The Devil Rides Out (Terence Fisher / United Kingdom, 1968):
(The Devil's Bride)

Society snobs are closet occultists, their fully-clothed orgies in the woods are swinging parties that sneak '68 into the Fitzgeraldian setting: Just two of the witty conceptions which jolt Terence Fisher's somber surface. The rest segues as a sequence of elaborate demonic circles into which the vertical starkness of Christopher Lee's trim Christian warrior is strikingly inserted. Lee and the mandatory Doubting Thomas (Leon Greene) arrive at a friend's mansion to find a gathering of bourgie pagans -- an "astrological society," they are assured, yet the observatory is stocked with sacrificial fowl and a lavish diagram of Beelzebub on the marble floor, smoke arises from it and a devil in a red loincloth materializes, grinning. Sacerdotal bloodletting follows into a tasteful bacchanalia, the Goat of Mendes appears to smile upon the revelers until a crucifix vanquishes him; the cross-eyed aristocrat (Gwen Ffrangcon Davies, no less) who snubbed you at a party is the one who nearly runs you over, this is the modern absurdity Polanski examined, that same year and with equal deadpan acuity, in Rosemary's Baby. The hero fights Satanism with evangelical outrage, but black magic to malevolent guru Charles Gray is but a science, "the sinister reputation attached to it is entirely groundless." He turns his glare upwards to clinch his point, and the ingénue (Nike Arrighi) resting on the upper floor awakens in a trance and heads to the dagger collection on the wall. The capper is a spiritual showdown staged in the drawing room (Blithe Spirit) that pits a fragile human circle against a series of infernal apparitions (fake children, giant spiders, skeleton knights, etc.), plus the dawning awareness of the bloody struggle of forces under the blanket of British gentility, with good and evil as each other's reflections. With Patrick Mower, Sarah Lawson, and Paul Eddington.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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