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stylish Tigon horror,
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This review is from: Blood On Satan's Claw - Digitally Remastered Widescreen Edition [DVD]  (DVD)
I too discovered this through Mark Gatiss' recent History of Horror series on BBC4. Although I don't think it reaches the same heights as The Wicker Man, it is a really atmospheric film, beautifully and lushly filmed on it's limited budget and small set of country locations - a million miles away from some of those rather wintry-looking grey-blue Hammer exterior shots. A ploughman (Barry Andrews) turns up some half-human remains in a field and Satan soon returns to earth, manipulating and rebuilding himself predominantly through the local children and a few adults who starts to grow the patches of "Devil's Skin". It is an episodic film (disjointed to some), and I especially enjoyed the first half hour in the aunt's house - wonderfully claustrophobic stuff, making much use of low camera angles to reflect the original discovery of "the fiend"'s bones in a ploughed field and aided by a particularly solid performance from Patrick Wymark in his last film role. Good also to see James Hayter (the voice of Mr Kipling in my youth) as a pompous and dim-witted local squire, continuing that noble line that runs from Frankenstein's burgermeisters to the old fools in Herzog's remake of Nosferatu! The next half hour focusses on the effects of the evil on the local children, especially ringleader Angel Blake (a nod to the illustrations of William Blake there in the name perhaps?). She has a nude scene which for once seems totally appropriate and tasteful for a Tony Tenser production (no prudish body-stockings as in the Wicker Man!). There are some stunning images of forest and countryside here - when two boys first encounter young Cathy out picking flowers the shot is beautifully framed with flowering blackthorn or some such bush - and this section builds to the much vaunted rape (tame compared to Straw Dogs, say, but appropriate to the themes of evil awakening in these children). The film loses a little of it's narrative power from here on - maybe a constraint of the budget - and can seem a bit muddled at times. For example, the young hero suddenly gets from one spot to another at the end of the film in what seems no time at all. Also, the maid who has lost two children to the evil seems remarkably composed all things considered and wastes no time in taking in a young witch to replace her daughter. There's a tendency to develop characters in one section and then drop them later completely (the Parson, for example, and also Simon Williams' young nobleman). And I never understood where the aunt went to. But overall the film ultimately keeps on course, builds to a tense conclusion, ends abruptly with a freeze-frame as many Tigon productions do and is most definitely one of the best entries in the British horror canon. Extras include choice of original mono or Dolby 5.1, which seems to lend an eerie phasing to rainfall or strings. There's also a nice long trailer for the film, plus shorter trailers for Dr Terror's House of Horrors (starring Lee, Cushing et al, as well as Roy Castle and Alan "Fluff" Freeman (!) and one of the best horror omnibuses) and The Asphyx, which I hadnt heard of before but which looks dreadful! There's no documentary or commentrary on my copy of the DVD, but a good essay on the making of the film in the accompanying booklet.