DIRECTOR Terence Fisher WRITER Richard Matheson (screenplay); Dennis Wheatley (novel) STARS Christopher Lee; Charles Gray; Nike Arrighi DVD 22 October
Adapted from a Dennis Wheatley novel of the same name, the author himself was delighted with the end result, and no surprise; The Devil Rides Out is a charmingly understated example of classic Hammer, perhaps even one of their best. Director Terence Fisher created a tight pace from Richard Matheson’s intelligent screenplay — which favoured a hands-on approach that wastes little time in setting up the premise — that in no way detracted from the film’s foreboding.
Entrusted with the care of his deceased friend’s son, Simon Aron, the Duc de Richleau discovers that the young man has been seduced into joining a Satanic cult. He attempts a rescue but finds that cult leader Mocata, and indeed the Devil himself, are not going to give up their disciple without a fight. The Duc must use his own knowledge of the occult to defeat the psychic and possessive trickery, he and his colleagues enduring a long night of black-magic assault.
As a classic tale of good versus evil, The Devil Rides Out required a strong representative of either side, and does not disappoint. Christopher Lee is formidable as the nobleman, whilst Charles Gray as Mocata, the evil cult leader, is genuinely intimidating at points. Such roles could easily be marred by an element of campiness, but both men command the screen with a beautifully natural presence, Lee himself bordering on casual, so believable is his performance. These opposing forces make for a wonderful experience that, despite some detraction from events due to the effects having dated, immerses the viewer.
The transfer here is very good, a fine job in restoration. The extras are also good, some valuable insight to be had from a making-of, with thoughts from Hammer historian Marcus Hearn amongst others, an obligatory World of Hammer episode, and looks at Wheatley and the restoration process. And, of course, one cannot complain about a commentary featuring Lee. An absolute must-have.