CC: The Devil Rides Out (1968)

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Friday, August 29, 2014

CC: The Devil Rides Out (1968)

Dennis Yates Wheatley (8 January 1897 – 10 November 1977) was an English author whose prolific output of thrillers and occult novels made him one of the world's best-selling writers from the 1930s through the 1960s.  His Gregory Sallust series was one of the main inspirations for Ian Fleming's James Bond stories.

His first novel published, The Forbidden Territory, was an immediate success when issued by Hutchinson in 1933, being reprinted seven times in seven weeks.  The release the next year of his occult story, The Devil Rides Out—hailed by James Hilton as "the best thing of its kind since Dracula"—cemented his reputation as "The Prince of Thriller Writers."

Wheatley mainly wrote adventure novels, with many books in a series of linked works.  Background themes included the French Revolution (the Roger Brook series), Satanism (the Duke de Richleau series), World War II (the Gregory Sallust series) and espionage (the Julian Day novels).  Over time, each of his major series would include at least one book pitting the hero against some manifestation of the supernatural.  He came to be considered an authority on this, Satanism, the practice of exorcism, and black magic, to all of which he was hostile.  During his study of the paranormal, though, he joined the Ghost Club.

The Devil Rides Out is a 1934 novel by Dennis Wheatley telling a disturbing story of black magic and the occult.  The four main characters appear in a series of novels by Wheatley.  The book was made into a film by Hammer Film Productions in 1968.

Set in 1930s London and the South of England, the Duke de Richleau and Rex van Ryn rescue their friend Simon Aron from a devil-worshipping cult.

A group of old friends discover that one of them has been lured into a coven of Satanists.  They determine to rescue him - and a beautiful girl employed as a medium.  The head of the coven proves to be no charlatan but an Adept of the Dark Arts, able to infiltrate dreams and conjure up fearsome entities.  Duke de Richleau fights back with his own knowledge of occultism and ancient lore.   A duel ensues between White and Black Magic, Good and Evil used as weapons.

Whenever, subsequently, Dennis Wheatley was asked what he really believed about the supernatural, he would just reply 'Don't meddle!' Few readers will need that warning repeated.

The Devil Rides Out (1968)

  • Alternate Title: The Devil’s Bride
  • Genre: Horror
  • Directed: Terence Fisher
  • Produced: Anthony Nelson Keys
  • Written:
    • Dennis Wheatley (novel "The Devil Rides Out")
    • Richard Matheson
  • Starring: Christopher Lee, Charles Gray, Nike Arrighi, Leon Greene, Patrick Mower, Gwen Ffrangcon Davies, Sarah Lawson, Paul Eddington, Rosalyn Landor, Russell Waters
  • Music: James Bernard
  • Cinematography: Arthur Grant
  • Editing: Spencer Reeve
  • Studio:
    • Associated British-Pathé 
    • Hammer Film Productions 
    • Seven Arts Productions
  • Distributed:
    • Warner-Pathé Distributors  
    • Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation  
    • Anchor Bay Entertainment  
    • Luminous Film & Video Works  
    • Regency Media   Studio Canal
  • Rated:
  • Release Date:
    • 20 July 1968 (UK) 
    • 18 December 1968 (US)
  • Running Time: 95 minutes
  • Country: United Kingdom
  • Language: English

The Devil Rides Out, known as The Devil's Bride in the United States, is a 1968 British horror film, based on the 1934 novel of the same name by Dennis Wheatley.  It was written by Richard Matheson (Author: I am Legend,  The Shrinking Man, etc.) and directed by Terence Fisher (Most of the remakes of the Universal monster movies by Hammer were directed by him).

Set in London and the south of England in 1929, the story finds Nicholas, Duc de Richleau, investigating the strange actions of the son of a friend, Simon Aron, who has a house complete with strange markings and a pentagram.  He quickly deduces that Simon is involved with the Occult.  Nicholas de Richleau and Rex Van Ryn manage to rescue Simon and another young initiate, Tanith, from a devil-worshipping cult.  During the rescue they disrupt a ceremony on Salisbury Plain in which the Devil himself appears.

They escape to the home of the Eatons, friends of Richleau and Van Ryn, and are followed by the group's leader, Mocata, who has a psychic connection to the two initiates.  After visiting the house to discuss the matter and an unsuccessful attempt to influence the initiates to return, Mocata forces Richleau and the other occupants to defend themselves through a night of black magic attacks, ending with the conjuring of the angel of death.  Richleau is able to repel the angel, but it kills Tanith instead (as once summoned, it must take a life).  His attacks defeated, Mocata kidnaps little Peggy.  The Duc has Tanith's spirit possess Peggy's mother in order to find Mocata, but they are only able to get a single clue, from which Rex realizes that the cultists are at a house he visited earlier.

Simon tries to rescue Peggy on his own, but is recaptured by the cult.  The Duc, Richard, and Peggy's family, also try to rescue her, but they are defeated by Mocata.  Suddenly, a powerful force (or Tanith herself) begins ruling Mrs. Eaton and puts a stop to Peggy's trance.  She then leads Peggy in the recitation of a spell, which kills all of the cultists and transforms their coven room into a church.  When the Duc and his companions awaken, they discover that the spell Peggy was led into casting has reversed time and changed the future in their favor.

Simon and Tanith have survived, while Mocata's spell to conjure the angel of death has been reflected back on him. Now, he pays the price of loss of life and eternal damnation of his soul for having wrongly summoned the angel of death.  Nicholas de Richleau comments that it is God that they must be thankful for.

First proposed in 1963, the film eventually went ahead four years later once censorship worries over Satanism had eased.  In the United States the film was retitled The Devil's Bride.  Christopher Lee has often stated that of all his vast back catalogue of films this is his favorite and the one he would like to see remade with modern special effects and with him playing a mature Duke de Richleau.

The A-side of British rock band Icarus's debut single, "The Devil Rides Out", was inspired by the advance publicity for the film of the same name.  Though the song does not appear in the film, the single's release was timed to coincide with the film's premiere, and the band themselves were invited to the premiere.

Reviews of the film have been widely favorable.  It holds a 93% fresh rating on rotten tomatoes.


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