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The Devil Rides Out Main

The Devil Rides Out Blu-ray Review

Written by ZigZag

Blu-ray released by Scream Factory

The Devil Rides Out Large

Directed by Terence Fisher
Written by Richard Matheson (based on the novel by Dennis Wheatley)
1968, 96 minutes, Rated G
Released on October 29th, 2019

Starring:
Christopher Lee as Duc de Richleau
Charles Gray as Mocata
Leon Greene as Rex Van Ryn
Patrick Mower as Simon Aron
Niké Arrighi as Tanith Carlisle
Sarah Lawson as Marie Eaton
Paul Eddington as Richard Eaton

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Review:

Rex Van Ryn, Simon Aron and Nicholas, the Duc de Richleau, are old friends who have not seen each other in months. When Rex returns to England, he and Nicholas pay a visit to Simon, who is hosting a gathering filled with interesting characters. We are introduced to the formal Countess, the lovely young Tanith Carlisle and a charismatic man named Mocata. Nicholas suspects something is amiss and discovers that Simon has fallen in with a cult of devil worshipers. He and Rex carry Simon out and try to protect him, but Mocata is a powerful priest who practices mind control and commands Simon to return. Rex tracks down Tanith for information and learns there is a ceremony planned to re-baptize her and Simon in the name of Satan. Nicholas interrupts the ritual, rescuing Simon once again and taking him and Tanith into hiding at a house that will serve as the location for an epic battle of good versus evil.

The Devil Rides Out is a highly regarded entry in the Hammer Films canon starring Christopher Lee (Horror Express) as Nicholas, the Duc de Richleau, a debonair man with a vast knowledge of the dark arts. Lee’s performance is so captivating that he elevates the picture to the status of a horror classic. Though forever linked to Dracula, he has stated in various interviews that this is his favorite role and you can see why. It is rare that Lee gets to play a good guy, but when he does he projects a commanding authority that is just as powerful as his more sinister turns. Charles Grey (The Legacy) fills the position of villain and is disarmingly charming as the quietly evil Mocata. He underplays the danger and remains pleasant even when promising the arrival of Satan himself. Supporting cast members Leon Greene (Flash Gordon) as Rex, Patrick Mower (Cry of the Banshee) as Simon and Niké Arrighi (The Perfume of the Lady in Black) as Tanith all do respectable work but this remains Lee’s finest hour.

The film is based on Dennis Wheatley’s disturbing novel of the same name and features a screenplay by horror master Richard Matheson (The Legend of Hell House). Dating back to the 1930s, Wheatley wrote a number of books featuring themes of black magic and the occult. The material is thoroughly researched and highly detailed, making him something of an expert on the subject. Matheson streamlines the content for his adaptation, making it more accessible to contemporary audiences by organically relaying information through well-crafted dialogue and striking story points that do not feel like forced exposition.

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Director Terence Fisher (Dracula: Prince of Darkness) is in top form with this harrowing tale steeped in an atmosphere of dread that complements the many suspenseful moments throughout the picture. The scene where Mocata slowly hypnotizes a woman in her own living room in hopes of claiming his chosen victims under her protection is a powerful highlight. The most famous sequence involves our heroes confined within the boundaries of a large circular diagram drawn on the floor for protection against evil. Their faith is tested repeatedly as they face a series of terrifying visions intent on claiming their souls.

The Devil Rides Out was the last film made by the old guard of Hammer technicians responsible for many of the studio’s biggest hits of the decade. Terence Fisher stacks the deck in his favor with the assistance of cinematographer Arthur Grant (Quatermass and the Pit) and editor Spencer Reeve (Frankenstein Created Woman). The film also benefits from a driving score by composer James Bernard (The Plague of the Zombies). The picture was a modest success, but had much of its thunder stolen by the release of Rosemary’s Baby a few months later. Hammer made two more movies based on Wheatley’s writing; The Lost Continent (1968) and To the Devil a Daughter (1976), but audiences never fully warmed to them. This, however, is one of the studio’s best. If you haven’t seen it before, it is definitely worth picking up.

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Video and Audio:

There are two versions of the movie on this disc; the first is sourced from the 20th Century Fox interpositive, which has received a 2K scan and restoration. Presented in the 1.66:1 aspect ratio, the image is colorful and full of small-object detail.

The second version stems from the 2012 Studio Canal Blu-ray release featuring a digital remaster and some newly-enhanced special effects. The modern CGI shots work well enough, but overall picture quality doesn’t appear as sharp or saturated as the other transfer.

The original mono audio is presented in a restored DTS-HD MA 2.0 track that is rather satisfying. Dialogue levels are always distinct and understandable, and music cues are dynamic without being intrusive.

Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.

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Special Features:

There are two audio commentaries, starting with a newly-recorded session featuring film historians Steve Haberman and Constantine Nasr, joined by author Richard Christian Matheson (son of screenwriter Richard Matheson). There is much discussion of the script and its meticulous level of detail concerning the occult. They talk about the differences between novel and script and offer an overview of Satanism in film. Other topics include their thoughts on the characters, various story points, the score and praise for the director and production designer. This is an interesting and informative conversation to check out.

The second commentary is a vintage recording with actors Christopher Lee and Sarah Lawson, moderated by Hammer historian Richard Hearn. Lee dominates the discussion with his vast knowledge of ceremonial rituals and talks about the accuracy of the film. He shares his memories of the director and his co-stars, but occasionally slips into onscreen narration. The track is mostly fun but suffers from some extended gaps of silence.

Author/film historian Kim Newman provides a video appreciation in Satanic Shocks (30 minutes). He comments on Dennis Wheatley’s novels and the dynamic Richard Matheson brought to the material as an American. He has kind words for Terence Fisher and Lee and the script’s attention to detail. He also reflects on the depiction of Satanism in film before this picture and how its legacy has been eclipsed by movies like The Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby and The Omen.

In Folk Horror Goes Haywire (24 minutes), author Jonathan Rigby delivers his own video essay offering his thoughts on the film. There is praise for Fisher and Lee and additional thoughts on casting and the disappointing special effects. He talks about Satanism in film and reflects on the public response to this picture.

Black Magic: The Making of The Devil Rides Out (35 minutes) is a vintage documentary featuring screenwriter Richard Matheson, actor Patrick Mower and Hammer historian Marcus Hearn. Matheson and Mower share their memories of the production and their stories are most welcome. There are additional interviews with authors Denis Meikle, David Huckvale and Jonathan Rigby, who discuss a wide range of topics ranging from religious sensitivity in film to the beauty of James Bernard’s score.

Dennis Wheatley at Hammer (13 minutes) finds Wheatley biographer Phil Baker providing some background information on the author and his works. Author Jonathan Rigby chimes in with tales of Wheatley’s experiences with Hammer adapting his works.

An episode of World of Hammer, simply titled Hammer (26 minutes), narrated by Oliver Reed, provides an overview of the studio’s cinematic output, starting with comedies and prehistoric fantasy pictures before settling on the horror genre. The show is composed of clips from various Hammer films, but the audio is not well-balanced, making many of the scenes play louder than Reed’s narration.

Two theatrical trailers have been included.

A still gallery plays as a silent slideshow (5 minutes) featuring publicity shots, promotional stills, lobby cards and poster art.

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Grades:

Movie: Fourstars Cover
Buy Amazon Us
Video: Fourandahalfstars
Audio: Threeandahalfstars
Features: Fourstars
Overall: 4 Star Rating

About The Author
ZigZag
Author: ZigZag
Staff Writer
ZigZag's favorite genres include horror (foreign and domestic), Asian cinema and pornography (foreign and domestic). His ability to seek out and enjoy shot on video (SOV) horror movies is unmatched. His love of films with a budget under $100,000 is unapologetic.
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