Blood on Satan's Claw (1970)
By: David Michael Brown on November 2, 2005  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
DVD
Umbrella Entertainment (Australia). All Regions, PAL. 1.77:1 (Non-anamorphic). English DD 2.0. 92 minutes
The Movie
Credits
Director: Piers Haggard
Starring: Patrick Wymark, Linda Haydon, Barry Andrews
Screenplay: Robert Wynne-Simmons, Piers Haggard
Country: UK
Blood on Satan's Claw is a rural horror masterpiece that is quintessentially British. Set in the Seventeenth century the film features those gentle English pastimes: witch hunting and devil worship topped off with lashings of sex and violence.

When a rotting devils claw is discovered in a small village, the locals begin to grow strange patches of skin on their bodies; each piece of skin will become a patchwork part of the devil. A young girl angel becomes possessed and recruits a devil-worshipping cult of children intent in collecting the skin from their victims during sacrificial rituals.

Made in 1970 the film is surprisingly graphic in its depiction of its lurid storyline; not surprising when you realise that one of the films stars is the infamous British sexpot Linda Hayden. Hayden made her name in Baby Love but also starred in such classics as Hammer's Taste the blood of Dracula, Lets Get Laid, the video nasty Expose, Confessions of a Window Cleaner and the awful Queen Kong. She takes the role of Angel, the teenage seductress who is possessed by the devil with salacious relish and makes the films shocking sacrificial scenes and the final satanic orgy even more chillingly believable. Saying that these orgiastic moments also disconcertingly feature Michele Dotrice who fans of British comedy will know as Betty, the much put upon wife of Frank Spencer in Some Mothers Do 'Ave Em and Wendy Padbury who played Zoe in Dr. Who

The films hero is the town judge, played by Patrick Wymark. A dubious character at best and the veteran actor handles the duality of the role with aplomb. Readers will be familiar with his work in the similarly themed Witchfinder General along with the classic Where Eagles Dare and The Skull.

Directed by Piers Haggard who went on to make Quatermass in 1979, the dark dingy set ups create a sinister mood from the off. Everything is framed to create an oppressive atmosphere that sets the viewer on edge the moment the young villager finds the devils appendage. The village itself becomes a character, without the rural English countryside it would have been a lesser film.

Video
The print is in excellent condition, the transfer handles the films many dark scenes well remaining sharp and focus. There is an element of grain, the gloomy British countryside doesn't lend itself to a vibrant image but the film is immensely watchable.
Audio
The audio track is in stereo and has its moments but nothing spectacular to report.
Extra Features

This is where the disc shines. We kick off with Touching the Devil: The Making of Blood on Satan's Claw, a fascinating 20 minute documentary that features interviews with many of the cast and crew. Linda Hayden is given special treatment in An Angel for Satan, which features a delightful interview with the actress about her controversial career taking in her entire career. Director Haggard is joined by writer Robert Wynne - Simmons and Hayden in an informative commentary that reveals many amusing anecdotes about the making of the film, its well worth a listen. As always we finish things off with a selection of trailers from Umbrella's Bloody Best of British collection and recent horror releases.

The Verdict
A product of the legendary Tigon Studio, Blood on Satan's Claw is a low budget classic and one of the finest British horror films ever made. Tigon, along with the work of the late Michael Reeves and Milton Subotsky's Amicus, all tried to topple Hammer off its perch and with this film they almost did. The combination of dark, gloomy British countryside, witches and satanic school children is a winning one and its arrival on DVD should be celebrated. Lets hope this series of British horrors is long running.
Movie Score
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