• The Blood On Satan’s Claw (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review



    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: November 29th, 2019.
    Director: Piers Haggard
    Cast: Linda Hayden, Patrick Wymark, Barry Andrews, Michelle Dotrice, Wendy Padbury, Anthony Ainley, Charlotte Mitchell, Tamara Ustinov, Simon Williams
    Year: 1970
    Purchase From Severin Films

    The Blood On Satan’s Claw – Movie Review:

    Probably the best-known film of the minimal output from the short-lived Tigon Studios, Piers Haggard’s Blood On Satan’s Claw has maintained a solid cult following since its release in 1970. With folk horror having had a bit of a resurgence in the last few years with titles like The Witch and Midsommar doing well at the box office, it would seem a more than appropriate title to revisit – particularly because it’s a damn good film!

    Set in the rural countryside of 17th century England, the film begins as a young man, Ralph Gower (Barry Andrews), unearths a body part that’s found partially buried in a field. After poking at it a bit, he decides that it’s certainly not human, so he returns home to tell the town judge (Patrick Wymark from Witchfinder General), about his unusual discovery. The two return to the field, the judge quite begrudgingly, and of course what they’re looking for is no longer there.

    Shortly after this discovery is made (and consequently lost), weirdness starts raining down upon the small town these men call home. This begins with the sudden loss of Rosalind Barton (Tamara Ustinov, daughter of Peter Ustinov), the fiancée of Peter Edmonton (Simon Williams). She goes insane almost instantly and ends up being locked up in an institution. Later that day, the judge is assaulted by some unidentifiable force and has to leave the small town to get away for a while and give himself a chance to recover from his attack.

    While the judge is gone, things take a turn from weird to weirder, as the children of the small town begin to act in an otherworldly manner. As this strange behavior increases and more and more children exhibit the same mannerisms and traits, the village priest, Fallowfield (Anthony Ainley, who played The Master on seven years’ worth of Doctor Who in the eighties), begins to suspect that the devil himself may be responsible for the recent rash of bizarre phenomena that has overtaken the area.

    And as luck would have it, the local priest is right! Angel Blake (Linda Hayden of Taste The Blood Of Dracula), a lovely young resident of the aforementioned town, has indeed been infected by Satan. Since coming into contact with the aforementioned inhuman remains, she now does his bidding. Angel is, in fact, the veritable ringleader of the group of evil children running amuck in the town, and is not above using her womanly charms to attempt to seduce Fallowfield himself. This is bad news for the priest as the townsfolk side with Angel when she accuses him of less than moral behavior towards her, thus covering her tracks a little bit.

    Before too long though, the judge heads back into town, feeling better after some much-needed rest and relaxation. He then starts up a group of witch-hunters which he will lead in hopes of cleansing the town of the evil that has set up camp inside its borders. They’re going to have to hurry though, because if Angel Blake and her brood have their way, Satan will soon be manifesting and taking over for good.

    The movie does leave few stones unturned in regards to some of the plot holes that most viewers are bound to notice during its running time. Why on does the evil only primarily children? Angel is obviously close to adulthood judging by her, ahem, physical development. Would she not be considered a grown up? How is it that some of these people get over the deaths of close loved ones so quickly and easily? This is overcome, however, when the cast all give such determined performances (particularly Hayden, who’s great in her role) that we’re able to forgive the scriptwriters (director Piers Haggard co-wrote this with Robert Wynne-Simmons) for making a few omissions in the name of a good gimmick. And a good gimmick it is. The idea of using a gang of possessed youngsters to wreak havoc among the supposedly more intelligent adults of the town makes for an interesting take on the tried and true theme of demonic possession that we’ve seen in plenty of films before and after. Logic gaps aside, there’s some genuine intelligence to the way that the characters are written – they’re human, like we all are, and prone to flaws and those flaws can and do lead to complications as the story plays out.

    The acting in the film is strong. Hayden, as noted above, is excellent in the picture. She’s a more than alluring woman and she’s got a genuinely interesting screen presence on top of that. Haggard uses her well in this film and she’s reason enough alone to want to see it. Patrick Wymark is also very good as the judge. He has a very stately, high society vibe about him that makes him well-cast as a member of the upper class. Barry Andrews is good here too, as is Anthony Ainley.

    Haggard’s direction is strong and it makes one wonder why most of his work was for television, not for film. The work he did here and on Venom was very strong and certainly big enough in scope that it would seem his skills were just as appropriate for the silver screen as the small one. The pacing on the picture is handled well, the story unfolding just quickly enough to keep our attention while at the same time making sure we get some decent character development along the way.

    Production values are very good here. The sets and costumes all look authentic and while I can’t say for sure that people in 17th century England looked, acted, and dressed like they do in this film, I can’t say that they didn’t either. Marc Wilkinson’s score is a good one, quite atmospheric and eerie – even beautiful in parts, very atypical for a horror picture.

    The Blood On Satan’s Claw – Blu-ray Review:

    Severin Films brings The Blood On Satan’s Claw to Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen on a 50GB disc, with the feature given 28.5 GBs of space. The film uses a title card that reads ‘Satan’s Skin’ is reportedly the title that Haggard prefers for the film. The picture quality here is quite strong, although print damage shows up throughout. It’s mostly minor, small white specks and what have you, but there are occasionally some vertical scratches that go from top to bottom. The film grain is left completely intact, which is a good thing, there are no signs of digital scrubbing or noise reduction of any kind and the image is free of noticeable edge enhancement. Colors look very good, though the movie is heavy on Earth-tones and not always the brightest looking film you’ve ever seen. Detail is quite strong and there’s nice depth and texture to the image throughout.

    The English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track, which comes with optional English subtitles, sounds just fine. The dialogue is clean and clear and there are no problems with any hiss or distortion to note. The levels are nicely balanced and the excellent score from Marc Wilkinson sounds nice in lossless.

    Extras start off with an audio commentary with director Piers Haggard, writer Robert Wynne-Simmons and lead actress Linda Hayden. Haggard dominates this track, Wynne-Simmons and Hayden only really pop in from time to time as they see fit, and it’s a bit stodgy in spots but there’s some good information here about the casting of the film, the locations, the story and where some of the ideas came from, working for Tigon and more.

    A second commentary features writer Mark Gatiss with Jeremy Dyson and Reece Shearsmith from The League Of Gentlemen and voice actors for The Blood on Satan's Claw new audiobook adaptation. This track is considerably more engaging simply because these guys are clearly very enthusiastic about the material. Lots of talk here about how the film fits in alongside other folk horror and occult horror pictures of the era, thoughts on the direction and the performances, insight into what works and what doesn’t always work and lots more. These three are having a great time talking about the film and the end result is a really enjoyable track.

    Touching The Devil: The Making Of The Blood On Satan’s Claw is a twenty-one-minute featurette from the older DVD release from 2013 where producer Malcolm Heyworth, writer Wynne-Simmons, director Haggard and Linda Hayden all chime in with their thoughts on the making of the film. Heyworth talks about getting involved with the film on the ground floor, Wynne-Simmons talks about writing the story and about how the story deals with both witchcraft and a child who kills, how this picture differs from the typical horror films of the time, the different titles that were bandied about and how it wound up being called Blood On Satan’s Claw, working with the different cast members on the project and some issues arose, the importance of Patrick Wymark and Linda Hayden’s casting (and her own thoughts on making the film and the finished product) and more.

    Reviving Forgotten Horrors is a ten-minute interview with director Piers Haggard from 2019 where he talks about how the producers came to him with the script and talked him into directing the picture, the financing behind the picture, his thoughts on Wynne-Simmons’ script and how he had to rework certain parts of it, some of the ‘loose threads that people enjoy pointing out’ in the film, finding the locations used for the shoot, working with the cast and other related bits of interesting trivia.

    Satan’s Script is an interview with writer Robert Wynne-Simmons conducted by film historian Dr. Marcus Stiglegger produced in 2019 and running sixteen-minutes in length. They speak about how Wynne-Simmons first got involved in the production after making some short films, his work with Michael Winner, getting work with the producers at Pinewood Studios, how this project started off as three short stories with a framing device, how the script deals with an ancient religion but doesn’t specify what that religion is, Wynne-Simmons’ involvement in a film called The Outcasts and how it connects to some of his earlier horror efforts, the supernatural elements in his work and more.

    Running With The Devil interviews actress Linda Hayden in a nine-minute piece. She talks about auditioning for a part in a film called Baby Love when she was fifteen and got the part, being old enough to work in the film but not see it. She talks about doing publicity work on the picture and then appearing in Hammer’s Taste The Blood Of Dracula and how honored she was to star in that. From there, she speaks about getting the part in Blood On Satan’s Claw, shooting at Pinewood Studios and on location, her thoughts on Haggard’s directing style, her thoughts on some of her co-stars, having to go to the hospital while in her garb at the end of the movie after cutting her foot and her thoughts on doing the nude scene that was required of her in the film.

    From there, we get a few brief interviews starting with Folk Tale, actor Simon Williams talks about the film for nineteen-minutes. He discusses getting the part, having to take riding lessons, watching horror movies like Witchfinder General to prepare for the film, the period costumes used on the shoot (and the wig he had to wear), working with the cast and crew and more. Folk Music, a five-minute piece with composer Marc Wilkinson, covers how he met Haggard originally at the National Theater, writing some music for a Thames Television series and then scoring Blood On Satan’s Claw. He talks about the process of composing the music for the film, what made the music unusual and why and how he tried to make the music match the scenes in tone. Set dresser Milly Burns is up next in the six-minute Folk Art to discuss working with the film’s small three-person art department, being responsible for coming up with the furniture and props used in the movie, her thoughts on the script and having to go through it to figure out what props would be required for what scene, how the film looks intentionally sparse and how she feels quite proud of the art direction featured in the film. Sound recordist Tony Dawe gets seven-minutes in front of the camera in Folk Sounds where he talks about working with Haggard (who he describes as quite helpful), trying to get the sounds to be as natural as possible and how they set about trying to get the sound effects to be as real as possible. He also talks about how fun it was on set, how the young crew was trying to prove themselves, the gear that he used on the production and more.

    In A League Of Its Own is a featurette wherein The League Of Gentlemen's Jeremy Dyson and Mark Gatiss spend eleven-minutes talking about their love of Blood On Satan’s Claw, how they’ve been obsessed with horror since being kids, watching horror pictures every Friday night on television, how aspects of Blood On Satan’s Claw remain genuinely friendly, their thoughts on seeing the film the first time, how they bonded over this particular picture and how the film felt real thanks to all of the little details in the picture.

    Finishing up the extras features on the disc are the film’s original theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection.

    NOTE - As this review was based on a test disc we can’t attest to any inserts or fancy packaging for this release.

    The Blood On Satan’s Claw – The Final Word:

    Overall, The Blood On Satan’s Claw is a well-executed film with a solid cast, a nice look and feel to it, and an ending that will really get under your skin. The performances are strong, especially from Hayden, and it’s quite a strong piece of folk horror. Severin’s Blu-ray release is impressive, presenting the film in a great transfer and on a disc loaded with extra features. Highly recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized The Blood On Satan’s Claw Blu-ray screen caps!


















































    Comments 3 Comments
    1. Alison Jane's Avatar
      Alison Jane -
      Didn't know what to expect with this one but I ended up really enjoying it. I only knew Linda Hayden from House on Straw Hill (which her role was very limited in) but I thought she was great in this.
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      Great review!
    1. Lalala76's Avatar
      Lalala76 -
      I have the Screenbound release (the newer Satan's Skin version) and don't recall any print damage or vertical scratches, which is interesting as it sounds like Severin used the same newer master. I wonder if Screenbound did further work or maybe I just wasn't paying that much attention. Either way, I love this film and pleased Severin released it for you guys in the US.