The Blood on Satan’s Claw (Piers Haggard, 1971)

posted in: Duane, Review | 0
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After a farmer unearths some inhuman remains in 17th century England, things go awry as the local children seemingly form a devil-worshipping cult.
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This simple enough premise leads into a very charming little film as the aforementioned children start to prey upon one another and the devil reassembles himself one victim at a time. It seems that some of the locals have become afflicted with “The Devil’s Skin” which equates to a nasty patch of bestial demon flesh isolated to a small part of the victim’s body. These chosen people soon get lured and sacrificed by the ever-growing congregation of evil children in order for the devil to become whole again.
The film itself is extremely well put together, with a very dark foreboding atmosphere with lush eerie landscapes and plenty of gloomy settings. I can’t help but draw a comparison to The Wicker Man in both tone and subject. The score as well is very effective and not distracting, yet upping the tension when needed. Very well done.
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The performances by everyone involved are top notch, but it’s unfortunate that both Peter Cushing (The Beast Must Die!, The Curse of Frankenstein) and Christopher Lee (The Whip and the Body, Horror Express) were passed over for the role of the judge due to budget limitations. That being said, Patrick Wymark (Witchfinder General) is excellent in the role in question, providing an imposing antagonist to the ill-fated devil. Also of note is  the beautiful Linda Hayden (Taste the Blood of Dracula, House on Straw Hill) who is perfect as the role of Angel, the village cutie turned seductive cult leader (who incidentally provides the viewer with a full frontal nude scene). You can tell she’s evil because they gave her weird eyebrows and smeared her cheeks with rouge. That painted Jezebel!vlcsnap-000042
The Blood on Satan’s Claw is actually quite sleazy considering the year and the location (the scissor-happy British censors have never been known for their leniency with this sort of film) with plenty of violent deaths (many off screen, but still managing to remain effective) and a fairly tense (read: HOT) rape/sacrifice scene. I really liked the inclusion of the devil during the ritual scenes as well although the makeup/mask thing is pretty bad to the point of making it difficult to make out what it was actually supposed to be. It kind of reminded me of a bat mask sculpted by a half-blind retarded child with Parkinson’s. Not exactly the most fitting visage for the Price of Darkness, but oddly effective nonetheless… and wisely hidden under a cowl until the very last scene.vlcsnap-000052
The film was apparently intended on being a three part series, but as well written as it is I can’t see being able to stretch such a simple plot that far. I guess you could add in plenty more titties and gore… I dunno. The ending I found to be terribly disappointing as well, and that seems to be a common complaint with the film. All that buildup and it just kind of fizzles out in this bizarre slow motion crescendo of ridiculousness.
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To cap it off this is a very solid entry into the British horror genre and very worthwhile of a viewing. Fans of eurohorror, Hammer and sleaze alike should find something to satiate their desires for blood, boobs and devil worship. Sounds like an awesome Saturday night to me.
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Duane co-founded The Church of Splatter-Day Saints in 2005. When not immersed in film he's enjoying good whiskey, smoking meat in the backyard or thinking about sluts. He makes a damn fine habanero fire sauce.

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