Our favourite in-house Horror movie specialist Mary McC is back, with this year’s Halloween special (just like the Simpsons!). This year the topic is Witchcraft and Devilry.
It’s Hallowe’en so time for witchcraft and devilry. In recent months I’ve been reading the terrific Merrily Watkins series of books by Phil Rickman which centre around a diocesan exorcist, and watching the marvellously bonkers Whitechapel and all have put me in the mood for watching some witchy/demonic/satanic classics! There’s no shortage out there from Mario Bava’s Mask of Satan to Dario Argento’s mental Suspiria and of course the few I’ve mentioned below. Get some in before the witching hour and get watching!
The Devil Rides Out (1968)
Don’t look at the eyes! I defy anyone to watch this Dennis Wheatley adaptation and not love it. Scripted by Richard Matheson and directed by Hammer stalwart Terence Fisher, it is a rollicking adventure tale of good versus evil with a terrific cast including Christopher Lee at his peak (playing good for once!) as the dashing Duc de Richleau and Charles Gray camping it up as Aleister Crowley-esque villain Mocata. Warning, contains choreographed “orgies”, a giant tarantula and many, many flared nostrils.
Night of the Demon (1957)
The truly dreadful trailer below utterly fails to illustrate just how good this film is. Adapted from M.R. James’ unsettling tale of the power of superstition Casting the Runes http://www.classicreader.com/book/1833/1/ and directed by Jacques Tourneur (of Cat People and I Walked with a Zombie), it manages to overcome the failings of its weak star, Dana Andrews, who was apparently drunk for quite a lot of filming. A masterclass in tension until the appearance of the extremely hokey demon who looks and sounds like he arrives on a squeaky bike.
Night of the Eagle (1962)
Dynamic Peter Wyngarde! He truly is dynamic in this brilliant tale (co written once again by horror stalwart Richard Matheson) of an academic who discovers that his wife used witchcraft to further his career and what follows when he tries to turn his back on it. Nostrils aflame for most of this one.
The Witches (1966)
I only watched this Hammer production for the first time a few weeks ago and it’s quite an oddity. It’s the tale of a schoolmistress who arrives in a small village haunted by a supernatural event in her past. Written by Nigel Kneale it has an excellent opening and wonderfully builds tension until about the last half hour when it all goes completely ludicrous with a choreographed witches’ sabbath involving overwrought villagers sucking on what looks like lemons. Worth a watch for Joan Fontaine’s marvellous eyebrow acting and League of Gentlemen-esque sinister butcher and “local” locals.
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
A complete classic that needs no introduction, Roman Polanski’s film is one I watch annually and it never ages. Based on the novel by Ira Levin, the film focuses on the paranoia and fears of a pregnant mother living in a claustrophobic apartment until you realise that the shambling, elderly satanists next door might just know what they are doing. Even more horribly they are aided by Rosemary’s despicable husband Guy (shiftily played by John Cassavetes) who would literally sell his wife to get ahead. Mia Farrow gives a marvellous performance aided by a terrific cast including the peerless Ruth Gordon as Minnie Castevet. Want some chocolate mouse anyone?
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