Monday, March 05, 2012
In the Details...
Ever have one of those memories from when you were a kid where you weren't sure if something really happened or you dreamed it? For many years I've had a vague memory of seeing a horror movie one rainy Sunday at my grandmother's house. All I could recall was that there was a scene where a bunch of people were standing inside a chalk circle in a library or study and a ghostly man on a winged horse rode into the room to threaten them.
A few weeks ago I was watching the introduction to a documentary on Hammer Horror Films and lo and behold one of the clips they showed in a montage was the very scene I was remembering. Christopher Lee and three other folks inside a circle which had been chalked on the wooden floor of a library, and a strange rider on a winged steed rides into the room. Unfortunately it was but one clip of many and the film wasn't identified. However, knowing Lee was the star and that Hammer had made the film, I was able to deduce the identity of the film using the Internet Movie Data Base. The movie was The Devil Rides Out, made in 1968. Obviously I'd caught a rerun of it one afternoon when my grandmother wasn't home. (No way she'd have let me watch that.)
So then I bumped over to Youtube to see if someone had uploaded a trailer, and found that someone had uploaded the entire movie. So I just sat right down and watched it. Very enjoyable movie. Holds up well to be 44 years old.
Christopher Lee plays the Duc de Richleau, an expert in the occult. Richleau learns that the son of an old friend has fallen under the influence of the charismatic Mr. Mocata, the leader of a Satanist cult. Mocata (played with sinister relish by Charles Gray) plans to baptize the son and a young woman into the service of Satan at a Mayday sabbat. After a series of harrowing adventures and supernatural threats, Richleau and his friends manage to spirit the two young people away, but Mocata gathers his not inconsiderable occult powers and sends even more horrible creatures and finally the angel of death to carry out his revenge. Richleau and three companions spend a long and horrible night within the boundaries of a protective circle chalked on the floor of a library in an old country manor house.
This is one of the classier Hammer films, with good production values and excellent special effects for the time. It has a couple of genuinely shuddersome moments. It's good to see Christopher Lee playing the hero in a Hammer film.
One thing I thought of as I watched The Devil Rides Out, is that with a few modifications it could have served very well as a John Thunstone film. Lee is very much in the mode of Manly Wade Wellman's occult investigator, fighting creatures from the outer dark while nattily attired in a crisp black suit. Oh, and the character of Mocata is fairly obviously based on occultist Aleister Crowley as was Thunstone's nemesis Rowley Thorne.
Anyway, glad to finally solve the mystery of my vague memory from childhood. It took a little detective work, but as often is the case, the devil was in the details.