feature, but an examination of grief, guilt, and the disintegration of the family unit. There are some decadent moments of aesthetic value strewn about as well, with some wonderful setpieces cast in shadow, the sumptuously decorated house, and the mod-leaning outfits peppered throughout the runtime, which all help to craft the atmosphere. And whilst the deaths are by no means gory or bloody, the danger only increases as we begin to understand the threat the child poses.
The Monster feels like the inverse of Larry Cohen’s It’s Alive: Instead of disgust with acceptance there is only trauma with understanding. It isn’t exploitation, it’s simply and understandably tragic.