British Cinema, Horror

The Devil Rides Out (1968)

October has now arrived. The nights are getting darker earlier, autumn leaves are falling all around us, and for those film fans amongst us there will be many hours of viewing taken up with watching horror films. I’m hoping to be able (work permitting)to review a few of my favourite spooky films for you.

I’m starting off with a British horror film which offered the horror icon Christopher Lee a rare chance to play the hero on screen. That film is The Devil Rides Out. The film is based upon the novel of the same name by Dennis Wheatley.

Whether or not you believe in the supernatural, I think that it simply can’t be denied that the Devil and Satanism are two things guaranteed to chill the blood of any sane person. This film taps into the fear, the horror, and the revulsion that both of these things make you feel.

I consider The Devil Rides Out to be one of the best horror films to ever come out of Hammer Studios. Unlike many of their other films, this one doesn’t rely on blood and shocks to be scary. This film is more intent on slowly building up tension and in making you feel uneasy. This film is one to make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end and it is a horror that I find really messes with your head.

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I love the film for how creepy it is. There are many creepy moments throughout the film with the protective circle sequence being a standout. The sequence where the cult call up the Devil himself is very frightening and unnerving to watch.

I also really love the film for Christopher Lee’s superb performance as the badass Duc de Richleau; this character really screams out for a sequel or film series like a certain Professor Quatermass received. Lee totally makes you believe this man knows all about good and evil, and that he is also able to understand, challenge, fight and hopefully defeat evil. I for one would have loved to have seen the Duc and his friends fight the forces of evil again in future films. The role of the Duc was also one of Christopher Lee’s personal favourites from amongst his own work.

Lee is an intense presence throughout the film and he makes you (and his companions in the film)feel safe and secure when the Duc is around. The Duc is a real badass throughout the film; whether he is standing up to evil and fighting it with the powers of good, or whether he is punching bad guys whenever they get in his way. The Duc sure  knows how to handle himself and he will do whatever it takes to protect his friends and family.

The suave Duc de Richleau (Christopher Lee) is very concerned about his friend, Simon Aron (Patrick Mower). Simon has fallen in with a bad crowd and he has been persuaded by the sinister Mocata (Charles Gray) to join a Satanic cult.  With the help of his other friend, Rex (Leon Greene) the Duc races against time to save Simon. Soon this trio are being pursued by the forces of darkness. They must also fight to save the soul of the fragile Tanith (Nike Arrighi), a young woman who is also about to lose her soul to the Devil thanks to Mocata’s influence.

The cast are all solid, with Christopher Lee delivering the standout performance. Lee, Patrick Mowe and Leon Greene all make you believe and feel the bond of friendship between their trio (they fought in WW1 together and have been friends ever since. The Duc has been a father figure to Simon ever since their time fighting in the war.)

Greene does a good job of conveying his characters growing belief and acceptance of the otherworldly forces he keeps encountering. Mowe does a good job of making Simon likeable and showing his struggle against the evil he is being forced into being a part of.

Charles Gray is downright scary as the main villain of the film. Gray plays a Devil worshipper and Satanic cult leader who can bend people to his will. This man is not someone to let your guard down around. 

Nike Arrighi is an actress who I was unfamiliar with before seeing her performance here. I think she does a fantastic job of portraying the fragile and easily manipulated Tanith. This character is very vulnerable and she makes you feel protective towards her.

Paul Eddington and Sarah Lawson provide solid support as the Duc’s niece and her husband respectively. They are two ordinary people who get caught up in utter horror. My only issue with the casting of Lawson is that she looks a bit old to be playing Lee’s niece.

My favourite scenes are the following. The Duc and Rex discovering the truth about the telescope room.  The Duc hypnotising Simon to wean him off the influence of Mocata. Rex chasing Tannith, only to have his windscreen become mysteriously obscured. The protective circle sequence.

A creepy film filled with many memorable moments (who can forget the Angel of Death? Or seeing the Devil called up in the woods?)

This is perfect Halloween viewing. Just don’t watch it alone! Any other fans of this film? If you’ve ever read the novel (which I have yet to do)how does  it compare with the film? I highly recommend this film if you’ve never seen it.

 

 

 

 

 

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13 thoughts on “The Devil Rides Out (1968)”

    1. Hey Gary. Nice to find another fan of this one. I love that Christopher got to play the hero for a change. I always felt he got a bit typecast in the horror genre, I wish he had been offered more films from other genres and more good guy roles. Charles Gray (and his voice)is totally awesome and scary in this.

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    1. It is, I hope you get to see it sometime. Oh yes, he certainly was an interesting and intelligent man, very interesting life he led. I didn’t know until he died that he used to serve with the special forces during the war, what a badass!

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  1. The Devil Rides Out is, as you know, one of my favourite Hammer films. It’s probably not as well known as it should be as it’s overshadowed by the more famous Frankenstein/Dracula series. Really nice casting, it’s especially good to see Christopher Lee as the hero for once, and Charles Gray has rarely been better used than here. The climax in the circle still works really well. I would love to have seen more films with Lee as the hero. Sadly this one was a box office disappointment, but Dennis Wheatley was very pleased with it. It encouraged him to let Hammer adapt To the Devil a Daughter – but the least said about that the better!

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  2. Watched it last night. Haha yes that was good fun. Was not expecting a happy ending! How nice to see Christopher Lee in a goodie role. I too loved the scene when they go into the telescope room, esp that bit where the black guy appears and smiles whilst he gives Rex the super stare. Paul Eddington was fun and his wife Sarah Lawson was awesome. Thanks for the heads up 🙂

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