From the man who brought us several Dracula, Frankenstein, and Werewolf films, we have the cult-favorite The Devil Rides Out. If you love horror, show some love to one of the great men of our past Terence Fisher, and return to the 1960s.
Horror buffs might love him already- the prolific Christopher Lee makes an appearance here as the elegant Duke de Richleau. The protagonists alongside the Duke consist of the noble Rex Van Ryn (Leon Greene), damsel in distress Tanith Carlisle (Nike Arrighi), Marie Eaton (Sarah Lawson), and the naïve Simon Aron (Patrick Mower), who begins our adventure into the perils of Satanism. Rich, young Simon intrigues his old friends Duke Richleau and Rex when he purchases a mansion. The Duke and Rex are older, yet equally wealthy men with an inexplicable stake in Simon’s purchasing habits. They encounter Simon at his new residence hosting what he calls “a gathering of an astronomical society.” It was not, in fact, a gathering of an astronomical society. The Duke is an intuitive fellow, and with a bit of investigation arrives at the conclusion that Satanism has taken hold of Simon. All of this of course relayed in the kind of eloquently enunciated dialogue that I am so fond of in older movies. Maybe it’s the English accents, but I could listen to any one of these actors speak far past the hour and a half dedicated to the actual film. Especially our antagonist Mocata (Charles Gray), whose role as a cult leader and Satanic hypnotist requires him to engage in uninterrupted monologues in order to extract victims from their free will. Gray had me thoroughly convinced, and his villainous drawl could easily put me to bed.
The artistic elements and motifs Fisher employs are subtle, but effective. He takes a large, ornate parlor and places characters on opposite ends, heightening tension in a notable scene between Mrs. Eaton and Mocata. Mocata entices Mrs. Eaton to set aside her preconceived notions of both himself and Satanism, citing that “magic” is neither good nor evil, and it is merely in “the power of the will” that people are coerced into action. Sound arguments aside, Fisher makes frequent use of mirrors, portals, eyes, Satanic imagery, and Catholic imagery as symbols in his work. The Devil as a character rather than symbol is a minor role, but his image, (that of the goat head) is striking. The iconic mask is now a prop currently in the possession of notable horror collector and icon Glenn Danzig.
The slow, deliberate build towards the film’s logical culmination is not so much predictable as it is well established. Fisher strays from gratuitous violence and instant gratification in favor of suspense and a well-developed story, making for an extremely satisfying, if short-lived, film. The film’s production was initially held back for questions of censorship during a Satanism scare in 1963, likely contributing to the short length of some of its racier scenes, such as one in which bondage and “a few good rolls in the hay” are appropriate descriptors. This film really has it all: Dionysian festivities, high speed car chases that look straight out of “The Wacky Races,” Satanic rituals, human sacrifices, and the Devil himself.