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Linda Hayden as Angel

"She's a devil, that Angel...
She's no friend of mine."
- Cathy (Wendy Padbury)

blood for Satan
January 2004 SITE MAP   SEARCH

The Blood On Satan's Claw
cast: Patrick Wymark, Linda Hayden, Michele Dotrice, Wendy Padbury, and Simon Williams

director: Piers Haggard

93 minutes (18) 1970
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Anchor Bay UK DVD Region 2 retail
[released 26 January]

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Jeff Young
Director Piers Haggard (later the maker of a Quatermass TV serial, 1979) evokes shock-horror and eroticism in The Blood On Satan's Claw (aka: Satan's Skin; or Satan's Claw). In a 17th century English village, a young ploughman unearths the skull of a monster. The local judge and squire are alerted to this mysterious discovery, but there's disbelief, at first, in this evidence of a 'demon' because the find has disappeared. Then, a disembodied claw lurking beneath the floorboards in an attic bedroom attacks the squire's son (Simon Williams, who went on to be a regular in the Edwardian soap drama Upstairs, Downstairs, 1971-5, and later co-starred in The Uncanny), and jade-eyed blonde Angel (Linda Hayden, the star of Baby Love, 1968 - a British 'Lolita') attempts to seduce Reverend Fallowfield (Anthony Ainley), and leads the community's youngsters into evil mischief, devil worship and human sacrifice. Soon, the whole parish is in a desperate plight, and requires the most severe and violent measures to save it...
   Margaret (Michele Dotrice, later famous as Frank Spencer's long-suffering wife Betty, in camp TV farce Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em, 1973-8) makes with occult incantations in this film's most intense and controversial scene, a bizarre ritual where local girl, Cathy (Wendy Padbury, formerly companion, Zoe - in Patrick Troughton's final season of Doctor Who, 1968-9), is raped and murdered. Later, the village doctor removes coarse fur from the leg of captured witch Margaret, who is tortured for information by returning Patrick Wymark - from The Skull (1965), The Psychopath (1966), and Witchfinder General (aka: The Conqueror Worm, 1968) - who plays the god-fearing and unforgiving yet ultimately heroic Judge. The witch-hunt finale tracks Angel and her gang of bad kids to a ruined church, where the sword-wielding saviour confronts a cloaked and hooded, but visibly hideous figure of a demon, or whatever, for the showdown between good and evil.
   Distinguished by fine camerawork from Dick Bush, who went on to shoot other notable genre pictures - such as Twins Of Evil (1972), Phase IV (1974), Tommy (1975), The Legacy (aka: The Legacy Of Maggie Walsh, 1979), The Philadelphia Experiment (1984) and The Lair Of The White Worm (1988), and with a superb score by Marc Wilkinson (Lindsay Anderson's If... 1968), Blood On Satan's Claw is something of a neglected classic. As has been commented on elsewhere, it was unfortunately overlooked in favour of the interesting though austere Witchfinder General, and fell short of the gore quotient of the misogynistic Mark Of The Devil (aka: Hexen bis aufs Blut Gequaelt, 1969). Yet, in more ways than one, Blood On Satan's Claw is (marginally) superior entertainment to either of its predecessors. Although it lacks the sort of strong central performance that Vincent Price gave in Witchfinder General, it is precisely because Blood On Satan's Claw has no actual historic backstory that's it's so effective, as both period horror, and exploration of the quasi-mythic tradition of witchcraft and Satan worship. Only later, in modern day terrors like Robin Hardy's The Wicker Man (1973), do we find a similar mix of sexuality and horror. Although Hardy's cult film does not concern Satan at all, it does offer a variation on the notion of the 'seduction' of an innocent (Edward Woodward's probably-virginal policeman in The Wicker Man being a present day equivalent of Ainley's troubled priest, here). But it's also the stunning presence of Hayden that strengthens the appeal Blood On Satan's Claw, and endears it to the fans of the subgenre. No doubt her full-frontal nude scene in this film, by usually second-rate production house Tigon, helped steer Hammer's output towards its prevalence of naked vampire women in the sexy 1970s' gothic of The Vampire Lovers (1971), and Twins Of Evil.
   The DVD has Dolby stereo 2.0 or surround 5.1 sound, plus an option of DTS (if you have a decoder). Disc extras are Linda Hayden: An Angel For Satan filmed profile and interview (13 minutes), photo gallery in slideshow format, film notes, text biographies of actress Hayden and director Haggard, original short stories by scripter Robert Wynne-Simmons in PDF format (requires DVD-ROM for access), plus audio commentary by Haggard, Hayden, and Wynne-Simmons, moderated by Jonathan Sothcott. Sadly, as with many Anchor Bay DVD releases, there are no subtitles at all. Not even English for the hard-of-hearing.

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