Dennis Wheatley’s stories about the occult made him a bestselling author beginning in the 1930’s. However, due to their subject matter and film censorship through the years few of his books made it to the big screen. By 1967, with censorship rules relaxed considerably, actor Christopher Lee had an idea. A fan and friend of Wheatley’s since the 1950’s, Lee knew no one was better qualified than Hammer to bring The Devil Rides Out to the big screen.
Just in from America, Rex Van Ryn (Leon Greene, but with Patrick Allen’s voice) is met by his old friend the Duc de Richleau (Christopher Lee, Dracula: Prince of Darkness) for their annual reunion. Missing from the meet up is the younger Simon Aron (Patrick Mower), who recently broke off contact with de Richleau and acquired a large and secluded manor house. The two men drive to Aaron’s home and find him in the company of guests and preparing for an unexplained event. While exploring the upstairs observatory, De Richleau finds evidence that Simon is involved in black magic and is soon to be baptized as a disciple of Satan. Realizing their friend could be at risk, de Richleau and Rex kidnap Simon and flee the manor. Of course, things are never as simple as they seem. Covenant leader Mocata Charles Gray, The Rocky Horror Picture Show) has no intention of letting Simon escape his grasp.
Richard Matheson’s tight script is breezily directed by Terence Fisher, The Devil Rides Out marks a rare occasion in which Christopher Lee played a heroic figure in a Hammer film. At once cool and authoritative, he’s a clear threat to Mocata, or anyone else who dares to use their dark magic against them. While Christopher Lee and Hammer will always be synonymous with Dracula, de Richelieu is among his very best and most interesting, performances. Known in the theater for his imposing presence and smooth voice, Charles Gray’s Mocata is a worthy adversary for de Richelieu.
Hammer films are characterized by relatively low budgets, compensated by taut direction, solid characterization effective set pieces and exteriors. The Devil Rides Out is A chilling tale with rousing action sequences–car chases and fist fights mixed with some genuine scares. If there’s a letdown, it the ending. After everything that’s happened to the characters, it feels like a bit of a cheat to wrap up the conflict so quickly. Nonetheless, with Christopher Lee’s rare, engaging, ‘heroic’ performance and Charles Gray formidable villain, The Devil Rides Out makes for enjoyable viewing.
Presented in the 1.66:1 aspect ratio, Scream Factory’s Blu-ray is a solid transfer. Sharpness is generally impressive. Some slight softness is noticeable in a couple of wide shots, but otherwise the film has a nice level of clarity. There are no real print flaws to be concerned about. I saw a few minute specks of dirt or debris, but they never interfered with the overall viewing experience. The color palette is rather natural, emphasizing blues and browns. Blacks are fairly inky and shadow detail is acceptable. The image itself looks quite good. Fans should be very pleased with this transfer.
The DTS-HD MA monaural soundtrack is workmanlike, if not particularly impressive. Dialogue has a slightly distant quality, though it’s clear throughout. The accompanying music sounds more fully present, though a bit shrill on occasion. Ambient sounds are also fairly discernible throughout.
English SDH subtitles are included.
The following extras are available:
- Audio Commentary: With Author/Film Historian Steve Haberman, Filmmaker/Film Historian Constantine Nasr, and Author/Screenwriter Richard Christian Matheson. They all sit together to discuss the source novel and the process of adapting it, characters, cast, production design and more.
- Audio Commentary: Actors Christopher Lee and Sarah Lawson with moderator Marcus Hearn. All three sit together for a running, screen-specific specific look at the story, production process and a few behind the scenes stories.
- Alternate Release of The Devil Rides Out aka The Devil’s Bride
- Satanic Shocks (HD, 29:59) Film historian Kim Newman gives a lot of background on The Devil Rides Out. He discusses Dennis Wheatley’s impact on English horror, Richard Matheson’s adaptation of the novel and more.
- Folk Horror Goes Haywire (HD, 24:08) Author/film historian Jonathan Rigby offers his thoughts on The Devi Rides Out. Of particular interest, is a discussion about a pagan ritual being performed during the summer of love.
- Black Magic: The Making of The Devil Rides Out (HD, 34:59) Screenwriter Richard Matheson and actor Patrick Mower are among the various participants who share their thoughts in interviews here.
- Dennis Wheatley At Hammer (HD, 13:14) A discussion about the three of Wheatley’s novels that were adapted by Hammer (including To The Devil.. A Daughter due out from Scream Factory December 17th.)
- World of Hammer Episode – “Hammer” (HD, 25:53) Another installment of the series narrated by actor Oliver Reed. The focus here is the history of the studio.
- Theatrical Trailers (HD, 5:02) Two in total, one for when the film was titled The Devil’s Bride.
- Image Gallery (HD, 4:37) 62 stills — largely publicity stills and advertising.
The Devil Rides Out (1968)