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The Devil Rides Out DVD Review

The Devil Rides Out

November 21, 2003

Director: Terence Fisher,
Starring: Christopher Lee, Charles Gray, Nike Arrighi, Leon Greene, Patrick Mower, Gwen Ffrangcon Davies, Sarah Lawson, Paul Eddington, Rosalyn Landor, Russel Walters,

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DVD Review

Released in 1968, The Devil Rides Out (aka The Devil’s Bride — the US title) is a classic Hammer horror film. It contains many of the elements that made this British studio famous: Christopher Lee’s top notch acting, Terence Fisher’s excellent direction, and James Bernard’s atmospheric score. In the hands of these talented artists, The Devil Rides Out proves that horror films can be intelligent and do not have to rely on gore and cheap shocks.

The Duc de Richleau (Lee) and Rex (Greene) are old friends who get together every few years. At their latest meeting, Simon (Mower), the third member of their group, is absent. The Duc and Rex decide to try Simon at his house and find the young man hosting a party of rich socialites. However, Simon is acting a little strange — his mannerisms seem forced and he acts evasive. The Duc senses that something is off about this “meeting of a little astronomical society” and he decides to investigate further. It becomes readily apparent that Simon is under the influence of Mocata (Gray), the leader of a Satanic cult, and must be rescued and the evil destroyed.

The Devil Rides Out was originally a novel written by Dennis Weatley in 1934. It used Satanism as a conduit to Communism and a hatred of foreigners. Twilight Zone scribe, Richard Matheson adapted the book into screenplay form and changed Mocata from a foreigner to a suave, British socialite. This makes the movie all the more subversive as the evil comes from within.

The driving force of the movie is Christopher Lee who is wisely cast against type as a thoughtful protagonist who relies on his wits and his extensive knowledge of the occult to battle the forces of evil. There are several moments in the movie where Lee is shown thinking which suggests that there is something going on behind his intense, captivating eyes.

Leon Greene is the square sidekick to Lee’s suave protagonist. Greene is clean- and wears a brown suit like some stuffy university professor, which is sharp contrast to Lee’s black suit, goatee and European cigarettes. Greene’s character is the audience surrogate, our window into this strange world and he plays off Lee with a wonderful Sherlock Holmes/Dr. Watson dynamic.

Special Features: The DVD features a thoughtful and very informative audio commentary with two of the film’s stars, Christopher Lee and Sarah Lawson. With his commanding and captivating voice, Lee dominates the track. He clearly did a lot of research for this role and discusses at some length, the authenticity of the occult lore in the movie.

Also included on the disc are US and UK theatrical trailers for the movie and an episode from the World of Hammer TV series.

The folks at Anchor Bay have come through again with an excellent DVD. The Devil Rides Out is an intelligent alternative to the overabundance of hack ‘n’ slash horror films. For filmgoers who only know Christopher Lee from The Lord of Rings and the Star Wars movies, The Devil Rides Out demonstrates that the veteran actor didn’t always play nasty bad guys bent on world (or universal) domination for the forces of evil.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance

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