Hammer Horror was doing well in the late ’60s, but a massive change was on the way. The studio that had established itself with stomach churning color versions of Dracula and Frankenstein with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee had became a bit safe. The American movie industry was adopting the Ratings system so not every film had to be family friendly. George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead and Herschell Gordon Lewis’ Blood Feast had raised the bar on graphic images. And monsters got bigger with Rosemary’s Baby giving us the devil as the true horror. Hammer had to change it’s ways and luckily Christopher Lee had an idea. The actor was friends with the novelist Dennis Wheatley. He got the ball rolling to adapt his novel The Devil Rides Out into a Hammer film. This had a tale of devil worshippers in England so it was perfect for the Satanic Cinema that was growing in America. Even giving the film more of a twist, Lee didn’t play his expected villain role which also threw a twist a viewers expecting the Hammer horror formula. The Devil Rides Out put a new horse in the studio’s stable.
Nicholas, Duc de Richleau (The Lord of the Rings‘ Christopher Lee) has been invited by his pal Rex to investigate an astronomical club that his son has joined. Nicholas quickly deduces that this club is less about studying the stars and more about black magic and devil worship. The group of elite English citizens are not happy with Nicholas poking around their gatherings including the leader Mocata (The Rocky Horror Picture Show‘s Charles Gray). Nicholas won’t take no for an answer and sneaks into their country ceremony meant to bring Baphomet into their circle and finalize a group Satanic baptism. He rescues his pal’s son and another young woman. But are they really free from Mocata’s connection with them? Can Nicholas use all his tools against the black magic that wants to pull them back and destroy his resistance? Mocata pulls out the biggest of his dark rituals to get his revenge on Nicholas and those that turn against his astronomy society.
The Devil Rides Out (or The Devil’s Bride as it was released in America by Fox) right off the bat gives us the twist of Christopher Lee not being the ultimate of evil. Yet at the same time, he gives us a Nicholas who is so in control that he comes off as a threat to anyone who dares to step against him with their dark magic ways. He’s pretty slick with his mustache and goatee. You can almost imagine he could very well play Mocata. But why would Christopher Lee stoop to play the agent of evil and not the devil himself? And devil doesn’t have too many speaking lines so Lee took the ripe role on the script. Gray does prove to be a formable foil as the leader of the cult. He’s so refined and educated as he works followers. The Devil Rides Out does a fine job of merging the devil worshiping conspiracy of Rosemary’s Baby with the classy nature of a Hammer period piece. Although Hammer moved forward in time giving us the late 1920s instead of the Gothic era of their Dracula and Frankenstein movies. It’s like a Satanic version of Downton Abbey. The film didn’t make Rosemary’s Baby money in America. Over the decades, the movie has gained in status with those who dig into the Hammer vault looking for the scares. The Devil Rides Out is a marvelous reminder that we should look for darker influences in those affluent English that so enjoy their outdoor festivities in the countryside.
The video is 1.66:1 anamorphic. What’s interesting is the main version is a 2K Scan Of The 20thCentury Fox Interpositive. You also get the restored master that Studio Canal released in England. Both are the same aspect ratio. The both look amazing especially during the country ceremony. The audio is DTS-HD MA Mono. You’ll get to hear all the Dark Magic spells clearly. The movie is subtitled.
Audio Commentary With Author/Film Historian Steve Haberman, Filmmaker/Film Historian Constantine Nasr, and Author/Screenwriter Richard Christian Matheson dig deep into this Hammer horror about elite Devil worshippers.
Satanic Shocks (29:59) allows author/film historian Kim Newman give a deep background on The Devil Rides Out. He talks about Dennis H. Wheatly was a massive name in English horror. He picks up on how American screenwriter Richard Matheson (Last Man on Earth) adapted the property. He brings up how Wheatley approached devil worshipping cultists.
Folk Horror Goes Haywire (24:08) give Author/Film Historian Jonathan Rigby Discusses The Devil Rides Out to talk about pagan ritual being performed during the summer of love.
Audio Commentary With Actors Christopher Lee And Sarah Lawson is such a rush to hear him talk of his involvement in getting Hammer to make the film. He’s in full Christopher Lee voice. If you turn out the lights, it’s like Christopher Lee is just behind you.
Black Magic: The Making Of The Devil Rides Out (34:59) includes Richard Matheson talking about the production along with other folks. Mark Gattis is part of the crew breaking down the film.
Dennis Wheatley At Hammer (13:14) talks of the three of his books that were adapted by Hammer including To The Devil …A Daughter (coming out from Scream Factory on December 17). Christopher Lee was a friend of Wheatley and hooked the studio up with the author.
World Of Hammer Episode – Hammer (25:53) is another installment of the series that has Oliver Reed narrate clips from various Hammer films. This time the focus is on the history of the studio and how it did more than just make horror films starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing.
Theatrical Trailers (5:02) asks big questions about the power of darkness. We’re promised a battle between Christopher Lee and the Devil. There’s also a trailer for when it was called The Devil’s Bride.
Still Gallery (4:37) has a swanky portrait of Christopher Lee along with press photos, posters and lobby cards.
Scream Factory presents The Devil Rides Out. Directed by Terence Fisher. Screenplay by: Richard Matheson. Starring: Christopher Lee, Charles Gray, Niké Arrighi, Leon Greene, Patrick Mower & Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies. Rated: Unrated. Running Time: 95 minutes. Released: October 29, 2019.
Tags: christopher lee, Hammer Horror, Scream Factory, The Devil Rides Out