Out of Christopher Lee’s vast body of work, he cites The Devil Rides Out as his personal favorite. That sounds like an peculiar choice until you consider he timeshare turn as the protagonist. Thus the movie stands out among the usual lee fare. Ut it stands out for the best of reasons.
The Devil Rides Out is based on a novel by Dennis Wheatley. It had a perilous journey from novel to screen because of censorship fears regarding its blatant satanic content. After watching, I have to say it is some pretty tame stuff by today’s standards. Nothing would merit an Iron Maiden album cover. Still, I can recognize how it might have upset audiences in a more innocent time. Then I lament for the briefest of moments how unaffected my jaded soul is by it.
I would call the film more of an action film than horror. Lee plays Duc de Richlieau, a man investigating the strange behavior of his friend’s son, Simon. He suspects Simon has fallen in with the Occult. He is correct. Simon is an acolyte of Satanist Mocata, played menacingly by the future Blofeld and Crminologist himself, Charles Gray. De Richlieau has to match wits with Mocata and his followers through, whom he has a hypnotic spell over a night of satanic rituals, a giant tarantula, and finally, the Devil himself on horseback, hence the title. Mocata winds up losing is soul in dealing with Old Scratch.
The Devil Rides Out is unusual Hammer fare vastly different than their usual monster flicks. Horror fans would probably like it more if it were remade today with modern special effects. As it is, one has to have a certain suspesion of disbelief. Even with the Bob Jones university brainwashing of my youth, I barely got a chill beyond the giant spider. Then again, I am not fond of the eight legged critters in the first place.
It is worth watchig if for nothing else than the novelty of Lee as a hero. Unless you have a pronounced unease at Satanism presented in entertainment, the scary bits will hardly register on you. It is worth watching for the entertainment alue, ut the world has outgrown its horror elements.
Rating: *** (out of 5)