Two weekends ago, I watched an unusual Hammer Studios film in which Christopher Lee played the good guy, The Devil’s Bride (1968).
Before I forget, Spoiler Alert! I may even give away the ending this time. Perhaps I should also include a No Cheese Alert, because although Hammer Films are quite fun to write about and I do poke fun at them, I could not say they were cheesy. The production values are too good, for one thing. The films are visually appealing. Sets and costumes reflect effort and expense. Perhaps one day I’ll do a whole post pontificating on the cheesiness inherent in the horror genre. In the meantime, back to today’s feature.
The movie opens with Lee and a friend in a carriage riding to a reunion of some sort (you know I never bother about details). They decide to stop at the house of this guy that seems to have dropped from sight. We learn that this is the son of a friend of theirs. The friend is deceased, and Lee and his companion are pledged to take care of the son, now a fine young man.
When they arrive at the young man’s house, some party is going on. An innocent-looking girl says, “Oh, I thought there were only supposed to be 13 of us.” So in case we missed the title, we are clued in. Channeling Sherlock Holmes, Lee tells his friend to listen in on the other guests’ conversations.
When Young Man is all, “So sorry I can’t ask you to stay,” Lee pipes up with, “Can I just look at your telescope quick?” and bounds up the stairs.
The weird charts on the wall and cryptic symbols on the floor are explained away as decorations. Less easily explained are the two chickens Young Man tries to keep Lee from finding.
Lee says he would rather see Young Man dead than involved with this stuff, so this could have been a really short movie, although kind of a downer. Instead, Lee punches him in the face, knocking him cold.
I have to say it again, that is perhaps the movie cliche I find most annoying which is the least true. If it was that easy to knock somebody out with a blow to the face, most boxing matches would be a lot shorter. Oh, I know some boxers do knock their opponents out with one blow, but these are professional punchers and even they can’t do it every time. It is extremely unlikely that random movie characters can accomplish it so conveniently. Rant over.
So Lee and Friend get Young Man to Lee’s house, where Lee brings him around, hypnotizes him, slips a crucifix around his neck and sends him upstairs to sleep it off.
Of course he does not stay safely asleep or, again, this would have been a shorter movie. It’s round one to Satan (or rather his henchmen), but Lee says, “At least we saved the chickens.” That may be, but he leaves them in the basket in the telescope room closet. If he was really going to save them, shouldn’t he, for example, have brought them out to the chicken coop and gotten them some feed and water? Or is that just my Be Kind to Animals obsession talking?
Lee sends his Friend off to rescue the Girl, remember, the one who thought there were only supposed to be 13. Did I mention she is suitable for Friend to fall in love with? I can’t remember where Young Man is at this point. Lee is off to the British Museum for research. My inner geek rejoices at the thought of combating evil through books, but Lee puts an awful lot of faith in somebody who just now began to believe in Satan.
That is the first of several times Lee gives his second string good guys instructions and goes off to do his own thing. You know they aren’t going to be able to handle it. Only the main good guy can ultimately triumph over evil. Then again, as we said earlier, Lee usually plays the bad guy. He’s probably not up on all the good guy rules. And here I am again, carping on the usual means employed to keep the conflict going so the movie is feature length.
And then a bunch of stuff happens.
It seems the head Satan worshipper has vast if inconsistent powers. He can remotely hypnotize people, only sometimes it doesn’t work. And like all movie bad guys and monsters, his victims follow his nefarious instructions at differing rates of speed, depending on plot requirements. One of his followers picks up the hypnotism trick, too, although to what end, I’m not sure. She hypnotizes the guy who’s trying to save her through bondage (it makes sense in the movie), but spends the rest of the scene staring out the window at a storm. Awaiting further instructions, I suppose.
I confess there was a whole lot I did not pay attention to. For example, there is an outdoor worship fest that reminded me of the KKK rally in O Brother, Where Art Thou? I busied myself in the kitchen when I saw a goat and feared it would come to a bad end (there I go again with the Be Kind to Animals).
There is a little girl who is a pretty good actress, not too cute, not too bratty. Of course she is placed in grave danger. I blame Lee. He has the grown-ups (of the non-servant variety) upstairs in the middle of a fancy chalk circle with salt and holy water and whatnot. The kid is in bed being watched over by some old butler or caretaker. Not even a crucifix. Hello! What do you think is going to happen?
I don’t need a spoiler alert to tell you the movie ends with Satan’s followers vanquished (I’m sure the big buy survives to fight another day). Young Man says, “Thank God,” to which Lee piously agrees. You know, apart from the crucifix, there is very little reference to God. Shouldn’t He be the first one you call when you are fighting Satan? I’m just saying.
However, movies are more into the props and, as I mentioned earlier, maintaining the conflict to feature length. Speaking of length, this is getting to be one of my longer posts, so I’ll save the philosophical discussion for Lame Post Friday.