THE BLOOD ON SATAN’S CLAW. (1971) TIGON BRITISH FILM PRODUCTIONS. DIRECTED BY PIERS HAGGARD. WRITTEN BY PIERS HAGGARD AND ROBERT WYNNE-SIMMONS.
STARRING PATRICK WYMARK, BARRY ANDREWS, SIMON WILLIAMS, TAMARA USTINOV, LINDA HAYDEN, MICHELE DOTRICE, WENDY PADBURY, CHARLOTTE MITCHELL AND ANTHONY AINLEY.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
THE BLOOD ON SATAN’S CLAW is such a dark, dark sexy film. Yes, I did mean to put in two ‘darks,’ lol, because the film really is incredibly dark. It was made by TIGON, the British film production and distribution company that brought us WITCHFINDER GENERAL (1968), starring horror legend Vincent Price, and THE CREEPING FLESH (1973), two of my favourite horror films from that period.
What happens is as follows. An entire village falls victim to an outbreak of demonic possession, caused by the unearthing of a deformed skull imbued with a malign influence. In this, we observe the similarities to excellent Hammer film QUATERMASS AND THE PIT, in that everything is grand until people go digging shit up which was better left alone, if you get me.
Anyway, the malignant influence has a terrible effect on the young people of the village in particular. They’re behaving oddly, going insane for no reason, holding black masses, sprouting demonic-looking fur on parts of their bodies where certainly there was no fur before, weird stuff like that. They’re even skipping the Reverend Fallowfield’s excellent religious instruction lessons, and those used to be a huge draw for the kids before Beelzebub came to town…! Not, snigger.
It’s up to good old Patrick Wymark as the local Judge to track down the source of the evil and attempt to eradicate it. Will he be successful?Before he’s even had time to plonk his Judge wig down on his noggin, though, there will be an horrific rape in the village that would never have happened before the Devil strutted into town on his cloven hooves. Wait a minute, where’s everyone gone? Oh right. Off to You-Tube the horrific rape. Ye naughty little brats, ye…!
Michele Dotrice, who’s probably best known for portraying Frank Spencer’s long-suffering wife Betty in superb ’70s sitcom SOME MOTHERS DO ‘AVE ‘EM, plays an unexpected blinder in this film as a young ‘un who’s been- ahem- filled with the Devil. Her lascivious expressions when she’s watching the rape would have scandalised poor Frank, who was always very modest and shy when it came to sexual matters, hee-hee. He’s ‘ad a bit o’ trouble, don’t you know…?!
‘Betty’ also does an amazing job in the scene where she’s fleeing from the savage dogs who are pursuing her, a suspected witch, through the olden days woods. The scene where she’s having ‘the devil’s skin’ excised from her leg was so real and powerful that I ended up feeling quite queasy while watching it. There’s something quite sick-making about people’s skin, teeth and nails when you see them up-close in films.
Michele Dotrice is actually a brilliant horror actress, as well as being a great comedienne too. She co-stars with Pamela Franklin in one of the best and spookiest horror movies of the period, AND SOON THE DARKNESS (1970), which you should definitely try to watch if you haven’t already seen it.
The long dark wig that Simon Williams (he played a posh toff in drama serial UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS) is wearing, as lovelorn suitor Peter Edmonton, makes him look like a pre-moustache Freddie Mercury. You know, like when he wore the white lycra suit and played the piano in the video for BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY? Yeah, back then…!
His girlfriend Rosalind Barton (played by blonde beauty Tamara Ustinov) goes screamingly insane after one night spent in Peter’s aunt’s disused attic room, and is carted off to the lunatic asylum the next day sporting a hideous claw where her right hand should be.
So much for spending the rest of their lives together in married bliss. The aunt, a Mistress Banham, goes missing then, increasing local feeling that something in the village is seriously amiss.
The truly gorgeous Linda Hayden is terrific at playing sexually aware young minxes, who are well aware of the power their bodies and beauty have over mere men, who are visual creatures and easily tempted off the straight and narrow.
Her nude scene, in which she tantalises and teases the mortified Reverend Fallowfield with her delectable wares, would surely make red-blooded male viewers long for the days when women had actual pubic hair.
Seriously, do you know that there’s a whole generation of blokes growing up today who think that women naturally don’t have hair down there? Think about it. You know it’s true. Women today are shaved, waxed, tanned, toned, trimmed, straightened and sanitised almost out of existence. And who’s it all benefiting, anyway? Mainly the grooming industry, as far as I can see.
Here’s a naughty thought. Perhaps some of the Devil’s leftover furry bits from this film could be donated to the women of today who’ve all but forgotten how to grow good honest pubes? We could have a sort of charity drive or something, you know, the way people do.
As well as the horrible public rape, the film also features the attempted drowning of a witch.
‘If she swims, she’s a witch!’
‘Yeah, but if she drowns, you’ve done her murder…!’
The way the perpetrators shrug and slink away, unconcerned for the unconscious women they’ve flung into the river, is terrible to witness. I believe it was fairly typical behaviour, however, of the kind of people in those days who went round accusing innocent women of witchcraft and being a witch, just for their own amusement, or for other petty motives, like revenge or maybe coveting that person’s property, and hoping you might come in for it once the rightful owner is deceased. Awful, isn’t it?
How they ever managed to stand in a village square with their friends and neighbours and watch a human female, someone they knew, and maybe even liked or respected, hang or burn to death is beyond mine, and most peoples’, comprehension.
The ruined church and creepy woods are tremendously atmospheric, as is the weird and eerie soundtrack. The way the devil is ‘assembling’ himself piece by piece, with the help of his warped young congregation, is also quite ingenious. Donate a limb and help Satan, there’s a good fellow (or lady)…!
The film is similar to a Hammer film and yet somehow much, much darker, with a vein of genuine evil running through it. It’s as good an example of vintage British folk horror as, say, THE WICKER MAN (1973), and maybe one of the best British horror films ever made, full stop.
Au revoir, horror buddies, until we meet again.
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.