The Devil Rides Out
I suppose we all have to try to get along, don’t we? Even if that means shaking hands and agreeing to disagree, we’d all be a lot happier if we were just able to acknowledge that some people think differently to us. They value things we couldn’t give a monkey’s about, and couldn’t give a stuff about what we care for most of all. That is just the way of the world, my friend, and I suspect it always will be. But sometimes it’s not that people think differently, it’s that you honestly have no idea what on Earth they’re thinking or why the hell they’d even want to. For an example, may I present to you the fact that apparently the producer of The Devil Rides Out didn’t think it was very good?
Now, obviously I understand there are people who don’t like The Devil Rides Out. I’m sure whoever was Archbishop of Canterbury in 1967 thought it was a load of rubbish for starters. But the producer? Of this British horror classic? Didn’t think it was any good? There is only one word for what that does to my mind - boggles.
Look, I understand the film isn’t perfect. The satanic orgy is really more of a slightly boozy knees-up (which I found sort of charmingly realistic because after all this is a wood at night in England and therefore almost certainly too chilly for nude romping so you would be far better off keeping your clothes on and getting leathered anyway). And OK, the one appearance of the actual devil himself is just a bloke in a goat costume (which actually did freak me out a bit as I wasn’t sure if it was a mask or make-up but was definitely strange and unsettling and come on what more of a reaction do you want from the appearance of the devil). And, yes the special effects were a little ropey in the scene where they’re being attacked in the circle (the tarantula just doesn’t work and though the angel of death is proper scary when it first rides into the house the less said about the horse’s stick-on wings of evil the better). And alright, the same intense circle scene is over too quickly, but that’s the damn fool producer’s fault for not finishing the sequence because he didn’t think the film was worth it!
Because the thing is, and there’s no way around this, The Devil Rides Out is a brilliant movie and the producer was flat-out wrong to think otherwise. Christopher Lee makes a fantastic lead because no-one is better at being frightened than someone as naturally frightening as Christopher Lee. If this bloke is scared then, brother are we in trouble, sort of thing. He also spends the whole movie knowing exactly what’s going on, and there’s something incredibly effective about having a hero who understands everything that’s happening, yet is still utterly terrified. Then you’ve got Charles Grey, who should really have been in more Hammers, as the bad guy letting his icy blue eyes and lazy Cheshire Cat grin do some excellent work in the name of pure evil. And there’s even that Hammer staple of a splendidly charismatic cameo that brightens the whole film, in this case from an ‘I say, really!’ Paul Eddington.
And this movie has maybe the best collection of cars I have ever seen. I’m not a car nut or anything and, other than knowing Christopher Lee’s car is a Rolls Royce because you see it in close-up, I have no idea what any of the buggers even are. But there’s all these incredibly beautiful 1930’s cars zipping around the countryside in the name of decadent evil, and in one amazing sequence there’s a car chase between two of these old classics and you can tell they are really being raced along these twisty country roads. It’s genuinely thrilling seeing such old cars being pushed to the limits of their speed in the name of an exciting scene.
And the pace of the movie is a whole load of fun as well. They got in Richard Matheson (of The Twilight Zone and I Am Legend fame) to write the script and given he probably knocked it out over a weekend I wish Hammer had got him to do a few more for them because it rollocks along so fast there’s barely time to draw a breath. The movie never sleeps, which I love. Even when one character is sleeping, another one is confronting the bad guy, or ringing hotels, or researching black magic at the British Museum. Nothing in the film ever stops moving and it is all rather exhilarating.
All I’m saying is, if you’re a producer for Hammer films then you couldn’t do much better than come up with The Devil Rides Out. It’s exciting and scary and cool and imaginative and what more do you want from a Hammer Horror film? I don’t know. I suppose there are just times that we have to acknowledge that we’ll never understand other people, no matter how hard we try. All we can do is find something we can all agree on. Speaking of which…