9. The Devil Rides Out AKA The Devil’s Bride (1968)
“The beauty of woman . . . the demon of darkness . . . the unholy union of “The Devil’s Bride” . Set in England in 1929, the Duc de Richleau (Christopher Lee) is a good warlock that discovers that Simon, the son of an old friend, is a member of a satanic cult.
The Duc and his friend Rex Van Ryn go to visit Simon and end up disrupting a ceremony, in which twelve members are to be baptized by their evil cult leader Mocata (Charles F. Gray) in order to serve the devil. They manage to rescue Simon and one other person, but a battle between good and evil has begun as Mocata summons the Angel of death and the Goat of Mendes.
This is one of British production company Hammer Films best films, but is often overlooked by its versions of Dracula and Frankenstein. It is a solid tale of witchcraft that builds suspense by its pacing, dialogue, music, good acting, and decent effects. The two main lead actors are perfect for the roles of Richleau and Mocata.
Lee does a very good job as Richleau; he displays a calm seriousness through most of the film, showing both detective like skills and his knowledge and use of white magic. Lee appeared in many Hammer films, but is best remembered for his repeated portrayals of Dracula.
Gray also was perfect for the role of Mocato; with his distinctive face, eyes, and voice he was born to play the villain. Gray is probably best remembered for his appearance in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
The special effects are good for the era, including a voodoo type spirit appearing from smoke, the Goat of Mendes figure that was all makeup effects, and a spider that grows to become large. The film also had nice lavish sets and a lot of fancy cars in its production that make it stand out.
While the film was considered an excellent thriller, it didn’t fare well against the recently released Witchfinder General that was billing itself as “the year’s most violent film” . It has a cult following among Hammer film fans, horror, and witchcraft fans. If you like any of those, I suggest you give this one a chance.
10. The Dunwich Horror (1970)
“The sound of whippoorwills is the song of the Death in Dunwich!” . Wilbur Whateley (Dean Stockwell) shows up at the Miskatonic University in Arkham, Massuchusetts with the intention of using an old rare book called the Necronomicon, in order to bring back demons referred to as the old ones. Professor Armitage (Ed Begley) is the only person with the knowledge to stop him and save a woman named Nancy (Sandra Dee) from being sacrificed.
This was based on an H.P. Lovecraft story by the same title. It falls somewhere in between being considered a serious thriller versus being a corny product of the seventies, “introducing the sexual mores and psychedelia of the period” .
There are a series of scenes that are reminiscent of the time period, including a dream sequence where Nancy is chased by a group of half naked painted hippies. As well as the scene where Nancy’s friend is attacked by a monster, with psychedelic colors flashing back and forth throughout the scene.
It is notable for featuring Dean Stockwell, Sandra Dee, and a brief appearance from Talia Shire. Stockwell began as a child actor and has often been featured in films as a villain, but is probably best remembered for co-starring in the television series Quantum Leap. Dee was a teenage heartthrob in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, who married singer Bobby Darrin after they met while filming Portrait in Black.
It has a really cool opening animated title sequence that has various black images transforming against a blue background, mixed with a very good theme song. In fact, the score by Les Baxter is probably the most memorable part of the film. It has been released previously on vinyl and CD.
11. Equinox (1970)
“It was a peaceful mountain retreat until IT came home…” . The lone survivor’s story of an attack is told through a series of flashbacks. The student and his three friends go to visit his professor of Geology at his cabin located in the woods. They find the cabin destroyed and the professor missing. They discover a mysterious castle, a strange old man that gives them a book similar to the Necronomicon, and an evil demon Asmodeus that wants the book and sends his monsters after them.
The film has relevance for various reasons; it was put together for a pretty low budget, it contains stop motion animation, and influenced Evil Dead. It was shot on a budget of $6,500 over a period of five years.
The original version of the film was shot in 1965. Producer Jack H. Harris came across the film and recognized its potential to be released as an exploitation film, however it needed a longer running time, plot expansion, and also added the satanic park ranger villain .
Most of the originally filmed footage that ended up being used was the stop motion effects that included an ape monster, a blue giant, and a flying horned demon .
It is remembered for these special effects that were a tribute to the creature effects done by Ray Harryhausen and Willis O’Brien. David Allen, Jim Danforth, and Dennis Muren all grew up as fans of those effects and this was their first time creating them for film, they would all go on to have impressive film careers in creating special effects.
It is most notably thought to have inspired the original Evil Dead movie. There are similarities to both films plots involving a group going to a cabin, a professor, and an evil book.
Special effects artist Tom Sullivan, who was part of the Evil Dead crew, was quoted for the Criterion DVD booklet of Equinox and said, “I had seen Equinox at least twice in drive-ins before making Evil Dead. I don’t recall having discussed it with [Evil Dead director] Sam Raimi, but the similarities are remarkable. I think they come from the low-budget nature of both films. That is, a few characters, an isolated, inexpensive location, and ambitious special effects. All in all, Equinox did inspire me to continue my goal of making movies. ‘If they can do it…'” .
If you’re a fan of Evil Dead, stop motion animation, or low budget horror, then you should check this one out.
12. The Devils (1971)
“Hell holds no surprises for them” . By far the most controversial film on this list, it is a historical drama based upon actual events that took place in 17th century Loudun, France. The film is based partly on two accounts of these events, a 1952 book The Devils of Loudun by Aldous Huxley and a 1960 play The Devils by John Whiting.
Political and religious struggles are taking place as Catholic Cardinal Richelieu wants to demolish the walls of all of the self governing fortified towns, in a further play to rid the country of Protestant religious uprisings. Most specifically he wants Loudun’s walls brought down, which is now being controlled by the priest Urbain Grandier (Oliver Reed) after the recent governor’s death.
Grandier is a proud and strong priest who refuses to let the walls get torn down, but he has his own issues of previous sexual vices and a secret marriage. The Cardinal wants to get rid of the priest and an opportunity presents itself to them when the lustful and jealous hunchback nun Jeanne (Vanessa Redgrave) accuses Grandier of witchcraft and possession.
A crazed witch-hunter is brought in and madness and hysteria run through the convent as all of the sexually repressed nuns go out of control. Grandier is sentenced for witchcraft, tortured, and burned alive at the stake as Loudun’s walls are destroyed.
This was and still is a highly controversial film for its political, sexual, and religious content. There are multiple scenes that are highly controversial including one in which Grandier is Christ and Jeanne licks his wounds and they kiss, one where Jeanne is naked and masturbating, and a large scene with all of the nuns naked involved in what appears to be an orgy.
The debate has always been whether the scenes where excessive versus whether they where necessary for the story. The director would argue that all of it was necessary and that they were trying to be as realistic as possible to the actual events that took place. While that may be true, director Ken Russell does have a reputation for having shocking elements and a large amount of nudity in his films.
The two main actors Reed and Redgrave are excellent in their respective roles. Reed was a British actor, best known for his macho looks, mustache, distinctive scar on his chin, and hellraiser lifestyle. He appeared in several other Ken Russell films including Tommy, and Lisztomania.
He received the scar after a bar fight in 1963 and “died of a heart attack in a bar after downing three bottles of Captain Morgan’s Jamaica rum, eight bottles of German beer, numerous doubles of Famous Grouse whiskey and Hennessy cognac, and beating five much younger Royal Navy sailors at arm-wrestling.
His bar bill for that final lunch time totaled 270 Maltese liras, almost £450” . Redgrave was a well known actress that has been nominated six times for an Academy Award, winning Best Actress in 1978 for Julia. The overall acting in the film may come off as being absurd at times, especially the witch hunter. But that is most likely on purpose, in order to show exactly how absurd and hysterical people became during times when there was the scare of witchcraft.
The film received an X rating and was heavily cut by its studio before the release and had other various cuts in Britain and the United States. The DVD releases that exist all vary on the running time and overall picture quality of the film. There is still yet to be a fully restored uncut version or Blu-Ray version of the film released.
This has a cult following because of the controversial nature of the film and the difficulty in finding a decent cut of the film. If you like controversial films, witchcraft, or are fans of the cast then you should watch this at least once. Just be warned ahead of time that it is pretty graphic.
13. Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971)
“A CHILL-FILLED Festival of HORROR!” . Set during 18th century England, some strange remains are unearthed while a young man ploughs a field which includes a furry skull with one eye in it and some claws. The remains belong to a demon and all of the children in the town begin to behave strangely and change, including one woman growing a claw and others growing patches of fur.
The children are led by Angel (Linda Hayden), as she and the others are being used by their new master so it can come back to its original form. A judge (Patrick Wyman) returns to town after he has learned how to destroy the demon from an ancient book.
This is another well done British production that tries to scare with atmosphere, mood, and music but also includes a fair amount of violence and sexual situations. We just barely see the beast at the end, everything else is pretty much done with the use of the camera and music.
It is like Children of the Corn, where the youth become evil and are the thing to be scared of. They do this well in various parts, showing close ups of all the kids either just staring, or smiling, or getting aroused. This is done multiple times throughout the movie.
Once when a young woman is believed to have gone crazy, as she is brought downstairs tied up and creepily smiles at her fiancé and we see that her hand is replaced with a claw. Another well done scene involves the group of children performing a ritual where they rape and murder one of the girls; it includes multiple cut scenes showing their faces, flowers they were using in the ritual, and the rape and murder. During this they all showed various emotions of joy and arousal.
It features the final performance by Patrick Wyman, who died in 1970. It also features Linda Hayden, who was best known for portraying characters that were lustful and seductive during the 1960’s and 1970’s.
The film did not do very well, but has a cult following among British horror, horror, witchcraft films, and fans of the cast. If you enjoy any of those, then you may want to check this out.
14. Psychomania AKA The Death Wheelers (1973)
“Seven Suicides – and they roared back as The Living Dead” . A motorcycle gang called the living dead all commit suicide, so that they can return back as one of the living dead. The film is a rather hilarious combination of motorcycles, witchcraft, and a splash of 1970’s hippieness.
The plot, script, and acting are nothing to write home about. The things that are memorable are the motorcycle scenes, the biker’s look, and the music. There are a decent amount of scenes involving the bikes, including one where they go around a shopping center and parking lot. The bikers have a cool look, with the helmet and white visor that makes it look like a skull and crossbones.
The soundtrack by John Cameron is pretty excellent, especially the opening title sequence with the gang riding around a Stonehenge type place. There is also an amusing burial scene of the gang leader, where a hippie is singing a song called “Riding Free,” while the dead gang leader is sitting on top of his bike in the grave. The soundtrack was actually released on CD in 2003 by Trunk records.
If you like biker movies, or drive-in movies, then you should check this one out.
15. Blood Orgy of the She-Devils (1973)
“Probing the Black Depths of Hell!” . A woman gets involved with a witch named Mara who has supernatural powers that can foretell the future and see past lives. Her boyfriend and a Doctor of the occult get involved in order to rescue her from the evil witch.
This is the ultimate in low budget drive-in exploitation sleaze that has devoted most of its time creating a cool title; the film includes a confusing and bad plot, bad acting, nudity, and a sexy witch. This was written and directed by Ted V. Mikels, who was known for making low budget horror films including The Astro-Zombies, The Doll Squad, and Ten Violent Women.
If you like bad or low budget movies, drive-in movies, or the director, then you should get some amusement out of this. Just don’t go in expecting any type of orgy, the title is misleading.
16. Race With the Devil (1975)
“If you’re going to race with the devil, you’ve got to be as fast as Hell!” . Two couples take a vacation together in a recreational vehicle on a trip to Colorado to do some skiing and dirt bike riding. During one night of camping, they witness a satanic cult sacrifice somebody. They try and report it to the police, but the police find no evidence related to the crime. They try to continue on their vacation, but are repeatedly attacked by the cult members and must fight them in order to survive.
This is a pretty good forgotten action, horror, thriller with a surprising ending, co-starring Warren Oates and Peter Fonda. The actors appeared in two other films together,
The Hired hand and 92 in the Shade. Both give good performances in this film. Oates is a somewhat underappreciated actor who has appeared in many films, including The Wild Bunch, Two-Lane Blacktop, Dillinger, Badlands, Cockfighter, and Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia. Fonda is probably best remembered for his role in Easy Rider.
It has drawn comparisons to other films that involve the rural population conducting in unusual and strange behaviors, such as Let’s Scare Jessica to Death, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and The Hills Have Eyes. If you like horror, witchcraft, or any of the films or cast listed, then you should check this one out.
17. The Devil’s Rain (1975)
“Absolutely the most incredible ending of any motion picture” . A pair of brothers (William Shatner and Tom Skerritt) battle satanic cult leader Corbis (Ernest Borgnine) and his faceless followers, who wants a book their family took from him over three hundred years ago. Corbis also has the power to melt his victims and can transform into a goat like figure.
It’s like watching a combination of Bonanza and Star Trek, a mix of western, sci-fi, and horror. It is a fairly disappointing film that is mostly memorable for the cast involved, including Shatner, Skerritt, Borgnine, an appearance by John Travolta, and special consultation by the High Priest of the Church of Satan Anton Lavey.
Has there ever been any actor more defined by one role than Shatner? Any scene with him that has dialogue feels like you are watching a Star Trek episode where Captain Kirk is battling Satanists on some distant planet. We should accept the authenticity of all of the satanic ritualism in the film, seeing as Lavey was involved.
It still feels like a bad drive-in or television movie from the era. It has some potential with some of the effects where the evil followers have no eyes and wear black cloaks. The final couple of minutes where all of the baddies melt may be considered memorable or lame, you decide.
If you like low budget drive-in type movies, or want to see any of these actors in a fairly below average film, then this is for you.