Saturday, October 29, 2011


The aristocratic Nicolas, now the Duc de Richleau, is meeting his younger friends Simon and Rex for a reunion, but when Simon doesn't show up, they grow concerned and head off to his house where a party seems to be in progress. Simon rather awkwardly tries to play off the situation, claiming that he's having a meeting of an astronomical society, but Nicolas soon realizes it's actually a coven of Satanists, led by the notorious Mocata, and Simon and the beautiful Tanith are about to be given a demonic baptism. They manage to wrest Simon away and get him to sleep with a crucifix around his neck for protection, though Mocata is able to exercise his will from miles away to have Simon nearly strangle himself with the crucifix. The next night, Nicolas and Rex watch a black mass at which the devil himself, in the form of a goat-man, materializes. Joined by Simon, the men take Tanith away to the home of Nicolas' niece and her husband, but even with a chalk-drawn magical protection ring, Mocata conjures up a gigantic spider to scare them, then spirits away the niece's little girl. The angel of death appears (a skeleton on horseback) and takes Tanith, and for the rest of the film the three men try to find the little girl and bring Tanith back from the land of the almost-dead.

Good devil-worship horror movies are hard to find. The best-known one is probably ROSEMARY’S BABY, which is very good but is more creepy suspense than horror. THE SEVENTH VICTIM, one of Val Lewton's well-regarded B-films, is really a grim and cerebral character study. THE BLACK CAT with Karloff and Lugosi is a good film but the Satanic element is fairly slim, relegated to the last few minutes. Some would count THE WICKER MAN but that's really more a pagan horror film. There is a very good TV-movie, BLACK NOON, which I'll be reviewing on Halloween, leaving this film as probably the best Satanic horror movie to date. It's based on one of the best occult novels ever, The Devil Rides Out by British author Dennis Wheatley. The book, which I read many years ago, is long and full of wild, occult incidents, and the movie necessarily condenses the storyline considerably. The budget for the effects can't do justice to the book, but there are still a number of good setpieces to be had here, including the apparition of a large black demon-djinn in Simon's observatory/ritual room, the attack of the spider, and the black mass/orgy. The acting is good, especially Christopher Lee who takes his role as the Duc de Richleau seriously. Beefy Leon Greene (as Rex) and the handsome Patrick Mower (as Simon, shown above, in a mirror, with Lee) provide good support, and Charles Gray (Rocky Horror's narrator) looks the part of the sinister Mocata, though he doesn't get to do much except glower at people. If you like blood-and-thunder occult melodrama, this is one of the best (and try to find the book). [TCM]

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