The Devil Rides Out
(1968)

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Director:                     Terence Fisher
Producer:                    Anthony Nelson Keys
Screenplay:                 Richard Matheson
Author:                        Dennis Wheatley
Original Music:            James Bernard

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Could ‘The Devil rides out’ be the greatest Hammer film of all time? A heady mix of spell-binding storytelling, occult horror and spiritual redemption. Directed by superbly by Terence Fisher and taken from the novel by Denis Wheatley - it’s all about suspense and pace. Fisher manages to deliver a product that nearly leaves you wanting to catch your breath at points. The characters are well developed in the early stages and towards the end of the movie you’re really hoping that they survive against the odds.


Christopher Lee serves us probably his best screen performance (unusually playing a good character) as The Duc de Richleau – an academic with a profound knowledge of black magic and the occult – from the righteous side! Leon Greene plays his friend Rex, in very much a supporting role. Together they attempt to rescue the son of a lifelong friend out of the hands of a satanic cult, led by the macabre Mocata played by the highly talented Charles Gray. Although there are a number of supporting roles and the general level of acting is good, it has to be said that the film seems to draw you into the battle between the Duke and Mocata. This of course representing the eternal battle between good and evil.

The horror aspect of this film is not simply reached through cheap images of terror, but through a constantly ominous atmosphere and an intelligent and carefully constructed screenplay. One powerful sequence follows another and it's nearly impossible to determine the absolute highlight of the film. Lee's and Greene's first encounter with a diabolical creature in the mansion's attic, the car chase through the countryside, the baptism-ritual in the woods, the séance with Richleau's niece…


There are plenty of effects in this movie and ok, at this point, you have to remind yourself that you’re watching a movie made nearly 40 years ago. This said, they do not detract from the overall impact and by the time they run the film of the horse back and forward you should already be scared. Thankfully the film delivers horror without the effects required today to illicit the same response. Instead it relies on acting, characterisations, a good story and a steady build up of pace – some current horror making take note.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                           

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the devil rides out