Saturday, August 22, 2015

Drive-In Saturday: "The Devil Rides Out"

(NOTE: This is another in a series looking at occult investigators. Click here to see more entries.)

Based on a 1934 novel by Dennis Wheatley, the screenplay by horror master Richard Matheson elevates this 1968 low-budget Hammer Horror outing starring Christopher Lee as the heroic Nicholas, Duc de Richleau.

I caught the last half hour of this on an afternoon showing in my childhood, and it stuck with me — scared the bejeezus out of me, more accurately. I viewed the movie on the night of June 8 of this year, after I heard Lee had died. It was the second time in about a year's span I'd watched the movie, having caught it on TCM earlier.

Briefly, the plot centers on Simon, the adult son of le Duc's late war buddy, who is mixed up with Satan worshippers. Nicholas and his friend Rex snatch Simon and a girl named Tanith out from under the snout of the goat-faced Baphomet, conjured by the satanists, then try to protect them in the home of another friend. The Angel of Death is conjured by the lead devil-worshipper, and it takes many forms trying to break into a magic circle to attack our protagonists. Without giving away the ending, I must say that Lee's character makes several Christian remarks about the power of God to defeat evil — remarks that completely fit the character and the storyline, but that seemed incongruous coming out of Lee's mouth.

The effects are above standard for the day, and the high concepts are thrillingly enacted. All of the actors are up to the task, though I had trouble being frightened of Charles Gray as the Satanic priest (through no fault of his own) as I kept expecting a drag revue to break out. (Gray is best known to me for his part in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.)

Very effective movie, showing the main character's use of arcane knowledge and ritual to good effect, and allowing Lee to be a man of action and heroism for once. Lee has famously said in interviews that this was one of his favorite roles, and it shows; he wanted to remake the film with modern effects and once again play Nicholas, but it was not to be.

The film was previously available in HD on the Hammer Horror channel on YouTube. It can currently be viewed in full >>here<<
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