Monday, 23 September 2013

The Devil Rides Out (1968)

Hammer provides an entertaining, and actually quite brilliant, adaptation of Dennis Wheatley's work and although I have not read any of Wheatley's work, sadly, I am familiar with his themes and tone and cannot imagine that this movie lets down fans of the literary great either.

Christopher Lee and Leon Greene play Duc de Richleau and Rex Van Ryn, respectively, two gentlemen trying to help their friend (played by Patrick Mower) move away from the tight clutches of a local Satanic cult. Easier said than done and problems come in the shape of Tanith Carlisle (played by Nike Arrighi), an alluring female also caught up in the web of the dark arts, and confrontations with the cult's charismatic and powerful leader, Mocata (wonderfully portrayed by Charles Gray). People close to the daring duo are placed in peril and things go from bad to worse before the finale . . . . . but will it be good or evil triumphing as the sun rises?

The cast here all do a fantastic job. As well as those mentioned, with Lee and Gray being particular standouts, there's some solid support in the latter half of the movie from Paul Eddington and Sarah Lawson.

Terence Fisher directs (from a tight screenplay by Richard Matheson) with an assured hand, throwing us directly into the action and letting us find out a little more with each scene as things move from slightly puzzling to mysterious to dangerous to deadly. Though I do not know enough about the rituals and accoutrements portrayed in the movie it all has a sense of authenticity about it, strange considering how far-fetched the movie actually is in its depiction of a struggle between good and evil.

Considering its age, it holds up very well to this day. There are two major "materialisation" scenes that still hold the power to unnerve; in fact, the very first one actually made me want to look away from the screen as I was getting a bit freaked out by the imagery. There are lots of details in the effects and acting that you could poke fun at if you wanted to (one scene featuring an over-sized spider is about as bad as anything in Empire Of The Ants) but if you forgive the "ravages of time" then you will be letting yourself in for a cracking British horror movie aimed distinctly at adults.


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