The Devil Rides Out is a rip roaring ride that’s full of action and the occult. It stars Christopher Lee, Charles Gray, Death and the Devil and to be honest what more reason do you need to see this film than that.
Adapted from Dennis Wheatley’s very popular 1934 novel by author and script writer Richard Matheson (who also wrote Duel and the book I am Legend) the film although made in 1968 remains set in the 1930’s.
The Devil Rides Out follows the story of the Duc de Richelieu (Christopher Lee at his best) who along with his old friend Rex Van Ryn (Leon Greene) fears for the life of Simon (Patrick Mower), a younger charge who they believe has gotten himself involved with powers way beyond his comprehension and control.
it seems that Simon has joined a satanic circle lead by the enigmatic Mocata (Charles Gray) who is intent on taking his soul along with that of an innocent confused young girl Tanith (Nike Arrighi), committing them both to eternal damnation in a ceremony celebrating Satan.
Luckily Duc de Richelieu is no stranger to the dark arts and with his occult knowledge and Rex’s help the pair set about trying to save Simon and Tanith before Mocata’s demon worshiping cult can take them as an offering to the devil himself.
Although it may sound like a ridiculous story, The Devil Rides Out is non-stop fun from start to end. This is due to the brilliant book transferred into a tremendous script by Matheson, and the excellent opposing performances from Lee and Gray whose sensational struggle for the souls of the innocent is played out for us via their epic acting.
Packed full of terse and laconic dialogue, Lee, playing the goodie for once, completely commits to his character, adding a regal air to the Duc de Richelieu as well as wisdom and authority with a darker side dwelling deep somewhere inside him that he dares not release.
As his evil opposite, Gray is both charismatic and supremely confidant, seemingly doing very little yet implying a fearful fury and power within himself that he rarely releases. Both are shown controlling other characters, Duc de Richelieu with hypnosis and Mocata with mind control forcing his followers to do his bidding including killing others and themselves.
One of the most entertaining things about The Devil’s Rides Out is how it revels and rejoices in both its British-ness and its manliness (making me personally proud to be both). As the film moves along at a great pace, Rex and de Richelieu are punching, enchanting and tearing through the countryside packed full of testosterone in vintage cars to take down evil. The Duc de Richelieu is such a great character. In fact you find yourself wishing Hammer had made a series of films purely based around the him.
Filled to the brim with satanic spells, religious iconography, incantations and other occultisms the validity and reality of some of these symbols, enchantments and rites is dubious. However it is placed into the story so well that it barely matters.
In fact it is the black magic element that sets the film apart from so many other horrors. From the scary symbols of Satan in the opening credits to the various rituals performed (one summoning Death riding a winged horse) and the pagan orgy where the Devil himself appears, the ideas and themes of the film are both fascinating and frightening.
Its true to say that the effects have not stood the test of time and it’s the more low key moments, such as the people under Mocata’s possession and the tense build ups, that work better than the actual reveals themselves. But the movie is so entertaining none of that matters as you will enjoy every moment.
Exciting and engaging from beginning to end The Devil’s Rides Out provides fear, fun and occult frolics with a brilliant story. It’s not only one of Lee’s finest roles but also one of Hammer’s best films.
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