Saturday, 26 January 2008

The Devil Rides Out (1968)

The Devil Rides Out is one of the most lavish and most expensive of the horror movies made by Hammer Films. With Hammer’s best director, Terence Fisher, at the helm, a cast headed by Christopher Lee and a script by Richard Matheson you’d have expected the results to be pretty special. And they are. This is possibly Hammer’s finest moment. The larger than usual budget allowed them to depart from their customary 19th century setting. This one is set in the 1920s, and it looks scrumptious. It’s a tale, bade on a Dennis Wheatley pot-boiler, of the dangers of meddling with Dark Forces. Christopher Lee is the arrogant Duc de Richleau, who is something of as control freak, but this time Lee is one of the good guys, battling the Forces of Darkness. Lee actually knew Dennis Wheatley and it’s obvious from the commentary track that he actually believes in the reality of these satanic forces. That may have given his performance added zest, because he turns in a career-best performance. Patrick Mower is good as the naïve young man dabbling in wickedness. The special effects are excellent by the standards of 1968. It’s a movie that stands up very well today – the feel of malevolent agencies lying in wait for the unwary is conveyed extremely well, there’s plenty of action and there’s plenty of suspense. And there are some real chills. This is one of the less camp Hammer movies – it was intended to be taken seriously, and it works as a serious horror film. And the print on the Anchor Bay DVD is absolutely gorgeous, a very sharp picture and wonderful colour. A very good and very entertaining movie.

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