We are heading into the home stretch and for the last week of October I’ll be focusing on Hammer’s brilliant Frankenstein movies. But before that one last excellent Hammer movie that always seems to get lost in Hammer’s massive output of monsters and vampire movies, 1968’s The Devil Rides Out.
Dennis Wheatley was a very prolific writer in England from the 1930’s to 1960’s and he tackled a multitude of genres, mysteries, thrillers, spies and horror. His Gregory Sallust spy novels were even one of the many inspirations for Ian Fleming’s James Bond. While a couple of Wheatley’s novels had been adapted before, none of his occult horror stories had until The Devil Rides Out.
One of Wheatley’s major characters was Nicholas, Duc de Richleau. Duc De Richleau starred in 11 novels and the stories varied from murder mysteries, political thrillers to occult horror. The Devil Rides Out was published in 1934 and was the second novel in the series.
Nicholas, Duc de Richleau (Christopher Lee) greets his friend Rex Van Ryn (Leon Greene) who has arrived for a reunion but their friend Simon Aron (Patrick Mower) is missing. Along with Richard Eaton (Paul Eddington), the four friends have had many adventures together and consider themselves “modern musketeers”. Richard is now happily married but Simon hasn’t been in contact with Nicolas for months. Nicholas and Rex go find Simon at his new home. They discover that Simon has seemly joined an astrological society, which a meeting is taking place just then. The duo are very unwelcome and the leader of the society, Mocata (Charles Gray), wants the intruders gone. Nicholas quickly realizes that they are not an astrological society but a satanic cult. He and Rex knock Simon out and forcibly remove him from the group.
But Mocata isn’t about to let Simon go and uses his black magic to get Simon to return to the fold. Nicholas and Rex go searching and end up back at Simon’s house where they are attacked by a demon that Mocata summoned. Nicholas realizes what sort of dark powers they are up against and that Mocata can use and they become determined to save Simon. Rex had recognized a girl from the group, Tanith (Nike Arrighi) and tracks her down. She ends up leading him to a spot in the woods were they are going to “baptize” Simon and her into their cult. Rex gets a hold of Nicholas and the two of them disrupt the ceremony and save Simon and Tanith. They all go to Richard’s place to hide and are attacked by Mocata who uses all his black magic to summon a spider and the angel of death. Fortunately Nicholas, Duc de Richleau, knows more than a few things to stop black magic.
This was one of Hammer’s last great horror films. Christopher Lee is excellent as Duc de Richleau and it’s shame that Hammer didn’t do more. They did adapt one more Dennis Wheatley novel, To the Devil a Daughter which would end up being their last horror movie and second last movie before they eventually folded. Lee also starred in that movie but he played the bad guy and the film itself is just mediocre.