• The Devil Rides Out (Shout! Factory) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: October 29th, 2019.
    Director: Terence Fisher
    Cast: Christopher Lee, Charles Gray, Nike Arrighi, Leon Greene, Patrick Mower
    Year: 1968
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    The Devil Rides Out – Movie Review:

    Written by Richard Matheson and based on the book of the same name by Dennis Wheatley, Hammer Films’ 1968 production The Devil Rides Out, directed by Terence Fisher, is set in 1929 where we meet Duc de Richleau (the late, great Sir Christopher Lee, who called this his favorite Hammer horror film) as he arrives at the airport to meet Rex Van Ryn (Leon Greene, but dubbed by Patrick Allen) for a reunion. They are concerned that Simon Aron (Patrick Mower), the son of a departed friend, has opted to live his life in seclusion in a massive old manor on the outskirts of town, cutting off contact from de Richleau and others.

    They drive to Simon’s home and find a party going on and after letting themselves in, de Richleau discovers evidence that Simon has been dabbling in black magic and the occult. Learning that he’s about to be baptized and offered up in service to Satan himself, the pair basically kidnaps Simon and whisk him off to safety, unaware – for the time being at least – that the leader of the cult, Mocata (Charles Gray, whose character was based on Alistair Crowley), has every intention of ensuring that the ritual be completed.

    Top shelf Hammer horror through and through, The Devil Rides Out remains a high point in the studio’s filmography. The script is tight, the direction more than efficient, the art design far better than you’d expect given the pictures modest budget and the cast very, very strong. Fisher and company manage to conjure up some genuinely chilling imagery here, from the arrival of The Goat Of Mendes during an occult ritual taking place in a dark forest to the reenactments of the rituals themselves. There was clearly a good amount of detail paid not just to Wheatley’s source material but to the practices that inspired it – or at least, that’s how it seems to someone not claiming to be an expert on Satanic black magic rituals! There’s an air of weirdness that permeates some of these scenes, the kind that resonates with you after they’re done, as if you’ve witnessed something you should not had scene. Other films have, of course, taken these aspects further by upping the sex and bloodshed required to pull them off, but the way it’s handled in The Devil Rides Out just works extremely well. The fantastic score from James Bernard just adds to the film’s quality.

    As to the cast? Who better than Christopher Lee to lead the charge against a sinister Charles Gray? Lee is in excellent form here and the role is perfect for him. Obviously, he’s best known in Hammer circles for playing Dracula but he proves here, as he did in other roles where he wasn’t typecast as the bad guy, that he can play heroes just as well as villains. He’s suave, charming and intense, truly making the part all his own. Gray is just as good, never quite chewing through the scenery but giving enough spirit to the part to convince. Leon Greene doesn’t stand out as well as the others but Patrick Mower is quite good in his role while supporting work from Nike Arrighi, Gewn Ffrangcon Davis and Sarah Lawson is also quite good.

    Released in the United States as The Devil’s Bride, scenes from this film might seem familiar to Iron Maiden fans as they saw fit to use clips from it in their music video for The Number Of The Beast (the scene with The Goat Of Mendes pops up a couple of times).

    Note that Shout! Factory has done fans of this film right by including the original, unaltered version of the movie with the original effects work intact as well as the version that Studio Canal and Cineimage did a few years ago in 2012 where the effects in the picture were digitally updated. The most obvious examples of this are the scene with the tarantula and the scene where the lightning hits the altar but there are other changes such as some of the matte backgrounds having been replaced with CGI, spots where some of the background mattes have been digitally cleaned up and a spot in the scene with the Angel Of Death where some of the lighting effects have been altered. Purists will clearly opt for the original version, those with a taste for more modern effects work can enjoy the updated version – it’s a win/win.

    The Devil Rides Out – Blu-ray Review:

    Shout! Factory’s Blu-ray release of The Devil Rides Out is presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition presentation and is offered up on a 50GB disc taken from a new 2K Scan Of The 20thCentury Fox Interpositive (with the original effects and a title card reading ‘The Devil’s Bride’). Framed in its proper 1.66.1 widescreen aspect ratio, the transfer offers very nice detail, good depth and impressive texture. Colors look quite good, black levels are fine and we get nice, accurate looking skin tones as well. The image is free of any obvious noise reduction, there’s no waxiness or odd, digital softness here to complain about, and compression artifacts and edge enhancement are never a problem. There isn’t much print damage here to note at all, just the occasional small white speck now and then (and you really have to be looking for them to spot them), while a natural amount of film grain is present throughout, as it should be, without ever distracting from the feature. All in all, this looks quite nice.

    As noted earlier, the existing Studio Canal master is also provided, some comparisons are below (the Shout! caps are up top and the Studio Canal caps beneath them):

    The only audio option on the disc is an English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono mix. There are no alternate language options provided although subtitles are offered in English. The mix is clean, nicely balanced and free of any problems. Some occasional flatness inherent in the original elements limits range, but for an older mono track, this is more than good.

    Extras start off with a new audio commentary featuring author/film historian Steve Haberman, filmmaker/film historian Constantine Nasr and Author/screenwriter Richard Christian Matheson. This is, by all standards, an excellent track. There’s a lot of great information here about the source novel and how it compares to Richard Matheson’s script (Richard Christian’s insight here is valuable) as well as comments about the film’s effects, the themes that it deals with, Hammer’s relationship with Wheatley, Fisher’s direction, the locations, the score and lots more.

    Carried over from previous releases is the archival audio commentary with actors Christopher Lee And Sarah Lawson. If you’ve yet to hear it (it first appeared on the Anchor Bay DVD release of the film from 2000), it’s an excellent discussion with Lee really involved in the material. He speaks in quite a bit of detail about his role in getting Hammer to tackle Wheatley’s work and the friendship that he had with the author, the film’s depiction of various rituals and the Latin language used in some of those scenes, his thoughts on the film overall (as well as Wheatley’s), working with Fisher on the picture, why Greene was dubbed in the film, the locations used for the shoot and more. Lawson doesn’t have as much to say here as Lee does, but she still offers up her thoughts on working on the picture, how she wound up married to Patrick Allen, how she got along with the cast and crew, scenes she finds effective and more. Very good stuff and absolutely worth checking out.

    There are also two new featurettes here, the first of which is Satanic Shocks wherein author/film historian Kim Newman offers his thoughts on The Devil Rides Out for half-an-hour. If you’re familiar with Newman’s featurettes, you’ll have a good idea of what to expect here – critical analysis, insight into the film’s history, thoughts on its effectiveness and plenty of facts and details all delivered in an amiable and unpretentious way, occasionally with a bit of light humor injected into the proceedings. Newman is always a treat when he pops up in featurettes like this, and this piece is no exception to that rule. Also new to this release is Folk Horror Goes Haywire, a featurette with author/film historian Jonathan Rigby where he discusses The Devil Rides Out for twenty-four-minutes. In this segment Rigby talks about the socio-political landscape in which the film was made, how this picture compares to other Fisher entries, the state of Hammer Films at the time that the film was made, casting the film and more. It’s quite informative and covers ground that the other featurettes do not.

    Shout! Factory also provides some great archival featurettes starting with Black Magic: The Making Of The Devil Rides Out, a thirty-four-minute examination of the film’s origins made up of interviews with Marcus Hearne, Denis Meikle, David Huckvale, Jonathan Rigby, screenwriter Richard Matheson, actor Patrick Mower, Wheatley biographer Phil Baker, actor and writer Mark Gatiss and Kitty and Dan Staiver-Hutchins (Michael Staiver-Hutchins’ children). Originally made for the Studio Canal Blu-ray, release, it’s an excellent piece that covers the history of the film and the quality of the production, the film’s excellent score, the cast and crew involved in the shoot and quite a bit more. This, too, is also very good.

    The thirteen-minute Dennis Wheatley At Hammer, again originally found on the UK Blu-ray, is an interesting chat with the aforementioned Phil Baker where he gives his thoughts on the three Wheatley projects that Hammer brought to the silver screen (they being The Devil Rides Out, The Lost Continent and To The Devil A Daughter), the author’s thoughts on the quality of these films and how and why the relationship between Wheatley and Hammer eventually went south.

    Also included is a World Of Hammer episode entitled, appropriately enough, Hammer. This twenty-five-minute piece, narrated once again by Oliver Reed, looks at the studio’s biggest financial success stories and gives up some interesting history and trivia relating to their productions.

    Rounding out the extras are two theatrical trailers, a still gallery, menus and chapter selection. We also get some neat reversible cover art using the poster art for The Devil Rides Out on one side and some very cool alternate French poster art on the reverse (it’s a little thing but worth mentioning as it is a very nice touch).

    Missing from the Studio Canal disc is the eleven-minute The Power Of Light: Restoring The Devil Rides featurette that shows what changes were made to the effects work in the picture.

    The Devil Rides Out – The Final Word:

    Shout! Factory’s Blu-ray release of The Devil Rides Out offers a top shelf Hammer Horror picture in great shape, offering the original U.S. version alongside the ‘updated’ Studio Canal version with fine audio and a host of extras old and new. The movie itself holds up remarkably well, and this package does a great job not just with the presentation of the film but also in documenting its history and significance. Highly recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized The Devil Rides Out Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Jack J's Avatar
      Jack J -
      I've just seen the film (this very bluray release) for the first time and loved it! Of the Hammer films I've seen HORROR OF DRACULA has always been the one I reckon is the very best. Not so from today. Man, THE DEVIL RIDES OUT is even better! I watched the original version and I'm kinda repelled by the notion of their updating the special effects for the re-release. Also, the screen grabs (in the above) from the original version look more detailed (just look at the title card!).