The Devil Rides Out (The Devil’s Bride) (1968)
The Devil Rides Out (The Devil’s Bride) (1968)

Genre: Supernatural Horror Running Time: 1 hr. 35 min.

Release Date: December 18th, 1968 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: Terence Fisher Actors: Christopher Lee, Charles Gray, Leon Greene, Patrick Mower, Nike Arrighi, Gwen Ffrangcon Davies, Sarah Lawson, Rosalyn Landor

 


 

R

ex Van Ryn (Leon Greene) flies in to visit his good friend Nicholas, Duc de Richleau (Christopher Lee, looking instantly like the villain during his opening-scene appearance), who is concerned about a missing relative. Straight away, they visit the younger Simon Aron (Patrick Mower), who has himself been absent from social circles of late, having joined a mysterious astronomical society that occupies his time. But unwelcoming member Mocata (Charles Gray) quickly has the two newcomers thrown out of the institute’s headquarters. Before leaving, Duc de Richleau insists upon visiting an upstairs observatory, which puts Simon at unease, especially when they discover chickens hidden in a closet and bizarre diagrams on the floor and wall.

“I’d rather see you dead than meddling with black magic!” Simon’s interest in an occult adventure has Nicholas and Rex in an uproar, considering that Simon has been looked after regularly as if a son; his involvement in a dangerous cult is certain to bring about his downfall. So it’s supremely lucky that the Duc himself dabbles in hypnotism, knows everything there is to know about the infernal traditions of the “Left Hand Path” and Satanism, and has a spare silver crucifix to hang around Simon’s neck (his considerable wealth comes in handy as well). “Thank god that’s over.”

“Do you believe in the power of darkness?” Moving beyond superstitions, the lead trio is neck-deep in a band of devil worshipers. And with that premise, anything is suddenly possible, as the unknown forces of evil can be manipulated into all sorts of tangible hazards. Sticking to a dependable formula, a formidable believer partners with an adult unbeliever to save the the kid in over his head; as with many of Hammer’s horror pictures, the cast is small, allowing the predicaments to be intimate and focused. And though it’s never entirely horrifying, the specific rituals are undeniably disturbing – and fascinating.

There’s also a hint of mystery, despite the fact that the protagonists and antagonists are plainly obvious, as Nicholas and Rex must sort out Mocata’s control; some action sequences (including a high-speed car chase in front of a green screen); a glimmer of a love story (involving Nike Arrighi as Tanith); and a number of episodes of black magic (like spectral summoning and hallucinations). Everyone wears dark robes, chants Latin-esque phrases, sacrifices animals, and dances around fire; based on Dennis Wheatley’s “classic” novel, this isn’t a particularly unique vision of devil-worshipers. Nevertheless, thanks to rousing music and all of the actors taking the material seriously, the inherent silliness doesn’t have many opportunities to overtake the scenarios.

Though Hammer’s horror endeavors rarely evoke genuine scares (even the body count is essentially zero), “The Devil Rides Out” possesses a couple of amusingly uncomfortable moments – such as a goat monster and mind-control mania. Pervasive weirdness, even if nonsensical, tends to win out in these kinds of tales; afterwards might be a different matter, but at the time, many of the concepts appear sincere – especially the build to a rambunctious climax. It also helps that Gray is such an impressive villain – earnest even when reciting stale dialogue – and that the ideas of demonic, psychological torment are sound, even if the execution lacks the visual outrageousness of more modern efforts. It is, however, difficult to go along with the habitual dynamic of Rex continually and recklessly screwing things up, Simon repeatedly running away, and Nicholas confidently and forcefully coming to the rescue.

– Mike Massie

  • 6/10