Friday, 22 November 2013

Blood on Satan's Claw (1971)

This is one of those film's with a rather good reputation which, to me at least, doesn't quite live up to one's expectations. Although it opens most effectively - mysterious and creepy, with an strong period feel - it suffers from the same problems as many low budget horror films: a poor monster. And in any horror, an unconvincing monster is the one thing we all remember.
So, what is the essence of the film and the basis of it's reputation? I feel it is famed for being part of the wave of 'Folk Horror' that emerged in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Along with Witchfinder General, The Wicker Man and, arguably, the often-overlooked Cry of the Banshee, there was a fashion for pastoral themes, moving away from gothic settings and into something earthier. It was a case of horror films returning to nature:

Of course, it's difficult to judge the reason for this - after all, fashions change almost without reason - but I think this world of country folk celebrating or confronting the 'old ways' was very much a thing of fashion. With the end of the 1960s came the hippies and their deliberate rejection of the modern industrial world. The hippy 'flower children' - dancing with abandon - seemed more suited to the world of village greens and maypoles than dirty city streets. The onscreen rituals of the folk-horrors are like a newspaper reporter's view of a hippy 'love-in' - all music, open-fires, ecstatic dancing and naked flesh:
Talking of naked flesh, maybe the real appeal of Blood on Satan's Claw wasn't actually the horror or the themes of pastoral revival, but that fact that leading lady Linda Hayden appears naked in a scene where she tries to seduce a clergyman.
Linda Hayden

Linda Hayden
What seems amazing is that Hayden was only seventeen years old at the time. One can't imagine a seventeen year old girl appearing naked on-screen now without causing a storm of controversy.
Anyway, let's see who else appears in the film:
We have Simon Williams:
Simon Williams
Michelle Dotrice:
Michelle Dotrice
Veteran British actor James Hayter:
James Hayter
Patrick Wymark:
Patrick Wymark
And an early uncredited appearance by Geoffrey Hughes, later to find fame as Eddie Yeats in Coronation Street:
Geoffrey Hughes (left)

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