[Screen It]


(1999) (Johnny Depp, Frank Langella) (R)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
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Suspense: Hired by a scholar of demonology to prove that two other copies of a 17th century manual of satanic invocation are fakes, a "book detective" sets out on what becomes an increasingly dangerous assignment.
Dean Corso (JOHNNY DEPP) is a highly adept, but unscrupulous New York "book detective" who finds rare books for wealthy collectors. Thus, it's quite natural for a scholar of demonology, Boris Balkan (FRANK LANGELLA) to hire him for his expertise. It seems that Balkan has acquired one of three existing copies of "The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows" from a fellow collector who's just committed suicide.

While the book - a 17th century manual supposedly written by the Devil himself and containing nine engravings that if interpreted correctly can reportedly be used to summon that author -- is now one of Balkan's most prized possessions, he's not completely sure of its authenticity, and thus wants Corso to find the other two copies and prove that they're forgeries.

Although initially reluctant, the large payment Balkan promises Corso eventually convinces him and he sets out to learn about the book as well as track down and compare the two other copies located overseas. It's not long after he begins his investigation, however, that things start to get strange and dangerous. After meeting Liana Telfer (LENA OLIN), the window of the suicidal collector, Corso finds that there's a mysterious blond woman (EMMANUELLE SEIGNER) who seems to be following him, and then discovers that a book friend of his has been murdered along the lines of an engraving from the book.

Once in Europe, Corso continues his investigation that eventually leads him to meet the book dealing Ceniza brothers (both played by JOSÉ LÓPEZ RODERO), as well as Victor Fargas (JACK TAYLOR) and the wheelchair bound Baroness Kessler (BARBARA JEFFORD), who own the second and third copies of the book respectively.

As Corso discovers more revealing facts about the books and finds that he has an ally of sorts in the mysterious blond woman, he must not only contend with Balkan's repeated demands to succeed at his task no matter what the cost, but also with a sinister hit man (TONY AMONI) who's targeted him, as well as surprising revelations about certain characters and their interest in the book.

Those who are fans of someone in the cast and/or director Roman Polanski, or of Devil-related films may just be drawn to it.
For some violence and sexuality.
  • JOHHNY DEPP plays an unscrupulous book detective who drinks and smokes throughout the film, has sex with two women and briefly uses some profanity.
  • FRANK LANGELLA plays a demonologist and proud collector of devil worship books who turns out to be a man wishing to evoke the Devil.
  • LENA OLIN plays the recent widow of another book collector who doesn't grieve much over his death. Instead, she has sex with Corso, uses some profanity, and turns out to have a more vested interest in the book than she initially implies.
  • EMMANUELLE SEIGNER plays a mysterious woman who follows Corso and acts like his guardian angel of sorts. She also has sex with him, during which the impression is given that she may have a darker, more sinister side to her.
  • TONY AMONI plays a sinister man who wishes to harm Corso.
  • BARBARA JEFFORD plays another book collector and devil worshiper.


    Curious if this title is entertaining, any good, and/or has any artistic merit?
    Then read OUR TAKE of this film.

    (Note: The "Our Take" review of this title examines the film's artistic merits and does not take into account any of the possibly objectionable material listed below).

    The following is a brief summary of the content found in this R-rated supernatural thriller. Several sexual encounters take place, one that's implied but shows some groping, while another shows nudity and movement. An older woman makes some references to formerly participating in orgies, while some old engravings/drawings show female nudity.

    Several people are killed during the film, although only one such murder is seen during the actual act (a person is shot to death). Other non-lethal violence also occurs, some of which has somewhat bloody results. Profanity is rated as heavy due to at least 1 use of the "f" word, while a handful of other profanities and colorful phrases are also scattered throughout the film.

    Much of the story deals with demonology and devil worship (and a book that reportedly can summon the Devil) and those unsettled/disturbed by such matters should be forewarned. Such material - including a character who lights himself on fire to prove that he can't feel any pain due to supernatural powers - may not only prove to be of imitative fodder for some impressionable kids, but it and other scenes throughout the film may also be suspenseful and/or frightening to some viewers.

    Beyond that, the protagonist, a less than scrupulous character, also smokes and drinks throughout the film. Should you still be concerned about the film's appropriateness for anyone in your home, we suggest that you take a closer look at our more detail content listings.

  • Corso and a man have drinks during a transaction.
  • Corso pours himself a drink in a bookstore.
  • Corso has a drink.
  • Corso and Liana have drinks and we later see wine on the floor.
  • Corso has a drink on a plane and then does the same later on a train.
  • Corso and another man drink.
  • Corso has a drink in a bar.
  • We see a bottle of liquor in a fountain (along with a dead body).
  • Corso has a drink in front of him.
  • Corso drinks in a bar and we later see that he's had many while sitting there.
  • Corso drinks liquor from a mini-bottle retrieved from his hotel mini-bar.
  • We see that the Baroness has wine with her meal.
  • Corso takes two bottles from a mini-bar and pours them into a glass.
  • Corso has a glass of wine.
  • Some blood runs down Corso's head after he's been hit with a bottle.
  • We see a dead body with some blood from the mouth.
  • We see a dead body under the water in a fountain (but beyond being dead it's not bloody or gory).
  • A woman has a tiny bit of a bloody nose after fighting a man and then takes some of that blood and rubs it on Corso's forehead.
  • We see a dead woman (whose tongue is hanging out of her open mouth and her eyes are wide open).
  • A man's face is somewhat bloody after being punched and bludgeoned.
  • A man has some bloody scratches on his face.
  • We see a person completely engulfed in flames.
  • Some viewers may not like or might take offense to the film's portrayal of devil worship/demonology that includes some characters involved in that.
  • Corso is known for being unscrupulous and we see him take advantage of some people by paying far less than he should have for some valuable books.
  • Balkan tells Corso to get him the other two copies of the book no matter what the cost or illegal behavior.
  • A Baroness has a bad attitude toward Corso.
  • The woman with Corso steals a car for their use in trailing two people.
  • A truck driver is mean toward Corso and the woman with him.
  • Liana turns out to be another worshipper and has her bodyguard try to kill Corso.
  • The overall devil worship/demonology aspect might be unnerving to some viewers, while scenes listed under "Violence" may also be disturbing, suspenseful or frightening to some viewers.
  • A man commits suicide by hanging himself (but all we see are his feet momentarily twitching and then swinging back and forth).
  • A wall of scaffolding falls and nearly hits Corso in an alley.
  • A car driven by a mysterious man nearly runs over Corso.
  • That same man comes after Corso again in his car and then chases after him on foot.
  • An engraving shows a character aiming an arrow at others.
  • Handgun: Used in a threatening gesture and to kill one person. See "Violence" for details.
  • Phrases: "Bastard," "Screwed 'em" (nonsexual), "Screw" (nonsexual) and "I'll be damned."
  • A man commits suicide by hanging himself.
  • It's possible that impressionable teens could be drawn into or simply find the world of demonology/devil worship intriguing after seeing this picture. In one such scene, a character pours a flammable liquid in a circle around him and then ignites it. Thinking he's invincible, he then pours the liquid on himself and lets himself ignite.
  • A woman crawls up a downspout to get into a locked mansion.
  • A truck driver gives Corso and the woman with him "the finger."
  • None.
  • An extreme amount of ominous and suspenseful music plays during the film.
  • None.
  • At least 1 "f" word, 2 "s" words, 2 S.O.B.s, 1 ass, 1 damn, 2 uses of "My God" and 1 use each of "G-damn," "Christ," "Jesus Christ," "Oh Jesus" and "God Almighty" as exclamations.
  • An old engraving (that has a medieval look) in the book shows a drawing of a completely nude woman (although all that's readily apparent are her bare breasts). This is seen twice.
  • When Corso half-jokingly worries about Liana possibly having a .45 up her dress, she pulls hers up to reveal no weapon, but we do see a great deal of her upper thigh. As he stands before her, Liana then feels his clothed crotch and kisses him. We then see Corso on top of her on a couch and he runs his hand along her clothed breast. As he pulls up her dress, we get a brief glimpse of part of her bare butt. Later, and presumably after they've had sex, she tells him, "Don't f*ck with me," and Corso replies, "I thought I already did."
  • Baroness Kessler talks about groups of people who used to get together for devil worship and group sex, but then adds that her orgy days are over.
  • As Liana dresses, we see her bare butt as well as brief glimpses of the side of her bare breast.
  • Corso and a woman make out in a car. Moments later, and from a distance we see her sitting upright on his prone body on the ground as they have sex. Then, from different angles, we see her bare breasts, part of her bare butt and some sexual movement.
  • Corso smokes more than ten times, while the mysterious man after him smokes a few times, Liana smokes once and an old bookstore owner also smokes.
  • Liana's husband has just committed suicide, and although she's reserved upon meeting Corso, she doesn't appear to be grieving too much.
  • Devil worship.
  • Suicide.
  • A man hangs himself (but all we see are his feet momentarily twitching and then swinging back and forth).
  • Corso returns to find that someone has ransacked his place.
  • Wanting her husband's former book, Liana grabs Corso by the hair and tries to attack him. He gains control of her, but she then bites him on the chest and hits him over the head with a bottle.
  • Corso finds a dead man hanging upside down from a circular stairwell.
  • A car driven by a mysterious man nearly runs over Corso.
  • Corso finds a dead body under the water of a fountain.
  • The mysterious man comes after Corso again in his car and then chases after him on foot, eventually tripping him to the ground. They struggle over Corso's bag and the man then kicks Corso several times. A woman then kicks the man to the ground, they fight some more and the woman kicks the man several more times.
  • Someone knocks Corso unconscious (not entirely seen). When he finally comes to, he finds that a woman's been killed and her place set on fire (we later see the flames shooting out of the windows).
  • A woman twists Corso's arm.
  • The mysterious man punches Corso and then guides him and the woman with him by gunpoint. Corso then throws this man down some stairs, repeatedly punches, and then bludgeons him in the face with an object.
  • A woman strikes a man on the face, the two struggle and he begins to choke her. That man then backhands another man who tries to come to her rescue and then proceeds to strangle the woman to death with a necklace (that presses hard against her neck).
  • A man holds a gun on another man, the two then struggle and one partially falls through a wooden floor. The standing man then proceeds to try to push him down through the floor with his foot until the other man is stuck there.
  • A character pours a flammable liquid in a circle around him and then ignites it. Thinking he's invincible, he then pours the liquid on himself and lets himself ignite (but he feels the pain of the burning).
  • A man shoots another man dead.

  • Reviewed February 18, 2000 / Posted March 10, 2000

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