The Devil Rides Out
U.K. / 1968
Directed by Terence Fisher
Starring
Christopher Lee
Charles Gray
Sarah Lawson
Color / 95 Minutes / Not Rated
Format: DVD (R0 - NTSC)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Review by
B. Lindsey
 
7
    7   10 = Highest Rating  
Known as The Devil's Bride when first released in America, this supernatural thriller is one of Hammer's best efforts. Don't expect dazzling visuals or gory makeup; the story and performances are the main attraction. In truth, this is one film that would be positively killer if remade in this modern age of improved special effects. The FX elements in the original lean decidedly to the cheesy, to its detriment.
     Good pacing and intelligent dialog are hallmarks of the script, which was adapted from the Dennis Wheatley book by acclaimed novelist and horror film writer Richard Matheson (I Am Legend, House of Usher, The Night Stalker). Christopher Lee has one of the best roles of his career here; he actually gets to play hero rather than heavy. As the wealthy Duc de Richleau, a French aristocrat with deep knowledge of mysticism and the occult, Lee matches wits with the dangerous warlock Mocata (Charles Gray, the Criminologist in
The Rocky Horror Picture Show) for control of a young friend's soul. (It's Dracula vs. The Man With No Neck!) Gray positively oozes a menacing charm as the devil-worshipping sorcerer, making a more than worthy opponent for Lee's intrepid nobleman. Their battle of supernatural powers one serving the forces of darkness, the other a paladin of Christ forms the core of the picture, and though compromised by a somewhat anticlimactic ending, proves an audience-engaging rivalry.
Christopher Lee, a friend of novelist Dennis Wheatley, was the prime mover in getting the film made by Hammer. Though some liberties were taken with the original material (de Richleau is an elderly man in the book), Wheatley was reportedly delighted with the outcome, considering it the best adaptation of any of his works. Such was not the case in 1976, when another Wheatley novel was filmed by Hammer. The author was appalled by the blood and nudity-filled To the Devil... a Daughter, which turned out to be the last horror film the company produced.
     Lee has stated in numerous interviews that for the last few years he's been shopping around a remake of The Devil Rides Out, with himself again in the role of de Richleau. (79 at the time of this review, he's certainly the right age.)
     I wish him success in this effort.

Anchor Bay's quality DVD release of The Devil Rides Out should please any devotee of classic horror films. Supplementing this worthy film is an interesting and informative audio commentary with co-stars Lee and Sarah Lawson, which to any true Hammer fan is worth the disc's price alone (even though it sounds like it was recorded in a cave).
     Visually, this is the best the film has looked since its 1968 debut. Both the U.K. and U.S. threatical trailers are included (the latter under the alternate Devil's Bride title), as well as an episode of the World of Hammer TV documentary. 4/10/01
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