DEMONS OF THE MIND. (1972) A HAMMER FILM PRODUCTION DIRECTED BY PETER SYKES. BASED ON A STORY BY FRANK GODWIN.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
‘Blood will have blood…’
This Hammer classic is such a frilly film. It’s a gorgeously dark, gothically atmospheric foray into madness, sex, blood-red murder, incest and sicknesses of the mind, that was rated 18s, and no wonder. It’s filthy, but so beautiful to look at!
It stars Robert Hardy (ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL) as a wealthy widower called Zorn, who lives a secluded and troubled life, largely of his own making.
His family background has mental illness and suicide in it, as a result of which Zorn keeps his two adult children imprisoned in his grand old mansion, just in case they end up going the same way.
He thinks they already show signs of wanting to mate with each other, for one, but I think that ship has already sailed, lol. They spend the whole film trying to get at each other, shure. They’re mad for each other, but not necessarily made for each other, as they only enable each other’s madness and self-destructive ways.
Shane Briant, a man who was surely born to wear the frilly blouse and tight trews of a handsome young fop from Ye Olden Times, plays the tall, blonde brother Emil, the older of the two ill-starred siblings. Gillian Hills, once tipped by Roger Vadim to be the next Brigitte Bardot, portrays the dewy-eyed, moist-lipped sister, Elizabeth.
She’s a dozy, night-gowned wench who can only speak one word, apparently, her brother’s name, ‘Emil,’ and Emil in his turn seems only capable of uttering the lines, ‘Let me see her! Elizabeth, come back!,’ which is really quite hilarious to watch.
The incestuous pair are literally kept under lock and key by their father, Zorn, who at times appear to be encouraging their madness, and their father’s big bald bodyguard, Klaus.
The young peoples’ Aunt Hilda, who believes in their terrible inheritance of madness even more than her brother does, engages in such old-fashioned medical practices as blood-letting on her two charges, which appear utterly barbaric to our modern minds.
Patrick Magee plays the sinister Dr. Falkenberg, the medic of dubious reputation employed by Zorn to oversee the ‘treatment’ and ‘cure’ of the two young ‘uns, when all they really need is to be separated from each other and brought up as normal people in a healthier and more wholesome atmosphere than Castle Zorn, which, let’s face it, wouldn’t be too hard to find. The very walls of the mansion ooze death, decay and insanity.
Meanwhile, down in the village, beautiful busty women are going missing and turning up dead in the lake or on the forest floor, artistically sprinkled with blood-red rose petals.
This component gives the film the juicy, sexy feel of a good old Hammer vampire/Dracula movie, and is always welcome. I mean, what’s a Hammer flick without a few slaughtered glamour models with their throats torn out and bodices ripped to buggery, lol…?
Shakespearean actor Michael Hordern turns up as a Bible-thumping cleric ready to cast out the village’s demons, which the villagers themselves are already suspecting might be witchcraft, and Paul Jones as Carl Richter, a young medical student who is in love with Elizabeth and is determined to save her (but not Emil, heh-heh-heh) from the ghastly ministrations of Dr. Falkenberg and Aunt Yvonne.
My favourite scene is probably the one where the village woman is drafted in up at Chateau Zorn to portray Elizabeth in a ‘sort of play,’ and it drives Emil over the edge. It doesn’t turn out too clever for the poor unfortunate village woman, either. And after all the fun she had choosing dresses for ages in the nip, as well…!
It’s such a sexy, gothic film, a kind of sick love story that has disease and sickly-sweet rotteness at its core, like a perfect-to-look-at-on-the-outside peach that would corrode your insides if you took a bite. I love it. It’s what Hammer horror does best. If you haven’t seen it yet, do it soon. You’ll love it too.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO
Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books.