THE BLOOD ON SATAN’S CLAW. (1971) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

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.

THE SKULL. (1965) AN AMICUS FILM REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

skull april olrich

THE SKULL. (1965) AN AMICUS PRODUCTION. BASED ON THE SHORT STORY ‘THE SKULL OF THE MARQUIS DE SADE’ BY ROBERT BLOCH.

DIRECTED BY FREDDIE FRANCIS. PRODUCED BY MILTON SUBOTSKY AND MAX J. ROSENBERG.

STARRING PETER CUSHING, CHRISTOPHER LEE, PATRICK WYMARK, PATRICK MAGEE, NIGEL GREEN, MICHAEL GOUGH, PETER WOODBRIDGE, APRIL OLRICH, MAURICE GOOD, GEORGE COULOURIS AND JILL BENNETT.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is an utterly gorgeous film, one of my favourites of all the films in which horror icons Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee appeared together. THE SKULL isn’t exactly one of their double acts, however, as Peter Cushing is undoubtedly the star of the film and he appears in nearly every scene, unlike the handsome Mr. Lee who appears in just four scenes. I must stress that it’s not a competition, however, as there’s more sexiness and acting talent in Sir Chris’s four scenes than there would be in most actors’ entire Curriculum Vitae, lol.

Peter Cushing does a magnificent job here of playing Professor Christopher Maitland, a writer of books relating to the occult and an obsessive collector of all and any items relating to his passion. Books, skulls, masks, bric-a-brac, you name it and he’s probably got it, stashed away on his shelves or on display in a glass cabinet in his huge sprawling study.

His study is one of the finest Amicus sets I’ve ever seen. It’s been referred to as cluttered and practically ‘unlive-able in’ but I disagree. I could make myself perfectly comfortable in a gaff like that. I live surrounded by books anyway. I’m very much at home in that milieu, although I don’t go a bundle on the old bric-a-brac.

Someone who owns- or hoards!- as many books as I do can’t be seen to be collecting old bits of rubbish as well or else they’d look mad, lol. Like a crazy hoarder, the like of which you’d see on one of those TV shows, IRELAND’S BIGGEST HOARDER or something like that. Still, Peter Cushing’s study here is a marvel of set design, and kudos to the props person too. Wherever they sourced all their materials from, they’ve done an absolutely smashing job.

Professor Maitland is one day offered a book on the life of the Marquis de Sade, that jolly chappie from French history and literature who died in a lunatic asylum in 1814 and incidentally from whom we’ve derived the word ‘sadism.’ A sadist is a person who derives pleasure from giving others pain.

While, yes, the word can technically apply to employees of the Post Office who put up the sign ‘THIS WINDOW IS CLOSED’ just when you reach their counter after queuing for an hour, the word is more correctly applied to pervy types who like to whip or flagellate others during sex or cause pain by dripping hot candle wax onto the private parts of others, and so on.

That’s the pure meaning, I suppose you could say, of the word ‘sadist,’ although the word is frequently applied to people in all manner of other professions too: mean bosses, bitchy teachers who pile on the homework, auditors, employment officers who quiz you on your skill-set and then get you to apply for a job wholly unrelated to your field of expertise just because they can, etc.

Anyway, the book on the life of the Marquis de Sade is ever so beautifully bound… in human skin. It’s a mere snip at two hundred smackers. Maitland snaps it up, as Marco, his unsavoury and maybe even slightly dodgy ‘source’ for such rare materials, knows he will.

Marco, marvellously played by Patrick Wymark (an actor I’m always confusing with Patrick Magee, who’s also in the film, and Patrick McNee and Patrick McGoohan who are not), returns the next night with an item of even more interest to the nutty professor. This time it’s the actual skull of the aforementioned Marquis de Sade. One thousand pounds and it’s Maitland’s to keep. For ever and ever, Amen…

The skull comes with a back-story from Ye Olden Times which is told in a flash-back. The young woman who plays the phrenologist’s mistress, April Olrich, is stunning to look at and her dresses and hats are fabulous. Well, you know how chic the French broads are, lol. I love when she’s nervously clearing the bathroom of her bath oils and skin lotions, careful not to go too near the bath-tub where the phrenologist, her lover, met his lonely, eerie death.

That’s the thing about the Skull, you see. It has a strange effect on the people who possess it, making them suddenly want to destroy themselves and/or others. Christopher Lee’s Sir Matthew Philips, first seen purchasing four statues of occult figures for well over the odds without knowing why he’s doing it, knows full well how evil the Skull can be, and how strong a will you’d need to have to be able to withstand it.

Maitland ignores his old friend Sir Matthew’s advice and dire warnings, however, and decides to keep the Skull. Whatever happens from here on in is pretty much a case of ‘well, on his own head be it, then.’ Will he rue the day he acquired such an oddity for his prized and treasured collection? You might say so…

Michael Gough from the original Hammer DRACULA (1958) and THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1962) has a cameo role here as the auctioneer who sells Christopher Lee’s Sir Matthew the occult figurines.

Peter Woodbridge- Zoltan the Hypnotist from Hammer’s THE EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN- does a brilliant job of playing the sly and sleazy Bert Travers, the landlord or caretaker of Marco’s apartment building. What a sneaky, nasty self-serving little individual Bert Travers is! Just like Zoltan, so.

Nigel Green (JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS, COUNTESS DRACULA, ZULU) plays Detective Inspector Moustache (my personal nickname for his splendidly moustached person), the copper who comes into the picture to investigate certain Skull-related shenanigans.

Patrick Magee, who stars in one of the vignettes in Amicus’s star vehicle and most famous anthology film, TALES FROM THE CRYPT, is here also as the police surgeon who wonders aloud about who- or what- could have severed this or that jugular.

It’s interesting that he’s here because he once created the role of the Marquis de Sade in the original stage and screen productions of MARAT SADE, otherwise known as: The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade. Yes, I know, try saying that little lot when you’ve had a skinful.

Jill Bennett (Hammer’s THE NANNY) does a good serviceable job as Maitland’s wife, who worries about her husband’s terrible obsession with the occult and all things supernatural. People do generally say that when you start messing about with all that weird stuff, you never know what bad mojo it’ll lead to. In the case of Professor Maitland, this sadly turns out to be more than apt…

There are some terrific Skull’s-eye-view shots that frame Peter Cushing neatly in the centre of the gaping nose socket, if you get me. Apparently, the director Freddie Francis shot these scenes through a giant replica of the Skull while whizzing about on roller-skates like a mad thing. How cool is that…?

The Skull itself is extremely proactive. It travels around the place with impunity, on strings that you can sometimes see but mostly you can’t. It likes to sit on a certain table marked with the sign of the pentagram and God help you if you’re in its place.

The power it has is quite similar to the eye-power the Creepy Kids have in VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED. They can ‘make people pitchfork each other and junk,’ according to one Milhouse Van Houten from THE SIMPSONS, and so can the Skull. And I daresay the Skull cost less to feed and house than those pesky child actors and actresses did, lol.

One scene I don’t get in the film is Maitland’s nightmare scene, although other critics enthuse over it. As De Sade was known for his sexual sadism as practised on women, I personally would have replaced Maitland’s sexless nightmare with a nice sexually-charged whipping scene.

A stripped-to-the-waist Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing take turns whipping a stunning topless Hammer Beauty… whoops, Amicus Beauty, I mean, whom they then take turns ravishing, although she’s perfectly willing and ready for their loving. I might even add in a little oral pleasure at this point. I don’t suppose that this scene would have ever gotten past the censors, though. Sigh. Still, I know what’ll be in my dreams tonight…!

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. 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, womens’ 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

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor