Tag Archives: Devil Rides Out

Not Everything Can Be Forgiven

Recently my wife and I watched the feature-length debut film from writer / director Liam Gavin – the horror / drama movie “A Dark Song”.

Catherine Walker

Sophia Howard (Catherine Walker – “Patrick’s Day”, “Dark Touch”) arranges to rent a large isolated house in North Wales for twelve months. She then heads off to meet a man at a railway station.

That man,  Joseph Solomon (Steve Oram – “The Canal”, “Sightseers”), is being hired by Sophia – at great expense – to perform a ritual for her. Initially he declines clearly troubled Sophia’s offer until she admits the reason she gave for wanting to undergo the ritual wasn’t true and tells him something that attracts his attention.

Steve Oram

Stocking up on supplies for the months ahead, as they will be unable to leave the house once the process has begun, the pair head to the house where Joseph makes preparations and gives Sophia instructions about what his demands on her will be.

While Sophia has suffered a great loss, and is still very obviously suffering because of it, Joseph comes across as a rather unpleasant and, at times, abusive individual whose motivations are unclear aside from the large fee that he is promised and his own reward from the ritual…

Hammer Horror’s The Devil Rides Out (1968)

This is a very different take on the whole occult ritual type of movie. About as far away from the classic way Hammer Horror films would glamourise something like a black mass with the stereotypical candles, pentagrams and heaving cleavages as you can get. The ritual involved here seems to be the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage – a several-months-long affair that is attributed to Abraham of Worms (1360-1460) from Germany that seeks to contact one’s Holy Guardian Angel.

The Bookf Of The Sacred Magic Of Abramelin The Mage

This text was apparently of great interest to both Aleister Crowley (1875-1947) and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and seems to involve lots of cleansing, fasting, and the use of numerous candles and symbols.

Shot in Ireland in less than three weeks, I believe, this is a rather intense film that I guess would fall into the folk horror category. Although there are a few other actors that appear on-screen briefly this is for the vast majority of the 100 minute duration an in-depth look at what happens when the two leads are holed up in the house for months on end.

Steve Oram & Catherine Walker

Whether Joseph is a genuine occult expert – albeit a particularly rude and decidedly weird one – or just a charlatan is really left to the viewer to decide as the film could be interpreted in either way, even when we get to the climax of the film which could as easily be in Sophia’s mind as actually taking place.

In truth it is the final section of the movie that lets it down a little. Neither my wife or I were completely sold on the ending and the small budget shows most tellingly at this point too. That said, it does not detract from all that’s gone before that seems to be a far more grounded depiction of the work and personal sacrifice that goes into the kind of ritual being used. Not an easy watch, by any means, but with two excellent performances from Oram and Walker the film is riveting and compelling nonetheless and will likely stick in the memory for some time to come…

It’s Catherine’s Birthday… You’re Invited To Her Torture Party

I checked out another old horror movie yesterday, this one being a somewhat obscure 1976 release directed by Norman J. Warren (“Her Private Hell”, “Prey”) titled “Satan’s Slave”.top a

Satanic Priest
Satanic Priest

Some kind of Satanic ritual is taking place at the start of the film, involving a priest wearing a goat mask with luminous eyes, several hooded figures and, of course, a naked young woman as a sacrifice.

Stephen Yorke
Stephen Yorke

We then cut to a large house in the country where Stephen Yorke (Martin Potter – “Cruel Passion”, “Fellini Satyricon”) is entertaining a young woman who, rightly, suspects that his intentions are less than honourable. Quite how right she is comes as a bit of a shock so early in proceedings though!

Michael Craze
Michael Craze

Switching location to a city tower block we meet Stephen’s cousin, nineteen year old Catherine Yorke (Candace Glendenning – “Tower Of Evil”, “The Flesh And Blood Show”), and her boyfriend John (Michael Craze – “Dr. Who”, “Terror”) discussing the fact that she has to do away with her parents to her Uncle’s home, some two hundred miles away in the countryside, for a few days.

James Bree, Candace Glendenning & Celia Hewitt
James Bree, Candace Glendenning & Celia Hewitt

As Catherine and her parents arrive at her Uncle’s home her father Malcolm Yorke (James Bree – “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”, “Without A Clue”) inexplicably manages to crash their car into a tree – instantly killing his wife Elizabeth (Celia Hewitt – “The Shuttered Room”, “Life In Danger”). As Catherine runs to the house for help the car explodes.

Michael Gough
Michael Gough

Catherine’s Uncle Alexander Yorke (Michael Gough – “Dr. Terror’s House Of Horrors”, “Batman”), who is luckily enough a doctor, gives her some sedatives to help her sleep and deal with the shock of losing her parents. When she awakes the next day she is bizarrely calm and says that everything seems as though it was a dream.

Barbara Kellerman
Barbara Kellerman

Stephen has already got his eyes on Catherine, much the annoyance of former conquest Frances (Barbara Kellerman – “The Quatermass Conclusion”, “Hammer House Of Horror”) who is also his father’s secretary.

A Witch Gets Flogged
A Witch Gets Flogged

Catherine spends much time alternately stressing or seeming very relaxed, whilst also having visions of various things including the flogging and burning of witches that may, or may not, have something to do with the history of her Uncle’s house.

The Hastily Arranged Funeral
The Hastily Arranged Funeral

Meanwhile Uncle Alexander manages to get rid of the burnt-out car, arrange a funeral for his brother and sister-in-law for that day and have them buried within the grounds of his home – all without any visible communication with the police or any other official body!

Plenty more twists are to follow before Catherine discovers exactly what her relatives have planned for her imminent twentieth birthday…

Now, it’s fair to say that this isn’t as good as the similarly themed “The Devil Rides Out”, some of the dialogue is a bit stilted and there is some less than stellar acting on display too. It’s more gory than your average Hammer film and there is more female nudity too. Nonetheless, there is enough on offer here to keep the viewer entertained (well there was for me, at least) so although I wouldn’t recommend tracking a copy down I would say it’s worth watching if it happens to pop up on TV one day…btm a

…And Suddenly The Screams Of A Baby Born In Hell!

The latest Hammer Films production that I have watched was the 1976 occult horror film “To The Devil… A Daughter”, directed by Peter Sykes (“Demons Of The Mind”, “The Jesus Film”).

to_the_devil_a_daughter_poster_02

Dennis Wheatley - To The Devil A Daughter
Dennis Wheatley – To The Devil A Daughter

As with the earlier Hammer production “The Devil Rides Out” (which was released in 1968 and based on the 1934 novel of the same name) this movie is an adaptation of a novel by English author Dennis Wheatley (1897-1977). Wheatley wrote many occult and espionage books. The source novel in this case, also titled “To The Devil A Daughter”, was first published in 1953.

Public tastes had changed since the Hammer heyday of the late 1950s and 1960s, and in some ways the studio found themselves now trying to keep up with mainstream films that were showing more violence and sexuality than found in the celebrated gothic Hammer films. Although there would be success in the 1980s with the TV series “Hammer House Of Horror”, of which I have very fond memories, this movie would be the penultimate feature film from Hammer (“The Lady Vanishes” from 1979, which was unsuccessful at the box office, being the last) until the brand was relaunched in 2007.

Christopher Lee
Christopher Lee

The film itself opens as Father Michael Rayner (Christopher Lee – “The Wicker Man”, “The City Of The Dead”) is excommunicated by some Catholic officials, much to his displeasure as he remarks “it is not heresy, and I will not recant!”.

Nastassja Kinski
Nastassja Kinski

We then jump forward twenty years to a Bavarian island where Rayner is running a convent called the Children Of The Lord. A seventeen year old nun, Catherine Beddows (Nastassja Kinski – “Paris, Texas”, “Cat People”), who is also Rayner’s god-daughter, visits her father Henry (Denholm Elliott – “The Vault Of Horror”, “Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade”) in London each year for her birthday.

Denholm Elliott
Denholm Elliott

Beddows was formerly a member of Rayner’s cult and, aware of a fate that awaits Catherine now that she is turning eighteen, contacts occult author and expert John Verney (Richard Widmark – “Pickup On South Street”, “Panic In The Streets”) and asks him to look after her.

Richard Widmark
Richard Widmark

Verney enlists the help of his agent Anna Fountain (Honor Blackman – “Goldfinger”, “The Cat And The Canary”) and her boyfriend David Kennedy (Anthony Valentine – “Tower Of Evil”, “Callan”) in the hopes of keeping Catherine from the clutches of Rayner and his followers and their plans to turn her into an avatar for Astaroth in order to unleash Satan’s reign on Earth…

Anthony Valentine & Honor Blackman
Anthony Valentine & Honor Blackman

There were reputedly many problems with the production of this film. The script wasn’t finished when shooting began, the original ending was too close to that of one of Lee’s earlier Dracula movies so had to be rewritten and re-shot.

Christopher Lee & Nastassja Kinski
Christopher Lee & Nastassja Kinski

Lee himself was unhappy with parts of the finished film, Widmark remarked on the “mickey mouse production” and Wheatley was so fed up that the film bore so little resemblance to his book (not to mention the gratuitous sex, nudity and gore) that he declared that Hammer would never again be able to make a film from his work!

Lee gives an assured performance with plenty of evil intent evident in his character, whilst Kinski is also impressive in her role. Incidentally, perhaps surprisingly in view of the nudity and sexuality required of her character, Kinski had only just turned fifteen when the film was released in 1976!

The Devil Rides Out
The Devil Rides Out

It’s fair to say, I think, that this film isn’t a patch on “The Devil Rides Out” and isn’t what one would normally expect from a Hammer film. Equally it doesn’t match up to the likes of “The Omen” or “Rosemary’s Baby”, similarly occult-themed films from the mid 70s. Nonetheless, I did find this to be an enjoyable movie. Granted, that may be partly due to my interest in the left-hand path but largely because I didn’t find this to be the car crash that many seem to view it as…Daughter01_vamosalcine