Plot: What’s it about?
When their friend Simon (Patrick Mower) fails to show up at an annual reunion, the Duc de Richleau (Christopher Lee) and Rex Van Ryn (Leon Greene) become concerned. The two venture to pay him a visit and learn why he was absent, but what they discover is much worse than they ever expected. It seems as though Simon has joined up with an “astrological society,” which the Duc believes is something more than that, although he is unsure just what. As the two delve deeper into the matters, it is revealed that the society, headed by Mocata (Charles Gray) is a cult devoted to devil worship, which enrages the Duc. Mocata and his followers have taken innocent people, then used hypnotism and other underhanded devices to brainwash them, to serve as new members. But all the ceremonies and sacrifices in the world won’t scare off the Duc, who is bound and determined to shut down this dark church before anyone else is taken. The Duc knows a lot about the subject, but even for him, this is no simple task in the end.
I’ve been pleased with Anchor Bay’s series of Hammer films, but their line has reached a new plateau, now that The Devil Rides Out has hit our beloved format. I like a lot of Hammer’s offerings, but this is one of my personal favorites, as it packs so much into an hour and a half. I mean, we have the usual Hammer atmosphere and such, but add in a satanic theme and the presence of Christopher Lee, and we’re talking all time cult classic, I think. Lee turns in one of his all time greatest performances, filled with energy and charisma, which fuels the entire flow of the picture. I happen to love movies with a satanic theme and as such, this one holds a special appeal to me, although I know some folks dislike satanic materials. So if you’re against that kind of imagery, then steer clear, as this one has altars, sacrifices, cult behavior, and of course, chanting and that could frighten some bible thumpers a little too much. I love this movie in all respects and with a nice special edition disc, I am able to recommend this release with ease. This kind of movie isn’t for all viewers, but fans of Hammer or lovers of satanic cinema, don’t hesitate to snatch this one.
At the heart of The Devil Rides Out is Christopher Lee, who is a legend in the realm of horror films, with good reason. I think Lee is better known for his roles as vampires or other monsters, but here he takes on a different role, one where he’s on the good side. I admit it took some time to get used to that idea, but Lee is excellent in this film and in truth, I think this stands as one of his best efforts. I do love his turns as Dracula and would rate them a little higher, but Lee shines here and really pushes the film upwards, impressive indeed. He seems so natural and real within this role, as if he really is the Duc de Richleau. Other films with Lee include The Wicker Man, The Satanic Rites of Dracula, The Man With The Golden Gun, Horror Express, Taste The Blood of Dracula, Rasputin: The Mad Monk, and The Oblong Box. The rest of the cast includes Nike Arrighi (Women In Love, Sunday Bloody Sunday), Charles Gray (The Mirror Crack’d, Diamonds Are Forever), Patrick Mower (Hell House Girls, Cry of the Banshee), Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies (Tudor Rose, The Witches), and Leon Greene (Royal Flash, The Human Factor).
Video: How does it look?
The Devil Rides Out is presented in a 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. I’ve never seen this picture look so rich and gorgeous, I was stunned when I first spun the disc. The source print used is much cleaner than I’ve ever seen, which allows the rest of the visuals to shine through in fine form as well. This is a rather dark film, but this transfer handles it all with ease, no black level issues and detail is razor sharp at all times. The colors also stream through in bold form, with no bleeds evident and flesh tones are natural also, no problems at all here. I commend Anchor Bay for giving this film the lush treatment it deserved, as I doubt many other studios would have bothered.
Audio: How does it sound?
I was a little worried about the new Dolby Digital 5.1 track included here, but once the film started, all of my concerns were laid to rest. This option comes off as very natural, with no traces of hollow surrounds or forced use to allow for more range. The surrounds don’t see a lot of use here, but enough to make it a rich experience, which is what counts here. The music is very well presented in this mix, immersive and textured, while the sound effects are good, but never overdone to enhance the surround presence. I heard no problems with the dialogue either, which sounded crisp and clean throughout, no volume issues in the least. This disc also houses a French mono option, in case you’ll need that instead.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This is not a full blown special edition, but it does contain some cool supplements, which are always welcome. You can view the film’s theatrical trailers from the United States and the United Kingdom, which are both fun to watch and nice additions to this disc. As usual on these Hammer Collection discs, a World of Hammer episode is tacked on and in this case, it is named simply Hammer. This in depth piece looks at Hammer on the whole, which means a lot of interviews and a lot of film clips, some of which feature films I would love to see on DVD soon. The final extra is an audio commentary track with stars Christopher Lee and Sarah Lawson, as well as Hammer expert Marcus Hearn. I found this to be a terrific track overall, as Hearn directs the traffic well and keeps them on track, which results in a wealth of information on the production. All in all, a great selection of bonus features, all of which enhance the experience of the film itself.