Blood on Satan’s Claw, The (1971)

“I must confess, sir: I fear there’s something very strange afoot.”

Synopsis:
When a plowman (Barry Andrews) in 17th century rural England uncovers a strange corpse in a field, a group of teens — led by beautiful temptress Angel Blake (Linda Hayden) — become obsessed by satanic forces, prompting the arrival of a judge (Patrick Wymark) well-versed in witchcraft.

Genres:

Review:
This atmospheric British horror film (co-written and directed by Piers Haggard) is strongly evocative of both The Witchfinder General (1968) and The Wicker Man (1973) in its depiction of a rural village besieged by evil forces. Originally intended as a horror omnibus consisting of three separate stories, the narrative — while technically cohesive — feels patchy at times, with certain characters (such as a young couple whose romance dominates the storyline during the first 15 minutes) introduced and then never seen again, and a lack of any central protagonist to relate to. With that said, there’s definitely a palpable sense of sustained horror throughout: while we don’t quite understand why dark patches of fur are suddenly showing up on children’s body parts, the effect is undeniably chilling, given that it clearly causes them to turn mercilessly upon one another, in a form of demonically-driven, peer pressured bullying. Adding to the film’s overall atmospheric flavor are fine cinematography, a relentlessly creepy score, convincing performances, and excellent use of authentic countryside locales — all of which help to at least partially overcome the screenplay’s deficiencies. While it’s not entirely successful, it’s nonetheless easy to see this film’s cult appeal, thus making it worth a one-time look.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Linda Hayden as Angel Blake
  • Michele Dotrice as Margaret
  • Fine use of authentic British countryside and period sets
  • Atmospheric cinematography
  • Marc Wilkinson’s score

Must See?
No, though it’s worth a look for its cult status. Listed as a Cult Movie in the back of Peary’s book.

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One Response to “Blood on Satan’s Claw, The (1971)”

  1. Not a must.

    A minor cult item. Well produced, accompanied by an abrasively creepy score, ‘BOSC’ doesn’t really bring much that’s new to this type of film. (~though it does borrow from similar films.) It has mood to spare but it lacks an overall sense of urgency in the storytelling. It’s not dull necessarily but ultimately it comes up thin.

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