The Devil Rides Out (aka The Devil’s Bride)
B- Sound: B- Extras: B- Film: B-
a big turning point in the Horror genre, and for the Hammer Studios, it was the
beginning of a turning point that would begin their slow, sad decline. While George Romero surprised the filmmaking
world with his low-budget Night of the
Living Dead and Roman Polanski offered the also-groundbreaking classic Rosemary’s Baby, both the same year,
Hammer gave us The Devil Rides Out. Maybe it could also be thought of as the film
where Hammer’s luck began to run out.
devoted to Astrology turns out to also be very fond of Satan, run by the main
disciple, Mocata (Charles Gray). Before
exposing them as a fan club for Belial, two men (Christopher Lee and Leon
Greene) are simply tying to find a missing friend. This is when the web of deceit beings. The screenplay was written by the great
Richard Matheson, based on the Dennis Wheatley.
After writing some of the greatest original episodes of Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone, Matheson found himself
doing some of Hammer’s films, including Die!
Die! My Darling (1965, reviewed elsewhere on this site).
his writing is always solid, there is something that seems to get lost in
translation from his talents to the Hammer way of doing things. Die!
fared better than this film did, and both have top rate actors, but Alfred
Hitchcock and especially Psycho (1960)
changed the rules. Hammer was torn
between sticking to their long- proven style, or go into new directions. With the British censors on their tale, they
played it too safe, maybe still shaken from how Michael Powell’s masterwork Peeping Tom (1960) was savaged and
stopped for being “offensive” instead of being celebrated as the brilliant film
James Bond films and other Horror and Thriller genre films took from that and
Hitchcock, Hammer stayed in its own square and its films began to fall victim
to repetition. Even though they would
bring in more top rate talent, the decline was already in place. Director Terence Fisher and composer James
Bernard started to repeat themselves, while nudity and religious symbols that
would be seen in American films were absent here. As films like William Friedkin’s film of
William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist
(1972) and Richard Donner’s The Omen
(1976) were blockbusters, the studio would never find a way to find an answer
to such groundbreakers. Raw Meat, a British film (with American
director Gary Sherman) was more of the direction Hammer needed, but never
stylish, to a stale fault, the threat of Satanism is uneven and not very
convincing. Lee can do no wrong, but is
not given enough of a character to do anything with. Even eccentric and memorable Charles Gray
does not get to be as menacing as he could have been. In a few short years, he would be Blofeld in
the James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever
(1967), had a cameo as a different character in the 1967 Bond epic You Only Live Twice, then was
immortalized as the host in Jim Sharman’s film of The Rocky Horror Picture Show in 1975. Think how many ways Hammer blew it on him!
anamorphically enhanced 1.66 X 1 image is not bad by Arthur Grant, B.S.C., and
though the Technicolor is not of the vibrant three-strip variety, it is better
than many of the Hammer films on DVD.
The sound is available in Dolby Digital 2.0 English Stereo with Pro
Logic surrounds, French Mono and a much more helpful AC-3 5.1 mix that brings
alive the problemed project better. The
commentary with Lee, actress Sarah Lawson and Hammer scholar Marcus Hearn is
another plus, also in Dolby 2.0 sound.
This is at least as interesting as the film itself, while two trailers (U.S. and U.K.) and a “World of Hammer” episode
entitled Hammer that tells about the
studio’s history are also offered. That
helps save what could have been a disastrous basic DVD form mediocrity.
seen much worse, but The Devil Rides Out
is a slow trot of a film, especially one with the intriguing premise of Satanic
conflict. It is a curio, but otherwise,
make sure you are awake enough when the going gets rough.
- Nicholas Sheffo