31 for 31
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31 for 31

“The Angel of Death was summoned. He cannot return empty-handed.”

October 7th

The Devil Rides Out (1968)

31 for 31 is a curated film program for the month of October. Conceived of as a compilation mixtape, the program explores the historical and cultural legacy of Horror cinema. Consider this my billet-doux to the genre.

October 7th calls for a golden oldie and the instant go-to is Hammer Films. Having produced scores of Horror pictures in the ’60s and ’70s, the British studio, est. 1934, was instrumental in revitalizing time-worn figures like Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Mummy. Hammer was the Blumhouse of its day and, in cornering the Horror market, they made a figurative killing. Among over 100 titles to choose from, 1968’s The Devil Rides Out has long stood out as a crackling favorite.

In contrast to most Hammer productions, which embraced their campy nature, Devil plays things relatively straight. Based on a Dennis Wheatley novel of the same name, Director Terence Winter gives its source the respectful adaptation that it deserves. Essential in that pursuit was his casting of Sir Christopher Lee, human-extraordinaire, as the dashing Duc de Richleau, an unflappable aristocrat with Sherlock intuition and Tony Stark’s goatee. When de Richleau deduces that his young ward, Simon, is mixed up with a ghoulish gaggle of devil-worshippers, he springs into action. Following a daring rescue, Richleau and his Watson equivalent, Rex, battle the forces of darkness led by Mocata, the charismatic leader of the cult, who is determined to reclaim Simon and fellow inductee Tanith back into the fold. It all makes for one hell of a caper.

Sir Lee starred in over 100 films. But for my money, his turn as the Duc de Richleau ranks among his finest roles. Think the 1920s version of the Dos Equis Guy, made easy given it’s not far off from playing himself. A testament to his slickness, Sir Lee is somehow able to make the Duc’s absurd character of an enlightened polymath believable. When he surmises — within seconds— that his impressionable ward’s “Astronomy Club” is actually a bunch of Satanists, we can only trust in his flawless instinct. Dabbling in the occult just happens to be among Richleau’s many hobbies. It wasn’t a term in the ’60s, but today we’d call that BDE.

The Devil Rides Out is the sort of charming romp that nowadays is rarely seen. Dated? No doubt, but its galloping pace, interesting characters, and vibrant production design keep the whole enterprise afloat. It’s Halloween fare you won’t normally catch on TV. So if you’re looking for something a little more classiqué; this ride worth seeking out.

Available on… there’s a bootleg on Dailymotion…

Tomorrow’s Clue: Contract

Do you know what’s scarier than anything on this list? 4 more years of Donald Trump. Please remember to register to vote and consider donating to the campaign to elect Joe Biden.

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