The Devil Rides Out

Starring: Christopher Lee and Charles Gray
Warner Home Video
RRP: 7.99
Certificate: 15
Available 11 October 2004

The Duc de Richleau, Rex Van Ryn and Simon Aron have an annual get-together, but this time nobody has seen Simon for around six months. The other two arrive at his house to find him hosting an unusual party for guests he doesn't even know. Overhearing conversation and noticing certain changes to the decor of the house, Richleau realises these are devil worshippers led by a dangerous man called Mocata. Rendering Simon unconscious the two friends flee the house, moving him to the relative safety of a property owned by Richard, another acquaintance. Mocata's dark powers are strong, however, and Simon goes missing forcing the others to trace the location of an intended ceremony of the circle of thirteen who intend to re-baptise Simon as a disciple of the devil himself. Although Richleau's knowledge of the arts is great, even he is hard-pressed to protect the others from deadly mystic reprisals...

The Devil Rides Out, from 1968, is based on another of Dennis Wheatley's best-selling fictional occult novels. In a bold move to cast against type, Christopher Lee plays Richleau the good guy (hooray!). It's no exaggeration to say this is one of the best performances I have seen from Lee. Marvellously formal but understated; the perfect hands-on educated scholar. Other faces you might recognise here are Charles Gray as Mocata, Patrick Mower as Simon, and Paul Eddington as Richard - all good performances.

This is the second time in as many reviews that I have mentioned Richard Matheson; this great and innovative writer (of such classics as Duel, The Incredible Shrinking Man, Hell House, Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, and many others) wrote the screenplay for this one, brilliantly adapting the novel to a fast-moving and enjoyable romp through the dark realms of the other side. There are a number of set pieces (the party, the ceremony in the woods, the hypnotism and two near deaths, the attack in the protective circle and the main climax), displaying a good experience of just what makes a film like this work. The major scenes would not work half as well without the connecting scenes and particularly the illusions of temporary sanctuary.

Richleau's in-depth knowledge of the black arts and how to combat them is convenient, as are the disappearances he makes to research something so that Mocata can mentally attack the weaker parties the moment his back is turned. But as without this you'd have a looser and weaker story I for one won't be complaining. Another shining gem from Hammer. More please.

Ty Power

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